Ghosts of Ybor: Charlie Wall
Written/Researched By: Paul Guzzo
Produced By: Pete and Paul Guzzo and 1 Day Films
It may have been the South, but in the early 1900s Tampa, Fl, specifically its Latin community known as Ybor City, was more reminiscent of the Wild West.
Gambling parlors and whore houses were located on every corner, shootouts between police and gangsters were a regular occurrence, election ballot boxes were stuffed, police and politicians were on the take, and very few residents found any of this to be odd.
The man behind all this insanity was a non-Italian, Charlie Wall, Tampa's first crime lord and perhaps the earliest crime lord to control most of Florida.
Shortly after the Sicilian mafia took control of Tampa in the 1950s, though, after over three decades of power, Charlie Wall was founded brutally murdered in his home. His head was crushed with a bat and his neck was sliced from ear to ear with a knife. The murder remains unsolved to this day.
Despite being Florida's earliest crime lord and one of the nation's most colorful individuals in the early 1900s, little is known about Charlie Wall outside of the tiny Tampa historic district of Ybor City.
Using photos, paintings, old film footage, reenactments (including his famous assassination escape when they drove backwards through traffic), written history and oral history, 1 Day Films showcases the most comprehensive history ever told about Charlie Wall and the first documentary ever produced on this legendary Florida crime figure.
Thus far, 1 Day Films has interviewed historian, painter, author and friend of Charlie Wall's driver, Dr. Ferdie Pacheco (best known as Muhammad Ali's fight doctor); the late detective Ellis Clifton, once known as the "bolita buster" for his exploits fighting organized crime in Tampa (he passed away shortly after the interview); former Tampa Daily Times reporter Bob Turner who covered Charlie Wall's murder; Charlie Wall's great nephew Eddie Wall; historian Gary Mormino; White Shadow author Ace Atkins; Cigar City Mafia author Scott Deitche; Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio; and others.
About Charlie Wall
Wall was born into a distinguished Tampa family; his father was a prominent doctor who served as mayor. But tall, talkative Charlie became one of the kings of crime in Ybor City in the 1920s and '30s. He bootlegged booze and fixed elections and ran brothels and bolita, an illegal lottery. Several of his rivals ended up mysteriously dead.
Legend has it that during a strike by cigarmakers, he spirited money to the strikers to keep their families fed. That earned Wall, who often sported white linen suits, the nickname that gave Ace Atkins the title of his new novel: White Shadow.
One April day in 1955, long after Wall had been pushed out of the rackets by the Sicilian Mafia, his wife called a horde of lawmen and reporters to his rambling bungalow in Ybor. They found the old man in his nightclothes on the bedroom floor. His throat was cut, and he had been badly beaten.
On the carpet, they found one bloody footprint and a scattering of buckshot and birdseed.