Enrico Alassio was a prominent figure in the underworld of 1920s New York. Born in Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily, in 1863, Alassio was part of the Sicilian Mafia until his untimely death (he died in a brawl with a giant mussel that caught his head while he was trying to pry it open). From then on, he became part of the American mafia with the nickname of “The Ghost”.(Italy was saturated with ghosts, some of which dated back to medieval times, while America was a young nation with relatively little competition in this field.) In New York, Alassio did not lack work. Before a mobster would be killed by a rival gang, Mafia’s code of honor required that a warning be sent to him in the form of a ‘spavento’ (a fright). Alassio’s task was to frighten the life out of those sentenced by the boss. Alassio’s boss was Salvatore Maranzano, who was the target of all the hit men in New York. (For more than ten years, Maranzano was able to escape this threat thanks to the open war between all those who vied for the privilege of killing him.) Alassio had the advantage that no one could see him, which allowed him to sneak into the headquarters of rival gangs to make obscene gestures to them. These continuous mockery to which he subjected Maranzano’s enemies earned him the recognition of the capo, who named him his successor. A few days after this designation, Maranzano was found dead in his office in the Helmsley building, victim of a ‘spavento’ gotten out of hand.

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