John Dillinger Biography
Tthe life of the Hoosier legend and bank robber, John Dillinger.
There have been other notorious Hoosiers through the years, but none can rival John Dillinger. He holds a place in the annals of American crime and folklore which still inspire legends today, years after his death.
Dillinger was born in Indianapolis, but his family moved to Mooresville when he was a teenager. There are those in Mooresville who will tell you someone else lies buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, Indianapolis, under the tombstone bearing Dillinger's name. They suspect John Dillinger lived out of his life, or is still living somewhere in Mexico. If so, he would be ninety-four years old.
Anna Sage, whose nickname has become "the lady in red" was directly responsible for the death of Dillinger in July 1934. Because of her coerced cooperation, (she was threatened with deportation) FBI agents knew exactly where to find him. In truth, her skirt was a bright orange, but Hollywood later turned it red for better effect.
Yet, positive identification was somewhat tricky at the time he has shot in Chicago, since Dillinger had undergone plastic surgery on his face. He even smoothed his fingertips with acid to alter his fingerprints. According to others, the fellow buried in Crown Hill is several inches shorter than the real John Dillinger, certainly a personal characteristic not easy to fake.
Another bizarre mystery surrounds the grave itself. At the time of Dillinger's death, his father barely had enough money to pay the $50 embalming fee. But strangely enough, a few days after the burial, the elder Dillinger showed up at the Crown Hill Cemetery accompanied by costly cement trucks and work men. He announced to the director that he intended to make sure no one tampered with his son's remains. The grave was completely encased in concrete, then slabs of concrete and scrap-iron were placed at staggered levels about the casket. Was all this elaborate effort done to safeguard the truth...that someone else was in the casket?
Bank robbery was Dillinger's primary profession and another famous legend says a portion of his stolen loot lies still hidden somewhere in Indiana. Searches have been conducted on and off for years, in the area especially around Greencastle, where he robbed a bank in 1933. Other robberies attributed to him took place in Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Legends aside, much of the reality of Dillinger's life is just as extraordinary. We do know for a fact that in April of 1934, Dillinger was being hunted by practically every lawman in the country. Nevertheless, he blatantly chose to attend a family gathering in Mooresville. While there, he posed for snapshots, clowning with a submachine gun. Dillinger brought along his girlfriend, Billie Frechette to the homestead to meet his relatives. Apparently, a good time was had by all.
Dillinger was also able to escape from the Lake County jail which was considered escape-proof. At the time, the jail was surrounded by 50 police and national guardsmen for added security. The flamboyant Dillinger, undaunted by his predicament, carved a gun from a washboard, painted it with boot polish and promptly made his get-away in the Sheriff's own car!
In the late 1950's Dillinger's name again made the newspapers, when hand-written letters and photographs turned up, supposedly written by none other than John Dillinger himself. The letters claimed someone else was shot at the Biograph Theater on that steamy July evening in 1934. Plenty of thought-provoking evidence was produced, which makes for interesting reading.