Insane Popes (North side)
Insane Popes (North side)

Insane Popes (North side)

Founded Founded in 1960 in or near Avondale
Formerly known as

Almighty Popes the beginning-1973; Almighty Insane Popes 1973-1980

Affiliations Folk Nation — 1978 – 2000 or later;
Almighty — 1992 – 2000 or later;
Royal Pope Nation — 1973 – 2000 or later;
Colors Black and Light blue
Primary ethnicities White
Symbols Monk and Pope's Hat
Symbol usage

Cross with three slashes above it 1973-present, pitchfork 1978-1992

Status Active

The original name of the Insane Popes was “Almighty Popes” or “Popes” and the story starts possibly on the west side of Chicago.  The Popes first made the newspaper in 1954 when they were battling the “Douglas Park Dukes.”  The fight was mentioned in this  newspaper. I cannot find the article myself so I cannot share details.  The Popes would make the news again in 1956 when they battled the “2-6” gang from Bridgeport at 19th and Albany.  Not to be mistaken for the Two Six gang we know today.  This is another article I have heard about but never seen.  What makes me interested in the 1956 article was it mentioned the Popes fighting a Two Six gang that actually existed in Bridgeport in the 1950s and 1960s.  I have heard legend that the Popes go this far back in time but I have never been given proof or given any names, pics or anything else from that era but I can say without a doubt the Popes for sure date back to at least 1960 but I cannot confirm any further back in time until someone gives me something more specific and solid that links this older group to the Popes we know today.

I am not sure what would have triggered this possible formation of the Popes; whether it was invading bands of greasers or if it was other reasons or maybe African American gangs growing on the west side.  It all allegedly began at Nathaniel Pope Elementary School (1852 S Albany Ave) in the North Lawndale community back when the neighborhood was only 13% African American (1950 federal census demographics) and mostly Jewish.  As far as I know the original Popes were not Jewish though which puzzles me on why they would form in a mostly Jewish neighborhood.  The Popes likely spawned among the smaller Italian element in North Lawndale, that is if they came from this area.  This group named themselves after the school which is where “Pope” comes from.

According to legends the Popes began in the year 1949 outside the Nathanial Pope Elementary School.  1949 is the year when greaser gangs began exploding all over Chicago which meant roving gangs went from neighborhood to neighborhood starting problems with groups of youths this may have triggered the creation of the Popes.  The Popes are allegedly one of the oldest street gangs in Chicago.  These original Popes are said to be as greaser as they come as they slicked their hair back with lots of VO5 and wore cuffed jeans and cigarettes rolled into the sleeves according to the legend I heard.  Later generations of Popes often celebrated this greaser look because the originals were big on this style.

I have apprehensions about these Popes being linked to the IPN and forming at 19th and Albany in North Lawndale not only because it was a Jewish area but also because it doesn’t connect with their later sections and activities.  In all my studies over the years I have never encountered any articles, stories, or anything else linking white gangs to the North Lawndale area at all besides this Pope legend and this 1954 group the Douglas Park Dukes.  North Lawndale was a peaceful and safe community without much social problems and crime until 1954 when the city began the later phases of highway construction.  By 1955, North Lawndale was a majority African American neighborhood full of violent Near West Side African American gangs, this is when social and crime issues began.  I see no purpose for the formation of the Popes on these streets and this story is for sure an outlier.  Nathanial Pope elementary used to be located in the southeast part of North Lawndale west of Douglas Park while situated a block away from Douglas Park.  The neighboring South Lawndale (Little Village) community sits a mere two blocks away from 19th and Albany which very likely could have meant many Pope elementary students were from 21st Street down to 23rd Street or they could have had students from east of Douglas Park.  In these areas of Little Village and East North Lawndale a significant white population still resided in these areas into the 1960s.  I could see original Popes living in northern Little Village or in east North Lawndale but then again there wasn’t much gang activity in this region that I know of besides the Outlaws and Gay Lords of Little Village in the 1950s, but I have never heard of original Popes fighting either of these groups.

