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Saint Paul, Minnesota
March 28, 2006
Hop on a bus and prepare to be transported back to the 1920s when St. Paul wasn't so saintly. The Gangster Tour takes you on a 2-hour journey through bank robberies, shootouts, and kidnappings throughout the city.
Your tour guide is one of several infamous gangsters, from John Dillinger to Babyface Nelson. The guide is dressed the part, in a pin-striped suit with a (disabled) tommy gun.
There are several interesting stops around town, and the tour is very interactive. There is only one stop where you actually get off the bus, though. That stop is Swede Hollow Park, the site where the owner of Hamm's Brewery was kidnapped.
Our tour guide, John Dillinger himself, made things very interesting and interactive. He asked questions and gave away prizes at the end of the tour. The history of the gangsters is in itself fascinating, so it's not too hard to get involved and taken away by this tour. The only downside is that there is only one stop, so you may get a bit restless sitting for 2 hours.
The tour is $20 per person, and the company that runs it offers several other similar adventures, such as the "Cave Tour" and "Twin Town Tacky Tour." Visit the Wabasha Street Caves website for more details.
From journal Minneapolis: Ignore the Weather - It's Fun Here!
November 9, 2002
Back then, Police Chief John O'Conner allowed gangsters to safely live in St. Paul without being persecuted for their crimes as long as they continued to pay him off and didn't commit crimes in his city. Owners of gambling houses and brothels also freely established their businesses here adding bulk to the pockets of corrupt policemen and government officials. This agreement, known as the O'Conner Layover System, brought revenue to St. Paul and protected all residents from both crime and prosecution.
Three tours are offered. Wabasha Street Caves is a one hour walk through a huge sandstone cave where mushrooms once thrived and gangsters partied. This is the tour that we took. Ma Barker led us around, informing us about the large profitable mushroom farm that flourished, and pointed out areas where liquor, ammunition, arms and supplies were stored.
The highlight of the cave was seeing the decorated area once known as the Castle Royale Nightclub, where the big names hung out–the Barker gang, John Dillinger, Machine Gun Kelly and Baby Face Nelson. We saw bullet holes in the fireplace where gangsters practiced their target shooting (no one was killed here). We heard stories throughout the walk, such as the tale of how Doc Barker shot two cops and a bystander in a bank robbery in Minneapolis, yet crossed the street into St. Paul and safely hid out here, protected by the corrupt police. Tours are 11am Saturdays and Sundays or 5pm Thursdays. Cost is $5.
The St. Paul Gangster and Mill City Mobs are motorcoach tours lasting 2 hours each. Again costumed gangster tour guides explain the history of the infamous bad boys and lead tourists to sites where gangster activity took place. The St. Paul Gangster tour visits former residences, brothels and flaming nightclubs where the fellas picked up women and socialized with the public, whereas the Mill City Mobs tour stops at sites where kidnappings, gun battles and robberies were committed in Minneapolis, plus the location of John Dillinger's shoot out. Approximately 14 sites are visited on each tour. Cost is $20 and reservations are required. The St. Paul Gangster tour operates year round Saturdays at noon, while the Mill City Mobs tour operates in the summer only (check time and date...last summer they ran at noon on Sundays).
From journal Marvelous Minneapolis