Green’s Dictionary of Slang

panel n.1

used attrib. in combs. below referring to a confidence game carried out in a brothel, supplied with false panels that permitted access to the prostitute’s room so that the client could be robbed or beaten up; note James D. McCabe, Secrets of a Great City (1868): ‘panel thieving. This method of robbery is closely connected with street walking. The girl in this case acts in concert with a confederate, who is generally a man. She takes her victim to her room, and directs him to deposit his clothing on a chair, which is placed but a few inches from the wall at the end of the room. This wall is false, and generally of wood. It is built some three or four feet from the real wall of the room, thus forming a closet. As the whole room is papered and but dimly lighted, a visitor cannot detect the fact that it is a sham. A panel, which slides noiselessly and rapidly, is arranged in the false wall, and the chair with the visitor’s clothing upon it is placed just in front of it. While the visitor’s attention is engaged in another quarter, the girl’s confederate, who is concealed in the closet, slides back the panel, and rifles the pockets of the clothes on the chair. The panel is then noiselessly closed. When the visitor is about to depart, or sometimes not until long after his departure, he discovers his loss’.

In compounds

panel crib (n.) (also panel den, ...house, ...joint, ...store) [crib n.1 (6) /den n. (2)/ house n.1 (1)/ joint n. (3b)/SAmE store]

a brothel, esp. one which specializes in robbing the clients.

[US]N.Y. Daily Trib. 22 June 3/1: [headline] Panel Robbery. [...] Joseph Lewis [...] was last night inveigled into a secret panel house, at the corner of Leonard and Hudson streets, by a girl named Louisa Fisher.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 14: We will leave her to seek a victim for her panel-crib. [Ibid.] III 44: This is a panel-house, and I have led a bad, bad life for many a year.
[US]N.Y. Herald 7 Feb. 2/4: A resort of thieves called a ‘Panel Crib,’ [...] This room was fitted up with a secret closet door, and when the victim induced to enter the trap is in a position to be robbed, the negro creeps from the secret closet, and extracts the money from the pocket book of the stranger.
[US]G. Ellington Women of N.Y. 203: They open ‘panel-houses,’ or help play the ‘husband game’.
[US]N.Y. Herald 3 Aug. 3/6: A panel house has been opened on Twenty-sixth street [...] Captain Burden [...] ordered me to ‘pull’ it.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 2 Oct. 14/1: [T]heir house was a panel house of the worst class.
[US]Trumble ‘On the Trail’ in Sl. Dict. (1890) 45: My blowen kidded a bloke into a panel crib.
[US]W.S. Walsh Literary Curiosities 854: The lair of a panel-thief is called indiscriminately a panel-house, panel-crib, or panel-den .
[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 40: A panel house is the invention of thieves of both sexes, and in them hundreds of thousands of dollars have been stolen from the unsuspecting victims of vicious women.
[US]H.B. Woolston Prostitution in the US 111: Negro ‘panel houses’ and ‘creep joints’ where systematic robbery was carried out were reported but not investigated.
[UK]Northern Whig 12 Sept. 8/6: My blowen kidded a bloke into a panel crib and shook him of his thimble to put up the coal, but it wouldn’t fadge and I got three stretches.
[US]H. Asbury Gangs of N.Y. 226: Many owned dives, panel houses and places of prostitution.
[US]S. Ornitz Haunch Paunch and Jowl 258: This ain’t no panel joint, no shake-down crowd.
[US]D. Maurer ‘Prostitutes & Criminal Argots’ in Lang. Und. (1981) 117/2: panel-house. A house where customers are systematically robbed.
[US]H. Asbury Gangs of Chicago (2002) 124: Panel-houses, actually more robbing dens than bordellos, and so-called because of sliding panels in walls and interior doors, through which a thief could enter or reach into a room and plunder a man’s clothing while he was being entertained by a prostitute.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 302: panel store. A brothel where marks are robbed.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 171: panel house [...] panel joint A house of prostitution in which patrons are robbed.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 179: A panel joint is a fast shuffling clip. The girl brings the sucker in. A bedroom, see? They undress. She puts the sucker’s pants over a chair for him. While they’re in bed, a panel in the wall opens, and a guy reaches in and frisks the sucker’s pants.
[US]N. Algren Walk on the Wild Side 165: Why wind up, scarred from ankles to breast, in some panel house in Trinidad?
panel game (n.) (also panel lay, ...racket, panel thieving ) [game n. (6), lay n.3 (1)]

1. (US Und., also panel dodge) the robbing of a prostitute’s client by stealing his possessions while he is having sex .

