PE Tidbit #26 ~ Dillinger Myths and Legends - More Added

by Bryan Burrough

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PE Tidbit #26 ~ Dillinger Myths and Legends - More Added

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Feb 08, 2008 8:53 am

While we cool off the engine on the ONBC tour bus, we will take a look at some myths and legends surrounding John Dillinger. Liz, thanks for a great tour of the locations from Public Enemies! I think they should hire you as a location scout! :investigate:

The Myth: Let’s just get this one out of the way first, shall we? :-O :lol: One of the rumors that followed Dillinger’s death was that he had a very large penis (which Hoover later kept in a jar).

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The Truth: This legend is the result of the photograph of his corpse; the bulge caused by his arm, stiff from rigor mortis, or possibly the crank on the morgue table, covered with a sheet; some who saw grainy newsprint copies of the photo mistakenly believed it to be his unnaturally large erect penis.

The following is an excerpt from a piece (no pun intended) that appeared in the Washington Post…

Rest in Pieces
Some of Washington's Museums Display a Visceral Feel for History
By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 24, 2006; C01

"These are gallstones," say Lenore Barbian. "They're from President Eisenhower."

She's the collections manager at the National Museum of Health and Medicine and she's holding a little jar with a rubber band around it. Inside are jagged pieces of crystallized cholesterol that were removed from the gallbladder of the general who liberated Europe from Hitler, the president who guided America through the '50s.

"This is the actual specimen pathology jar with the original label," she says. She rolls up the rubber band and reads from the paper beneath. " 'Date: 12 December 1966; sex: male; age: 75.' This was donated by his wife. So we actually have her return address label."
Barbian sets the jar back into the drawer.

"But wait," says Steven Solomon, the museum's spokesman, in his best parody of a late-night TV ad huckster, " there's more!"

Barbian picks up a gnarly piece of bone. "This is the vertebrae of John Wilkes Booth," she says. "When he was shot and died, he was autopsied, and they took this as a sample of a gunshot wound to the cervical vertebrae and his story was written up in medical journals."
Booth's backbone has a little glass rod sticking through it at a jaunty angle.

"It shows the trajectory -- the path of the bullet," Barbian explains. "The spinal cord runs right through here, so it clearly bisected the spinal cord. And if you don't believe me, we have the spinal cord, too."

She picks up a yellowing chunk of plastic containing a forlorn gray string of the infamous assassin's spinal cord. On the back of the plastic is the screw that held the specimen to a wall back in the days when it was still exhibited in the museum.

"This used to be displayed next to the Lincoln skull fragments," she says, "and the decision was made that it wasn't appropriate, and Booth was put into storage."

She lays the spinal cord and the vertebrae back into the drawer, a few inches from Ike's gallstones.

"But wait," says Solomon, " there's more!"

He's right. Washington's museums have lots more body parts of the famous and the infamous -- enough parts to create a celebrity Frankenstein if the curators would permit it. Alas, they won't. They're very finicky about this stuff.

The Dillinger Legend
John Dillinger, the legendary bank robber and escape artist, took two girlfriends to the movies on July 22, 1934, watching Clark Gable play a gangster who ends up in the electric chair in "Manhattan Melodrama."
When Dillinger walked out of the Biograph Theatre in Chicago, a team of FBI agents shot him dead. After his body was hauled away, souvenir-seekers dipped handkerchiefs in his blood.

The death of "Public Enemy No. 1" made headlines across the world. Since then, his story has been told in countless books and movies and his legend gave rise to a bizarre rumor -- that the G-men amputated Dillinger's allegedly enormous penis, which is now stored in a Washington museum. In 1991, the legend was cited in the TV show "The Wonder Years." In 2003, it was repeated in the movie "The Recruit." Historian Douglas Brinkley recounted the rumor in his 1993 book "The Majic Bus," suggesting it as a "potential thesis topic for some hapless graduate student."

"It's one of those urban legends that's been around for a long time," says John Fox, the FBI's official historian. "But there's no evidence that the corpse was mutilated in any way -- except for the bullets he was shot with."

At the Museum of Health and Medicine, questions about Dillinger's most famous appendage are asked so frequently that Solomon, the museum's spokesman, addressed the issue in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section of the museum's Web site:

"Do you have 20th century gangster John Dillinger's penis in the collection?

"No . . . We don't have it but we get a lot of phone calls asking if we do."
The Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History has no such disclaimer on its Web site.

