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Nov. 24, 2021

Thanksgiving Bonus Episode - Prison Breaks


Meet 4 men who made it their mission to escape from behind bars. Learn what happened to them once they gained their freedom. Lots of happy endings in today's episode.

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Questions or comments, email lara@doubledealpodcast.com or nina@doubledealpodcast.com

Thank you for listening!

All the best,

Lara & Nina

Transcript

Lara:

Hi all! For those of you listening in the States, Happy Thanksgiving, to all of our other listeners elsewhere in the world, Happy Day whichever day you're listening on.

 

Nina:

We do have quite a few listeners outside of the US. 

 

 

Lara:

 

Well we’ve both lived in a variety of different countries, but there are a few listeners in spots where we don’t even know a soul.



Nina:

 

Thanks everyone for sharing episodes for us. We are almost at 1000 downloads.



Lara:

 

Small milestone but super exciting!! 



Nina:

 

Ok, let’s get into today’s bonus episode. As promised we are telling the stories of four career criminals whose hobby was escaping from prison. We’re going to start off with escape artist Teddy Green. 



Lara:

 

Teddy was born on July 8, 1915 to a Greek immigrant family. He claimed he lied about his last name to the cops once and that name stuck. I was never able to find what his birth name was. His father had come to the United States, started a couple of businesses, and did well for himself. But his dream was to return home. He took his family back to Greece for about 7 years in the 1920s, but returned to Massachusetts because the standard of living was better there. There was enough money that Teddy was even able to attend a private school for a year or two in New Hampshire. Like most of the other gangsters we’ve been discussing, Teddy was known as a dapper dresser who was partial to bowties. The authorities said he was even picky about how his mugshots looked. Labeled as a wisecracker, he was always ready to smile for the cameras whenever a gaggle of reporters appeared.



Nina:

 

But the mugshots! He always seemed to be snarling!



Lara:

 

Hey he was trying to look intimidating!



Nina:

 

Back to Teddy’s path to crime. Then the Great Depression hit. His father lost his businesses. He eventually turned things around, but Teddy had to start working too. Teddy got into a life of crime by stealing from local stores. He was arrested 9 times between 1931 and 1939. The first was for a prank in a movie theater. His mother dragged him home. The others were for petty theft, and resulted in fines and suspended sentences. In 1940 he was sentenced to five years for receiving stolen goods, but only did 8 months.



Lara:

 

In 1945, Green tried to rob a rival businessman to shut him down. However it didn’t work out as planned. The businessman yelled for help and suddenly Teddy was being chased down Tyler Street by a mob. He said he was never so glad to see the cops in his life. That failure led him to his first real bid of 5 years in Charlestown State Prison.



Nina:

 

Teddy went straight for a while but was soon wrapped up in a scheme to rob a bank in Norwood with some of his former prison compatriots. They took nearly $13 grand in that job. After blowing his share, he started justifying it to himself and got the urge to rob again. 



Lara:

 

As always, all roads lead to Maine! In January 1952, Teddy and a friend hit the Westbrook Trust Company in Maine. The manager was alone when the two men entered the office at 2pm. He testified that one robber covered him with two guns while the other leapt over the counter, shoved him into a corner and opened the unlocked vault. Teddy grabbed all the cash in sight, nearly $25,000 in $20 bills or smaller denominations, and then locked the man in the cellar. They were in and out in less than two and a half minutes.



Nina:

 

The State Police in Maine said it was only the second successful bank robbery in the state’s history. You’ll remember from our episode about the Founding Fathers of the New England mob that other theft was attributed to Henry Noyes and Big Bozo Cortese. They led the police on a car chase but threw tacks out the windows in their escape. Noyes and Cortese were eventually arrested but a Grand Jury was unable to get an indictment.



Lara:

 

Teddy later reminisced that he got stopped by a police roadblock that had been set up to catch him. He managed to evade capture because he had the foresight to change into a priest's robes in a side alley. The cop was going to wave Teddy on, but Teddy couldn’t resist stopping to talk. 

“What happened, son?”

“A bank robbery, Father.”

“Was anyone hurt?”

“No.”

“God have mercy on you,” Teddy made the sign of the cross, and went on his way. 



Nina:

 

I would have paid to see that! 

