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.┬áThe 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