A modern treasure hunt for the money of an old gangster

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He had a reputation for having a hot temper and brutality, but in the end, it was his loose lips and delusional ramblings on his deathbed that cemented the legend of the Dutch Schultz gangster – and still drives today. modern treasure hunters at the Catskills with shovels and a mission.

Let’s go back. Schultz was born Arthur Flegenheimer in the Bronx in 1901 to German Jewish immigrant parents, and quickly ran with the Bronx’s Frog Hollow Gang, known for bestowing the nickname “Dutch Schultz” on its toughest members. The nickname stuck.

Over the years, Schultz has built a reputation as a smuggler, racketeer and the premier mobster to extort New York unions, said Sullivan County historian John Conway, who wrote the 2000 book.Dutch Schultz and the treasure of his lost cats. “

Who even cares about a Prohibition-era badass gunned down in a Newark tavern? Schultz was a well-known figure in the Catskills and the Hudson Valley since his smuggling days, even inspiring the name of the new Dutch’s Spirits distillery in Columbia County. But it is the hunt for his ill-gotten gains that has fueled at least one scenario, many books and documentaries, a PBS special, and countless Catskills tours. The location of the hidden treasure was teased by Schultz himself.

“There are endless contradictions and confusions in the story surrounding the treasure hunt – which I think Schultz would have been delighted with because he was the expert on guiding errors, deception and lies.” , said Conway.

Early Bronx leads to criminal empire

Dutch Schultz, smuggler and racketeer, is shown here smoking a cigarette in New York Federal Court in 1935. Schultz’s crimes crept into unions from the early 1930s until his death. “He was the first gangster who was a mainstay of organized crime,” historian John Conway said. “He made money by extorting unions.

Bettmann via Getty Images

As one can imagine, the path to becoming a master criminal is quickly littered with enemies. Law enforcement, naturally, was one – but the real problem started for Schultz with other mobsters who fought for territory and snowshoes in the 1930s.

The New York underworld in 1931 formed “the Commission” to merge various mafia gangs under one governing body. “It was a time when independent operators didn’t do things the way they wanted to,” Conway said. Now everything had to go through them.

Conway said Schultz was often described as a hothead and a bigmouth, qualities the Commission disliked because J. Edgar Hoover made the FBI a national law enforcement body. In a particularly ruthless incident in Cohoes, as described in Selwyn Raab’s book “Five Families”, Schultz’s attorney, Dixie Davis, recalled the gangster who shot gangster Jules Modgilewsky in the mouth at the Harmony Hotel. “with the same flippancy as if he was picking his teeth.”



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Schultz was identified as Public Enemy No.1 by Hoover in 1933 after the fall of Al Capone in Chicago, attracting the attention of prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey, who would later become governor of New York. Schultz has been tried twice for tax evasion – the crime that tripped Capone – but was never convicted.

“Dewey didn’t give up; he continued after Schultz, ”said Conway. “So Schultz decided he had to kill Dewey. This is the only way for him to get rid of him.

The Palace Chop House in Newark, New Jersey, October 24, 1935, the day after Dutch Schultz and three of his men were shot.

The Palace Chop House in Newark, New Jersey, October 24, 1935, the day after Dutch Schultz and three of his men were shot.

New York Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The Commission opposed Schultz’s proposed murder of such an important figure. In a twist of fate, the union later ordered the murder of Schultz: he was shot in the Palace Chop House tavern in Newark on October 23, 1935, along with three other associates.

Schultz lingered in hospital for 24 hours with his fatal injuries, stammering a stream of consciousness that observers at the time – including police – noted in detail. He said strange phrases like, “A boy never cried… nor broke a thousand parents,” as well as others that were decidedly more interesting.

“The police wrote down everything they said,” Conway said. “They wrote that there is a treasure and where it is in Phenicia.”

Arthur Flegenheimer, says "Dutch Schultz" and "the beer baron of New York," died in a hospital in Newark, New Jersey, 24 hours after being shot.  His ramblings on his deathbed have led many to believe he buried millions in the Catskills, a prize that treasure hunters have been chasing for more than 85 years.

Arthur Flegenheimer, known as “Dutch Schultz” and “The Beer Baron of New York”, died in a hospital in Newark, New Jersey, 24 hours after being shot. His ramblings on his deathbed have led many to believe he buried millions in the Catskills, a prize that treasure hunters have been chasing for more than 85 years.

