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6 Gangsters Who Earned Their Names

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A thug, is a thug, is a thug. But would a thug by any other moniker still be as dangerous? We're guessing "yes."

1. Frank "the Dasher" Abbandando (1910"“1942)

Abbandando was one killer who was fast on his feet. A hit man for the New York mob's Murder, Inc., an organization of contract killers, Abbandando may have killed as many as 50 people. In one case, he walked up to a guy and pulled the trigger only to have the gun misfire. With his armed victim in pursuit, Frank "the Dasher" ran so fast around the block that he came up behind his quarry and coolly shot him in the back. Hence his nickname. But even Abbandando couldn't outrun a stool pigeon inside Murder, Inc. Convicted of a single murder, the speedy criminal was awarded a speedy trial, followed by a speedy execution via electric chair.

2. Albert "Lord High Executioner" Anastasia (1903"“1957)

Brutal dogs, ants and one serious weasel all after the jump...

anastasia.jpg Also dubbed "the Mad Hatter" for his love of fancy fedoras, the dapper "Lord High Executioner," was not a man to be messed with. In the early 1920s, Anastasia was sentenced to death for killing a fellow longshoreman. But he was granted a retrial and the conviction was reversed when four of the witnesses "disappeared." And that was just at the start of his career. After helping to kill crime boss Joe Masseria, Anastasia was made head of Murder, Inc. by new boss Lucky Luciano, and was dubbed the mob's "Lord High Executioner" by the press. And while the name stuck, his position didn't, as Anastasia eventually fell out with the other bosses. On October 25, 1957, Anastasia was shot six times while getting a haircut. As one New York paper put it the next day: "He Died in the Chair After All."

3. Lester "Baby Face Nelson" Gillis (1908"“1934)

101.jpgHe wanted to be called "Big George," but at 5 feet 4 inches and with the visage of a choirboy, Lester Gillis was stuck with "Baby Face." No matter. Starting as a pickpocket, Lester put an even better face on things by graduating to enforcer (for Al Capone), bank robber, and psychopathic killer, sometimes shooting people for no reason mid-heist. By 1934, Baby Face was the FBI's Public Enemy No. 1. But on November 27 of that year, he went out with a bang. A lot of bangs, actually. In a gun battle with two FBI agents, Nelson killed both Feds, but not before they put 17 slugs in him. Amazingly, Nelson walked back to his getaway car and escaped. Of course, the 17 shots ended up doing the trick. Lester's body was found in a ditch the next day.

4. Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll (1908"“1932)

Picture 13.pngHis first nickname, "the Mick," was relatively harmless, since he hailed from Ireland and all. But his second one proved to be a keeper. The criminal with an ominous moniker, and a rep to boot, was a top mob enforcer for New York bootlegger Dutch Schultz. And among his many talents, the versatile Coll specialized in kidnapping and extortion. In fact, he had no qualms about torturing his victims. After falling out with Schultz, Coll touched off a gang war in which at least 20 people were killed. One was a five-year-old boy caught in a crossfire. Coll was charged with the shooting, and though he was acquitted, his days on the street were numbered. Mob bosses put a price on Coll's head, and on February 8, 1932, he was shot more than a dozen times while placing a call in a telephone booth.

5. Tony "the Ant" Spilotro (1938"“1986)

1155530835.jpgFor the 15 years after he first hit Las Vegas in 1971 to the day he died, the mob's chief Vegas enforcer, Tony Spilotro, never spent a day in jail. Not bad for a guy who was implicated in at least 24 murders. In one case, he was even said to have squeezed a victim's head in a vise until his eyes popped out (a scene you might remember from Casino). Ugh. As for "the Ant" bit, little Tony hated the nickname, which was a reference to his diminutive stature (he was 5'5"). What he didn't hate, however, was the limelight, and it proved to be his undoing. Tony's bosses in Chicago figured he was getting a little too much press, so they came up with a quick remedy: Tony and his brother were beaten up, then buried alive in an Indiana cornfield. As for the slick lawyer who kept the Ant out of jail all that time? His name was Oscar Goodman, and he was elected Vegas's mayor in 1999, then reelected in 2003.

6. Aladena "Jimmy the Weasel" Fratianno (1914"“1993)

Picture 21.png"When the boss tells you to do something," Fratianno told a reporter in 1987, "you do it. You don't do it, they kill you." That's how he explained taking part in 11 murders. Of course, it didn't explain why he became a government witness in 1977 after 32 years in the mob. Fratianno, who got his nickname after speedily fleeing a crime scene as a kid, explained that he began ratting on his colleagues because they had a contract on his life. Fratianno spent 10 years in the Federal Witness Protection Program before being kicked out because he was costing taxpayers too much. Amazingly, he died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 79. Not bad for a weasel.

For more lists like these, be sure to pick up a copy of Forbidden Knowledge.

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8 Laws Way Past Their Prime
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It took a few centuries, but Canada is finally allowing sorcery again. In June 2017, an updated justice bill was submitted for approval that seeks to lift prohibitions on things that are no longer relevant to 21st century citizens, like dueling (fine provided it’s nonviolent), practicing witchcraft (knock yourself out), or mocking religion (possibly tasteless, but free speech is free speech).

With Canadians getting more progressive in their thinking, it might be time to look at a few other laws that once served a purpose but have now been rendered obsolete by common sense. Here are eight codes that are overdue for an overturn.

