Where Are they Now? Gangster Alvin Creepy Karpis

About the former public enemy number 1 Alvin Creepy Karpis, biography and history of his arrest by J. Edgar Hoover.


Headline--1936: ALVIN KARPIS

At the Peak: "Creepy" Karpis was a pretty big name on the U.S. crime scene back in the Dirty Thirties. In fact, he was the biggest name for a dark period in the depths of the Depression when he achieved the ultimate distinction in his field--being named Public Enemy No. 1 by J. Edgar Hoover.

And there's little doubt that Karpis deserved the dishonor. After all, the Montreal-born, Kansas-raised gangster was a member of the notorious Karpis-Barker ("Ma" Barker) gang and was wanted for dozens of bank robberies, which had netted the gang an estimated $500,000 and terrorized the Midwest.

Nor were Creepy and the gang limited to bank robbery. The 1933 kidnapping of St. Paul brewery mogul William Hamm led to a $100,000 ransom, and six months later the gang abducted a Minneapolis banker Edward Bremer and collected $200,000. Police got close to Karpis many times, but he always managed to give them the slip or shoot his way out.

On May 1, 1936, his luck finally ran out. FBI agents surrounded his car in New Orleans, and he was personally arrested by J. Edgar Hoover, who was said to have led the attack. Then Karpis joined Al Capone in Alcatraz and began serving a life term for kidnapping.

And Today: Released on parole in 1969 after 33 years behind bars, Karpis was deported to his native Canada, where he stayed long enough to write an autobiography in which he claimed that Hoover had gained "a reputation he didn't deserve" in that 1936 arrest that made him a national hero. Far from leading the charge, claimed Karpis, "Hoover waited until the coast was clear. Then he came out to reap the glory."

Karpis now lives quietly near Malaga, Spain, a kindly old gentleman who often goes up to tourists who look lost and gives them directions. His small apartment is modest, but after all, he says, "I spent 30 years in a room smaller than the bathroom of the apartment. It doesn't take much to make me happy now."

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