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Clean Machine
     April 3, 2017      #96-92 a2z
 
Desperately seeking Capone at Edwin's in Peotone

Dennis Yohnka
dyohnka@daily-journal.com

Being dead doesn't always mean the demise of a celebrity's selling power. Consider the continued sales of Elvis Presley merchandise.

And don't forget Prohibition era mobster Al Capone. He died in 1947, and he's still big business.

"So, what is this? Al Capone year or something? It seems like everyone is talking about him," said Janice Teuscher, the owner of Edwin's restaurant, that place you see on Illinois Route 50 between Manteno and Peotone. She's run the place for the past 28 years and, sure, she heard all the rumors when she took over this classic old roadhouse, once known as Miami Gardens.

"I heard the stories. And I had a dog, Max, a German shepherd, who was spooked about one room in the basement. But how did I get so wrapped up in this now?"

A group of modern-day ghost hunters, now referred to as paranormal investigators, made a visit here earlier this year and said they found something strange in that room Max wouldn't enter. And, Sunday, filmmaker Richard Larson was back for another visit. He invited Kankakee County Museum researcher Jorie Walters to tour the building and discuss the man who might have financed the 1929 construction.

Teuscher will tell patrons the bar has all the earmarks of the kind of roadhouse Capone would have visited. It was well removed from police surveillance. It had 11 rooms upstairs, each with its own buzzer — perfect for a brothel. And there was a garage on the basement level, perfect for getting a car out of sight.

Larson noted that those features plus the nile green tiles in the bathroom provide a definitive connection to Capone. He reported the green tile here was identical to tile he personally salvaged from Capone's personal bathroom at the now-destroyed Lexington Hotel in Chicago. He added that the showers each had multiple shower heads, another Capone-favored feature.

About that room in the basement?

"We think there were murders committed there," Larson said, without hesitation.

Teuscher might not like that image, but she hasn't ducked the Capone connection. She has an old menu from the Miami Gardens behind the bar. The thinking is that Capone named it after another favorite hangout in Florida. By the way, a steak was $2.75. Lobster was $1.75.

The back room is called the "Gangster Hall," and Capone's picture is on the door. Inside, the walls are covered with replicas of old mobster-era newspapers.

"You know in Chicago, they have a place called "Tommy Gun's Garage," and they do a big business off of this history," Larson said. "They have a bus painted black with big letters that say 'Untouchables Tour" and they fill that up twice a day.

"I don't know why this place couldn't do that kind of business."

But Teuscher is 80, and she's pretty comfortable with her regulars and an occasional curiosity seeker.

"I've heard all the stories from some older folks, but the younger folks say there's no proof," she said. "It might be interesting if they find something. Anyway, it's all fascinating, but I don't know if I could handle a big crowd anymore."

Walters — who remembers visiting this place with her father, Tony, "Boo," Walters, of Bradley — has studied the records and given talks on the roadhouse. "The one thing I can say is that it is not unusual that Capone's name isn't on any of the records. He didn't want to give investigators any clues. His name wasn't on any of his houses."

Larson, meanwhile, is shooting video on every visit here, and at other Capone-related locations. There is no definitive release date of his video, but he's working diligently on "Capone's Treasures of the Heart." More information on his work can be found at his website: caponestreasureoftheheart.com.

And, by the way, Larson has no problem with the question of Capone's connection to this building.

"Sure. He was here."

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