1. NO WARMING UP YOUR CAR // IOWA

In 1913, Iowa responded to the burgeoning motor vehicle industry by declaring it illegal to leave a running car unattended. The likely thinking was that the law would prevent thieves from making off with a brand-new Model T. Over 100 years later, it’s devolved into being a total nuisance. Iowans battling cold winters often start their cars with remote starters to get them warm enough to enter, making lawbreakers of virtually everyone heading for work on a cold Midwestern morning. While it’s still on the books, police in Des Moines told WHOTV.com in early 2017 that they don’t have the manpower or inclination to enforce it.

2. MINORS CAN’T PLAY PINBALL // SOUTH CAROLINA

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From the 1940s through the 1970s, several major U.S. cities had a bone to pick with pinball. The analog arcade game was perceived as a form of gambling, with lawmakers worried that juveniles could be driven to skip school and steal pocket change in order to feed their addiction. Pro-pinball constituents argued it was a game of skill rather than chance, and many areas relaxed their stance. But not South Carolina. To this day, it remains illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to draw the plunger and engage in a game. A bill seeking to repeal this minor infraction is currently under review.

3. A BAN ON SHACKING UP // MICHIGAN

Do you dream of living in Michigan? Do you also plan on cohabitating with your unwed partner in a lewd and lascivious manner? You’d better think twice, unless you like the sound of a $1000 fine and a year in jail. A long-outdated law is still active in Michigan that makes it a misdemeanor for unmarried couples to live together. While it’s not enforced—perhaps authorities would have to catch you in the act—it’s still an active prohibition, and one that has been repeatedly introduced for repeal over the years.

4. VENEREAL DISEASE DISCRIMINATION // NEW JERSEY

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With the best interests of the public in mind, New Jersey once decreed that they would place limitations on where people with venereal diseases could live and work. This likely stemmed from a more primitive understanding of how diseases like syphilis could be spread. Despite more advanced thinking, the law survived multiple attempts by the state’s Law Revision Commission to be repealed before it was finally dismissed in late 2014. The bill also struck down a ban on detaining homing pigeons, if you’re into that sort of thing.

5. THE HIGHLY LENIENT CHILD-ABANDONMENT LAW // NEBRASKA

Intended to provide for parents wishing to abandon their infant children without criminal reprimand, Nebraska’s “safe haven” law became something of a national outrage in 2008, when it was publicized that a number of people had dropped off children as old as 17 at area hospitals. Just before the law was repealed to set a strict age limit to infants 30 days old or younger, CNN.com reported that a man flew in from Florida to take advantage of the law and deposited his teenage son in the state.

6. THE FOOTLOOSE LAW // NEW YORK CITY

People dance in a club

In the 1920s, New York City passed a law that prohibited patrons from dancing in nightclubs or other businesses that failed to obtain a cabaret license from the city. The idea was to enforce Prohibition through indirect means, but the law managed to survive throughout the decades while alternately being enforced, ignored, or mocked. Despite a consistent outcry from artist advocacy groups, it's still in effect.

7. REGULATING POSSESSION OF ADULT TOYS // TEXAS

While Texas may be generous when it comes to owning, carrying, and shooting firearms, lawmakers took a more conservative approach to regulating sex toys—specifically, owning too many of them. Texas law stipulates that no one shall own or "promote" more than six "obscene devices." The law, enacted in 1973 during the height of anti-obscenity legislation, is believed to be directed at entertainment or stage performers and may allow for exemptions if the toys are for medical or law enforcement purposes.

8. STRICT HALLOWEEN PROTOCOL // REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE

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You think Halloween is about having fun? It can be—provided you adhere to the strict protocol of Rehoboth Beach, which doesn’t tolerate even a single millisecond of mischief. To help keep kids and their candy bags moving along, the town allows just a small window of trick-or-treating: Parents and kids under 14 can only knock on doors from 6 to 8 p.m. Halloween night and no later. Don’t like it? If Halloween falls on a Sunday, then you don’t get to go that day at all—the festivities, such as they are, are rescheduled to the day prior.

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The Reason Police Officers Tap Your Taillight When They Pull You Over
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Asking a driver for their license and registration is common procedure from police officers during traffic stops. There’s another practice that was once standard across the force but is more of a mystery to the people being pulled over: While approaching a driver’s window, officers will sometimes touch a car's taillight. It's a behavior that dates back decades, though there's no reason to be concerned if it happens at your next traffic stop.

Before cameras were installed on the dashboards of most police cars, tapping the taillight was an inconspicuous way for officers to leave behind evidence of the encounter, according to The Law Dictionary. If something were to happen to the officer during the traffic stop, their interaction with the driver could be traced back to the fingerprints left on the vehicle. This would help other police officers track down a missing member of the force even without video proof of a crime.

The action also started as a way for officers to spook drivers before reaching their window. A pulled-over motorist with a car full of illegal drugs or weapons might scramble to hide any incriminating materials before the officer arrives. The surprise of hearing a knock on their taillight might disrupt this process, increasing their likelihood of getting caught.

Today the risks of this strategy are thought to outweigh the benefits. Touching a taillight poses an unnecessary distraction for officers, not to mention it can give away their position, making them more vulnerable to foul play. And with dash cams now standard in most squad cars, documenting each incident with fingerprints isn’t as necessary as it once was. It’s for these reasons that some police agencies now discourage taillight tapping. But if you see it at your next traffic stop, that doesn’t mean the officer is extra suspicious of you—just that it’s a hard habit to break.

[h/t The Law Dictionary]

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