Morbid Curiosity


Oak Island, Nova Scotia: Digging for Dreams – There’s a hole called the Money Pit in this fifty-six-hectare island, nestled next to the coast south of Halifax. It was first discovered by a teenager in 1795, and since then, it has been the focus of a two-hundred-year search for buried treasure.

Searchers are motivated by the knowledge that privateers once frequented Nova Scotia’s shores, and the belief that they might have buried some of their gold and silver in the Oak Island shaft. There has even been a rumour that the Money Pit holds the as-yet-undiscovered, original manuscripts of William Shakespeare.

Diggers have found oak and iron, coconut fibre, stones inscribed with strange, cipher symbols – but no treasure. They’ve been held by seawater flooding the pit at periodic intervals, and rumours that the shaft’s original builders left it booby-trapped.

In December 2003, the Association of Land Surveyors found a surveyor, Frederick Nolan, who deliberately mispositioned markers to protect evidence he believed could help solve the mystery of Oak Island. The association found him guilty of professional misconduct and suspended him for three months.

The association’s disciplinary committee ruled that Nolan knowingly altered a property line of his by more than ten metres during a 2001 survey on the island in Mahone Bay, site of what many publications call one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

Nolan told the disciplinary hearing that he altered the position of the line to protect evidence of ancient markers. He argued that Oak Island is built on secrecy, and that when he altered the property line, “It was like a game.”

See also: Charles Bellamy, Henry Cobham, Cupids, Peter Easton, High Island, Bill Johnston, Captain Kidd, Mogul Mackenzie, Henry Mainwaring, Sheila Na Geira, Samuel Nelson, John Phillips, Gilbert Pike, Pirates, Bartholomew “Black Bart” Roberts, John Williams .

Obront, Willie “Willie Obie”: Mob Meat Man – Former police crusader Pax Plante described Montreal-born Obront and Vic Cotroni as “The Untouchables” of the Montreal underworld, because of their excellent political connections.

Obront was a shareholder in the Hi-Ho Café and the Bal Tabarin nightclub, hangouts for underworld figures like Nicholas Di Iorio and Vic Cotroni. His friends included drug-smuggler Lucien Rivard and Salvatore Giglio of the New York City Bonanno crime family.

He gave the Cotroni family a conduit from the streets to mainstream businesses and also between the Italian gangs of St. Leonard and the Jewish rackets. Carmine Galante had given the Italian Mob ascendancy over the Jewish Mobs in the mid-1950s, and Obront was living proof that the relationship endured.

Willie Obront

His relationship with an attractive blonde woman named Gerda Munsinger was particularly intriguing. She was a German immigrant who worked her way from waiting on tables at Montreal’s Chic ‘n’ Coop Restaurant to dining, dancing, and bedding members of Prime Minister John Diefenbaker’s Cabinet in the early 1960s. Mounties constantly came across Obront’s name when they investigated Munsinger’s role in a major sex-security scandal, and police reports stated that hidden cameras were used by the Cotroni family – always on the lookout for political influence – to get photos of her well-placed clients.

When the scandal broke in 1966, the high-flying former chicken waitress, located in Germany by the Toronto Star , said that she feared a Montreal meat-broker named Obie, who knew about her relationship with a Cabinet minister.

A key underling in the Vic Cotroni group of the 1960s and 1970s, with connections through all strata of Quebec society, in addition to money ties to the United States and abroad, Willie Obie also sat at the head of thirty-eight companies, one of which was responsible for feeding diseased horsemeat to tourists from around the world at fast-food booths at Expo 67. Although his annual declared income was $38,000, he somehow moved at least $83 million through his bank accounts, allowing himself the luxury of occasional $50,000 wagers on U.S. football games.

His job was to hide the true ownership of Mob funds raised through gambling, loan-sharking, drug smuggling, and other enterprises, and also to put these funds to work, generating further revenue, some of it through investments in a laundry (ironically), in restaurants, and in home-improvement, meat-packing, and construction industries.

See also: Vincenzo “Vic the Egg” Cotroni, Salvatore Giglio, Lucien Rivard .

October Crisis: Terror and the Mob – On October 5, 1970, senior British trade commissioner James Cross was kidnapped from his home on Redpath Crescent in Montreal’s diplomat row by a cell of the Front de Libération du Québec ( FLQ ).

Frank D’Asti

The FLQ was little-known then, and the kidnappers demanded publication and broadcast of what they grandly called their manifesto. Its sixth paragraph was particularly troubling to the underworld of Mafia chief Vic Cotroni. “We once believed,” the kidnappers declared, “that perhaps it would be worth it to channel our energy and our impatience, as René Lévesque said so well, in the Parti québécois , but the Liberal victory showed us clearly that that which we call democracy in Quebec is nothing more than the democracy of the rich. The Liberal party’s victory was nothing more but the victory of the election riggers, Simard-Cotroni.”

The “Cotroni” of the phrase was obviously Vic, who had been involved in election misdeeds for the past five decades. The “Simard” was the wealthy Simard shipbuilding family, Premier Robert Bourassa’s wealthy in-laws.

Five days after the kidnapping, Pierre Laporte, a member of the National Assembly, was kidnapped from in front of his Chambly home. Laporte’s family and friends were frantic. At about 9 : 30 that night, René Gagnon, Laporte’s aide, said he was visited by mobster Frank D’Asti of the Cotroni group, who “said he could help us find Pierre Laporte.… I said, ‘Fine. Make the necessary arrangements.’ ”

The efforts by police and the underworld failed, however, and Laporte’s lifeless body was found stuffed into the trunk of a Chevrolet that had been left at a nearby air base.

See also: Vincenzo “Vic the Egg” Cotroni, Paolo Violi .

Outlaw Trail – See Big Muddy Badlands, Dutch Henry, Sam Kelly, Sundance Kid .

Outlaws: Angels’ Enemies – Ironically, the American-based Outlaws biker gang came to Canada after tough police work temporarily put Canada’s toughest homegrown gang, the Satan’s Choice, into a metaphorical ditch. The weakened status of the Satan’s Choice gave the Outlaws an opening to move north from the United States.

Outlaws motorcycle gang in police raid

The Outlaws entered Ontario in March 1977, absorbing half of the chapters of the Satan’s Choice. The Hells Angels didn’t want to be upstaged by their traditional rivals, the Outlaws, and responded by roaring into Quebec themselves in December 1977, building from a local gang called the Popeyes. What followed was an extended, sometimes bloody, power struggle between the Angels and the Outlaws.

See also: Hells Angels, Popeyes, Satan’s Choice .

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