Who Killed Abe "Kid Twist" Reles?

In November 1941 the mob may have gotten to Kid Twist while he was under police protection at a hotel in Coney Island, New York, but no one knows for certain.
Abe "Kid Twist" Reles

Abe "Kid Twist" Reles is doubtlessly remembered best for being the proverbial canary who couldn't fly (but did indeed sing).

In November 1941 the mob may have gotten to Kid Twist while he was under police protection at a hotel in Coney Island, New York. We say "may have gotten" because no one knows for certain who orchestrated what may have been a hit.

We repeat "may have been a hit" because there's also the chance that Reles did indeed fall to his doom (the more or less "official" opinion on the matter) while attempting to climb down a twisted roll of bed sheets to get out of the hotel, either to escape or play a practical joke of some sort on his alleged protectors.

The list of potential assassins is long. But for a whole host of reasons, the Reles "killing," exhaustively investigated in later years, will never be solved.

So many mysteries linger. To wit, Reles swallowed a shot of whiskey moments prior to death. The source of the booze was never found. So many unanswered questions abound.

Last week's episode of AMC's Making of the Mob blindly confirmed not only that the mob killed Kid Twist, but that Frank Costello was the mastermind behind Reles's execution. It certainly could be the case but we'd love to know AMC's confirmed source.

A knowledgeable gangland source told us he believed it likely was the West Side behind the Reles killing. He also said he'd heard specific mention of Joe Adonis as being involved, though he admitted he was offering speculation as opposed to factual information.

The West Side is a common nickname for the Genovese crime family, which Costello was boss of at the time of the Reles death. Charlie "Lucky" Luciano then was sitting in a prison cell near the Canadian border, while Vito Genovese, Luciano's first acting boss, had fled to Italy in 1937 fearing a murder prosecution. He didn't return until 1944.

It is certainly possible that Costello was behind the killing. He had politicians, judges, cops -- probably Sunday school teachers -- in his pocket "like so many nickels and dimes."

But other mobsters also could have been responsible. In fact, Albert Anastasia had the most compelling motive of all to see Kid Twist splatter.

Then of course there may have been no higher authority responsible than Reles's own cohabitants, which included an assortment of police and law enforcement officials and even a number of fellow Murder Inc. squealers. (Reles was not the only guy who flipped at the time -- however, he has the distrinction of being quite hated by everyone -- cops and fellow stoolies alike -- for his vile, sadistic, despicable character traits.)

The sad fact is that we will never know with certainty exactly what happened to Reles -- who shoved or threw him out the window. Assuming he really wasn't trying to lower himself downward to play a joke or whatever, then falling to his death.

Sure, another letter or memo may one day be found, but enough time has passed to turn such efforts to investigate into yet another episodic folly.

Reles met his end the evening before he was to testify against Anastasia.

Kid Twist likely would've sent Don Umberto to the electric chair, as was the case with several other guys who put the Murder in Murder Inc., perhaps most famously Louis "Lepke" Buchalter. Anastasia made some serious errors in the commission of a certain murder in which he personally participated. (Reles had not taken part in this hit, but had highly incriminating knowledge regarding it, as did other witnesses (all of whom would die before they could ever testify).

Reles and company were sequestered at Coney Island's Half Moon Hotel, a 14-story building that first opened its doors in 1927, and that was located on the Riegelmann Boardwalk (or simply the Coney Island Boardwalk -- speaking of which, any of you familiar with The Warriors?). 

The hotel was built on the boardwalk, which runs along Coney Island's southern shore adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean, and was meant to help Coney Island steal some thunder from New Jersey's bustling beach resort town Atlantic City. 

The Half Moon, named for explorer Henry Hudson's ship (he'd once anchored it off Gravesend Bay, where Coney Island was later founded, while he sought a shortcut to Asia) would become more closely linked to Kid Twist's infamous demise before the hotel met its own end, in 1995, after eventually becoming a naval convalescent hospital during World War 2, then a maternity hospital (the Harbor Hospital), and finally a geriatric hospital.

Reles was used to test Newton's law of gravity:: When his body hovered outside a window of a sixth floor hotel room, gravity pulled him downward with enough velocity to end his life (perhaps not immediately).

But before he flipped, he was once an up-and-comer who fought for dominion over all criminal activity in Brooklyn's Brownsville section. Closely allied with Albert Anastasia, who viewed from the sidelines the burly, tough Jewish gangster fight a bloody street war (Don Umberto believed in survival of the fittest; he didn't provide Reles with the assistance he'd initially sought to take out the previous management team in Brownsville.)

Reles and his crew eventually evolved into part of Murder Inc., the Mafia's death squad, whose members under the auspices of Anastasia (whom the press dubbed "Lord High Executioner," among other names,  members tasked with troving round the country in search of targets who the Commission decided for whatever reason to have murdered.

We'll be following up on this with some of the more provocative facts as well as who could likely have played a role and who didn't.


  1. If you really want to know who killed him ask Dominick Cicale. He knows maybe he can write another book about it. While his former friends rot in jail like ACE Dom who u claimed u tried to safe. Good job u RAT. Never forget what you truly are. If u have any doubts just take a good look in the mirror

  2. Truth be said in the end they all had to go including anastasia they were a liability and Vito and Frank saw to that. Anastasia was greedy and not business minded. The others were just hired guns brought nothing else to the table. U can always find shooters. Philly


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