Take A Look Inside This Abandoned Hells Angels Clubhouse

Take A Look Inside This Abandoned Hells Angels Clubhouse

Climb the few steps down, and you’ll see the famous bikers. These big, burly men in leather jackets are knocking back suds at the bar or sitting on the couches in the middle of the place. There’s a sound of revving engines, too, and a motorbike even slides in through a side entrance. It’s all part of life at the clubhouse of the Niagara Hells Angels. And for a little while, anyone could access the building – and learn some of the secrets of the legendary motorcycle gang.

Set behind barbed wire

The Hells Angels did their best to keep others out, mind. The clubhouse was ringed by barbed wire, and it was in a pretty backwoods location in Welland, Ontario. But you can bet it was close to major roads. Motorbike gangs need blacktop to ride, after all.

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Big time raid

And there were few clues to what went on inside the building – and what secrets it might hold – until 2006. That year, province police stormed the clubhouse and arrested some of the members. Apparently, the raid uncovered drugs, guns and vehicles – all of which were seized by the authorities.

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Heart of gold

Don’t be fooled, though. Hells Angels chapters are not comprised exclusively of crooks. They’re not all like Sons of Anarchy, either. Some members work together in legitimate businesses. They even do a lot for charity. Look behind that badass exterior, and you may just find a heart of gold.

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Exclusive access

And while the clubhouse in Niagara wasn’t anything particularly special, others can be a whole lot ritzier. The New York City version, for example, was a whole apartment block until 2019! For a while, you couldn’t rent one of the apartments unless you were a member of the Hells Angels. Now, though, you can, if you fancy living in former gang quarters.

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Nondescript building

The Niagara property, by contrast, could have originally been an old barn. Footage uploaded to YouTube shows it was white, with a large gabled roof on the main section and a lower longer section to its left. In the middle of the main section was what might have been a large door, the sort of opening that a farmer might hustle machinery through.

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Exterior cameras

Your first hint that this might be a place where something illicit went on were the cameras. The building’s exterior seemed well covered by the surveillance equipment attached to the timbers of the outside walls. A closer look at the front entrance made it clear that before this was a motorcycle club’s hangout, it had been a storage facility for a clothing company. The signage still existed that said so.

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Home conversion

One of the features you’d expect to find in a Hells Angels clubhouse is a bar. For instance, the unit in the basement of their building in Toronto had a huge wet bar. These days, it is a kitchen. Yes, it was converted into a home! Well, why not? The Angels didn’t live in caves, after all.

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Security setup

Once inside the Niagara clubhouse, it was plain that security extended further than surveillance cameras and barbed wire. Huge solid-looking bolts barred the door: they looked heavy-duty enough to withstand pretty much any attempt at forced entry. A set of steps led into the basement, with a sign helpfully saying “Members only.” As if anyone who wasn’t a member would dare step inside!

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Spread all over the world

But maybe the Niagara Angels expected visitors. The organization has chapters in many countries across the world: there are 444 groups all told. You can even find a Hells Angel chapter in Liechtenstein and another in the Canary Islands! And in places that don’t have official chapters, there are linked clubs which are the Angels’ associates.

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Proud display

Everywhere you go, you can see the symbol of the Hells Angels. It’s a skull with wings. And of course, being the skull of a motorcyclist, it’s topped with a helmet! In the Niagara clubhouse, the symbol was very much in view. They certainly didn’t hide their association with the global gang.

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Lucky number 13

Some other symbols crop up all the time on patches on the jackets of the Hells Angels. One curious sign is “13.” Lots of theories exist for what it means. Some claim a legal link, with the number representing a judge and 12 jurors before whom members might appear. Others say it stands for the alphabet’s 13th letter – M – and therefore either “motorcycle” or “marijuana.”

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Counter-culture roots

The truth is that back in the 1930s the American Motorcycle Association tried to corner both motorcycle clubs and bike racing. Not everyone was thrilled with the idea, and the symbol became a recognition of being an “outlaw.” The “outlaws” made a whole counter-movement that opposed the AMA, which was luring away most riders.