I am by no means saying the stories of the Popes starting at 19th and Albany are fabricated, I am only saying it doesn’t make sense to me until I have more info which makes it very hard to tell a more detailed and connecting story.  I am here to tell the legend of them starting over there at that time, but I am also now declaring I don’t stand behind this early history until I have better proof and/or better legends and specifics.

The Popes did battle the Spanish Chancellors of Bridgeport and that is a fact because I have a photo posted on this page of an old Pope sweater from the around 1975 or 1976 with a sewn upside-down Spanish Chancellor patch.  The Chancellors were verified to be founded in Bridgeport in the year 1960.  By 1960 the Popes were founded in the Avondale community and for sure in West Town, but I haven’t heard of this organization on the south side, especially in Bridgeport.  This rivalry does run parallel to the alleged 1956 news article of Popes fighting with another Bridgeport club the Two Six gang so this shows a rivalry with Bridgeport gangs, but why on earth would a North Lawndale/Irving Park area gang have so much beef with Bridgeport gangs?  There are important pieces of the puzzle to early Pope history missing and I no longer will stand behind these early legends until I am given more solid facts.

The confirmed next chapter of Pope history takes us to the Avondale neighborhood.  On the Gaylord’s 712 website a 1960s Gaylord tells the tale of this formation.  He stated that in the early 60s (1960) a Gaylord named “Baba” hung out with a group of boys and they opened a club house at Diversey and California. The boys attended Carl Schurz High School and Baba helped this group of youths start the Popes.  Two original Gaylords Jack and Danny had dual membership in the Popes and Gaylords.  This was the end of the legend on the Gaylord site, but it was telling the foundation of the Popes in the Avondale/Irving Park area.  Carl Schurz High School is located very close to Kilbourn Park; therefore, within no time the Kilbourn Park Popes were founded in 1960 along with Brand’s Park.  I had heard one legend that Brand’s Park started first and that could be true but in either case both Brand’s Park and Kilbourn Park had started in 1960.

Brand’s Park is at Elsdon and Francisco in the Avondale community.  I had heard a legend that these Popes were into muscle cars and these Popes formed a car club, attending car shows and participating in street races.  I don’t deny they were into cars because this legend makes sense since the Popes were big time greasers and had one of the strongest greaser heritages of Chicago gangs.

Kilbourn Park was put together by Randy in 1960 as he was the President of this chapter for some time.  Kilbourn Park was a beautiful park that was highly coveted by greaser gangs in these days.  The Irving Park neighborhood itself was often a war zone for white greaser gangs fighting over turf since at least 1949 when greaser gang fights made the news at least twice.  Also, in the early 60s the Popes went from Kilbourn Park to the North Mayfair section of the Albany Park neighborhood which became a major Pope stronghold. Kilbourn Park was given to the Gaylords in 1969 likely because the Gaylords were the ones that helped the Popes form in 1960 so perhaps this was a way of paying the Gaylords back?

In 1960 Popes also made their way to Chicago and Wood in the West Town neighborhood after they converted an area gang into their ranks, this section would last until about 1975. Brand’s Park would also close by about 1975.

I am not sure who the early rivals were for the Popes of Kilbourn Park or North Mayfair were but at Chicago and Wood they would clash with Latin Kings and Harrison Gents by 1964 as those gangs developed.  Popes from Chicago and Wood in the 60s primarily targeted Hispanic gangs but may have had a rivalry with C-Notes.

The Popes also had a hang out at Oddo’s Pizza located at Irving Park Road and Kostner in the Irving Park neighborhood.

As for the link between Popes from the west side, south side and north side I am struggling to link it all together.  Previously, I flatly stated the Popes go back to 1949 and then migrated to the Irving Park area, now with new facts and new revelations I now no longer can state that so easily.  Here are possible scenarios.

Scenario 1: Popes formed in 1949 at 19th and Albany but were never the same Popes as the later Irving Park/Avondale Popes.  19th and Albany Popes moved to the south side in or near Bridgeport in 1955 and lasted until about the 1960s then closed.  In this scenario this group of Popes would be a separate organization from the Almighty Insane Popes coincidentally carrying the same name but not the same club.  In this scenario, the Almighty Insane Popes started in 1960 not 1949.

