|Founded in 1964 by Popeye in or near Bucktown (Logan Square)
|Formerly known as
Unknown Souls 1964-1967
2000 or later;
|Black and White
|Latino (Puerto Rican)
|Shield, Shotgun, and Reaper-Monk
Some of my reference for much of this history is from Lord E of the United Neighborhoods alliance in case there is any disagreement.
The Insane Unknown history has been a tough one to decipher. Two versions have come out, one is more supported by Insane Unknown members more than the other which is the story I lean more toward. One version says the Insane Unknowns formed in the Bucktown neighborhood in the 1960s. Another version says they began at Leavitt and Schiller in the early 1970s. I support more of the 1960s version because of a few reasons.
- Original members of the Unknowns were born in the 1940s, making them way too old to start a gang in the early 70s.
- Multiple old school members have backed the 1960s founding and some have heard from Popeye himself about the 60s.
- It seems hard to believe that a gang could form at such a major section like Leavitt and Schiller and immediately took off as one of the major forces to be reckoned with especially with all the competing gangs in the area. To have this power at Leavitt and Schiller they had to have had forces and older leadership already built.
- I have spoken to an old Taylor Jouster that personally encountered the Unknowns at North Ave and Bell in either 1968 or 1969 wearing all black sweaters. They asked him to take off his sweater out of respect in their neighborhood.
- I have also spoken to old school Unknowns that knew the founders that gave them early accounts going back to 1964.
I will be going with the 1960s version of the history.
The organization began in the year 1964 which was the same year Puerto Rican people began to migrate to the Bucktown community. The original name was the Unknown Souls and Popeye was the founder or at least a co-founder. Popeye was in his later high school years when founding the Souls. The first section for the Souls was Hoyne and McClean. The Unknown Souls used to wear red and blue sweaters. I do not know the exact reason for the Unknown Soul formation but it likely had to do with the neighborhood reacting negatively to the arrival of Puerto Rican people.
In the year 1967, the Unknown Souls for some reason the Souls changed their name to the “Unknowns.” There really isn’t much history out there about their first section and most of that was with Popeye who is now deceased for over 10 years. 1967 was the year they adopted the solo color of black.
In the year 1971, many of the heavy hitting members of the Leavitt and Schiller Latin Kings, including the nation founder “King Papo” moved out of that area leaving only pee wee members of the Latin Kings remaining. In the year 1973, some of these pee wee Latin Kings were kicked out of the organization for indiscretions and they started their own gang called the “Undercover Kings” but I’m not sure if they were rivals with Latin Kings or not. The name didn’t last long before they met T.J. of the Unknowns as he came to Leavitt and Schiller and took these young Kings into the Unknowns. T.J’s nickname came from the brand of wine he used to drink called TJ Swann. At about this same time Unknowns had new colors of black and white instead of just black. This was also the year that they became the “Insane Unknowns.” This all gave birth to the most notorious branch of the Insane Unknowns at Leavitt and Schiller in the Wicker Park neighborhood. TJ was also a white guy, even though the Unknowns would eventually become a predominately Hispanic gang.
The relationship Insane Unknowns once had with Simon City Royals is a deep one that goes back. The original Leavitt and Schiller Insane Unknowns were friends with Simon City members from Logan Square and some Simon City residing in northern Wicker Park. When Simon City officially disbanded in 1970 they gave away their black sweaters to friends of theirs like TJ. Those same sweaters were then later used by the original Unknowns, hence, how they got the black sweaters in their early years. This also shows the early relationship with Simon City that later had leadership merge with the Ashland Royals to create the Simon City Royals. Simon City Royals would eventually migrate to Wicker Park claiming Concord and Hoyne which was just a few blocks away from the Unknows at Hoyne and McClean. Unknowns now were invited to Wicker Park by the Royals to hang out which lays out the background for how Unknowns got familiar with Wicker Park.
