chewing an ear off

The Whyos were one of the infamous gangs of New York.


The Whyos had several leaders, but longest reigning were Danny Lyons, his girlfriend (“Pretty” Kitty McGowan) and Danny Driscoll. The members were predominantly Irish, but unlike the Irish gangs of the past, victimized anyone – not just white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Driscoll and Lyons eventually decreed that in order to be a real Whyo, the person must have killed at least once. They were so powerful that most of the other gangs at the time had to ask their permission to operate.

Pretty Kitty Bento Box found here

A prominent member, “Dandy” John Dolan, is noted for inventing several unique gang weapons including a set of shoes in which pieces of an ax blade were embedded and a copper eye gouger (worn on the thumb), first used in a robbery in the summer of 1875. As he attempted to rob a local jewelry store, the owner James H. Noe tried to stop Dolan who then proceeded to use the eye gouger on Noe, taking the eyes with him.

David mourns the eye gouger found here

Aside from committing many crimes, the Whyos also offered specific criminal services for a price. The following list was found on Piker Ryan when he was arrested by the NYPD in 1884.

Punching $1

Both eyes blacked $3

Nose and jaw broke $7

Jacked out (knocked out with a Blackjack) $15

Ear chewed off $15

Leg or arm broke $19

Shot in the leg $20

Stab $21.50

“Doing the big job” (murder) $100 and up

Hedgehog with three broken legs found here

Over a century later, prices have risen accordingly. According to, they also vary quite widely.

Undercover investigator Gary Johnson has been hired by more than 60 Texans to off their enemies in the past 20 years. At the high end, a wealthy socialite who wanted her husband dead gave Johnson $200,000 in jewels as a down payment on the killing. At the low end, a teenager once offered him “seven Atari computer games, three dollar bills, and $2.30 in nickels and dimes” to take out a romantic rival.

$200,000 pendant found here

The FBI works undercover on an average of 70 to 90 murder-for-hire cases a year. According to bureau press releases, recent quoted fees have ranged from $25,000 to kill a spouse to $600 to kill a girlfriend. And a drug dealer in New Orleans tried to pay for a contract killing in crack. Richard Kuklinski, a man who claimed to have killed more than 100 people as a Mafia hit man, said in an HBO documentary that he received just $1,600 per victim.

Kuklinski as a family man

The Australian Institute of Criminology studied 163 attempted and actual contract killings between 1989 and 2002. The average rate received was $12,700. The lowest was $380, and the highest was $76,000. In Russia, where murders-for-hire are on the rise, contracts start at a couple of hundred dollars. An expert quoted in the Moscow Times says the most expensive Russian hit may have been the 1998 killing of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova, which may have gone for $150,000 because of the long chain of people allegedly involved.

Russian soldiers found here

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35 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Average cost of housing such criminals in prison in USA – $50,000 Est # people incarcerated in USA 1.3 million. Most reasons for incarceration: victim-less drug violations.

    • What’s your solution Carl?

      • That is exactly what you are supposed to ask the alarmists and complainers to put them in their place. I will try to be short as possible Nurse. First is education and get them early teens with mentorship. Too many homes are single parent and many parents work two jobs to survive so no support at home. In school there needs to be individual designed learning as opposed to assembly line education. Need marketable skills.
        USA education geared to the college track only and upper level math = kids drop out of school. No blue collar work force training. I have proposed to make accounting and bookkeeping math credits high school. I can’t do algebra I. Prisons 85% Black and Hispanic. We have 3 strike law. Third felony, no matter how minor, puts man long term prison. Our drug laws make people felons, deprive family of father and wage earner, all to generate jobs corrections/prison industry. Some drugs to be decriminalized. Ex felons can’t get job. Should help them. Over crowding prisons = release murderer/rapist and keep drug offender. That’s astonishing. Rehab not incarceration for drug offense and training/guidance early teens. Of course drug lords maximum sentence. This solution impossible jobless economy in USA now, however. So how do you get $$$? = crime.

