Insane Popes (South Side)
Insane Popes (South Side)

Insane Popes (South Side)

Founded Founded in 1973 by Donnie “Buffalo” Tennet in or near Archer Heights
Founding story

Founded in Archer Heights, Archer and Komesky (Marzano’s Miami Bowling alley)

Formerly known as

Royal Popes 1973-1981

Affiliations People Nation — 1980 – 2000 or later;
Colors Black and White
Primary ethnicities White
Symbols Reaper, Sickle, Cross, Diamond, Shield, and Halo
Symbol usage

Cross with two slashes and a halo on top

Status Active

One thing I would like to clarify before we begin the story of the south side Insane Popes.  This group of Popes has NO relations and no ties to the north side Popes during their founding years.  The south side Popes did NOT come from Larry “Larkin” Morris and were not sanctioned by them either.  There was no alliance or ties between north side Popes, south side Popes and Simon City Royals.  Only in recent years have some north side Popes and south side Popes connected a little bit but the south side Popes did not branch out from the north side or copy off north side symbols, the name or anything like that.

In the year 1968, a greaser gang was put together in the Archer Heights neighborhood called the “L.A. boys” that was named after the streets that hung around (La Crosse, Lamon, Laporte, Lavergn, Lawler) over by 49th to 50th Streets at Vittum Park.  In the year 1972 the L.A. Boys declared extinction leaving their youngest member, John Dayton, without a club to be part of.  John dayton had no interest in joining any other clubs in the area especially since many were either rivals or dying out as well.

In the summer of the year 1973, a group of about 10 teenagers put together a gang in the area called the “Sons of Diablo.”  John Dayton was still in the area looking for war.  He was a lone warrior that was looking for a new club to part of that he could respect for the past year and had no luck until he began to hang out with the Diablos.  John told the Diablos about a visit he had to the north side where he saw a large “Insane Pope” tag on a wall and thought the name was pretty neat.  John and the Diablos decided to scrap the Sons of Diablo idea and decided to adopt the name “Insane Pope” that the north siders had.  One of the Popes named “Puggy” wanted to add a uniqueness to the name to separate themselves from the north side group and Puggy invented the part of the name “Royal.”  This is when the name “Royal Insane Popes” was adopted in the summer of 1973 and John Dayton donated the L.A. Boy colors of black and white to the Popes as he himself became a Pope.  The biggest creator and founder was not Dayton, it was Donnie “Buffalo” Tennant who not only was the founder but also the first leader until 1983.  Other original Popes were: Pete Luna, Bumstead, Rusty, Lil Elvis, Satan, Dutch, Baby Pope, Rican, Lil Rican, Puggy and Wizard.  The Popes began at the intersection of Archer and Komensky (Kool City) right out in front of  Marzano’s Miami Bowl located at 5023 S. Archer Ave.  The Popes also hung out at Archer Park at 4901 S Kilbourn Ave making 49th and Kilbourn one of their first sections.  The Popes mainly formed out of boredom but would very quickly evolve into true street warriors as they battled with enemies like the Mad Lads, or a white gang called the “Spanish Cobras.”

In the year 1974, the Popes now had about 20 members, then in 1975 there were 40-50 members, from there the Popes grew much larger heading into the later 1970s.

From the very start in 1973 and on, the Popes united with the 18th and Loomis Latin Counts and established a decent alliance with the Latin Kings.

In the year 1975, the Popes branched out for the first time as they began hanging out at 83rd and Homan.  The reason Popes arrived is because the Ashburn community was beginning to change racially, and impoverished African American and Hispanic families were beginning to move in from Little Village and Auburn-Gresham.  African American gangs were well-established in the neighboring Auburn-Gresham community and this community was making its way over the railroad tracks by the Dan Ryan Woods as far west as Western Avenue.  The youths of Ashburn often opposed this change, and many joined the Popes to fight for their cause.  This was the beginning of “Vatican City” which would became a large chapter spanning close to thirty years.

In the year 1977 as soon as the Two Sixs from Little Village became a gangbanging crew the Popes were at very heavy odds with them, a war that would remain very vicious for generations.  Two Six gang members attended Curie High School which is another reason the war got bad.  Two Six gang members boldly strolled into Pope controlled areas in Garfield Ridge and Archer Heights.  Two Six older members sold drugs in the area and hung out in local bars.  The oldest Two Six leader, Sweet Wine, was especially defiant and dangerous who would not hesitate to shoot.  The Popes viewed Sweet Wine, the Ayala brothers and the Two Six as undesirables and wanted them to stay out of their part of Midway, this brought war.