"We do have something pertaining to Dillinger," says Daniel Rogers, chairman of the museum's anthropology department. "It's not a body part. It's made out of rubber or latex. I guess you could describe it as a medical model."

Rogers is sitting in his office with anthropologist Laurie Burgess and museum spokesman Randall Kremer. Nobody knows where the Dillinger item came from, Rogers says, and it has never been officially entered into the collection. For years it was stored in a jar labeled "J. Dillinger." When that jar broke, it was placed in another jar.

"It's been around here longer than I have," Rogers says. "and I've been here for 17 years."

"Why don't we go take a look at it?" says Kremer.

Burgess leads the men through a maze of third-floor hallways lined from floor to ceiling with wooden boxes that hold various specimens. She stops outside Room 300, takes out a key and unlocks a pale green wooden locker. Inside are two jars. One is empty except for a layer of dust. There's a small hole just below a label with words typed on it:

"J. Dillinger
FBI Transfer
SI Mammals Div."
And below that, handwritten: "To Anthropology 1-27-53."


The other jar is larger. It's filled with water and contains a long, narrow pale white object about 16 inches long.

Burgess reports that she inspected the object a few days ago. "It's a synthetic polymer," she says.

In other words, it's a piece of plastic. Nobody knows where it came from or when it arrived. It's not listed in any records at the Smithsonian or the FBI. The folks at both institutions figure it's probably a joke inspired by the famous rumor.

Which raises the question: Why does the Smithsonian keep it?

Rogers smiles when he answers, and his reply explains a lot about why Washington's greatest museums keep stuff like Ike's gallstones and Booth's backbone and Pershing's dentures and Ham's skeleton and Grant's tumor and Powell's brain and Guiteau's spleen.

"Museums," Rogers says, "have a tendency not to throw things away."




The Myth: Treasure hunters have always wondered about the mythical suitcase supposedly buried by Dillinger outside Little Bohemia Lodge during the escape and other places. Pat Cherrington supposedly told the story to the FBI.

The Truth: No one really knows the truth as none of the treasure has been found. Here is one treasure hunter’s take on the story:
Once out of the roadhouse (Little Bohemia Lodge), Dillinger ran 500 yd. north into the woods, dug a hole near two pines and an oak, and buried in it a suitcase containing $200,000 in small bills obtained from the sale of $1 million in stolen securities.

According to legend one of the “molls” who was arrested in the lodge after agents did gain entry told authorities Dillinger grabbed a suitcase from his room containing $200,000 in cash and proceeded north from the rear of the lodge into the woods 500 yards where he buried the suitcase “near two pine trees and an oak,” adding that Dillinger intended to return for the money later once the heat had died down. Nowhere in the official documents does this account exist. I believe this myth stems from the fact that Dillinger had cached ammunition in the woods behind the lodge on the 20th shortly after arriving. Once out in the woods the gangsters found themselves separated from their cars, heavy weaponry, and realized they were out of ammo. Dillinger and a second man were able to sneak up to the cache and retrieve the ammunition successfully before fleeing the area that night. This fact was later confirmed by a D.O.I. informant.

A recently acquired document identified as a two-page supplemental report added to the Dillinger file by Special Agent Deveruex of the South Bend, Indiana office ten days after the battle at Little Bohemia reveals new information about this specific cache. Although Deveruex does not identify his CRI (Confidential Reliable Informant) the information he provided was easily verifiable as the CRI had knowledge of events at Little Bohemia that could only have been known by members of the Dillinger gang, or law enforcement at that time. Fearing that if word leaked out he’d be charged for harboring the fugitives, the informant reported the events to the D.O.I. and spoke with agent Deveruex after the fugitives had left his home.

According to the CRI, a resident of Fort Wayne, Indiana, Dillinger, Van Meter and a third unknown man arrived at his home around 9 p.m. on May 2, 1934, just 10 days after the gunfight at Little Bohemia. He immediately recognized Homer Van Meter as a former acquaintance from Fort Wayne, and recognized Dillinger’s face from all the media coverage of recent events. He claimed the men announced they would be staying for the night and started bringing in the contents from their Ford V-8. The informant reported… “The trio had a suitcase with them filled with money which they opened and then emptied into a gunny sack, which one of the men carried over his shoulder when they left the house the afternoon of May 3, 1934.