 

If you recall from our first episode, Jack Kelley was also operating in this period. He was planning his jobs around Green’s jobs. Teddy and his accomplices would hit a bank, and then between ten and fourteen days later, Jack would pull a job. 

The difference between Teddy and Jack was stark. Teddy was all impulse. He once admitted that there was very little planning involved in his jobs. “It didn’t take master-minding. It took insanity.”



Lara:

 

Jack was all business. He lived up to his nickname: Swiss Watch. Every single moment was planned down to the second. One minute in, one minute to take care of business, one minute to get away.



Nina:

 

Well, that’s why Jack spent more time free than locked up, unlike Teddy who was once described by his daughter as “...impulsive and weak. Once he gets an idea… he has to do it right away.”

 

The end of Teddy’s crime spree came in March 1952 with the Middlesex County National Bank in Medford. He and his accomplices got nearly $20,000 in that score. Jack pulled the Danvers job just two weeks later, and things started to unravel for Teddy.



Lara:

 

In early May a one-eyed former boxer named Harvey Bistany was arrested in a diner in Providence, RI. Dennis Lytwyn AKA Denny Raimondi and another man were arrested with him. Bistany later claimed that he turned state's evidence because Teddy had double crossed him by committing the robbery in Maine without him. But the truth was that Bistany faced a long prison sentence, or even the death penalty, and flipped to save himself. 



Nina:

 

Bistany was a former associate of the notorious bank robber, Willie “The Actor” Sutton. Sutton had been arrested in New York in February of ‘52 on information from a clothing salesman who had seen him in the street. Bistany was alleged to have murdered the informant in revenge on March 8, 1952, just two days before Teddy’s last job in Medford. 

 

Arrests followed. On May 8, the police arrested Teddy’s wife as an accessory, and announced that Teddy was being sought. Teddy went on the lam but was finally caught in Chicago a few weeks later. 



Lara:

 

Teddy and his companions were accused of participating in two robberies but suspected of several more. The authorities tried Green three different times. He was acquitted twice. His attorney, Paul T Smith, was able to use Bistany’s revenge story against the prosecution. Bistany’s girlfriend also testified that Bistany was jealous of Green. All the charges against Bistany were dropped due to his cooperation. He was paroled from Sing-Sing in October 1956.




Nina:

 

But the Prosecutors went after Teddy a third time and that charge finally stuck. They used another accomplice to testify against him this time, threatening the man with deportation if he didn’t cooperate. He ended up being deported anyway, and Teddy was sentenced to a 20 year state bid in Charlestown in addition to a 25 year Federal bid. While waiting to be moved from East Cambridge jail to Charlestown, Teddy attempted his first escape by climbing a drainpipe up to the roof, 70 feet above the street. Trapped, he was forced to surrender.



Lara:

 

But that didn’t stop him. Feeling he had nothing to lose, Teddy planned his next escape attempt. Things started going wrong from the start. He escaped in a bale of rugs on the back of a truck. His friends were supposed to follow the truck and pick him up. But they ended up following the wrong truck. Stranded with less than $10 in his pocket and wearing a poorly dyed prison uniform, he tried calling other friends. But they didn’t want to be associated with him. He finally scraped together $60 and made it to New York. 




Nina:

 

Once there, he contacted a bookie who owed him $1500. That man sent him to New Jersey where the FBI was waiting for him. Off he went back to Charlestown.



Lara:

 

The next attempt involved half a dozen men with guns, molotov cocktails, and a homemade ladder. When they got to the wall, a guard managed to fire a shot at them. They got the ladder up anyway. By now the entire prison colony of 300 inmates was watching the show. Teddy and his friends had a cheering section. They were yelling, “Get the ladder up!” Then two men tried to climb the ladder at the same time and it came crashing down. The cheerleaders yelled, “Get it up again!” But Teddy and his friends were out of bullets and the ladder was broken.



Nina:

 

So they made a run for the Cherry Hill section of the Charlestown prison, the segregation building. They locked themselves in the cellar, and spent the next ten days in isolation. 

 

Undeterred, Teddy and his fellow prisoners came up with a new plan. On a cold night in January 1955, they set that plan in motion. But as usual it didn’t quite work out the way they’d imagined it would. Their escape bid turned into what became known as the Cherry Hill Riot.



Lara:

 

Another one of the leaders of the riot was Joe Flaherty.