Scenario 2: The 1949 19th and Albany Popes moved to the south side in 1955 from North Lawndale and started a chapter in or near Bridgeport then had members move to either Kilbourn Park or Brand’s Park and this group would later connect and merge with the Popes that had a club house at Diversey and California to become one gang.

Scenario 3: The 1949 19th and Albany Popes were a separate group from the Avondale/Irving Park group but by the 1960s or 1970s they became one club merging together.

A big piece of evidence is the picture of the old sweater that says “Larkin Lives” with the black and baby blue colors and same chops as northside Pope sweaters that also has an inverted Spanish Chancellor patch sewn on.  The Chancellors have been forthcoming with their history and always claimed to be exclusive to Bridgeport with no satellite chapters; therefore, it is not possible that a branch was formed in north side Pope sections.  It is possible that the Popes were hanging out in Bridgeport or near there in the mid-late 70s then got into it with the Chancellors but that is highly unlikely.  It is also possible a member of the Popes moved near Bridgeport and formed a short-lived section that fought with the Chancellors, but I have never heard of such a south side chapter.  Let’s not get twisted with the South Side Insane Popes, they are not part of any of this and never wore north side Pope sweaters or colors nor were ever a part of the north side Pope organization.  I have learned a lot about Bridgeport gangs and former citizens and gang members from the area have been very forthcoming about Bridgeport gang history and no one has ever talked about the Popes; therefore, if the north side Popes had a section on the south side, it wouldn’t have been in Bridgeport, it would have had to have come from the McKinley Park area.  It is a fact that Crazy Eddie of the Irving Park area Popes moved to McKinley Park area in the early 1990s and a South Side Pope chapter emerged in 1983 in McKinley Park. Perhaps Crazy Eddie moved in by his fellow members that had been there for decades, and these older Popes helped the 34th Street Popes form and adopt WPO beliefs in the 80s and 90s.

I personally do not believe the 1949 19th and Albany Popes were the same organization until a possible merger happend in the 60s or 70s at best.  The story of Baba and the original Gaylords assisting the creation of the Popes in the early 60s is good enough for me to state that it is unlikely that older Popes from 19th and Albany directly colonized the Avondale area and opened satellite chapters, the only way I can connect 19th and Albany to the Almighty Insane North Side Popes at this time is through a merger with the older group from 19th and Albany.

In 1971, the white gangs on the north side and northwestern streets were feeling outnumbered by Latino gangs, especially since Latino migration was really strong in certain neighborhoods such as Humboldt Park.  Many new neighborhoods were feeling the invasion and “white flight” was increasing while Puerto Ricans rushed into buying or renting their old homes.  The Latin Kings were swelling in numbers at an accelerated rate while other gangs were following their lead and beginning to grow such as Spanish Cobras and Latin Disciples (MLDs).  The white gangs felt it was time to unify and call for a cease fire.  The two biggest white gangs at the time were the Almighty Popes and the Gaylords.  The Simon City Royals were a growing organization but had not quite outpaced the Popes yet but they pledged in.  This cease fire or unity was called the “White Power Organization” or “WPO.”  During these WPO days all the white gangs would experience incredible growth, especially the Popes.

In 1973,  Gaylords, C-Notes, Taylor Jousters and PVPs formed an alliance called the “United Five Organization” or “UFO” which obviously didn’t include the Popes but Popes had no beef with the other gangs in UFO especially C-Notes who they had a friendship with.

In the year 1973, Larry “Larkin” Morris who was only 17 years old at the time became the new leader of the Popes in the north west. Larry Morris was a hell of a leader and was big into weight lifting.  Larry was like an older brother to many Popes and abstained from drinking and using any drugs, he was purely straight edge and tough as nails.  It was said he was fearless and protected anyone in his club.  Larry Morris got his nickname after taking a drag of a Lark brand cigarette and choked, they all laughed and nicknamed him “Larkin.”  Morris was part of the newer generation of Popes that joined in the late 60s or a little later and were known to be very tough new members, one was Larry’s little brother “Lil Larkin.”