I’ve always had many problems with this treasure tale for several reasons. The most glaring is that Dillinger was a creature of habit and a man who acted deliberately, burying a cache while “on-the-fly” wasn’t his style. 2nd - Why would Dillinger want to cache the money just when they’d need it the most? Separated from their vehicles, and heavy weapons, Dillinger, Van Meter, Hamilton and Carroll stayed together, Baby Face Nelson cut out on his own. The gang was on foot, on the run, with lawmen no more than a minute behind them. They were armed with nothing more than small arms, out of ammunition, and wore only whatever clothes were on their backs when the shooting began. 3rd - On the night of the raid the weather was clear, cold, with freezing temperatures and several inches of snow remained on the ground. They had to know that officers would be on them in seconds as soon as they picked up their tracks in the snow. So how did four men dig a hole big enough to have held even a small suitcase in the frozen ground with nothing more than their bare hands, with armed lawmen no more than a minute behind them? Carry this one step further… Giving it the benefit of the doubt, lets say the suitcase did get buried; once officers picked up their trail what would they have found when they came upon the cache site?

They would have discovered that the snow had been cleared from a certain spot on the ground and around that clearing would have been the footprints of four men acting hastily while on the run. Then the turned earth would have unmistakably marked the location of the cache. But none of this occurred.

The CRI gives us the answer… First, just ten days after Little Bohemia the informant observed Dillinger with a suitcase full of money and recalls Dillinger mention the figure of $210,000. This is good verifiable information as the suitcase supposedly contained $200,000 from the sale of stolen securities, and Dillinger’s take from their most recent bank robbery in Mason City, Iowa would’ve been between $10,000 and $11,000 dollars. Seven weeks after the informant’s encounter with Dillinger, he is shot and killed on the evening of July 22, 1934 outside of Chicago’s Biograph Theater, leaving many mysteries behind.

If it’s Dillinger loot that you seek I’d pass on Little Bohemia and take a look at the horde that he reportedly buried in several suitcases “at the far end of a pasture on the old Pierpoint family farm,” in Liepsic, Ohio. Or check out the old Dillinger farm in Mooresville, where Dillinger is said to have cached $150,000 in hot jewelry taken during the robbery of the Unity Trust & Savings Bank’s safe-deposit vaults, on December 13, 1933. Two days later on December 15th Dillinger visited his sister Audrey in Maywood, Indiana before arriving at his father’s farm in Mooresville, where he is said to have cached the jewelry.

The Myth: John Dillinger escaped from the Crown Point jail using a wooden gun.

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The Truth: After residing in ‘escape-proof’ Crown Point prison in Indiana, Dillinger eventually escaped in an episode which has become part of gangland folklore, when he allegedly threatened guards with a wooden gun blackened by shoe polish. The mobster himself was quoted as referring to it as his ‘pea shooter’. According to Public Enemies Dillinger taunted the jailers telling them, “This is how tough your little jail is, ”Dillinger announced with a grin. “I did it all with this little wooden pistol. He tapped the “gun” on the cell bars to make his point.

There have been many theories on where the gun came from. One is that the gun was smuggled in (wouldn’t they have smuggled in a real gun?) or that Dillinger carved it from soap, a bookshelf or a washboard. Later, a story emerged that his lawyer had arranged for Dillinger's escape with cash bribes, and the wooden gun was simply a cover. Wherever the gun came from, it did exist.


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The Myth: John Dillinger did not die at the Biograph Theater (more on The Biograph to come!)

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X marks the spot…or does it?

The Truth: To this day, there are doubts whether Dillinger actually died on July 22, 1934. Some researchers (chief among them famed Chicago crime writer Jay Robert Nash) believe that the dead man was in truth a petty criminal from Wisconsin named Jimmy Lawrence, who had dated Dillinger's sometime girlfriend Billie Frechette and bore a close resemblance to the famed bank robber. Nash claimed he'd been shown letters, dated 1959 and 1963, from someone who said he was Dillinger. The letters were accompanied by a photo of an older man bearing a vague resemblance to the deceased bank robber. Nash never tracked down the man--who wasn't the first purported Dillinger--but nonetheless persuaded himself that this fellow was genuine.

On the night of the shooting Jimmy Lawrence disappeared. Lawrence was a small-time criminal who had recently moved from Wisconsin. He lived in the neighborhood and often came to the Biograph Theater.... he also bore an uncanny resemblance to John Dillinger.

In addition, a photograph taken from the purse of Dillinger's girlfriend shows her in the company of a man who looks like the man killed at the Biograph... a photo taken before Dillinger ever had plastic surgery! Could Dillinger's girlfriend have made a date with Jimmy Lawrence to go to the Biograph, knowing (thanks to Anna Sage) that the FBI was waiting for him there?

