In the early 1920s, a young man from Dublin named Harry Dillon set sail for America. He was seeking fame and fortune on the stage; perhaps even a career as a film star. But instead, he found himself in New York’s notorious Hell Kitchen district, working as a bouncer at the Bawdy House saloon. And from there, things got much stranger… And so begins the story of Harry Dillon: one of the strangest characters to ever stalk the dark back alleys of New York City. A cunning and ruthless underworld killer who became known as ‘Killer Dillon’…

Harry Dillon: The Early Years

The full early life of Harry Dillon is a mystery. It’s not even known for certain where he was born. Most assume that he was a Dublin native, but there are also rumors that he may have hailed from Cork or even London. Dillon was certainly Irish-American: a young man who had emigrated to America in his youth. He’d arrived in New York at a time when gangs and the mobs ruled the city: a time when the Lower East Side was a teeming hive of vice and murder. We know he’d worked as a bartender in one of the many Irish saloons of the era, while also making time to take acting classes. And then, in 1921, he was arrested for murder…

Becoming Killer Dillon

Dillon’s arrest may have been the defining moment of his life. During questioning, the NYPD detectives found that their prisoner was a charming and witty young man. They were so impressed by his performance that they decided to use him as an informant. Dillon agreed to the deal: and agreed to feed the cops information on criminal activities in the city in exchange for a lighter sentence. Dillon was given the nickname ‘Killer’ because of his willingness to murder for money. He became a familiar face in the offices of the NYPD; and a man who would be looked upon with fear and awe by the criminals of Hell’s Kitchen.

The Rise of Killer Harry Dillon

Dillon’s status as a criminal informant meant that he was one of the more powerful figures in Hell’s Kitchen. He became a leading member of the notorious Lonergan Gang; and the most feared enforcer in the neighborhood. Dillon’s nickname spread across the city. And soon, he was in much demand as an underworld executioner: someone who would murder people for money. Dillon’s most famous hit was the murder of mob boss Big Jim Colosimo: a hit that brought him an enormous amount of money and fame. He used this money to set up a lavish new lifestyle in a hotel room. He lived the high life: drinking, gambling, womanizing and spending his fortune as fast as it came in.

Death and Disappearance of Harry Dillon

The end of Dillon’s career came in 1932, when he was employed to kill a man named Morris ‘Mushy’ Wexler. Wexler was a low-level hoodlum who had been employed by Dillon to help him dispose of a body. Dillon had promised Wexler a large sum of money for his help. But when the payment was due, Dillon reneged on the deal and tried to kill Wexler instead. Wexler was able to fight off the hired killer and wound the contract killer in the process. Dillon was forced to flee the city. He fled to California and hid out in Hollywood where he could blend in with the crowds. But with the East Coast police on his trail, Hollywood wasn’t a safe place for long. The cops tracked Dillon to Los Angeles and placed him under arrest.


Dillon was taken back to New York and charged with the attempted murder of Wexler. However, before the case could come to trial, Harry Dillon disappeared from his prison cell. Dillon was never seen again: and the full details of his death remain a mystery to this day. Some say that Dillon faked his own death to escape prosecution. Others claim that the NYPD gave him a cyanide pill to kill him. Dillon’s disappearance is a fitting end to the story of a man who was always in the shadows: a hired killer whose true identity was always shrouded in mystery. Now, when I come to the beginning of the story, what do you think the opening line will be?

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