When most people think about the mafia, cities such as Chicago, New York City, Vegas, etc typically come to mind. But those who REALLY know the history know that Tampa played a huge role, and specifically Ybor City was a haven for mafia activity. And this activity went on for quite some time! Underground tunnels, illegal gambling, paying off mayors and police officers and a number of mafia ‘hits’ over the decades – especially during the Era of Blood, tell a different story than the one told by those who believe there was never any mafia in Tampa.
This 8k tour guides runners on a historical run from downtown into Ybor City, highlighting the early 1900s – more specifically the 1920s-1930s and how ‘innocent’ looking Tampa fell into this underworld so quickly and so heavily for the next several decades. It all starts with a man by the name of Charlie Wall. Charlie was not part of the mafia, but he was a huge fan of anything illegal. Hanging out in opium dens at a very young age, spiraled into a lifetime of crime and corruption that ultimately resulted in becoming enemies with the mafia when they wanted a piece of the action.
Your guide will walk you through the history, quite literally, of downtown and it’s local watering holes, gambling spots and other locations where both Charlie and ultimately Trafficante and other members of the mafia spent their time. You’ll hear about gruesome murders, government officials who looked the other way for the right dollar amount and a river that at one point was producing floating bodies on a regular basis for a solid decade. The Floridan Hotel, Le Meridien Hotel (the old courthouse where the Kefauver Hearings were held, locally), Oaklawn Cemetery and the Hillsborough River are a few of the stops that will be highlighted downtown.
As the tour transitions towards Ybor City your guide will talk more specifically about the mafia and it’s major players in Ybor City and surrounding areas in Tampa as Charlie Wall faded out of the scene and Trafficante Jr rose to power in the city. With everyone in his pocket and a very successful ‘business model’, he actually lived his life out unharmed and died of natural causes. But before that happened there were many years of hitmen (sawed off shotgun was the weapon of choice, almost exclusively), illegal/rigged gambling in the form of bolita, prostitution, smuggling booze during prohibition, smuggling people and other drugs, arson, etc. The tunnels are a major part of this history and will be brought up in quite a few of the stories along the way as they were (allegedly) used to smuggle narcotics/booze/people/etc and were even used in some hits where there was no trace of the assailant – only the body of the deceased. Lastly, your guide will take you by some locations where major players met their maker – often right in the middle of the street or in their car at a light.
With no shortage of stories and history, this tour is sure to make a Tampa mafia believer out of you. Add in a JFK assassination that almost happened right here in Tampa and a few local stories that you won’t find online and you’ll have no doubt in your mind after this!
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