Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dillinger's Death

Last week, The Tainted Archive had a great post on whether Billy the Kid lived to a ripe old age. It reminded me of a similar write-up I did for the Axiom Report back in February on John Dillinger, though not as in-depth as Archive. Borrowing heavily from Wikipedia, here's my old post...

After reading Stephen King's The Death of Jack Hamilton (1991, Needful Things), I decided to look on the net for historical accounts of depression era gangsters, Hamilton being a minor player in the infamous John Dillinger gang. I followed a link to a profile of Dillinger and was amazed to learn about the controversy surrounding his death. Apparently, there were a number of people who doubted that the man killed outside Chicago's Biograph Theater in 1934 was even Dillinger. The evidence came from these observations:

--Some people who knew Dillinger and viewed the body didn't recognize him, with even Dillinger's own father claimed, "That's not my boy!"

--It was noted that the eyes of the corpse were brown, but police records described Dillinger's eyes as grey.

--The body showed signs of both a childhood illness that Dillinger never had and a rheumatic heart condition that would have prevented him from playing baseball in prison and enlisting in the Navy.

--Suspiscions were again raised when it was revealed that the pistol on display at FBI Headquarters as the Colt semi-automatic Dillinger had drawn on agents was manufactured five months after his death.

--In 1963, a letter from "John Dillinger," Hollywood, California and a photo of an aged man was received by the The Indianapolis Star but the newspaper gave it little

I've never been one to put a lot of faith in conspiracy theories, like some others in this case:

--Dillinger's sister, Audrey, positively identified the body by a childhood scar on his leg. Others who viewed the body may not have recognized him due to the plastic surgery he'd had or the death masks that damaged the face.

--Multiple sets of fingerprints taken from the body by the FBI had characteristics the same as Dillinger's.

An interesting piece of trivia that gave rise to many a legend about Dillinger's well endowed nature came from grainy newsprint copies of a photograph of the corpse covered by a sheet with a 'tent' in a rather inauspicious place. Turns out, it was just an arm stiff from rigor mortis.

Maybe some of these answers will be revealed in next year's Dillinger movie directed by one of the best, Michael Mann, and starring Johnny Depp.


Travis Erwin said...

That should be an interesting film.


I never knew about this - I'll check that out.