CAPONE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT TO PEG LEG: THE ADONIS SOCIAL CLUB MASSACRE – DECEMBER 26, 1926
When Richard “Peg Leg” Lonergan stormed through the entrance of South Brooklyn’s Adonis Social Club moments after midnight on December 26, his mere presence turned a joyous Christmas night celebration into a powder keg of racial and gangland tension. The club, founded by Italians and Irish, threw dances and other social events in Brooklyn with the goal of bringing together both cultures in a safe and festive atmosphere.
Lonergan, who lead the infamous White Hand Gang and was at war with Italian mob boss Frankie Yale for control of the Brooklyn waterfront, held two other titles well-known throughout Brooklyn — virulent bigot and killer. Gangland lore alleged multiple bodies and he relished brutalizing Italian men found in the company of Irish women. Tonight, Lonergan was flanked by up to six men. His two armed henchmen, Cornelius “Needles” Ferry and Aaron Haines (Harms), stayed close to him. Lonergan also had his own pistol on hand.
The group immediately made themselves known with obnoxious slurs to the Italians present and chasing out the door any Irish women with them. Despite being outnumbered, Lonergan’s arrogance and racism made him oblivious to the conspiracy brewing around him and his crew. The liquor made his insults louder, and through it all he ignored the ominous presence of a native Brooklyn observing the theatrics.
Al Capone made a prodigal return to Brooklyn for his son’s operation and he no doubt visited family and friends on the trip. One of his most important friends was Frankie Yale, who gave Capone his underworld start in Brooklyn and later traveled to Chicago to commit two high-profile murders (Jim Colosimo and Dean O’Banion) for his former pupil. Whether planned in advance or luck, Capone now had the opportunity to return the favor.
As Lonergan sat drinking with Haines by the piano, Ferry was attacked while walking towards the bar. A gun butt split his head open. Then a gunshot pierced his chest. In the mere seconds after this took place, the lights went out. The next light that illuminated the club would come from gunfire all centered towards Lonergan and Haine’s direction.
Within 15 minutes, police arrived on the scene to discover a silent and grisly scene. Ferry, his face a crimson mask, was discovered dead outside the club. A slug-like trail of blood showed he’d been dragged out and dumped by the gutter.
Lonergan and Haines were left where they fell, curled up in fetal positions. Lonergan, full of bigoted bravado moments earlier, is in the forefront and obscures most of Haines’s body.
10 men, including Capone, were brought in for questioning in the days that followed. With no witnesses willing to cooperate, everyone walked. It has never been confirmed whether the killings were pre-planned or spur of the moment. Despite this being lost to history, one can be assured Frankie Yale enjoyed Capone’s belated Christmas gift. Lonergan and his crew did not.