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County Donegal, Ireland
|Died||February 22, 1933 (aged 59–60)
The Bronx, New York, U.S.
|Cause of death||Carbon monoxide poisoning|
|Resting place||Ferncliff Cemetery and Mausoleum|
|Residence||1210 Fulton Avenue, Bronx|
|Other names||Mike the Durable
Iron Mike Molloy
Michael Malloy (1873 – February 22, 1933), later known as either Mike the Durable or Iron Mike, was a homeless Irish man who lived in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s. A former firefighter, he is most famous for surviving a number of attempts on his life by five acquaintances, who were attempting to commit life insurance fraud.
Failed murder attempts
The events that led to Malloy's death began in January 1933. He was, at the time, alcoholic and homeless. Five men who were acquainted with Malloy – Tony Marino, Joseph "Red" Murphy, Francis Pasqua, Hershey Green, and Daniel Kriesberg (later dubbed "the Murder Trust" by the headlines) – plotted to take out three life insurance policies on Malloy and then get him to drink himself to death. The first part of the plot was successful, presumably achieved with the aid of a corrupt insurance agent, and they stood to gain over $3,500 (more than $61,000 by 2011's standards according to the CPI) if Malloy died an accidental death.
Marino owned a speakeasy and gave Malloy unlimited credit, thinking Malloy would abuse it and drink himself to death. Although Malloy drank for a majority of his waking day, it did not kill him. To remedy this, liquor was substituted with antifreeze, but Malloy would simply drink until he passed out, wake up, and come back for more. Antifreeze was substituted with turpentine, followed by horse liniment, and finally mixed in rat poison. Still, Malloy lived.
The group then tried raw oysters soaked in wood alcohol. This idea apparently came from Pasqua, who saw a man die after eating oysters with whiskey. Then came a sandwich of spoiled sardines mixed with poison and carpet tacks. When that failed, they decided that it was unlikely that anything Malloy ingested was going to kill him, so the Murder Trust decided to freeze him to death. On a night when the temperature reached −14 °F (−26 °C), Malloy drank until he passed out, was carried to a park, dumped in the snow, and had five gallons (19 liters) of water poured on his bare chest. Nevertheless, Malloy reappeared the following day for his drink.
The next attempt on his life came when they hit him with Green's taxi, moving at 45 miles per hour (72 km/h). This put Malloy in the hospital for three weeks with broken bones. The gang presumed he was dead, but they were unable to collect the policy on him. When he again appeared at the bar, they decided on one last approach.
On February 22, 1933, after he passed out for the night, the murderers took Malloy to Murphy's room, put a hose in his mouth that was connected to the gas jet, and turned it on. This finally killed Malloy, with his death occurring within an hour. He was pronounced dead of lobar pneumonia and quickly buried. Despite this, the Murder Trust failed to divide the collected loot evenly. Eventually, police heard rumors of "Mike the Durable" in speakeasies all over town, and upon learning that a Michael Malloy had died that night, they had the body exhumed and forensically examined.
The five men were put on trial and subsequently convicted. Green went to prison, while the other four members were sentenced to death and executed in the electric chair at Sing Sing in Ossining, New York: Kriesberg, Marino, and Pasqua on June 7, 1934, and Murphy on July 5, 1934.
In popular culture
- "You Can't Kill Michael Malloy" is an instrumental piece by The Spent Poets. A clip of the song appears on the album Frizzle Fry by the band Primus.
- In 1993, a play based on Malloy's murder was made, titled The Killing of Michael Malloy, by Erik Jendresen.
- "Michael Malloy" is the name of a song by grindcore band Gob on their 7" split with Agoraphobic Nosebleed.
- An episode, "The Durable Mike Malloy Case," of the 1952 television series Gang Busters seems to have been inspired by this incident.
- The story is the plot of the 1949 pulp novel All Dames Are Dynamite, by Timothy Trent.
- The story of Malloy's murder was featured on an episode of the BBC series QI in 2011.
- An episode, "One for the Road," of Amazing Stories features bar patrons trying to murder a drunk named Mike Malloy for insurance money.
- An episode "The Indestructible Mike Matter," of the radio series Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar seems to have been inspired by this incident. Howard McNear was Mike.
- Malloy's death was featured in The Poisoner's Handbook as one of the cases investigated by the then newly established New York City Medical Examiner's Office under the pioneering Dr. Charles Norris.
- Keating, Isabelle (12 May 1933). "Doctor and Undertaker Held in 'Murder Trust'". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Brooklyn, New York. p. 1 – via newspapers.com.
- Simon Read. On the House: The Bizarre Killing of Michael Molloy, Berkley Books, 2005. ISBN 978-0-425-20678-2
- Deborah Blum. The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York, Penguin Press, Feb 18, 2010. ISBN 978-1-59420-243-8. The story of 'Mike the Durable' is retold in chapter 10 "Carbon Monoxide". See also Blum's article "The Strange Death of Mike the Durable" in Women in Crime Inc, March 23, 2010.
- "New York Gangs Murder Trust and Michael Malloy Part 1".
- O'Connor, Michael (2007-10-07). "The Durable Mike Malloy". New York Daily News.
- "4 Men Go On Trial in Old Insurance Plot". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Oct 18, 1933. p. 1. Retrieved 2010-03-30.
- "4 Murder Attempts Cited in Weird Insurance Plot". Altoona Tribune. Altoona, Pennsylvania. 13 May 1933. p. 4 – via newspapers.com.
- Trestrail, John Harris; Trestrail, John Harris III (2007). Criminal Poisoning: Investigational Guide for Law Enforcement, Toxicologists, Forensic Scientists, And Attorneys. Humana Press. p. 15. ISBN 1-58829-821-3.
- Blanco, Juan Ignacio. "Executions in New York - 1926-1940 - DeathPenaltyUSA, the database of executions in the United States".
- on YouTube