 

Joe Flaherty had grown up with an abusive father and a distant mother. The only son, he started running away from home at the age of six. He would sleep in parked cars and steal food to eat. His father passed away when Joe was ten. He dropped out of school after the sixth grade. At 11 he was caught breaking into a shop. That was the beginning of his criminal career. Joe was picked up for a variety of similar offenses over the next nine years, in and out of reform school and various foster homes. 



Nina:

 

He eventually landed in prison, and was released at the age of 20. He got a job in a factory, got married, and had two kids. The couple divorced three years later when Joe joined the army. But he soon went AWOL and robbed a jewelry store. He was sentenced to a four year Federal bid in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. 



Lara:

 

Joe was released in July 1950. He briefly tried to go straight, and got a job as a welder. It didn’t last long. Soon he quit the welding job, and began committing B&Es. He was living in Dorchester, and drifting from job to job. 



Nina:

 

In late summer of 1951, Joe was falsely accused of rape and charged. He made the $1000 bail and went on the lam. He made it all the way to Tijuana but then returned to the US. Broke, he ran out on his dinner bill in Reno. The restaurant owner tried to chase him down and reported him to the police. Joe was jailed for ten days on charges of carrying a concealed weapon. 

 

At first he gave an alias, but eventually admitted to his real identity. In December 1951 he was extradited. Back in Boston Joe admitted to break-ins and robberies in Stoughton {Stoweton}, Newton, Wakefield, Brockton, Milton, Dedham, and Weymouth. He was also accused of three more rapes, charges he denied. In April 1952, he was sentenced to 36 to 46 years. He appealed the sentence but his appeal was rejected.



Lara:

 

The Cherry Hill Riot was not Joe’s first escape attempt either.



Nina:

 

During the Charlestown Riot on July 22, 1952, a guard’s head appeared at a window behind which the prisoners had barricaded themselves. A convict held a knife to the throat of the guard and threatened to slit his throat if the tear gas bombs kept coming. Neither guard was injured and the hostage takers surrendered after 15 hours. 



Lara:

 

Grievances stated by the prisoners included: bad and insufficient food, inadequate recreation, and poor sanitation facilities. 



Nina:

 

And they weren’t exaggerating. An editorial in the Boston Globe noted that Charlestown was nearly 147 years old, making it “the oldest prison in active use in the nation”. 

 

“When Charlestown was built, Paul Revere was still turning out silverware, Napoleon was fresh from Austerlitz, and Thomas Jefferson was President.” 

 

Designed by the same man who planned the construction of the Massachusetts State House, Charles Bullfinch, the prison had already been “condemned 31 times as unfit for humans”. 

 

Charlestown was briefly abandoned in 1878, and the prisoners moved to Concord. But, despite protests from legislators and civic groups, the site was renovated, expanded, and reopened just 14 years later.



Lara:

 

And in 1952:

 

“Prisoners still use buckets instead of toilets. Sunlight never penetrates the dank interior. Its kitchen facilities are classified as totally inadequate.” 

 

My uncle Danny had a year-long stretch in there. He said they had a bucket of “clean” water and a bucket to piss and shit in. You had to replace those yourself daily, if you were lucky.



Nina:

 

Wait until we get into the conditions Georgie McLaughlin was kept in later this season. And that was just pretrial detention.

 

The State Correction Commissioner’s report on the incident admitted that the food at Charlestown was sometimes “lousy” but claimed that the substandard living conditions were not the true reason for the riot. 



Lara:

 

In January 1953 State Prison officials announced that they had broken a ring of escapees with the discovery of two pistols, 100 rounds of ammo, and a store of benzedrine tablets. Flaherty had allegedly been a member of this group. In September 1953, Flaherty and four others attempted another breakout of Charlestown. They were briefly able to take two prison guards hostage but their plan ultimately failed. The five men were placed in isolation cells in the Cherry Hill section again.



Nina:

 

At this point Charlestown was just months away from scheduled closure, and the 600 prisoners housed there were supposedly going to be sent to the new maximum security prison in Norfolk. But things didn’t work out that way since the men were still in Charlestown when the Cherry Hill Riot took place in January ‘55.