Larkin opened new sections at Berteua and Kolmar at the Kolmar Park Playlot at 4143 N Kolmar Ave to start the “Kolmar Park Popes.”  He also opened Independence Park at Irving Park Road and Springfield Ave in Irving Park and he opened Dickenson Park (4101 N Lavergne Ave) in Portage Park neighborhood. Larkin also opened territory outside the neighborhood in the Jefferson Park community, but I don’t know exactly where.  The Kolmar Park Popes would become legendary and had some of the toughest greasers known.  The Popes now became a major part of the Irving Park neighborhood.

Now the Popes had hundreds of members perhaps over 1,000+ members.  Larkin along with 3 other members of the Popes created the “Insane” part of their name one day in 1973 while spray painting Pope graffiti on the back of the Sears building at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Cicero Ave.  They admired the graffiti and said “Insanity to the max!” as they joked about it they decided the “Insane” moniker would stick and they became the “Almighty Insane Popes.”

In the year 1973, Gaylords began spraying “GL” on the walls over Pope tags and Larkin had a big problem with that.  He began to feel the Gaylords disrespected the Popes a lot of times when both gangs hung out.  Given the fact that Popes had basically given Kilbourn Park to the Gaylords for their headquarters it really made him more upset.  One day Larkin really went off on the Gaylords about the disrespect.  Later that night a swarm of Gaylords came out looking for Larkin and the Popes.  Near the railroad tracks by the old Sears building between the intersections of Irving Park Road between Kilpatrick and Kilbourn is where a fight happened between Gaylords and Popes that started the war between both gangs.

After the war started the Popes began to hang out with the Simon City Royals as the Royals were not part of the UFO.  The Popes also retained a friendship with the C-Notes who were often mediators during the earliest part of the war before 75.  Popes also stayed out of conflict with P.V.Ps.  Even though the UFO was unified against all enemies none of these gangs liked fighting other white gangs.  Actually during that time period of 1973-1975 when Popes were first hanging out with Royals they also had peace with Gaylords at times and all three hung our briefly.  It was Bimbo of the Royals that tried to bring all three of them together.

In the year 1974 Popes moved in on new territory in the Logan Square neighborhood and the “Troy Street Popes” opened with a small section which was directly blessed by Kolmer Park and Larkin.  This section would only last until about very early 1976.  Also, in 1975 new turf opened at Diversey and Mozart in Logan Square, these were the “Polish Popes” and they didn’t last long either only into 1977.

Everything for the Popes would change on day in 1975.  One April day in 1975 Larkin was with his brother-in-law Arnold Brazeau as they were cruising down North Keystone when they spotted three Gaylords on the street.  Larkin jumped out of the car and began to chase these GLs.  Supposedly he was chasing them because nights earlier some GLs broke out Larkin’s windows of his car and one of them was a former Pope that flipped to a GL.  During the chase one of the GLs fired four shots at the two but all four bullets missed so Larkin kept chasing them anyway.  The GL then fired another group of bullets that struck Larkin and he collapsed dead near 4472. N. Kilpatrick (at a dead end near Wilson and Kilpatrick). He was shot in his abdomen and chest and the killer was the one that used to be a Pope.  After this happened the Popes were infuriated over this killing and the Popes sought revenge which put the Popes and Gaylords into a worse war that now couldn’t be meditated like it could be between 73-75.  Without Larkin’s leadership the Popes were in some disarray and many members flipped to becoming Simon City Royals while some other small sections fell apart like the Logan Square Popes.

After Larkin’s death in 1975, the Popes suffered police harassment at Independence Park and needed to look for a new section to open.  This led the Popes to open another piece of legendary turf in the Lincoln Square neighborhood.  Popes began frequenting a local bar at the intersection of Lawrence and Rockwell in this mostly Greek community.  This new section was colonized by “Dizzy,” “Greek” and “Dago” all from Independence Park. The Popes also settled at Leland and Rockwell at a game room so this made Rockwell from Leland to Lawrence all Pope turf.  As the Popes opened Leland and Rockwell they soon discovered a small group of Latin Kings were already there and soon war began.  The Latin Kings at this intersection were outnumbered by the Popes and it is also said that the Popes were much tougher so these Kings consulted with the Latin Kings from Lawrence and Kedzie which was in the Albany Park neighborhood nearby.  This brought much more war with Latin Kings as now Kings from a different neighborhood were invading and these Kings were much tougher and greater in numbers especially once they got the Leland and Virginia Latin Kings involved that were in between the Popes and Lawrence and Kedzie Kings.