Bettmann via Getty Images

Have a shovel, will travel to Phenicia

Legend has it that Schultz hid money to fund his escape in case Dewey tried to get him arrested. The gangster is said to have hidden in a steel box, waterproof safe or suitcase a mixture of gold coins, jewelry, paper money and bonds somewhere in the Catskills or some other part of northern the state. (Conway postulates that it is unlikely that any treasure was buried: “They were town men, not (digging a hole) up there in hiking gear.”)

In 1935 silver, Schultz’s booty was estimated at between $ 5 and $ 9 million. Today that fortune translates to $ 50 to $ 100 million, depending on the mix of silver and gold.

While on his deathbed questioned by the police, Schultz is known to have said, “Don’t let Satan drag you down too fast. Many have assumed it was a coded reference – which Conway himself first suggested in the 1990s – to the Catskills town of Phenicia, which has several landmarks that refer to the devil. , including the large boulder called Devil’s Tombstone and Devil’s Face, a rocky outcrop.

A scanned hand-drawn map created by retired detective Gary Bennett, who speculated Dutch Schultz's loot was buried somewhere off Highway 28 in Boiceville, near the Ashokan Reservoir.

A scanned hand-drawn map created by retired detective Gary Bennett, who speculated Dutch Schultz’s loot was buried somewhere off Highway 28 in Boiceville, near the Ashokan Reservoir.

Gary Bennett

The region was important to Schultz, who established illegal smuggling operations in the Catskills and moved beer and liquor along the Hudson River from Canada to New York City.

Schultz’s trusted friend and bodyguard Bernard “Lulu” Rosenkrantz – who many say hid the treasure at Schultz’s request – was gunned down alongside Schultz and allegedly drew a map of his location, according to Bruce Alterman, author of “Fear in Phenicia.

Alterman said Rosenkrantz gave the card to Schultz lieutenant Marty Krompier, who was later almost killed by gangster Jacob “Gurrah” Shapiro in a barbershop. Krompier is not dead, but Shapiro is believed to have left the scene with the map. To this day, no one knows where a map is.

Many modern hunters, meanwhile, have sketched out their own ideas about where the money is hidden, and the internet is full of hypothetical crowdsourcing points.

Treasure hunt tourism

Bruce Alterman, author of the book

Bruce Alterman, author of the book “Fear in Phenicia: The Deadly Hunt for Dutch Schultz’s Treasure”, searches for legendary loot on Notch Inn Road in the Catskills.

Courtesy of Bruce Alterman

From 1935 to the present day, legend compels tourists and locals to dig around Phenicia. In fact, the perceived proximity to the treasure is a tourist selling point for some. A recent guest in a Phenicia Airbnb left a review in May 2021 saying they had gone to see where Schultz allegedly buried his treasure “10 miles away”, and the Phenicia Library said visitors always arrive asking for maps of the area to enlighten them. research.

A man spent the last years of his life pacing the nearby Ulster & Delaware Railroad with a shovel, Conway said. Eventually, his excessive digging leveled the tracks and railway officials had to ask him to stop.

“A retired detective would regularly email me with new leads,” Conway said of Gary Bennett of Holyoke, Mass. “He had a good way of putting it back together. He… said he knew where the treasure was. But when he got there he found a hole and a tree next to the hole with the year. “1934” engraved in it. “

Another person who owned an Ulster County campground near where the alleged treasure would be buried said people were knocking on its door all the time, with metal detectors and shovels, asking to have it buried. search on his property, Conway recalled. She eventually drafted an agreement for people to sign, stating that she would get some of the treasure if they found it. She stopped allowing visitors after someone dug up her entire yard and didn’t put it back, he said.

A psychic from Virginia had visions as he channeled Otto Berman, the right-hand man of Dutch Schultz, and he was determined to uncover the treasure and donate it to charity so it could rest in peace.  It was his card.

A psychic from Virginia had visions as he channeled Otto Berman, the right-hand man of Dutch Schultz, and he was determined to uncover the treasure and donate it to charity so it could rest in peace. It was his card.

Courtesy of John Conway

Is the booty in Phenicia? Conway says other rumored burial sites include Lake George and Yonkers. He added that it is also entirely possible that the treasure never existed or has already been found. “No one knows for sure,” he said.

“There are so many versions of the legend and the story. This is one of the reasons people become fascinated by it – they are challenged to find the right version, then challenged to find the treasure.

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