[US]Whip & Satirist of NY & Brooklyn (NY) 17 Dec. n.p.: Panel thieving has at length reached its climax — for we have been caught by it!
G. Wilkes Mystery of Tombs 54/1: Malinda Hoag was convicted [...] in robbing a countryman of $54 by the panel game.
[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 16 Oct. 54/4: Alec Hoag’s confinement at Sing Sing [...] has cut off another large source of income of those of our ex-officers who followed the panel ‘lay’.
[US]Life in Boston & N.Y. (Boston, MA) 28 June n.p.: The Panel Game Appears to be in full operation at a house in [...] 31 Chambers street.
[US]Night Side of N.Y. 60: The big woman, yonder, is well known to the police as an adept in the ‘panel game’.
[US]Albany Register (OR) 7 Feb. 2/1: The jury sent those ‘innocent young people’ to the penitentiary [...] for particpating in the panel ga,me .
[UK]R.F. Burton Book of Thousand Nights I 323: The Panel-dodge is common throughout the East – a man found in the house of another is helpless.
[US]Butte Miner (MT) 14 July 4/2: Thomas Brown, a sure-thing man and alleged partner of the Galena woman who tried the panel racket.
[US]C.W. Gardner Doctor and the Devil 52: Few of the old time ‘panel games,’ badger workers,’ ‘confidence games’ and pastimes of that ilk existed.
[US]C.R. Wooldridge Hands Up! 43: A three-room flat with doors opening into each other on the side is best adapted to working the [...] panel game.
[US]I.L. Nascher Wretches of Povertyville 218: The bunco schemes [...] requiring specially prepared rooms or apartments, like the panel game and wire tapping game, are no longer profitable.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 35: Such differences as there were in the badger, panel, and creep games, I easily reconciled.
[US](con. 1900s) C.W. Willemse Behind The Green Lights 71: I speedily became acquainted with the ‘panel’ game, in which an amazing number of men were victimized.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn).

2. (US Und., also panel trick) a form of confidence trick involving the passing of counterfeit money.

[US]T. Byrnes Professional Criminals of America [Internet] The popular form of swindle, up to last August, was by working the ‘panel game.’ [...] Since the panel trick became known the sawdust men have been forced to invent another device.
panel thief (n.) (also panel, paneller, panel worker) [SE thief/dodger/worker n.1 (1)]

(US) a thief, usu. the accomplice of a prostitute, who takes advantage of her client’s preoccupation to rob him, using a special panel to enter her room.

Flash (NY) 26 Sept. n.p.: He was the great, original pannel [sic] thief, a term, which, perhaps, requires some explanation [...] While they were entranced in ‘joys too kene for language to express, ’ Quinn, by means of a sliding panel, removed and explored their apparel.
[US]‘Ned Buntline’ Mysteries and Miseries of N.Y. I 14: She has long been an active panel-thief. [Ibid.] IV 111: Why there ar’n’t such another panneller on the cross has come hup to you!
[US]G.G. Foster N.Y. by Gas-Light (1990) 96: The more shrewd and business-like among them may form a partnership with some panel-thief.
[US]G. Ellington Women of N.Y. 203: The young woman who is a ‘panel’ thief is nearly always a street-walker.
[US]J.D. McCabe Lights and Shadows of N.Y. Life 593: Panel thieving [...] is closely connected with street walking.
[US]Trumble Man Traps of N.Y. 18: His first step is to seek the residence of the panel thief.
[US]W.S. Walsh Literary Curiosities 854: The lair of a panel-thief is called indiscriminately a panel-house, panel-crib, or panel-den .
[US]J. Sullivan ‘Criminal Sl.’ in Amer. Law Rev. LII (1918) 890: A woman who decoys men and then her accomplice (alleged husband), blackmails them is called a [...] ‘panel-worker’.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 413: Panel-worker. Thief who uses woman decoy.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 49: A Central-Office dick tapped the Englishman on the shoulder and said, ‘Look into your pockets. You are with a panel worker.’ [Ibid.] 255: I have been a badger, pay-off, note-layer, creep, panel, and blackmailer.
[US]Howsley Argot: Dict. of Und. Sl. 36: panel worker – a thief who lures victims into room [sic] for the purpose of robbery.
[US]H. Asbury Gangs of Chicago (2002) 128: Flossie Moore and Emma Ford, both of whom were [...] gifted stick-up artists and panel-workers.
[UK]True Nov. 69/1: The two lawyers had in addition the business of every free-lance safecracker, forger, arsonist [...] bucket-shop proprietor, and panel thief whose business was worth having [DA].
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 171: panel worker A thief who uses a woman as a decoy; a whore [...] who robs persons after enticing them into a room.
[US]A.J. Liebling Honest Rainmaker (1991) 26: Some panelworker has stolen his trousers again.
panel woman (n.)

(US und.) a prostitute working in a panel house and permitting an accomplice to rob (and beat) her clients.

[US]Nat. Police Gaz. (NY) 2 Oct. 14/1: Tim’ mistress, a dashing and attractive Louisiana octoroon [...] [was] one of, if if not the smartest panel women in the country.