At about the same time Popes were at odds with Two Six, Satan Disciples moved into the Garfield Ridge neighborhood in the Sleepy Hallow area.  The Satan Disciples were a mostly Hispanic gang from Pilsen and the Popes viewed them as outsiders and contributors to crime.  This sparked a war because Disciples were living directly in Pope controlled turf.

By the late 1970s the Popes became very well known in the Midway area as there were Popes in Garfield Ridge and Archer Heights.

In the 1970s, Popes had a reputation with the police for selling PCP, committing box car robberies and car thefts.  According to Pope gang members when interviewed on June 15, 1978 for the Chicago Tribune, they were just “Party Greasers”  that loved to drink and smoke Marijuana while protecting the neighborhood but police said otherwise.  The Popes would use the money from these activities to buy guns, knives, brass knuckles and cars.  They also bought lots of marijuana and alcohol with the money.  In the summer of 1977 the 80 members of the gang polished off 49 cases of beer.  The railroad tracks along 42nd to 55th Streets had long been known for train robberies.  Popes would time the train arrivals at night then raid the box cars unloading several cases of beer.  Popes also had an agreement with Miguel’s restaurant at 49th and Pulaski.  The Popes wanted the basement of the restaurant as a hang out spot for their meetings but the owner had an objection to it at first.  Donnie Tennant told him he would expect the owner to not only let them use it but to also pay the Popes $100 as well in exchange for the Popes standing down Archer Avenue right after school and directing all the students to eat at Miguel’s after school.  All students were not allowed to eat anywhere else or the Popes would give them a hard time, Miguel’s then saw a major jump in business.

By the late 1970s, Pope turf had grown to be from Archer Avenue to 47th Street and Cicero Avenue to Pulaski in an area known as “Kool City.”

The Royal Insane Popes made the difficult decision to join the People Nation alliance in 1981 because their members needed protection behind bars and they refused to link up with Folks.  The Royal Insane Popes then became known as “Almighty Insane Popes” and dropped the “Royal” from their name especially since they were joining People and were to have nothing to do with the Folk affiliated Simon City Royals.  The Popes were sponsored into the People nation by the Latin Counts as Wizard and Lord Conan were taken to meet the Unknown Vice Lords for a quick meeting in front of a hot dog restaurant at Archer and Pulaski to just declare they were People, nothing elaborate.

In the year 1983 as “Buffalo” was stepping out of the direct leadership role he left the job more the Mike “Lord Conan” Hamilton who was a body building member that was known for very strict discipline and handing out “violations” or punishments frequently.  Conan was very feared in the streets as he was known to be a very tough fighter.  I am not totally sure if Conan is responsible, but I think 34th and Hamilton to Hoyne in McKinley Park was established in 1983 right when Conan took over.

In the year 1990, the Popes began a major campaign of growth especially since new gangs from other neighborhoods began settling the area. Hispanic migration was growing considerably in the Midway area and many long-time residents of Archer Heights, Garfield Ridge and Clearing were not happy. Beginning in 1989, gangs from Little Village and Pilsen began congregating in the Midway area heavily and slowly these Hispanic gang leaders were moving into the area.  Crime happened to increase alongside the migration and Popes felt it was time to step in on this issue.  By 1990, the Two Six gang and Satan Disciples had opened new turf in the Clearing community which was thought to be untouchable by outsider Hispanic gangs but now they came in deep. Insane Popes then opened a new section in Clearing at 62nd and Normandy “Popes Alley” by the younger brother of Mike Hamilton, Chris “Thee Kid” Hamilton to battle Two Six and Satan Disciples that were often bullying many long-time resident youths in the area.    There was much gang fighting over 63rd Street and the Popes now needed to solidify strong presence along this main strip with the development of their section called “Grim Town.”