Lara:

 

Four men sawed their way out of their cells, captured two guards, locked them up, took their uniforms, and used a wrench to get the door off. But then they found another guard blocking their way. So they went up on the roof. But the roof was too steep and they couldn’t make it over. The men spent the next four hours trying to come up with an alternative escape route. Only to be confronted by a guard on duty in the yard. Teddy took him captive too. After an hour, two more guards appeared looking for their colleagues. The prisoners locked them up also. The alarm finally went off at 5am. 



Nina:

 

Now Teddy and Joe and their fellow prisoners were trapped. They barricaded themselves in and began their standoff. The Prison Warden called in the State Police. An Army tank was sent. In the meantime the men decided to try to dig their way out using a makeshift shovel. But they got six feet in and water started to seep in. None of the men could swim. 

 

Food was quickly running out. They finally agreed to release their fellow prisoners but kept the guards. The standoff continued to drag on. The men believed they were going to be killed. They had a radio that they kept playing to find out what was going on outside the walls. They agreed to let food be delivered for the guards.



Lara:

 

Finally, the authorities sent in Teddy’s 16-year-old daughter to talk him down. It worked. The men agreed to talk but had a few demands of their own. Joe was their spokesman. 

 

"We won’t surrender until you send in a citizens' committee to investigate our living conditions,” he said. After almost four days of bargaining, the prisoners’ terms were met and the committee entered the prison headed by Erwin Canham, the editor of the Christian Science Monitor.



Nina:

 

Erwin Canham, Reverend Hartigan, Reverend Kellett and Dr Merlin met with the prisoners who they described as desperate, but desperately earnest men. They said the prisoners asked them to give them hope. 



Lara:

 

Later in 1967 Teddy Green gave an interview about the Cherry Hill Riot. He talked about the concern they had for the guards, and how they didn’t interfere with food being brought in for them. Any uneaten food was returned as the prisoners vowed not to eat it. As Nina mentioned, they were listening to the radio around the clock and even heard that the portion of the prison they were in was to be blown up.



Nina:

 

Luckily it didn’t come to that. 

 

At one point, Teddy quipped to the Deputy Warden, “Tell the Governor to send a car for our release.” He backed this up later with a threat to kill a hostage for every shot that was fired at them. But despite that, violence was never committed during their 84 hour standoff. The men surrendered to the citizens committee they’d negotiated with. They were led away to cells but not solitary confinement. The citizens committee meanwhile declared that they would not disband but instead devote themselves to working on prison reform.

 

An investigation of the whole Massachusetts correctional system was launched, sweeping reforms were legislated, and the Commissioner was replaced.

 

Teddy’s state bid was vacated in May 1955, and he was relocated to Alcatraz in June. 




Lara:

 

Our next escape artist is Russell Thomas Halliday. Russell was born in July 1928 to Gerald and Ida Halliday of Cambridge, MA. He attended Boston Latin School, and joined the Navy at the tail end of WW2. Since he was only 17, he must have lied about his age when he signed up. Halliday was honorably discharged in April 1949.

 

Halliday and two friends were picked up in November 1950 by the FBI on suspicion of a link to Jack Kelley’s Newton National Bank job. Halliday was a suspect because of his red hair. The same shade of red as Jack’s. And a similar build. Halliday was roughly 6’ tall with a rugged build, so except for being younger the witness descriptions were surely similar to those given about Jack. But instead of being charged with that robbery, he and his accomplices ended up confessing to three drugstore holdups, two shootings, and a series of gun raids on bookie joints dating back to as early as December 1949. The Feds turned them over to the local police in Watertown.



Nina:

 

Halliday pleaded innocent on November 13, 1950. Bail was set at $40,000. The three men were accused of armed robbery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and assault with intent to murder. The last charge was in connection to the shooting of a Watertown police officer as they fled a drug store after robbing it in April. Halliday had shot the patrolman twice in the stomach. He changed his plea in March ‘51 and was sentenced to 12-15 years in prison.



Lara:

 

Soon Halliday would find himself in prison with Frank Martin Feeney. They often accompanied one another on their adventures over the wall. Frank I knew in my childhood. I remember when he was coming to my house to visit for the first time. I must have been 6 or 7 years old. It was a big deal to me because he had been in Alcatraz, and I was curious to see what he was like. The guys were all talking about how he married a judge’s daughter and how he was doing good for himself. The whole thing was fascinating to me. I may not have been allowed to watch TV, but who needed TV when there were all these characters live and in the flesh? Now I won’t tell the story about what happened when my aunt Helen walked through the door and found him in the kitchen quite yet, but we’ll get to that shortly. Nina, I’ll let you give his bio.




