Murder Taught by Black Hand

February 1, 1908


An Italian school teaching murderous tactics to “students” is found and shut down.


Pittsburgh, Pa.- A school where assassination was taught by experts in the use of the stiletto, provide with secret underground passages and equipped with an arsenal containing 500 weapons besides many explosives- all arranged by the “Black Hand” organization of extortioners and cutthroats- has been discovered and broken up in this city. The place was the national headquarters of the “Black Hand” society. When it was raided 19 armed men were arrested. As the raiders entered the den 17 new members of the society were lined up, all of them naked to the waist, and each armed with a stiletto. Vincenzo Toya, said to be wanted in New York, and Antonia Nicola, were pointing out to the class, on the back on one naked man, the exact spot to drive a stiletto to insure death.
In the room was a dummy on which the class took turns at practice, and everywhere about the wall were weird drawings of assassinations, bleeding hearts with daggers thrust through them, and everywhere the Italian words: “Camorristi Mano Nera” (Black Hand.)
The house where these strange scenes were unearthed is a tenement in Clay alley, an obscure alley in the Italian quarter. The raid was made by two platoons of police assisted by Italian detectives from ten cities, the visiting police having been working here for some time on requisitions to their chiefs from Chief of Police McQuaide, who found himself confronted with a novel problem in crime. The discovery that the band existed was made two weeks ago, in investigating the shooting to death of A. Sunseri, a reputable Italian merchant of Filipo Rei, a “Black Hand” desperado, who demanded $10,000 of Sunseri on pain of death. At the moment of the raid a coroner’s jury was acquitting Sunseri of the murder of the blackmailer. Several of the out-of-town detectives had become members of the band, and reported that there was a regular school in which the younger members were taught to use stiletto. A plan was then laid to raid the place during the instruction hour.
In front, on the ground floor of the tenement, was apparently a restaurant, a large room with tables and chairs, back of which was a supposed kitchen. The harmless-looking range, however, proved to be a forge, the supposed meat block an anvil, and the white-aproned chef the cleverest stiletto maker in the country. Under a table in the kitchen was a trap door, with steps to a cavern extending under several buildings. Leading from this was a long passage, with an exit in a small alley off Clay alley. Edward McGough, captain of detectives, personally conducted the raid. Men were stationed at every exit, including the secret passage, and then a dozen detectives entered the front of the building, overpowered the man in the kitchen, and forced their way down into the underground cavern.
When the detectives swarmed into the place every one of the 19 occupant had a stiletto. No word was spoken, but at a sign the “pupils in crime” made a concerted move to charge the police. This was checked as the Italian detectives demanded a surrender. Then the Black Handites made a rush for the underground passage, through which they expected to reach the street in safety. The officers allowed them to file into the passageway, for a dozen detectives were stationed at the other end, with drawn revolvers. As the fugitives appeared at the end of the passage each one was overpowered and thrown into a patrol wagon. All were landed in Central station.
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Contributed By

Emma Alvarez




“Murder Taught by Black Hand,” Black Virginia: The Richmond Planet, 1894-1909, accessed December 9, 2023,