Criminals and their nicknames. We’ve all heard of “Scarface,” “Machine Gun” Kelly, and “Pretty Boy” Nelson. Many convicts earned these kinds of monikers from their notorious and often murderous past. Most fellow cons knew never to ask these thugs their real name; a breach of criminal etiquette that could cost the inquirer his life.
Clarence Morrill, chief of the bureau of criminal identification in 1928, said, “Criminals of every order, low and high, have a moniker by which they are known. One may ask their nicknames with impunity, but never the names their mothers gave them.”
Folsom prison may not have been home to the Birdman, but it has had its share of nicknamed bad boys, too.
Gregg, Gleason, Stokes, Burke, Stewart & Brown
In 1927, Folsom played host to The Thanksgiving Day Riots that left 10 convicts and 1 guard dead. For those considered to be the ringleaders, the riot earned them certain nicknames. Forger, Albert Stewart was called “The Penman” but after turning states’ evidence against his fellow rioters, he is forever known as “The Squealer.” #61, Anthony “Tony” Brown, became “Bloody” Brown. His co-conspirators: #63, Walter E. Burke was “Scarface,” #64, James Gregg became “The Weasel,” and #65, James Gleason was “The Rat” as he was expected to “squeal” at trial.
In 1903, 14 Folsom convicts escaped. One of them was “Red Shirt” Gordon, named for the shirt given to “incorrigibles” to wear. Authorities never recaptured him.
#49, John Geregac was called “Smoky,” “Smokey Jack” and “Smokey John Geregac”
Fellow cons called #69, Wilbur McCabe, “One-Eyed Mac,” while #78, Daniel Harris earned the name, “Mexican Dan.”
Thomas Griffin, simply known as The Owl and his crime partner, #53, Felix “The Lone Wolf” Sloper, robbed banks together.
#51, John Connelly’s hair sported a white streak, hence the nickname “Silver,” or “Silver Joe Kelly.” #57, Willard Shannon’s hair color prompted people to call him “Red.” One newspaper wrote, ” . . . he presents a grotesque appearance with his auburn hair.”
Those in criminal circles called #47 Robert Mathews “Sugar Baby,” while # 74, Peter Farrington was called “Little Spud.”
Apparently, people couldn’t decide on #92, Lloyd Dale’s nickname. He was known as “West Coast,” “West Coast Smith,” “Whiskers,” “Coast to Coast,” and “Coast kid.”
The media oftentimes awarded convicts certain names of their own—names the prisoners usually didn’t care for: #28, Jacob Oppenheimer: The Human Tiger (also called The Human Hyena), #45, Alex Kels: the Haystack Murderer, #88, Earl Budd Kimball: Werewolf of Fulda Flat, #1, Chin Hane: King of the Highbinders, and #27, Edward Delehanty: Black Demon.
Sometimes, the victims themselves had monikers such as, “Queen of the Sacramento Tenderloin,” “St, Louis Fat,” Elgar “Moose” Morse, and Frank C. “Spike” Angermier.
It’s highly unlikely, but should I find myself behind bars, I would need a damn scary nickname to hide behind. I’d have to make it up, of course, but I figure “The Mutilator” would keep me relatively safe.
WHAT WOULD YOUR CRIME NICKNAME BE?