Nina:

 

Frank Martin Feeney was born on September 20, 1915 in Roxbury, MA. According to his prison record at Sing Sing, he was the youngest of five children. His father died when he was 19. He listed his mother as deceased on his prison intake form as they had been estranged since he was 15. She later reappeared in his life while he was still incarcerated. 

 

He was sent to Shirley Reform School in 1931. He ran away at least once but was quickly caught. He later said that they’d handcuff the runaways to the bedposts at night to prevent further escapes. In 1933 Feeney was given a State Prison sentence of 6-9 years for assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He wasn’t even 18 at the time, but represented himself in court.



Lara:

 

He attempted to hold up a man driving a car in the Bronx in May 1941, and was sentenced to 18 months in Sing Sing. 



Nina:

 

Then in October ‘45, Feeney and Edward Rasmussen robbed the Egyptian Theater on Washington Street in Brighton. 



Lara:

 

It appeared that Frank had managed to at least not get himself arrested for a couple of years.



Nina:

 

Well not long enough. The following day, the men were spotted on a 65 foot long cabin cruiser owned by Rasmussen. They took the boat to Squaw Point, and carried two suitcases and two boxes ashore. Then disappeared into the woods for a few minutes, and returned empty handed. Instead of returning to the cabin cruiser, they transferred to an outboard motorboat, and led the cops on a high speed boat chase over Boston Harbor. They were finally caught when the police boat fired a shot across the bow of the smaller boat. Feeney and Rasmussen claimed that they were just out “fishing”, but no fishing gear was found on the boat. 



Lara:

 

Feeney and Rasmussen were charged with illegal possession of  firearms and burglary tools that they’d hidden on the shore. A submachine gun was identified as one that had been stolen from the Quincy Armory in March 1944. They were held on $20,000 double surety.



Nina:

 

The trial was three weeks long and had plenty of melodrama with ex-girlfriends and lovers testifying against the accused. The women were blowing the men kisses in the courtroom!

On December 15, 1945, after seven hours of jury deliberation, Feeney was found guilty. He was sentenced later to 5-7 years for his part in the crimes in addition to two months for violating his parole. 



Lara:

 

The following month, Feeney and Rasmussen faced additional charges of breaking and entering, and larceny of tools, acetylene torches, and small tanks from a Watertown garage. They pleaded not guilty.



Nina:

 

Frank was released in early 1949. On April 1, four men held up the Edward Everett Federal Savings and Loan Company in Dorchester. Only one man seemed to be armed with a pistol. The other men kept their hands in their pockets as if armed, and wore handkerchiefs over their faces. The armed man directed the holdup operations. Their getaway car was a green sedan. 



Lara:

 

This was the first of a wave of bank, chain store, and payroll hold ups that took place in the Boston area over the next two months. The thieves netted about $100,000 over that period, according to police estimates. Other heists included banks in Leicester ($3000), Grafton ($5000), and another bank in Dorchester ($2500) at the end of April.

 

Finally on May 23 the same year, the Harvard Trust Company in Belmont was robbed of $3000. The gunmen were both described as six feet and wearing blue pencil-striped suits. They tried to get the bank manager to open the vault, but he told them it was on a timer system and locked.

 

On June 6, Feeney was arrested and held on suspicion of that robbery. The authorities alleged that he and an accomplice had committed the Harvard Trust Company holdup among others. He pleaded guilty to the Harvard Trust job and was sentenced to 12-15 years that July.



Nina:

 

At the end of May 1954, Feeney and six other prisoners made an escape bid from the Norfolk prison colony. To give you an idea of what the men were dealing with, Norfolk was rated a “maximum level security” prison. There was a 20 foot high wall made of reinforced concrete, topped by electrified barbed wire. Eight watch towers were spaced out along the walls. 

Between the wall and the prison buildings was an open space split by a ten foot wire fence. The zone between the wall and the fence was referred to as “no-man’s land”. Anyone who made it to no-man’s land would be shot at by a guard in a tower. The guards on the ground were unarmed but had access to weapons in the watchtowers. To top it all off, there was a “gas tunnel” in the gate house of the main entrance of the prison. Any prisoner who attempted to get through the tunnel would be gassed and knocked out.