By 1973, Insane Unknowns took over Leavitt and Schiller and flipped the rest of the pee wee Latin Kings into the Unknowns right outside of Sabin Elementary school at 2216 W Hirsch St. When the Undercover Kings started to claim Leavitt and Schiller as their own they joined the Insane Unknowns and adopted the color black and wore solid black sweaters with no bars on them, it was about 1974 by this time and the Unknowns united with the Spanish Lords of Bucktown and the Warlords of Wicker Park and were accepted into the United Neighborhoods alliance now that the Unknowns were a legit organization with territory. Together the United Neighborhoods went against UFO allied gangs like PVR/PRP, Taylor Jousters, Gaylords and Chi-West but refrained from the most part with warring with Hispanic gangs as this was the ways of the alliance, but by 1975 that would change for the Unknowns.
In the year 1974, Popeye helped a group of mostly Puerto Rican kids from Lincoln and Wrightwood join the Insane Unknowns. These kids were calling themselves the Lincoln Youths for a few months until Popeye brought them into the nation and this is how Insane Unknowns first established themselves in the Lincoln Park community and became tight with Simon City Royals.
In 1975, King Cobra of the Spanish Cobras invented the “Insane” in their name and when he got word that the IUKs were using that Insane moniker, he confronted TJ and told him to drop the Insane from their name. King Cobra claimed they came up with Insane first. TJ down right refused to submit to the Cobras and said he will not change it and was more than willing to go to war with the Cobras over it and so the war began.
The Spanish Cobra and Insane Unknown war became instantly furious as the IUKs took the war to the extreme. In one incident on a Saturday night, the Insane Unknowns tied a rope around a section of a 20-foot-long wooden picket fence that had Cobra graffiti on it. They uprooted the fence section and dragged it all the way down to Leavitt and Schiller and defaced it. After tagging over the fence post they dragged it back to the spot where they got it and reinstalled it upside down to further disrespect the piece by throwing it down. This an example of the great lengths this organization would go through to hurt their enemies and many more actions would come over time.
One of the craziest early members of the IUKs was “Tank.” Tank would ride around on a bicycle armed with two guns up and down Leavitt and would chase rival Vice Lords around threatening them.
In 1976, it looked like the Unknowns were well on the way to becoming a future Folk Nation gang due to being allies with Royals, Almighty Popes (Insane Popes), PBCs (Paulina Barry Community) and Black Gangster Disciples while they were at war with Latin Kings, Gaylords and Insane Deuces. The IUKs used to hang out with Latin Disciples in the Von Humboldt School Yard located at 2620 W Hirsch St, Chicago, IL 60622 at Hirsch and Rockwell In the East Humboldt Park neighborhood. Also, in 1976 the Unknowns spread their influence into the West Humboldt Park neighborhood opening territory in the K-Town section at Grand Ave to Cortez and Kostner to Pulaski Road and Iowa and Springfield. They also opened at Cortez and Kostner and Hirsh and Karlov. At Hirsh and Karlov they were right outside of Alfred Noble Elementary School at 4127 W Hirsch St, which would serve as great recruiting opportunity.
Another new opportunity for expansion would come when the Unknowns landed in the Lincoln Park neighborhood at Orchard and Drummond right at the playground at Alcott Elementary School at 2625 N Orchard St. Another major section to open was over in the Bucktown section of the Logan Square neighborhood at Damen and Dickens (Hooterville) in 1976. This area was headed up by 16 year old Jose “Mr. Capone” Arroyo who was also the leader of the pee wee members of the IUKs.
