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Jettatore: The Evil Eye of Casoli Paracrotti

In the erstwhile Mulberry Bend area of New York City, the most feared man was not a mob boss, a hit man, or even a gang member. He was the local banana vendor, Casoli Paracrotti. Considering how he was treated, you have to wonder whether he ever sold any bananas at all.

During the late 1890s, whenever the tiny, friendless fruit merchant in dirty rags pushed his cart around Mulberry Bend, the crowds would immediately disperse. The more religious among them would mutter prayers and turn away, while the superstitious clutched their talismans and rubbed the feet of dead rabbits. Even the children scurried away in fright, screaming their warning: "The banana man is coming! Be quiet, or he'll kill you!"

Paracrotti was not a criminal mastermind, a crooked law patrolman or a man of violence, but he was what the Italians refer to as a jettatore-- a jinx, a bringer of bad luck, possessor of the dreaded "evil eye". And it has been written that more than 50 persons met their demise simply by being acquainted with him. For this reason Paracrotti was a lonely man; no man wanted to be his friend, no woman wanted to marry him, and even inside the Catholic church on Roosevelt Street he was relegated to the back pew, shunned as if he were the carrier of a deadly and highly contagious disease.

You may feel sorry for Paracrotti, but first read the history that brought him from southern Italy to New York, and the extensive trail of dead people he left in his wake. Paracrotti was arrested several times, but he doesn't come across as an evil man. His reputation as a jinx came about because he was careless and not all that smart, with deadly consequences. -via Strange Company 


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