ROGER TOUHY was doing 99 years in Stateville Prison near Joliet, Ill. when another convict, Gene O'Connor, said they should go over the wall.
"You're too busy stealing in here to take time to escape," Touhy said.
O'Connor ran a thriving black market retail business in the prison. One of his best customers was an old guard who said he wouldn't stop anyone if they tried to break out.
O'Connor told Touhy: "He said he never shot anybody in his life and he wasn't aiming to start now."
This was 1942, and Touhy was inside, he said, because his rival years earlier in the Chicago bootlegging business, Al Capone, had made him the fall guy in a phony kidnapping.
It is of interest to us here today because on Sunday, some Madison residents are going to go into the Bar Next Door and see if they can't find Touhy, who died in 1959 of natural causes -- mob gunfire.
Touhy had set his brother, Eddie Touhy, up in the restaurant business in Madison in the 1930s. The place was called Eddie's Wonder Bar and it's the building on Olin Avenue that's now called the Bar Next Door.
"We have done a lot of research on Touhy and his family," Wayne Hackler was saying Wednesday.
Hackler, 40, is founder of the organization Madison Researchers Into the Paranormal. Hackler said he and his colleagues did a preliminary investigation of the Bar Next Door in May, and recorded voice phenomena along with unexplained shadows in photographs that indicate Roger Touhy -- or at least somebody who doesn't need a door to get through a wall -- is still hanging around.
"Are you serious about this?" Hackler was asked this week.
"We are very serious," he said.
It's unclear whether Roger Touhy ever actually set foot in his brother's Wonder Bar, though it's likely he did. Subsequent owners of the Wonder Bar, including the late Dick Whalen in the 1970s and 80s, enjoyed passing down stories of all the Chicago gangsters who had earlier made it a rest stop while en route to northern Wisconsin. Among other things they enjoyed the turreted booths that meant no one had to sit with his back to the door.
This much is known for certain: When Roger Touhy escaped from Stateville in 1942, one of the first things he did was contact Eddie at the Wonder Bar in Madison. Touhy himself said so in his autobiography, "The Stolen Years," written with the great Chicago crime reporter Ray Brennan.
O'Connor had finally talked Touhy into escaping. "This is going to be a high class break," O'Connor said. "No dummies allowed."
In his book Touhy noted that O'Connor had escaped from Stateville previously by having himself nailed inside a furniture crate that was hauled out the front gate in a truck. In 1942 Touhy and O'Connor got over the wall and helped themselves to a guard's Ford sedan.
"I needed a substantial bankroll," Touhy wrote later. "My best source was my brother, Eddy. He owned a roadhouse, Eddie's Wonder Bar, near the State Fair Grounds outside of Madison. I had put up the money for the place, and Eddie would come up with any reasonable amount I needed."
In his inimitable prose, Touhy noted that there was a problem: "The FBI would be sticking as close to him as hogs to a swill barrel."
Under the circumstances, Roger couldn't go near the Wonder Bar. He found a go-between, who "drove up across the state line to Wisconsin, parked his car in downtown Madison so his license wouldn't get spotted and took a bus out to my brother Eddie's place. I figured I needed $1,500 and Eddie said to make it $2,500."
Roger got the money, but he also got caught. The FBI found the Chicago apartment where he was hiding. Though his sentence was eventually reduced, Touhy served more than two decades in prison. In his autobiography, published around the time of his release from prison in November 1959, Touhy wrote, "My hope is to live out the few years remaining to me in peace and quiet."
Less than a month later, Roger Touhy was dead, his body riddled with bullets as he stood on the front steps of his sister's house on Chicago's west side.