Eddie of the Enchanters Gang, 1955

In the late 1860s, New York City experienced a tragic and terrible social problem of mothers abandoning their infants on the streets.  Some of the reasons for this were inadequate housing, an economic depression and poverty.  By 1869 it wasn’t out of the ordinary to find abandoned infants left on the doorsteps of a rich family, or in some tenement hallway or at the entrance of a convent.  Because of this acute need, two nuns made a plan to house and care for these abandoned babies.  Starting out with only $5.00, these two nuns started the New York Foundling Asylum which was later called the New York Foundling Hospital.

Their plan was to prepare for three months and then open up of the hospital.  However, on their very first night, an abandoned infant was laid on their doorstep.  Before their official opening date of January 1, 1870, they had received 123 babies.

The New York Foundling Hospital focused on foster and adoption services, nursery care for children and shelter for unwed mothers.  It had a profound purpose in caring for those not able to care for themselves and in fact is still here today.  As you may have guessed, Foundling Hospital figures into this story…

New York Foundling Hospital

New York Foundling Hospital

In 1937, a young girl named Rhonda Andrade (name changed) had just turned 15 years old and met a 19-year-old man in New York City.  It isn’t clear if she was interested in him romantically or if she only knew him platonically, but shortly after they met, this man raped Rhonda and caused her to become pregnant.  Rhonda already had a very unhappy childhood before experiencing this trauma.  He was sentenced to the penitentiary for four years for the rape.  Rhonda carried the baby to full term and about six weeks before she turned 16 years old, she gave birth to a baby boy who she named Eddie (name changed).

In another awful injustice, this time perpetrated by the state, Rhonda was sent to the New York State Training School for Girls as a “sex delinquent,” shortly after she gave birth to Eddie.  With Rhonda imprisoned, young Eddie was without a mother, and had a rapist father incarcerated for his crime.

For the next nine years of his life Eddie lived in the New York Foundling Hospital.  While at the hospital they tried to place him in three foster homes, but each home sent him back reporting that he was ungovernable.  Eddie’s mother was paroled from the New York State Training School for girls in 1940, when he was two years old, and tried the best she could for her son, even trying to see him when he was in foster homes.  It isn’t clear why Eddie wasn’t released back to his mother right away.  After her own release from reformatory, Rhonda had regular employment as a Nurse’s Aid at different hospitals and by 1955 she was working at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.

When Eddie was 9 years old, he was finally taken out of Foundling Hospital and sent to live with his mother Rhonda and his maternal grandmother and grandfather.  They lived at 117 East 100th Street in Manhattan and had a five-room apartment with a rental of $30 a month.  There were three bedrooms in the apartment and Eddie had his own room.  The apartment was decently furnished and they had a TV.

Returning to a home he had never been to before should have been a triumphant moment for the lad and Rhonda.  Instead, it was nothing but gloom.  His grandparents and mother continually fought and instead of receiving the warmth of a family waiting for him, there was no peace.  To make things worse, his grandfather resented Eddie and treated him badly (this changed however, when later on he became very interested in his grandson).  An uncle who also lived in the same house had his own experience as a delinquent boy and was known to various law enforcement agencies.  His uncle spent time at the New York State Training School for Boys and other institutions and had a bad influence on Eddie.

With a delinquent uncle as his influence, a passive grandmother, a grandfather that rejected him and a mother who was strict and cold, Eddie’s formative years were a train wreck.  A report from 1955 stated that his young years were “fraught with bickering, turmoil, anxieties, frustrations, bad examples and insecurity.”

All of this angst growing up did a number on Eddie and he became “extremely frustrated and repressed.”  He was hostile and had a “…disorganized personality [that] contributed to his inability to cope with home, school, or social problems in an acceptable manner.”  Eddie was emotionally disturbed, had disturbed thinking and was combative.  All of this contributed to his love of power and extreme aggression towards authority figures.

A job was out of the question and Eddie never worked.

There was much concern over the direction Eddie was heading, and in 1948, when he was 10 years old, he had a psychiatric examination at Kings County Hospital.  They noted that he “was markedly disturbed in his thinking and emotional process and that there were paranoid features and only a marginal contact with reality.”  Three years later he was re-examined at the same hospital and they reported that:

he was of average intellect but was severely retarded educationally and that he could not cope with educational problems…his mother was strict and cold and he has a tremendous amount of hostility and that he regarded male figures as monsters and there is a feeling that he had the decided absence of feeling for human relationships.

Despite Eddie’s average intellect, he was “educationally retarded,” and supposedly had “subnormal intelligence.”  One wonders if he had a more normal experience growing up how he would have done in school.

From his earliest school days, Eddie was “provocative” and had a “disturbing influence” and was “almost completely unresponsive to ethical standards or routine restraints.”

Eddie began school at PS 41 in Brooklyn between the years of 1944 and 1946 from the ages of 6-8.  This was while he was living at Foundling Hospital and there is no note as to how he got there from Manhattan; likely he got there on a bus.  Even at this young age, the school reported that Eddie fought with the other children.  The school had various bad reports on him so they transferred him in September 1946 to a class for mentally retarded children at PS 93, also in Brooklyn.  He stayed here for two years until October 1948 when he was 10 years old.  While at PS 93, he was put on a “suspense register” (I’m assuming this meant he was suspended from school) five times.  He also stole, used bad language and was uncontrollable.

In October 1948, he was transferred again, this time to PS 612, a school for emotionally disturbed children.  He remained there until January 1954, when he was 15 years old.  This school reported that Eddie couldn’t get along with others, was disobedient and a troublemaker.