The Popes now opened more sections in Archer Heights and Garfield Ridge.  Garfield Ridge new sections including turf around Vittum Park at 50th and Leclaire to Lavergne.  Sections also popped up in the Canaryville section of the New City neighborhood at 48th and Halsted in 1990.  A section sprung up in the Gage Park neighborhood at 53rd and Kedzie and finally 46th and Whipple in the Brighton Park neighborhood.   The Popes also started in the suburbs of Bridgeview and Burbank by 1990.

In the early 1990s, Mike Hamilton started to back out of a lot of leadership roles for the Pope nation and this is when individual sections began to govern themselves more which would prove to be a major issue later on.  Mike Hamilton mainly spent time with the 34th and Hoyne section because he resided there at the time and was among like-minded guys.

In the year 1992, Lord Conan officially stepped down as the leader of the Popes but was still behind the scenes a lot for the next 10 years until he completely walked away. During that same year “Crazy Eddie” from the north side Insane Popes (he may have been retired from the Popes by this time) came down to visit Mike Hamilton and the guys from 34th and Hoyne.  Crazy Eddie was part of the Irving Park area Popes that refused to identify with the Folk alliance when the rest of their organization joined Folks. These Popes still believed in a lot of the “WPO” or “White Power Organization” ways which was to have a gang that was more about being mostly white and protecting white neighborhoods.  Mike Hamilton began to like the idea of having the south side Popes follow more of a WPO way and he was not happy with the drug trafficking most of the other branches had become involved in, in the early 1990s.  Mike then devised a plan to pull the Popes into a “Renegade” status and break away from the People alliance and follow a more WPO type of path.  Hamilton had the backing of 34th and Hoyne which consisted of most of the older members of the Popes and these Popes began visiting other Pope branches to push this issue.  Crazy Eddie also joined the south side Popes alongside Hamilton so this helped push the issue more.  Mike’s slightly older brother Russell Hamilton who was an original Pope since 1973 disagreed with Mike’s renegade plan and was involved in the drug and weapons trade alongside his younger brother Chris Hamilton.  There were also now many Mexican members of the Insane Popes that would disagree with a WPO stance.

For the next two years leading up to 1994 there was feuding between Pope sections over the fighting between the Hamilton brothers and disputes on which direction the Popes would move in. In 1993, 62nd and Normandy was one of the major sections feuding with Mike Hamilton’s group.  Russell Hamilton then began to devise a plan alongside his younger brother Chris and Martin Lorenzen to kill Mike Hamilton to stop the proposed renegade ways.  The plan was for Russell to get Chris to carry out the murder but the police ended up arresting them for this murder for hire transaction and a separate raid on Russell Hamilton’s home in February the feds raided Hamilton’s home at 3427 W 54th St (54th and Homan) in the Gage Park neighborhood.  Feds found 27 guns and 31 grams of Cocaine along with over $7,000 in cash.  Russell Hamilton then flipped to becoming a Latin King in 1994 in wake of all this.

I don’t know if I have my chain of events completely correct about 1994 whether this next event happened after or before the big bust but in that year of 1994 the feuding Popes went through a major split that would effect the destiny of their organization forever.  20 year old Martin Lorenzen, who was one of the three arrested and charged for conspiracy to commit the murder of Mike Hamilton had achieved rank in the Popes and before he tried to have Mike killed for $5,000.  he looked up to Mike and was said to be a protégé of Mike.  Just like Mike, Lorenzen didn’t drink or do drugs and had leadership traits like Mike.  Mike had bestowed the 83rd and Homan section to Lorenzen to run the young members there.  During the feuding Lorenzen often visited Vittum Park and 62nd and Normandy and developed major influence over the young Popes.  Even though Lorenzen looked up to Mike he ended up turning against him as he didn’t agree with the WPO renegade direction Mike was moving toward; however, he did like the original name of Crazy Eddie’s Popes from up north as they used to be known as the “Almighty Popes” back in the 1950s, 60s and earlier 70s.  Lorenzen took the name of “Almighty Popes” and went renegade in his own way against the Insane Popes that year.  Lorenzen swept up all of 62nd and Normandy at first and flipped them into becoming Almighty Popes.  Just to clarify the Almighty Popes had nothing to do with Crazy Eddie’s Popes in Irving Park he simply copied their old name.  The crazy thing about all this is Lorenzen used the idea to go renegade from Mike and the name from Crazy Eddie to go against Mike and the Insane Popes, this started a non-gun play war between the newly formed Almighty Popes and the Insane Popes.  Many of the younger Insane Pope sections flipped to APs because of how they felt about Mike Hamilton and the ideals he had especially about the drug game and WPO ideals. One of the men arrested and charged with conspiracy was James Satala.  Satala was not a member of the Insane Popes, he was a member of the Twelfth Street Players, implicating that the Players may have been involved because Billy English of the Players didn’t like Mike Hamilton.  A short time later Billy English was shot to death in a hotel after two men burst in with guns.

