by Bluto Ray
Running along Palermo’s southern waterfront is the Corso dei Mille, a boulevard named for the advance that Garibaldi and his thousand soldiers made on the route in 1860. That era’s splendor of palaces and citrus groves was replaced with reckless development and gridlocked traffic, the very air tinted orange with smog. In the 1970s, the decaying neighborhood was ruled by one of the Mafia’s most degenerate bosses, Filippo Marchese.
Marchese operated his own rackets--he was implicated as a drug trafficker who laundered earnings through the banks--but he played a significant role as an executioner for the Corleonese Mafia led by Totò Riina. He set up a grisly death factory in a filthy, abandoned apartment by the shore which came to be called the Room of Death.
The victims were generally losers of the Mafia war of the early 1980s: those hoodlums who ran afoul of the Corleonesi. Interrogations in the Room of Death were conducted at a table set with a few chairs. While a crew of four or five men restrained a victim with ropes or chains, Marchese took personal pleasure in doing the strangling himself. Sometimes he snorted cocaine and masturbated to the spectacle.