In 1976, the Insane Unknowns had been tight with the Simon City Royals since the Unknowns first started but during the Unknown’s aggressive expansion campaign on 1976 the Unknowns ended up opening turf where the Royals did not approve. The Insane Unknowns were also not happy after “Woody,” “Clown” and “Pablo” all flipped to Simon City Royals and Leavitt and Schiller Unknowns beat these guys up and took their sweaters in revenge. The Royals were furious over this and Mr. Capone came to visit the Royals of Southport and Fullerton/Ashland and Wrightwood to smooth it over. Another issue that irked the Royals was the fact that the Unknowns expansion campaign took had them open more turf in the Lincoln Park community at Halsted and Wrightwood and Orchard and Drummond Lincoln Park that year started by Edwin “Weso” Suarez who was also the leader. The Royals felt the Unknows should only be entitled to Lincoln and Wrightwood and nothing more. These sections brought in some more white members into the Insane Unknowns also the first black members because members lived in the nearby Lathrop Projects which had a lot of black residents all this the Royals did not approve of. The Royals liked the Unknowns as guests and always invited them to play baseball at Wrightwood Park but not to take up residence there. Mr. Capone was supposed to come to this Royal neighborhood alongside allies the Warlords and Spanish Lords but he didn’t listen and instead only went over there with one carload. When Mr. Capone arrived he engaged in discussion with “Dead-Eye” who was leaning into the car to talk to these Unknowns and all the rest of the Royals had no ill intentions either accept for Frank “Fats” Fender who had murder on his mind. Without warning Frank Fender just started shooting into the car and shot Capone three times in the chest killing him instantly. Frank Fender intended to cite a war and war is what became of the shooting.
The war became harsh and bloody between these former allies, and since the Popes, PBCs and Black Gangster Disciples were pals with the Royals the Unknowns were battling it out with all these gangs as well. The Insane Unknowns were also in pretty close proximity to the Latin Eagles that operated in the nearby Lakeview neighborhood so bloody war would soon explode between these two gangs as well.
In 1976, the IUKs went to war with the Latin Disciples after the Disciples joined the YLO alliance alongside the Spanish Cobras that were already sworn enemies of the IUK. One after another the IUKs were going to war with clubs that would eventually become Folks later.
By 1978, the Insane Unknowns became well known for being the killers of the leaders of rival gangs. Basically, they were known for cutting the head off the snake, and viciously killed many rivals. In 1978 the Insane Unknowns hurt the United Latino Organization (ULO) alliance by killing top leaders.
In 1978 a 15-year-old member of the Insane Unknowns named Miguel Vargas gunned down Ramon “Prince Chi Chi” Vasquez who was the leader of the Latin Disciples (MLDs). Vargas was convicted of the murder but only tried as a juvenile. The Latin Disciples would not get revenge on him until 1983 when Fernando “Prince Ferny” Zayas killed him in Andersonville on his front porch.
In April, 1978 the Folk and People nation alliances were drawn up in the Statesville Prison that allied the biggest and/or oldest street gangs in the city. When the People nation was formed the Insane Unknowns were easily invited into the People Nation alliance because they were a part of the United Neighborhoods alliance but more importantly they were real close with Flaco and the Spanish Lords in Bucktown. After this alliance was drawn up the IUK war with Latin Kings came to an end especially in 1979 when the Latin Kings became a part of the United Neighborhoods. After these alliances were drawn up the Unknowns had to slow down their conquests at opening new sections because they wanted to maintain their alliance with Latin Kings, but in the 1980s the Unknowns began opening territory in the Chicago suburbs in Waukegan, Berwyn, Elgin and Rockford just to name some.
In 1978, Latin Kings began to move back onto Leavitt and Schiller. Now that both gangs were allies the IUKs decided to share the territory with Latin Kings.
1979 was a wild year for the IUKs. One crazy incident was in February of that year when the 14th District Police got a hold of one of the main gunners of the Unknowns known as “Cricket.” Cricket was in interrogation but wouldn’t cooperate causing the police to become frustrated and violent, Cricket wouldn’t take it and fought back, but the police beat him to death inside.
An Insane Unknown from Iowa and Springfield was shot dead by the Spanish Cobras as he went to visit his grandmother that lived in Spanish Cobra neighborhood in the winter of 1979. The Cobras had warned him on a previous day to not be seen in the area but the Unknown wouldn’t let that get in the way of seeing his family so he went anyway, the Cobras then chased him while shooting him until he ended up under a car and they continued to shoot him until he yelled out, “Stop already you killed me!” They shot him 18 times. This was one of the violent actions that prompted the IUKs to kill King Cobra a few months later.
In April 1979 Insane Unknown gang member Crusito “Bruno” Morales was being chased and shot at by Spanish Cobras. He was chased into a corner store at Lemoyne and Leavitt. He was running alongside another Unknown that was shot in his leg and Bruno was shot in both legs too, just as Bruno was about to enter the store he was shot fatally in the back. The death of Bruno drove the Unknowns to plot instant revenge that would happen either that same day or the next day.