Again Eddie was transferred to another school, this one also for emotionally disturbed children.  This school was PS 614.  He made a terrible go of it there too, and the school reported that he was emotionally unstable, stole and lied, had a violent temper and fought with other students.  He insulted the mothers of the male students in the school.  He was such a challenge that he could not be placed with female teachers and would use filthy language against his teachers.  Unsurprisingly he was unpopular at this school.

It was at PS 614, three days before Christmas 1954, that he tried to attack his teacher.  Then on January 20, 1955, he slashed the leather coat of a student with a razor blade.

Eddie was considered an expert on knives and had one confiscated from him that he had taken to school.  Not only was he enamored with knives, but he was obsessed with gangs and guns and continually talked about them.  The teacher he had attempted to assault said that Eddie had one of his ear lobes pierced so he could wear an earring so he could be identified in the street battles he was involved in.  The school concluded that Eddie was a “menace” to everyone around him.

The apartment that Eddie lived in at East 100th Street in East Harlem was ground zero of the infamous Enchanters gang, a large and bellicose gang which was responsible for a murder in February 1955.  Not only was Eddie a member of the Enchanters, but he was an enthusiastic participant.  He had a neighborhood reputation of being a bully and trouble maker and he opened the door for younger boys to enter into the world of delinquent behavior, just like his uncle had done for him.

By the time Eddie was 16 years old, he had numerous run-ins with the law; to wit: pushing other children on subways, holding the doors of the subway train open, stealing pigeons from a roof cage, stealing $43 from a woman’s pocketbook, shoplifting from Bloomingdale’s, possession of a hunting knife, jumping a subway turnstile and sneaking into the Eagle Theater in the Bronx and being abusive to the manager when he was caught.

He was on probation for stealing the woman’s pocketbook, but did not respond well.  He defied the probation officer’s demand to stay away from the Enchanters and was irregular in reporting, disrespectful and had a bad attitude.

No doubt these run-ins with the law had softened him up for a crime of a more violent nature.  In 1955, when Eddie was 17 years old, he was short, stocky and a well-built lad.  He also had a scar over his left eye from a street fight.

It was on September 7, 1955 when all the bottled-up rage and violence that had been bubbling up in Eddie came out in horrific fashion.  It happened around 8:30 p.m. on the street in the area of East 101st Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan.

East 101st Street and Third Avenue Manhattan

East 101st Street and Third Avenue Manhattan

Eddie was the President of the Enchanters and on this evening he had an issue with an 18-year-old youth named Howard Paterson who had mistreated a member of the Enchanters.  As President of the gang, Eddie had to do something.  So when he found Howard on the street, Eddie threatened him.  Howard replied by punching him in the mouth.  Eddie escalated the situation even further and without warning pulled out a dagger he was carrying in his pocket and stabbed Paterson in the chest.

Paterson stumbled and staggered around on the street, gushing blood from his wound.  Eddie bolted from the scene.  Howard was taken to Beth David Hospital where he told a detective from the 23rd Precinct what happened.  The detective went straight to Eddie’s house informing his mom that her son was being sought for the stabbing.  Eddie wasn’t there when the detective knocked on the door, so he ordered Rhonda to tell Eddie that he had to report to the precinct station house the next day.

When Eddie checked himself into the 23rd precinct he confessed his crime to the detective and was then arrested.

Although Eddie willingly confessed to the crime, the detective noted that Eddie was not sorry for what he had done and in fact was “extremely surly” and had an “unfeeling attitude.”  As the detective pressed in on the details of the crime and Eddie’s background, he found out from people in the neighborhood that Eddie was a known troublemaker and bully.  In fact more than one person said they were happy that Eddie was finally apprehended and off the streets.

The stories that Eddie and Howard told the detective were basically the same.  Howard said that he had been simply walking on the street on his way home when he was approached by Eddie.  He said that it was true that he had assaulted a member of the Enchanters a week earlier and that gang code meant that Eddie and him had to fight it out.  When Eddie threatened him, he admitted that he struck the first blow which he delivered directly into Eddie’s face.  That is when Eddie pulled the dagger out of his back pocket and stabbed him.

Eddie said – without remorse –  that he and the Enchanters were out that night for the purpose of teaching Howard a lesson and that when Howard punched him, he lost all control and stabbed him in the chest.

NYPD Report on Enchanter Gang Member Assault 1955

NYPD Report on Enchanter Gang Member Assault 1955













What made all of this even more shocking was that Howard and Eddie were actually friends.  Not only that, but they were lifelong friends.  When asked why he would stab his friend Eddie had no explanation as to how he could be so hostile and aggressive to him.  Eddie showed no feelings of remorse when his probation officer talked to him either.  In fact he was cocky and didn’t seem to care or worry about the problem he found himself in.

It took Howard one month to recover from his near-death experience at the hands of his friend.  Two operations were needed to save his life and he required 17 pints of blood in order to survive.  Because of the assault, Howard could not attend school and missed an entire term.  He also couldn’t work at his part-time job as a furniture mover.

Eddie was so disturbed in the mind that he was given yet another psychiatric examination, this time at Bellevue Hospital.  They found that he was without psychosis but he was showing a pattern of becoming an adolescent psychopath.  He could only read at a Grade 4 level, and his arithmetic was even lower than that.  His memory for numbers, “mental control, verbal facility and fund of information” was “defective.”

This psychiatric report was written on November 28, 1955, and even though it was nearly three months after the attack, there was no change in Eddie’s mind and he had no feelings of guilt for what he did.  He felt he was justified in almost killing his lifelong friend because his friend punched him in the mouth.

The evidence against Eddie was overwhelming and he plead guilty to Assault 2nd Degree.  Five days before Christmas 1955, he was sentenced to Napanoch Reformatory which was a place where “defective delinquents” were stored.

Both Howard and Eddie drop off the map at this point and their demise and/or whereabouts today is unknown.