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Shifting symbols

But why 13? Well, it initially represented the top 13 clubs in southern California which were part of the outlaw movement. The patch is diamond-shaped because that represents the bad-boy ethic. But since the 1960s the “13” has morphed into “1%,” and this has nothing to do with the economic grouping of rich people!

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Remaining 1%

Nope, the AMA claimed after a race spiraled out of control in the late 1940s that 99 percent of people who rode bikes lived within the law. This seemed to be putting the remaining 1 percent out on the margins. They didn’t mind. Instead of letting it upset them, they seized on the symbol as a representation of their rebel status.

Ontario Provincial Police/YouTube

Murder and mayhem

There’s a claim out there that if you wear a “one percenter” patch you belong to an outlaw club which has been responsible for someone’s death. This doesn’t narrow it down too much: many outlaw motorcycle clubs are alleged to have been involved in murder and other forms of mayhem.

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Treasure trove of illegal items

When in 2006 the police raided the Niagara club, for instance, they reportedly found all sorts of illegal items. Among them were weapons, and as we’ll see, there were charges connected with them of the gravest nature. These were not just the possessions of a friendly riding club, out on their machines for a Sunday cruise.

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Actually quite comfy

In the YouTube footage from inside the property, upon entering the clubhouse, down the stairs was the main area, and it might be surprising to you if you were expecting something dark and sordid. It looked like a large, comfortable living area. It could even have been the main area of a bar. The ceiling showed some signs of damage, but otherwise the space seemed clean and well kept. There were some nice couches, finished in leather or a smart-looking substitute.

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Normal bar

Entering further into the lair, you could see a huge wet bar. In front of it sat bar chairs. You really could have been in a downtown bar. There was nothing here really to suggest the violence and chaos that the Hell’s Angels represent. There was, though, no booze on view as this footage was captured after police had seized the building.

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Million-dollar haul

The raids in Ontario were successful, with 27 people ending up in cuffs. Of them, 15 were Hells Angels. The operation, called Project Tandem, had been designed to take on the gang’s alleged criminal wrongdoing. The police reportedly seized drugs with a street value running into millions of dollars. No one was hurt in the raids, which was lucky becauseone of the items confiscated by the cops was a machine gun!

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Expanded networks

One man ended up charged with murder and another three with crimes relating to murder plots. The police had used an informer who was a gang member to get information. And they weren’t short of potential targets: at this time Ontario was reportedly home to roughly 250 Hells Angels and an estimated 2,000 wider acquaintances who were connected to the gang.

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Earning the patch

But what makes you a Hells Angel? Well, to get your patch, you’ve got to be a proper biker. You can’t get in unless you cover at least 12,500 miles annually. That’s a lot of hard riding! And you can’t do it on your Vespa, sorry. It’s got to be a proper hog. You might also want to be tough and unafraid of prison too.

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Proudly displayed

As revealed by the YouTube footage, the bar in the clubhouse sported a mirror that looked very much like any bar’s mirror except it was emblazoned with a huge symbol of a skull with wings and the words “Hells Angels.” Men drinking at this bar would be in no doubt whose house they were in. The mirror sat in a wooden frame that looked polished and in good condition.

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Gender roles

And we say “men” because women are not permitted to be Hells Angels. Nor can you just turn up, get a beer and join in the carousing. Nope. You have to be an intern for some time before you get your “full patch.” But when you do get in, at least you get a nice bar to have a drink at, although there is a dark side, of course.

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Just a random coffin…

That dark side was very visible in what sat in one corner of the clubhouse. It seemed almost out of place in this cozy space: a coffin. There was no indication whose coffin it was, or even if it contained a person… or even a victim! It was a nicely made box constructed of pine or similar wood, sitting incongruously on the tiles of the clubhouse floor.

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Local chapter

Up on one of the walls, a sign proudly announced “Hells Angels Niagara.” The words were flanked by the winged skulls that signify the motorcycle club, with “Niagara” etched into the roundels at the side of their helmets. The same sign featured at the side of the bar, with underneath it many badges. On the other side of the bar sat a small TV and a computer.

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Going against Disney

Amazingly, for outlaws, the Angels are also willing to use the law to their advantage. They even took Disney to court because the animation giant used their logo and name in the film Wild Hogs. The executives of the firm can probably think themselves lucky the Angels took a legal route and not something that involved the coffin!