Lara:

 

The men had constructed a twenty foot scaling ladder to hook over the wall. Once on top of the wall, they used insulated clippers made in the prison workshop to cut through the electrified fence. They’d also built a rope ladder to let them down the other side. But they heard a guard and in a panic jumped instead. Unable to see the ground twenty-five feet below due to heavy fog, the men were all injured. Feeney sustained a sprained ankle. One of his compatriots fractured his spine in addition to spraining his ankle. He hobbled and then crawled twelve miles to the side of the road in Bellingham where he was re-captured. Another escapee wasn’t so lucky. He was never found and eventually given up for dead. Only one of the men was successful, a Canadian citizen. He fled back home. But there he got into trouble almost immediately. He was arrested for littering in Toronto, and sent back to Massachusetts to finish his sentence. What a fucking idiot. Too lazy to find a trash can to throw his sandwich wrapper into.



Nina:

 

Two and a half months later, undaunted, four of the men tried again. This time Russell Halliday led the charge. He created a disturbance and forced the guards to lead him to a maximum security cell, but once he had the guards isolated, he held them at gunpoint, made them strip and opened the doors of 39 cells. Two of the men from the prior escape attempt refused to join, the Canadian citizen hid under his bed. They were not prepared to go through their previous experience again. The escapees locked the two guards in a cell, and put on their uniforms. But they needed three more uniforms. So they grabbed three more guards who were changing for their shift, and overpowered them. Finally they took two guards hostage and commandeered the truck of one. They released the one guard but kept the driver hostage.

 

Feeney was arrested again the following day in a stolen car in Putnam, Connecticut. The judge slapped another 25 year sentence on him for kidnapping the prison guard. 

 

In December 1954, Feeney tried to escape again by dashing away from the guards in a courthouse and into the elevator. But he couldn’t figure out how to operate the elevator and was quickly recaptured.



Lara:

 

No words! Technology baby! Defeated by an elevator. In November 1956, Feeney was finally successful. He and three other men overpowered their guards as they were being transported to for a court appearance at the Suffolk County Courthouse in Boston. It was his seventh escape attempt. 



Nina:

 

Lucky number seven!

 

Two weeks later, Feeney, Louis Arquilla, and Dorothy Barchard robbed the Fidelity Baltimore National Bank and Trust Company of nearly $13,000. Dorothy was thought to be the getaway driver. Feeney was described by the FBI as a “notorious safe-cracker, bank robber, gunman and escape artist.”

 

The three were finally caught in Minneapolis two months later. On the airplane back to Boston, Arquilla made a desperate attempt to hijack the plane but was thwarted by a stewardess who slammed the cockpit door in his face and locked it. He was quickly overpowered by two US Marshals.



Lara:

 

Another escape artist I knew when I was a kid, Louis Arquilla. Louis’ story didn’t have a happy ending. We’lll be talking about that in season 2.



Nina:

 

And we will be profiling Dorothy Frances Barchard’s story in our bonus episode at New Year.



Lara:

 

Oh Dorothy and all her beaus! Don’t forget she was blowing kisses at Louis as he was being hauled onto the plane!



Nina:

 

That’s one name for the men Dorothy collected, and I’m sure she soon forgot about Louis. Feeney was given 25 years for the Baltimore bank robbery, in addition to another 4-6 years for armed bank robberies in Chelsea, Forest Hills, and Newton.



Lara:

 

In August 1957 Feeney made another escape attempt  from Walpole. He was joined by five other prisoners. They had constructed a ladder made of two eleven foot lengths of two by four pieces of lumber that they’d gotten from the laundry room. Holes were bored every two and a half feet and an iron rod was placed in each hole to make a step. They’d also secured blankets that they’d camouflaged with green paint. Only one man made it over the wall. Feeney was just inches from making it when he fell backward. The six men were all given an extra year’s sentence in September.



Nina:

 

In December 1957 Feeney and four other prisoners were sent to Concord after being discovered with tools that could be used to make another bid for freedom. The five men were not included in the list of the men who had already been voted out of Walpole by the prison guards. If you remember from our previous episodes, Halliday, Jimmy Flemmi, and Billie Aggie were also sent to Concord.



Lara:

 

And that’s where dad met Feeney. Now let's get into the Walpole Prison Riot of 1959. This attempt did not have the same ending as the Cherry Hill Riot.