Another major blow to the ULO was on April 14, 1979 when the Insane Unknowns killed the leader of the Spanish Cobras Richard “King Cobra” Medina right outside his home in retaliation for Bruno’s death. A major war ensued as the Cobras and Unknowns kept killing each other night after night. The string of murders caught attention of the news as everything about the Insane Unknowns and Spanish Cobras were in the newspaper. The front page of the Tribune in 1979 even published a photo of two detectives posed on the rooftop at Leavitt and Schiller next to very impressive gang murals that the Unknown had done. They even invited their allies the Future Spanish Lords to do some tagging at that spot. It was rumored that Tank killed King Cobra himself alongside “Smokey” and “Fingers” and even the police suspected it and the streets did but there was no conviction.
There were several brutal killings during the 1979-1981 wars with the Cobras. Tank became a well-known member to the police and his profile even traveled up to Mayor Jane Byrne’s office after he killed someone with a sawed off shotgun in 1979. Mayor Byrne paid for a one-way ticket for Tank to fly down to Puerto Rico and never come back. Tank would later pass away in Puerto Rico.
After Tank left for Puerto Rico in 1979, the Spanish Cobras burned his garage down at his old home in retaliation for King Cobra’s death, another piece of a violent chain of events in this war.
The Insane Unknowns kept hitting the Cobras back and that is what kept the war going. The IUKs developed a policy to not let things go and to always retaliate brutally and they showed the world this in 1979 when they shot it out with the Cobras. The IUKs would use brutal and inventive execution techniques to put that point across. One example was when members put bags over their heads and shot four youths dead at 3848 West Hirsch (between Avers and Hirsch and Springfield and Hirsch). In one other incident the Cobras went to Leavitt and Schiller and approached an IUK and asked him if he was a IUK. The IUK knew they were Spanish Cobras and proudly said yes, he was and flashing the IUK sign at them, the Cobras then shot him with a .45 pistol. The IUK then staggered behind the backdoor of Jr’s Burgers and waited in hiding for the shooter to appear again then when he spotted him he shot the Cobra shooter several times getting his revenge. Some time later he was gunned down by Cobras at the same intersection and the same ER nurse treated him, this time she became upset with the repeat visit and quit her job.
In 1982, the Insane Unknowns became a part of an alliance created by the Warlord’s leader Lord E called the UPK (Unknowns, Players and Kings). This was an alliance established by the top leadership of the Insane Unknowns, Warlords, M.A. Players and Latin Kings to protect all interests in the West Humboldt Park section. Being a part of the UPK and the People nation helped to greatly solidify IUK presence in West Humboldt Park and helped the organization grow new areas and the suburbs such as Waukegan and Rockford.
The death of Mr. Capone was not completely avenged in the eyes of the Insane Unknowns and that was still felt even 9 years later in 1985. According to court documents a drive by shooting happened at the Over the Hill Tavern in the Lakeview neighborhood at Ashland and Clyboune in September of 1985. No one was shot in the drive-by but court documents said the station wagon was registered to Edwin “Weso” Suarez’ father, implicating that Weso had something to do with it. The next day police were watching Suarez in the Lathrop projects as he was gathering with several Unknowns all dressed in black and white colors according to these court documents. On September 26 at 12:15 A.M. two men walked into the Over the Hill bar and started shooting at people, striking 4 people with a hail of bullets from a .38 caliber revolver and 9 millimeter pistol. One girl was shot in the shoulder arm and jaw. One man was shot in the stomach and left shoulder and another man was shot in the chest and and left arm. All three of these shooting victims survived but the fourth victim that happened to be a Simon City Royal leader, 22 year old Darryl “Bulldog” Griggs was shot to death as he was one of the main targets. One of the other targets was William “Shadow” Fender but he was not shot by the assassins. As the two left the bar they turned around and fired one last bullet into the bar as one of them shouting “Royal Killers! Unknown Love!” according to the court documents. Edwin “Weso” Suarez was arrested and convicted for the shooting alongside Carlos “G-Man” Creasy who was the leader of the K-Town section of the Unknowns according to court documents (Source: People Vs. Suarez, 1991) Suarez ended up doing lots of time for this murder. Capone was a really good friend of Weso and Weso wouldn’t let Arroyo’s murder go.