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Outdoor bar

Right at the back of the clubhouse sat a table made from reclaimed wood, with side panels stamped with a stencil that read “Insomnia.” Scattered around it were quite simple dining chairs. You could imagine that this was a table around which gang members might meet and plan nefarious activities, some of which might land them in trouble with the law.

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Bikes, of course

In another corner sat a couple of motorbikes. They looked like they had just been parked in the clubhouse. Hanging near them was a jacket that might have belonged to a member. It was a little eerie that the clubhouse had very few signs of inhabitants. Yes, it had comfortable sofas, but they looked unused. There were no ashtrays, no paraphernalia associated with drugs, not much that showed that supposed outlaws had gathered there.

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Drunken rampages

Certainly the Hells Angels have a bit of a reputation as boozers. Back when the Rolling Stones used them for security at their now-legendary 1969 free concert in Altamont, California, they were paid in beer. Bad idea. The bikers got drunk and went on a rampage, beating up Stones fans with clubs and getting into fights. In the end, four of the crowd ended up in the morgue.

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Staging attacks

One of the deceased met his end when an Angel knifed him. Rumor has it that the Angels even staged an attack on Mick Jagger. There was never any proof of that, but they did decide to take him out when he badmouthed them after the festival. Jagger came to no harm, though.

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Are those things real?

On the subject of stabbing, another wall of the clubhouse featured a strange display. It was a shield, flanked by metallic skulls with wings and two swords that look as though they’d been ripped straight from TV fantasy saga Game of Thrones. In another corner are racks of T-shirts, labeled “Support Niagara.” It’s not obvious what these could be about: were they stock of the clothing company that once used this building? Were they a charity initiative of the Hells Angels?

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Too hard to control

One person who once saw the good side of the Angels – at least at first – was George Harrison. After meeting a couple of gang members in the United States, he gave 17 an invite to a party at Apple Records. Not all those who were invited could come since they were felons, but those who did went hog wild on the hospitality. Harrison quickly decided that he’d made a mistake in bringing them.

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Demolition time

Returning to the YouTube footage, walking back outside the building another sign featuring the winged skull and the name of the club was visible on the longer side extension. You may have noted that we’ve used the past tense to describe the clubhouse. Well, this is for a reason. The building is no more. It was destroyed in 2020.

Ontario Provincial Police/YouTube

But the members remain…

It was demolished early in 2020 when the police sent in the wreckers. This didn’t spell the end of the bikers in Ontario, though. Although the police were confident that they had diminished the gang’s influence, it didn’t just go away. Indeed, the authorities were keen to stress that the gang remained a force in the crime world.

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They’re still around

Detective Staff Sergeant Scott Wade of the Ontario Provincial Police told the St. Catharines Standard newspaper that the gang had not vanished in 2020. He said, “They are still very much active in the Niagara area. There was a period when they basically were just limping along, but in the last few years they have recovered.”

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Doin’ time

Still the 2006 operation did put several in cuffs, and one of the men arrested was drug overlord Gerald (Skinny) Ward, who had been president of the club. He admitted trafficking cocaine and having crime proceeds. This earned him nine years in chokey, only getting out in 2015.

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Gang wars are no joke

The Ontario authorities don’t always destroy gang properties. One home in Toronto that had been used by bikers sold in 2020 for more than $2 million. Still, if you’re thinking that maybe crime pays after all, you may not be quite right. During a gang conflict, a rocket was launched at the home. Yes, it seems being an outlaw can be a dangerous business!

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Staying intact… Barely!

That building had been home to the Hells Angels for some years and was allowed to stay in one piece. But as we’ve seen, that’s not always the fate of Hells Angels clubhouses. Mind you, the authorities sold another property in Leslieville, a bunker, also in Toronto. It has since then been destroyed.

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A Cozy hangout

And perhaps the cozy décor of the Niagara clubhouse should not be too surprising. One woman interviewed by New Yorker magazine in 2019 revealed the local chapter’s environs were also nicely furnished. The inside, she said, “was like a suburban house” and had featured couches too, while another person to whom the magazine spoke confirmed that although it hadn’t been hugely fancy, it had been nice enough inside.

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