In the later half of the 1970s the Popes closed down their section at Chicago Avenue and Wood Street.

The Popes at Lawrence and Rockwell also ran into many Gaylords situated in Lincoln Square and the Gaylords of Uptown further intensifying their overall war with Gaylords.  There were pockets of Vice Lords in the Uptown, Albany Park and Lincoln Square areas that angered the Popes as the Vice Lords were one of the first enemies in the late 1950s.  Sharing the same enemies in the same territories brought the Popes into an alliance with the Simon City Royals in 1975.

In the year 1975, the Popes of Lawrence and Rockwell established an alliance with the Simon City Royals called the “Royal Pope Nation.”  The Popes now sided with the Royals over the Gaylords and withdrew from Kilbourn Park as soon as war began with the Gaylords.  This mainly was an agreement between the Paulina and Cornelia Royals and the Lawrence and Rockwell Popes.

In April, 1978 the Folk Nation and People Nation alliances were formed in Statesville Prison.  Some of the biggest and oldest gangs were invited into the two alliances including the Popes’ biggest allies the Simon City Royals.  Since Popes had the “Royal Pope” alliance the Popes were allowed to join the Folk Nation in 1978.  The Simon City Royals and Popes were now allies with the newly formed “United Latino Organization” which was a street coalition of the north side gangs that had joined the Folk Nation in prison such as Spanish Cobras and Latin Disciples.

When the Folk and People thing happened the Lincoln Square and North Park area Popes followed the Folk bylaws but the Popes from Irving Park, North Mayfair and Jefferson Park wanted nothing to do with Folk and refused to honor it as they remained WPO minded.

In the late 1970s, the Popes opened up new turf at Glenlake and Washtenaw (Green Briar Park) in the North Park neighborhood, a neighborhood usually not known for gang activity.

In 1980, a new leader “Alpo” emerged that took over all Pope sections on the north side and enforced Folk Nation bylaws and even had his popes throw up the pitchfork as their sign.  He intended to rid the nation of the WPO stance but the north west area Popes were still not having it.  This leader ruled throughout the 1980s and maintained many sections.  He also called for the reorganizing and unity of all sections but Winona and Washtenaw wanted to operated independently.  

In the year 1983, The Lincoln Square neighborhood had enough of all the gang activity and began neighborhood watch programs that were quite intense.  It was so intense that people in the neighborhood would confront Popes directly or call the police on any move the Popes made.  It got to the point where the Popes had to close Lawrence and Rockwell.  Many gang members were beaten up and thrown in jail by Chicago P.D.

Older Popes then moved off Lawrence and Rockwell and opened Peterson and California (Mather Park) and filled up Glenlake and Washtenaw more.

In 1984, the younger Popes began to congregate once again at Rockwell and Lawrence and by 1985 they were recruiting very well breathing new life back into the Popes.  This growth lead to the opening of a new section at Lawrence and Washtenaw (Gross Park) in 1984 that exploded by 1985.

In 1985 the Popes faced extinction if they did not take in members of other races.  The majority of gangs were taking in other races including the Vice Lords and Black Gangster Disciples.  Most white gangs refused to take in other races but the Royals and Popes started letting them in and shed their racist beliefs.   Many older members began to retire while others faced incarceration or prison sentences.  There was of course the usual round of flipping that happened that plagued all the white gangs later in the 80s and into the 1990s.

In the late 1980s Lawrence and Rockwell began to fade for the Popes as the value of homes rose quite a bit as yuppies found the neighborhood ideal.  The Popes moved their headquarters to Lawrence and Washtenaw (Gross Park).  They also still had turf on Lawrence from Western Avenue to the river.  Down by the river the Popes slugged it with Latin Kings especially the Latin Kings at Lawrence and Virginia.  Near Western Avenue the Popes battled still with Seeley and Ainslie Gaylords.

In the year 1990, Alpo was no longer running the Popes and that’s when Lil Fox took over leadership.