In the year 1990, Insane Unknowns opened a new section at Ashland and Wrightwood right in front of Wrightwood Park (2534 N Greenview Ave). The opening of this park came at the expense of the Simon City Royals that ran the park for over a decade. In the midst of all the conflicts over the park on July 7, 1989, Israel Roman jumped out on a parked car of three Simon City Royals and another non-gang member. Roman shot and killed Aurelio “Poochie” Hernandez five times. Roman was later arrested and convicted of the murder. The second event was when Simon City Royal leaders Frank “Fats” Fender and William “Shadow” Fender were arrested on drug charges leaving the park wide open, the Unknowns then took over the park establishing the infamous Ashland and Wrightwood section.
In 1992, the Latin Kings and Insane Unknowns broke out into a war over drug territory. The Latin Kings were of course trying to be the bigger brother and take over some of Insane Unknowns’ drug operations and that set off the Unknowns. The Spanish Lords were stuck in the middle; however, they ended up siding with the Latin Kings and now Unknowns were fighting wars with both gangs by 1994. The war only lasted about two years then the alliances were restored back to normal. For the most part Insane Unknowns, Latin Kings, Spanish Lords and Latin Brothers were very close allies in the 1990s but eventually their alliance with Spanish Lords and Latin Pachucos would crumble.
Over time the Insane Unknowns really did not lose any territory to rival gangs and engaged in all wars effectively due to their quick use of extreme violence to keep rivals out of their turf. The ones that would end up taking over all of Lincoln Park, Wicker Park and Bucktown territory were the yuppies and hipsters. After the 1990s, these neighborhood homes began to get rehabbed and sold for top dollar which would attract upper class yuppies and hipsters to buy out the properties or landlords that would only rent to bigger income types. Gentrification is a force that cannot be stopped, and it does not matter how tough of a gang you have, money talks, and that is what brought about the demise of the fearless Ashland and Wrightwood and Damen and Dickens sections. If it was not for gentrification, those sections would still be poppin more than likely. West Humboldt Park has never been gentrified; therefore, the Insane Unknowns have not lost any territory there over the years except their first section of Iowa and Springfield.
Please send in old school pics from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s!
- What happened to Iowa and Springfield? What year did it fall?
- What year did Leavitt and Schiller and Hooterville close?
- What caused the war with Latin Kings and with Spanish Lords?
Known sections of Insane Unknowns past and present
Belmont-Cragin neighborhood 80s, 90s, 2000s
Sections of Belmont-Cragin
Armitage & Kilpatrick
Grand & Mobile 80s, 90s
Dickens & Mobile 80s
Wrightwood & Laramie 2000s
Bucktown neighborhood Established 1964 as Unknown Souls, 1967-2000s as Insane Unknowns
Sections of Bucktown
Damen & Dickens Established 1976 – 2000s
Hoyne & McClean Established 1964 as Unknown Souls
Charleston & Damen (Shared with Spanish Lords in the 90s and 2000s) 70s, 90s, 2000s
Lincoln Park neighborhood Established 1974-2000s
Sections of Lincoln Park
Ashland & Wrightwood Established 1990-2000s
Lincoln & Wrightwood Established 1974
Orchard & Drummond Established 1976-2000s
Halsted & Wrightwood Established 1976
West Humboldt Park neighborhood Established 1976-present years
Sections of West Humboldt Park
Grand to Cortez, Kostner to Pulaski (K-Town Unknowns) Established 1976
Grand & Kolmar
North Ave & Kedzie
Iowa & Springfield
Wicker Park neighborhood Established 1973-1993
Sections of Wicker Park
North Ave to Schiller, Damen to Leavitt Established 1973-1993
Berwyn 14th Street from Oak Park Ave to Grove
Rockford 10th & Kishwaukee, Day & Auburn, Meridian & State
Waukegan (Ghost Town) Lincoln & May