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Wayback Wednesday: Machine Gun Kelly kidnaps OKC businessman

Oklahoma City businessman Charles Urschel was playing cards with friends inside his large northwest Oklahoma City home on July 22, 1933 when the game was interrupted by notorious gangster Machine Gun Kelly and one of his associates.

Kelly kidnapped Urschel at gunpoint and drove him to a hideout in Texas. He then demanded more than $200,000 for the oilman's safe return. Urschel was held in a home outside Paradise, Texas for eight days before his family coughed up the money.

Amazingly Urschel would help lead the FBI back to the place where he had been held, even though he had been blindfolded. He was able to tell them about an airplane that passed overhead at the same time every day, along with some other details, that helped narrow down the location of the hideout.

Kelly was long gone when the FBI raided the farmhouse but it did yield two collars with the arrest of men involved in a Kingfisher bank robbery. 

Making things tougher for Kelly was the fact that new laws regarding kidnapping had just come on the books, a reaction to the kidnapping of one of aviator Charles Lindbergh's children the year before.

Kelly would get caught himself on September 26, 1933, a little over two months after he kidnapped Urschel. He was convicted of that offense, and others, and spent the rest of his life imprisoned at Alcatraz and Leavenworth. He died of a heart attack in 1954.

Urschel died in 1970, but the home where the kidnapping took place still sands today.

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Matt Patterson

Matt Patterson has been with The Oklahoman since 2006. Prior to joining the news staff in 2010, Patterson worked in The Oklahoman's sports department for five years. He previously worked at The Lawton Constitution and The Edmond Sun.... Read more ›