Episode 12 – Albert Anastasia versus Jack the Ripper

Today’s episode pits two people from the Villains bracket. The first, one of the most ruthless men in the history of the American Mafia, Albert Anastasia versus an unknown man or woman who committed some of the most heinous and sensational murders in London’s history, Jack the Ripper. 

Albert Anastasia
Albert Anastasia

Born Umberto Anastasio on September 26, 1902, in Calabria, Italy to Raffaele Anastasio and Luisa Nomina de Filippi, Albert Anastasia would grow up to be a feared and brutal killer for the American Mafia and later rise to be the mob boss of the what was to be known as the Gambino, crime family.

Albert’s father died shortly after World War I, leaving a family of 12 children behind. In 1919, he decided to come to New York City along with three of his brothers. They quickly got jobs working on the Brooklyn waterfront as longshoremen. 

Albert changed his family name to Anastasia, something his brother Anthony declined to do. He was quickly known for his bad temper and violent nature which showed up with his conviction of the murder of fellow longshoreman George Turino. Albert was sent to Sing Sing State Prison to await execution. Allowed to have a retrial due to a minor technicality, his conviction was overturned in 1922 due to four witnesses mysteriously disappearing. The vanishing witness routine was to help Anastasia numerous times during his crime-filled career. 

The mafia and Albert controlled the longshoreman’s union in the 1920’s was one of the top dogs there. Working under Giuseppe “Joe the Boss” Masseria, Anastasia would meet many of his future partners in crime like one of our previous contestants, Lucky Luciano, along with Vito Genovese, Frank Costello, and Joe Adonis.

In 1928, Albert was brought up on charges of murder once again but, like his last retrial, witnesses either refused to testify or just disappeared.

The early 1930’s brought us the Castellammarse War between two factions of the New York Mafia, those backing Masseria and those behind Salvatore Maranzano. The young men in the mob were tired of the way they were treated and yearned to get rid of the Mustache Pete bosses. The first to go was Masseria.

On April 15, 1931, Luciano was having lunch with the boss when he excused himself to go to the bathroom. While he was, relieving himself, four men came into the restaurant and murdered Masseria. The four supposedly included Anastasia, Genovese, Adonis, and Costello. No one was ever charged for the assassination.

That September, Maranzano was killed which cleared the way for the new wave of mafioso to take over. The created the Commission and split the city into five families, Maranzano, Profaci, Mangano, Luciano, and Gagliano. Anastasia was named underboss in the Mangano family, something that Vincent Mangano was to regret years later.

In 1932 and again in 1933, Anastasia was charged with murdering two men, one with an ice pick. Of course, there were no witnesses to either crime that was willing or able to testify, so Albert got away scot-free.

Luciano saw Anastasia as a willing assassin, so he named him head of a new organization along with Louis “Lepke” Buchalter, known as Murder Inc. It is estimated that this group of contract killers, some of whom were Italian, some Jewish, murdered close to 1,000 people. 

As I mentioned in the Luciano versus Ivan the Terrible episode, that Lucky had his sentence commuted in return for helping the US military during World War II. It was in part with the help of Albert Anastasia that this happened. Albert was instrumental in controlling the docks of New York which greatly benefited the military. 

In 1942, he decided to join the Army which he did to divert attention from the government’s crackdown on Murder Inc. Between then and 1945, he was elevated to the rank of technical sergeant and given US citizenship. 

In 1951, Vincent Mangano and his brother Philip disappeared. While Philip’s body was found Vincent’s never was. Everyone knew who had them killed, and it was Anastasia. 

The murder of the Mangano brothers was entirely against the rules of the Commission so a hearing was held to see what consequences Albert would face. The members knew how crazy the acting mob boss of the Mangano family was and wanted to avert an all-out gang war, so they approved Anastasia’s elevation to full boss. Joseph Bonnano backed him but underneath all of this was a plan to get rid of Anastasia. 

By 1957, the mob was getting more and more fed up with Albert and the way he ruled his family. One major faux pas he committed was how he sold memberships to his family for $50,000. This infuriated the Commission members as well as some of his underlings like Carlo Gambino.

Vito Genovese wanted to have Anastasia dead but had to be careful as there was a rule that no mob boss could be killed without the Commission’s okay. 

On October 25, 1957, Albert Anastasia sat down in a barber’s chair at the Park Sheraton Hotel on 56th Street and 7th Avenue to get a haircut and shave. Two men walked in and gunned down the man known as the Mad Hatter and the Lord High Executioner. His reign of terror was over.

Because of his reputation as a stone-cold killer, the Roman Catholic Church refused to allow for a church burial. His 6,529 square foot mansion in Fort Lee, New Jersey was sold just a few months ago for $6.9 million. 

Now we move on to the most mysterious of the contestants in any of the brackets, Jack the Ripper.

Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper

While Anastasia was likely involved in hundred’s of murders, Jack the Ripper was supposedly only involved with five. The deaths occurred in 1888 in the East End of London in a community known as Whitechapel. The area was a densely populated neighborhood, filled with newly arrived immigrants from Ireland, Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe. It was also a filthy and crime-ridden place. 

As I mentioned earlier, Jack the Ripper was thought to have committed five murders, but there were about six other women killed during the years before and after the ones we are going to focus on. The five women, known as the canonical five were Mary Ann Nichols, Annie Chapman, Mary Jane Kelly, Catherine Eddowes and Elizabeth Stride.

The first body found was Mary Ann Nichols on Friday, August 31, 1888. Her throat was not just slashed but severed, and her stomach was cut open. Annie Chapman’s similarly cut up body was found just nine days later, but her uterus was removed, signaling a possible increase in the level of violence perpetrated on the victims.

On September 30th, two more victims were discovered Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, some 45 minutes apart. The first woman found, Stride, had a slash across the left part of the neck, severing a major artery but no wounds were discovered on her abdomen leading some to believe that either this was a copycat murderer or someone had interrupted the Ripper’s crime and he was unable to continue. This might explain why the second victim, Eddowes, was even more brutal than the others. Not only was her uterus removed, but her left kidney was missing as well. 

Then we have the last and the most vicious of all the canonical murders occurred, the death of Mary Jane Kelly. The gruesome discovery of her body on the night of Friday, November 9th was horrifying. Her through cut all the way down to her spine, her stomach’s organs were removed entirely, and her heart was missing. 

The news media of the day turned the Whitechapel murders into a feeding frenzy with wild theories of who the killer was being thrown about every day. The speculation about the fiend has continued to this day as no one was ever charged with the deaths. Presently, over a hundred suspects are being bantered about.

Numerous questions abound about who the killer was and why did he stop so suddenly. One theory is that he felt that the heat from the investigation was too hot and he fled to the United States which presents us with several suspects with the most prominent being James Kelly. Kelly is an intriguing suspect who was imprisoned in Broadmoor Asylum for murdering his wife in 1883, escaping in 1888 and turning himself back in 29 years later. In the show, Jack the Ripper in America retired New York police detective Ed Norris claims that Kelly fled to America where he committed many murders before returning to England.

One theory claims that the murderer was Montague John Druitt who committed suicide days after the last of the killings. 

The significant suspects that were being looked at it by the London police included Druitt, Seweryn Klosowski, Aaron Kosminski, Michael Ostrog, John Pizer, James Thomas Sadler and Francis Tumblety. All of them looked the part of Jack the Ripper but either had alibies or some other issue that stopped them from being charged with the crimes. 

Then we have some claims by people that are almost too crazy to repeat, but I’ll throw some out there. One was Lewis Carrol, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and another was William Withey Gull who was Queen Victoria’s physician-in-ordinary. Another strange claim is that Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, son of the future King Edward VII. 

Whomever the real Jack the Ripper was, he was evil, he was sadistic, and he was real. It is likely that his true identity will never be known, but it is expected that speculation will continue about who the killer is for many years to come.  

Now for our segment, Put it into Perspective. In 1888, the National Geographic Society is founded, George Eastman received a patent for his camera which used roll film, the Washington Monument opens to the public and Vincent van Gogh cuts off his left ear.

On to the scoring. We start with how long they were evil. Well, this one could be the most lopsided point distribution of all the episodes. Albert Anastasia was a brutal killer from 1921 until his assassination in 1957. His 36 years of evil dwarfs that of Jack the Ripper’s tenure of murders of a little over two months. For that, we give the mobster 15 points with the English killer, 1.

Next up we have points for how they affected the rest of the world in their time. Jack gets lots of points because of the notoriety he received, and Albert gets his because of his aide to the US war effort. I’m going to give each man 20 points.

The third category we have is the long-term effects of each on the world. This one is somewhat one-sided on the side of Jack the Ripper. While Anastasia’s mob morphed into the Gambino crime family that lasted until today, it is a minor crime family compared to its hay day. Jack the Ripper’s murders have become legendary with dozens of books coming out about his exploits and ideas about who the real culprit was. This one is a real tossup which gives each person 25 points.

Now we are down to the last and biggest point haul, and that is the 40 points for the immediate effect on the country involved. This is another hands down win of Albert Anastasia. He viciously murdered or had murdered countless people, controlled rackets and unions affect millions of people whereas Jack the Ripper’s effects seem to be more literary than real. For this, I give Anastasia 40 points and the Ripper 20.  

The final total is Albert 100, Jack 66. Anastasia then moves on to the second round where he will face the winner of the battle of the founder of the USSR, Vladimir Lenin and the infamous Roman Emperor Nero.

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Mark Schauss has been podcasting for over 8 years. His Russian Rulers History was a top history podcast for 7 1/2 years. Discover his new entry into the podcast world.



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