The APs took over five more sections from the IPs in 1994, 46th and Whipple, 49th and Long, 50th and Kilpatrick, 51st and Kostner and 71st and Harlem in Bridgeview, IL.  83rd and Homan remained IPN despite the fact that Lorenzen originally ran this section and developed his first leadership there.  Despite all the hatred between IPs and APs not a single killing was even made between the two gangs against each other.

After Lord Conan stepped down officially Steve “Reaper” Boggs took over leadership and became another respected leader of the organization.

In November of 1995 a big story made headline news as Almighty Popes gunned down two 13 year old girls as they were trying to shoot up some Justice, IL Ridgeway Lords.  Even though the APs did it and the IPs told everyone and the cops that it was the APs not IPs, law enforcement did not care, all “Pope” gangs were the target on the south west side, this lead to IPs losing a lot of turf in the later 1990s and into the 21st century.  The APs dissolved in 1998 but the old IP turf could not be resurrected.

Archer Heights fell along with Canaryville and some of Mckinley Park.  The Popes held their turf in Clearing despite the fact that the AP shooting happened right there.  The IPs also kept 1 set from Garfield Ridge at 51st and Kilpatrick.  Police presence, retirement and flipping to Latin Kings led to the decline in Pope numbers.

In 2002 Mike “Conan” Hamilton completely retired from gang activity and moved to Texas; therefore, the Chicago Crime Commission book is dead wrong listing him as the current leader, he is NO LONGER a Pope and passed away in 2012.  In 2004 Steve Boggs left the Popes and became a Latin King until he was tragically shot to death in the year 2006.

Please send in old school pics.   1970s pics will be especially appreciated!


  1.  What year did each section open up?
  2. What year did each section close down?

Sections of the South Side Insane Popes past and present

Archer Heights neighborhood Established 1973-present years

Sections of Archer Heights

47th & Hamlin (Old Vatican City)

48th to 50th, Kilbourn to Kostner (Archer Park) Established 1973

Archer & Komensky (Archer Bowl, Miami Bowl) Established 1973

Archer to 47th, Cicero to Pulaski Established 1973 (Kool City)

Ashburn neighborhood 1975-2000s

Sections of Ashburn

79th to 83rd, Homan to Kedzie (Vatican City)

83rd & Lawndale

83rd & St Louis 90s, 2000s

Brighton Park neighborhood

Sections of Brighton Park

43rd to 47th, Drake to Kedzie

Canaryville neighborhood 1990-2000s

Sections of Canaryville

48th & Halsted 90s, 2000s

Clearing neighborhood Established 1990-2000s

Sections of Clearing

62nd & Sayre (Grim Town)

63rd & Oak Park (Popes Alley) 90s, 2000s

62nd & Normandy 1990-1994 turned Almighty Pope until 1996

Gage Park neighborhood

Sections of Gage Park

53rd & Kedzie

Garfield Ridge neighborhood Established 1973-2010s

Sections of Garfield Ridge

56th to 58th, Newcastle to Normandy

51st & Kilpatrick (51st St IPs) 90s, 2000s, 2010s

50th & Kilpatrick (turned Almighty Popes 1994)

48th & Lamon 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s

49th to 50th, Leclaire to Laporte (Vittum Park) 70s, 80s, 90s

49th & Lotus 90s

51st & Lorel 80s

47th & Lockwood 80s

McKinley Park neighborhood Established 1983-present years

Sections of McKinley Park

33rd to 35th, Damen to Claremont (Ghost Town, Hoyne Park, R.I.P Reaper)



Bedford Park


Bridgeview 71st & Harlem (Turned Almighty Popes 1994)

Burbank (Cross Town) 85th & Rutherford



Des Plains

Orland Park

Romeoville Established 1997-2000


Tinley Park

Hammond, IND