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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bars for Barz

Ninety-eight years ago today lose lips did in fact sink John Barz and possibly Jack Gormley’s ships. The former was a highway man, I suspect one of the last since you don’t really hear that term much later in the 20th Century. The latter was a master burglar and associate of Big Jack Zelig, the gang leader who was rubbed out a mere two weeks before our story takes place.

Both Barz and Gormley were locked up in the Queens County jail and the previous week the warden got word that Gormley was going to try to bust out so the burglar was moved to a new cell. Nobody knew at the time however that Barz had three hacksaw blades, which he hid in a false bottom of his slop pail, and was sawing his way through his bars at night.

On about the seventeenth Barz was visited by his girlfriend. She sat outside his cell and the duo chatted quietly for a long time. The warden happened to be down the corridor and around the corner out of sight but close enough to hear the couple saying good bye. The girl was crying and Barz tried to make her feel better by saying, “Never mind dear, I’ll soon be out of here, and we can go away together.” This struck the warden as odd seeing that Barz wasn’t scheduled to go anywhere.

Soooo, just after midnight on this date the warden and some guards paid a visit to Barz’ cell. Barz was called to the bars and when he approached, the Warden grabbed him by the throat and held him while the guards went in to search. The found the pail with the blades, a 45-foot rope made out of a blanket and a good bye note under his covers. Searching the bars of the cell they also found a portion that he had sawed through that allowed enough room for him to crawl out.

The window at the end of the hall had been loosened and the outside bars also cut. (it was a 40-foot drop from there, hence the blanket rope) A subsequent search of Gormley turned up $200. It was surmised that the two were going to bust out together and head south on Gormley’s roll.

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