Nina:

 

The convicts were armed with gasoline bombs and sharp objects. They hijacked a milk truck making a delivery. They threatened to kill the first guard they found as they were attempting to use the ladder from the milk truck to climb the wall. However, the hostage who they were forcing up the ladder in front of them, kicked the ladder down once he got to the top of the wall. He had already been slashed in the neck with an icepick as he was being taken hostage.

 

It was at this point that the prisoners decided to give up on escape and barricade themselves in the industrial building of Walpole. They had managed to grab three hostages in the process. With these hostages as bargaining chips, they demanded the presence of the priest, Father Hartigan. 



Lara:

 

Father Hartigan had been made prison chaplain in October 1951. He divided his time between the different State Prisons. He was present at both the 1952 and the 1955 prison riots at Charlestown. In both cases he was considered something of a hero for talking the hostage takers down.

 

But Halliday and Feeney and their fellow prisoners were not willing to operate in good faith this time. Father Hartigan was joined by the Deputy Warden. Both men were now hostages. The prisoners then demanded the presence of the Warden, taking him hostage also.



Nina:

 

The Warden later testified that the hostages, including Father Hartigan, had been doused with gasoline by the prisoners, who threatened that they’d set the hostages on fire unless they were allowed to leave Walpole in the milk truck.



Lara:

 

Now we can get to the story about my aunt Helen. When she came home and found the gathering of men in the house it was nothing new to her. BUT when she saw Frank sitting at the kitchen table all hell broke loose. Helen never wore pants, never drove a car, never smoked a cigarette in her life, but she was tougher than any of her brothers. When she walked in the house on any given day, the lot of them froze, but on that day they all went running for the hills. 

 

I was sitting off in the corner on the floor as was and is still my habit, when I saw her turn into the kitchen off of the hallway to the right. She still had her purse in her hand. I swear she carried a brick in that thing. It was her weapon. She even beat a mugger with it once! Their eyes locked, and she ripped into him. “You no good son of a bitch bastard. You doused a priest in gasoline. Your eyes should bleed! You were never any fucking good, you lousy bastard. Get out of this house and don’t ever come back here. I’ll kill you myself if I ever see you here again!” 

 

Frank took off like greased lightning for the front door. Everyone else had cleared out to the front yard, and of course nosy me followed suit. My dad was in the yard apologizing to Frank by the time I made it out there. Frank told my father that all his years in Alcatraz, he never came across anyone as hard as his sister. She was tougher than any con! I felt this insane sense of pride. Up until that point I wanted to be as tough as the men in my family, but my aunt brought that to a whole new level!



Nina:

 

She’d be proud of you! 





Lara:

 

But I felt guilty afterwards because I liked Frank! He seemed like a nice, intelligent man.



Nina:

 

I bet he was. Ok back to Walpole. Instead of giving into the demands, special squads of State Troopers stormed the building. The windows were smashed in. Orders had been given to “shoot to kill”. One of the prisoners threw one of the homemade fire bombs against the wall. It caused a small fire that was quickly extinguished. The men were subdued shortly after that and placed in the maximum security section of Walpole.



Lara:

 

Father Hartigan refused to testify when the men were brought to trial. The six men all pleaded guilty. Feeney was given 15 to 20 years and Halliday was given 12 to 15 years.

 

In February 1962, Feeney and Halliday were sent to join Teddy Green at Alcatraz. Teddy had been in Alcatraz for nearly 7 years at that point.



Nina:

 

Teddy tried escaping a few times from Alcatraz. Once a guard inspecting his cell fell into a hole Teddy was in the middle of digging. Confronted by the evidence, Teddy muttered, “Damn termites.” 



Lara:

 

Then there was also the time Teddy and some fellow prisoners tried to build a makeshift canoe to paddle off The Rock. That project also had to be abandoned. He finally changed tactics and went to work on a more legal form of escape: appealing his sentences. He filed 56 appeals on his own behalf, and not one was "a frivolous motion." Eventually successful, he was set free in 1967. Teddy became a used-car salesman in West Roxbury and then started a few businesses of his own, including a mortgage brokerage company. He began speaking to schools and civic groups, telling his story and advocating for prison reform. He passed away in 1998 at the age of 82. Good for Teddy!