In the year 1990, Popes opened new turf at the Budlong School Yard (Lyman A Budlong School) at Foster and Washtenaw in Lincoln Square.  At that same time Gross Park declined as yuppies moved into that area as well, the yuppies also took Leland and Rockwell which was a rival Latin King section.  From there the Popes spread north up Washtenaw Avenue and opened by Washtenaw and Gregory and Washtenaw and Bryn Mawr. In 1991 the Popes had some quarrels with their closest allies the Simon City Royals at 2W.

In the year 1993 Lil Fox was no longer leading the Popes because he fell into Heroin addiction and was ejected. and Raymond “Mr. Insanity” Reyes took over leadership. Reyes was from “2W” which was at Winona and Washtenaw.

During this reign of Mr. Insanity the Popes also opened Central Park and Ardmore (Peterson Park) in the North Park community.  They would also open Bryn Mawr and Sawyer in North Park and Balmoral and Campbell in Lincoln Square.

Lawrence and Rockwell was shut down by 1994 as the police finally had their way and shut them down for good.

2W has had a strong section as Foster and Lincoln right near the Budlong School Yard, I’m not sure if it’s still active or what exactly is still active, but I strongly believe the Popes are still active up north, I just don’t know where anymore.  After Mr. Insanity was no longer in power by the year 2000 many territories closed due to gentrification and heavy police activity against the Popes.

Please send in 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s pics!


  1. Were there Popes on the south side in 50s and 60s?  Was it in Bridgeport area?  If so, what years were they there?
  2. Who ran the Popes from the late 40s until the mid 70s when Slaughter took over?
  3. Who were the founders of the Popes and what was their story back in the 50s and 60s?  I am looking for more detailed info from this era before the 70s.

Sections of the North Side Insane Popes past and present

Albany Park neighborhood 1960-1990s

Sections of Albany Park

Carmen & Kolmar (North Mayfair Park)

Beretau & Springfield 1970s-1990s

Avondale neighborhood 1960-1975

Sections of Avondale

Elsdon & Francisco (Brand’s Park)

Belmont-Cragin neighborhood

Sections of Belmont-Cragin

Fullerton to Grand, Central Ave to Laramie

Dunning neighborhood

Sections of Dunning

Neenah & Dakin (Mt. Olive Cemetery)

Irving Park neighborhood Established 1960-1990s

Sections of Irving Park

Kilbourn & Addison (Kilbourn Park) 1960-1969

Berteau & Kolmar (Kolmar Park) 70s, 80s, 90s

Irving Park Road & Kostner 70s, 80s, 90s

Irving Park Road & Ravenswood

Irving Park Road from Pulaski to Homan (Independence Park)

Lincoln Square neighborhood Established 1975-present years

Sections of Lincoln Square

Balmoral & Campbell 90s-present years

Foster & Lincoln

Gregory & Washtenaw

Lawrence to Leland, Western to California (Gross Park) Established 1975-1994

Winona & Washtenaw (2W)

Foster & Virginia (River Park)

Foster & Washtenaw Established 1990 (Budlong Schoolyard)

Logan Square neighborhood Established 1974-1977

Sections of Logan Square

Diversey & Mozart Established 1975-1977 (Polish Popes)

Somewhere on Troy Street Established 1974-1977 (Troy Street Popes)

North Lawndale neighborhood Established 1949-1955

Sections of North Lawndale

19th & Albany (Nathanial Pope Elementary) Established 1949-1955

North Park neighborhood 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s

Sections of North Park

Ardmore & Central Park Ave (Peterson Park)

Bryn Mawr & Sawyer

Peterson & Christiana (Hollywood Park)

Portage Park neighborhood 70s, 90s

Sections of Portage Park

Belle Plaine & Dickenson (Dickenson Park) 1973-1975

Irving Park & Narragansett (Merrimac Park) mid-late 90s

Southern West Town neighborhood 1960-1975

Sections of Southern West Town

Chicago Ave & wood 1960-1975

West Ridge neighborhood Established 1979-2000s

Sections of West Ridge

Glenlake & Washtenaw (Green Briar Park)

Peterson & California (Mather Park)