When gangsters flourished in the Middle America during the Great Depression, none was more cold-blooded than Alvin “Creepy” Karpis. Public Enemy No. 1, Karpis is briefly profiled in the movie of the same name, starring Johnny Depp, as John Dillinger.*
Born in Montreal on Aug. 10, 1907, Karpis grew up in Topeka, Kansas — America’s Heartland.
After he joined up with Fred and Doc Barker of the Ma Barker gang, Karpis became a notorious killer and kidnapper — on top of being a bank robber.
In all, Karpis was believed responsible for 10 killings and a half dozen kidnappings between 1931 and 1936.
In 1936, Creepy was sentenced to life for kidnapping William Hamm, of Hamm’s Brewery.
The FBI’s own head, J. Edgar Hoover took credit for arresting Karpis, although in his biography, Karpis said he was surrounded by a team of agents who alerted Hoover when the scene was secure.
Karpis ended up in Alcatraz for 25 years. When the Rock finally was shut down, Karpis spent time in a state of Washington federal prison. There ol’ “Creepy” met someone even creepier — Charlie Manson. Karpis takes credit for teaching Manson how to play guitar.
There’s some interesting Web pages about Karpis and more photos.
Here’s some links:
FBI summary of the Barker-Karpis gang’s activities
True Crime Library — story of Alvin Karpis
Google timeline search — pretty interesting way to look at Karpis biography.
AP article on Karpis 1979 death from the Toledo Blade
Photos of Karpis in Spain in late 1970s
(FYI: between now and Friday I’ll run profiles of 1930s gangsters including Bonnie and Clyde, John Dillinger, “Machine Gun” Kelly and others. I think there are some interesting parallels between that era and our own)