      • I can’t do algebra either 😦

  2. Surprisingly I’ve actually got a personal story about a contract killing but I’m not allowed to talk about it. However, the very odd part of the story is that a television station used a cottage we owned to film a reconstruction of the crime with no idea of our tenuous link.

    [Love the piccy at the bottom!]

    • What a tease! Don’t try to distract me by talking about your real estate investments and my photo hunting skills. I want DETAILS!!!!

  3. @ daddy: No fair! Don’t tease us like that and not ‘fess up.

    I’d gladly pay $20 to have my ex-boss at J.P. Morgan shot in the leg.

    • Exactly UB. If he doesn’t ‘fess up I’m considering having him banned from the Gimcrack

  4. i’d offer specials on punching. buy one, get one free. punching people feels good sometimes….

    • Sounds like typical ‘Military Intelligence’ DF!

      My own soldiers are always getting into fisticuffs round the castle. Trouble is later in life they can’t hold a teapot or change a bedpan…

      The King

      • I thought your soldiers were all of the four legged variety Your Majesty

      • No but they’re often down on all fours…

        The King

  5. I take it the hedgehog failed to pay up on time. Or was it a grass?

    $50,000 per head to keep people in jail. It’s an outrage. Bet you I could get that down to about a buck and a quarter per head.

    PS. How can possesion of drugs be victimless. Don’t you have to buy them off proletarian types who tend to bump people off left right and center?

    • Apparently. Or so I learned when watching King of New York 😉

  6. Aside from all the cogent comments above, I gleaned a couple of things. The idea of having to kill someone to belong to a gang did not originate with the Crips.

    There is something disturbing about the bento box, there has to be a line drawn somewhere. Can we really eat “Hello Kitty?”

    • I believe we can!

  7. At least with the ear chewing option you don’t have to provide the thug with lunch…

    • you do if it’s in the contract

  8. There should be a price schedule for different calibers of shooting. I mean, hell, after a few shots to tequila I’d shoot myself in the leg for $20, provided I could use my .22LR.

    If you wanted to shoot me in the leg with a 5.56-N or a 7.62, that would be a lot more expensive and I still probably wouldn’t let you do it.

    • Thomas, you make my head spin.

  9. Funny how it’s called a contract killing when there’s no way the contract could be enforced in a court of law. He failed to kill my wife, m’lud. Disgraceful, Mr Smithers, I award you damages of £2000….

    • The damages are too low. I’d appeal.

  10. Maybe that’s how I should celebrate New Year’s, punching white Anglo-Saxon Protestants like my forefathers did. But I’ll need more than Atari games for my troubles. At least some old school Nintendo or Super Nintendo titles…

    • Do you still have the machine to play them on?

      • Hells yeah! I even still have an Atari 2600 that works.

  11. I’m charmed that you found the Brick Testament for illustration purposes. Someone showed that to me a couple of years back and I’m still scratching my head.

    • I am so glad someone clicked that link! It’s such a mind boggling site

  12. I actually saw that HBO documentary you wrote of. They guy did not seem to care at all that he killed that many people. He was like a robot. Scary.

    • I’d like to see it. People like that fascinate me.

  13. I grew up with a kid that offered a mini hit man service to beat people up. He’s in jail today, if you can believe that!

    I hope you have a Happy New Year and I’m pretty sure that you won the internet for Sexiest Blogger of 2010 as well!!

  14. I wonder where you can get a price list – – –

  15. Well Myra. Kill-for-hire is certainly a reprieve from the otherwise joyous holiday messages being posted elsewhere. As is usual, I’m leaving your site with a smile and a great appreciation of your research. Happy New Year.

  16. As you know that
    To day’s the last day
    Of the year 2010
    I want to thank the
    Special people, who
    Touched my life
    With their
    Concern & made
    My life more
    You are one of them,
    Thanks for your
    Contribution to my life
    May almighty
    Continue to give you
    Blessing &
    Happiness in the
    Coming years
    Too All Of You

  17. “Chewing an ear off”? Ew. I’m thinking that there’s no amount of money out there that would induce me to chew someone’s ear off.

  18. There was also NY gang of that period that claimed to specialize in using molasses to blind (and then rob).

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