Nina:

 

Joe Flaherty was granted parole on March 30, 1964, and was released on April 3rd. There to greet him was the love of his life, Frances McKearney of Canada. Joe credited her love to his complete rehabilitation. There’s a great photo of the two of them leaving Walpole on the website. He thanked everyone who helped him gain his freedom including Paul Benzaquin, the famous radio host, at a press conference outside of the prison.



Lara:

 

Superintendent Galvin stated, “In all my 29 years in correction work I don’t know of anybody who has worked harder at developing and rehabilitating himself than Joe Flaherty.” Nina, how did Miss McKearney of Canada meet Flaherty?




Nina:

 

Fran was living in the Yukon and read a magazine article about the Cherry Hill Riot in 1955. Smitten with Flaherty, she decided to send him a postcard for Christmas. He took the time to write back and they became penpals. After several years of correspondence Fran finally went to Massachusetts to visit him. They fell in love, and she remained in Boston, visiting him in prison every Wednesday and Saturday for nearly eight years.



Lara:

 

Well, Joe did have amazing hair and was quite good looking! He was described in the letter from Erwin as a handsome young fellow with blond hair, blue eyes, a hawkish profile and pink in his cheeks. Sounds like Erwin was smitten with Joe too! Frances and Joe married and lived happily ever after. Almost makes you not want to be such a cynic!



Nina:

 

I wouldn’t go that far! 

 

Joe and Fran aren’t the only lovebirds in today’s episode. Frank too found love. This time it was a judge’s daughter! On February 23, 1971 he was granted parole. The former commissioner of the corrections department wrote a letter to the parole board. The Massachusetts State Prison Superintendent also did. It said, “Frank is an excellent guy behind the walls. He’s active in a Christian group and does a lot of reading for the blind.” He was making recordings of books on tape for them. 



Lara:

 

Audiobook pioneer! Frank’s sentence was finally commuted on May 27th of the same year. Later that year, he pushed for prison reform. He wrote a letter about his time in the Shirley Reformatory in 1931. “I spent an adult lifetime trying to undo what was done to me at Shirley and other state institutions that followed. Hopefully, Dr Miller’s changes at Shirley and throughout the Youth Service system, will save numerous youngsters from troubled homes from the fate that so many generations experienced.”



Nina:

 

Frank went on to become a member of the Massachusetts Governor’s Board on Crime and Correction. The first time a former inmate had ever held such a position in the US. He and his wife, 38 years younger than him, owned a variety store near Neponset Circle. Motivational speaking filled most of his time. He was also the assistant director of the Manpower program that helped place former inmates in jobs. Of the 85 men and women he helped to get paroled, none of them ever returned to prison. Frank earned a Master’s Degree from Goddard College.



Lara:

 

I can see why his young bride was taken with Frank. He was described in a 1975 article as tall, rugged and handsome. I just remember him as an old guy with glasses! He spent the rest of his days fighting for education programs for prisoners. Genuinely a good person. His escape partner Russell Halliday followed in his footsteps. In 1974 he became a counselor in the prison system. He worked in the Berkshire County Alcoholism detoxification center in Pittsfield. He fought for work release and education programs for inmates.



Nina:

 

There has to be a better way to run our prison system. They say that the system is rehabilatory but it’s not, it’s punitive. But we still expect people to come out of a punitive system magically reformed. And people are surprised when the felons fall back into their old ways and habits.

 

And more importantly a better way to keep people from becoming part of the system. Look at Halliday. He made a series of admittedly bad choices that ruined his life forever. He might have had a normal life otherwise. On the other hand, Feeney and Flaherty were labeled and condemned from childhood. Tragic, really.



Lara:

 

I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s madness to think you can just warehouse people, for years, often decades and expect them to return to society fine, upstanding citizens. Without skills, support and the ability to earn a living, of course people return to crime. Yes, there is a small percentage of people that are sadly beyond being able to be rehabilitated, but the people who are convicted of economic crimes and drugs are surely not beyond hope. The four men we profiled today are proof that even someone who spent decades in prison can have a different life.



Nina:

 

No question! Enjoy your day everyone. Hope you listen in next week. Monday’s episode will be about the McLean/McLaughlin feud. I’m doing the plugging today! Please subscribe, share and review our podcast! Thank you!

 

Lara and Nina:

 

Bye!