Some people who knew him said they did not recognize the body; in fact, Dillinger's father had suddenly exclaimed when first seeing his son's corpse, "That's not my boy!" After all, John Dillinger did receive rather crude plastic surgery some time before his death. Moreover, if indeed the agents did mistake Lawrence for Dillinger, the FBI would have had a strong incentive to cover up such a blunder, since J. Edgar Hoover was on the verge of being fired as Bureau director in the wake of the extensive public outrage over the earlier Little Bohemia Lodge incident. An autopsy contained information that was controversial, such as:

• The corpse had brown eyes. Dillinger's were grey, according to police files.
• The body showed signs of some childhood illness which Dillinger never had.
• The body showed a rheumatic heart condition; yet according to the later testimony of Dr. Patrick Weeks — Dillinger's physician at Indiana State Prison — Dillinger could not have suffered from this disease as he was an avid baseball player while in prison and had served in the Navy.
• The small Colt semi-automatic pistol that Dillinger had allegedly drawn on the approaching FBI agents outside the Biograph (and was for years shown in a display case at FBI Headquarters along with Dillinger's death mask) was not his; it had, in fact, been manufactured five months after Dillinger's death, which supports the claim that the FBI agents, without warning, shot and killed an unarmed Dillinger.

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• In 1963 the newspaper The Indianapolis Star, received a letter from a person called "John Dillinger" with a return address in Hollywood, California. The letter contained a photo of a man who looked like a more aged Dillinger. When this was ignored, another letter was sent to Emil Wanatka Jr, the proprietor of the Little Bohemia Lodge.


However:

• The body was positively identified as John Dillinger by his sister Audrey, through a scar on his leg received in childhood.
• The mistake concerning the corpse's eyes may have been an error on the part of the coroner resulting from eye discoloration caused by a traumatic head wound or decomposition in the intense summer heat.
• The FBI has at least two sets of post-mortem fingerprints of the dead man. Though scarred by corrosive acid, the prints shared the same characteristics as those of John Dillinger.

A 2006 Discovery Channel documentary titled The Dillinger Conspiracy examined the legends surrounding his death. Several historians, detectives, and forensic scientists examined the autopsy, the 1963 letter, and East Chicago Police Sergeant Martin Zarkovich's gun to determine the true story behind his death. Ultimately, the show suggested Zarkovich fired the final bullet which did in fact kill Dillinger, and that the FBI was complicit in his death.



I came across this while researching The Biograph tidbit and though I would add it here...

AS FOR THE DILLINGER DEATH MASKS

The day after Dillinger was killed, a thousand or more people queued up outside the Chicago city morgue to view the mortal remains of the century's most notorious desperado. Given the heat wave, the flies, and the odors inside the morgue, the event must have rivaled what the city now promotes as "A Taste of Chicago."


At least four death masks were made of Dillinger's face. The first (and poorest) probably was obtained by Kenneth "Doctor" Coffman (whose resume would have described him as a photographer, sculptor, illustrator, publicist, sign painter and criminologist) who bluffed his way past police early on and simply poured plaster over the corpse's face. After that, Harold May of the Dental Reliance Company and dentist colleague, Jerome F. Nachtman, probably with help from a police friend, used a fast-drying rubbery compound call Reprolastic to spread on Dillinger's face, after which plaster was poured over it and the combination soon removed.


He sent a copy of the mask to J. Edgar Hoover hoping to demonstrate the value of this technique in preserving anything from tire tracks to footprints. His cop buddy had the less noble idea of peddling copies of the mask at the Century of Progress world's fair then entertaining the city. That idea had to be abandoned because it would have required permission of the Dillinger family, and after several copies were made, the original plaster mold was used for backyard target practice. (Hoover, after determining that no particular laws had been broken, had his technicians fabricate a similar rubbery
compound and soon was providing death masks to any law-enforcement agency requesting one--at least until his own lab men complained that their skills were needed for other projects.


About the same time, Professor A. E. Ashworth of the Worsham College of Embalming Science asked several of his students to meet him at the morgue to also make a mask. With photographers taking pictures, he used a plaster and cotton technique, only to have his mask confiscated by one Sergeant Alfred Mulvaney--probably the same cop who had shepherded the Dental Reliance man through the crowds, and who didn't want any masks competing with his copies at the world's fair. Professor Ashworth insisted on getting a receipt for his mask, and that it be stored in a secure place. At this point an attractive young embalming student named Marj McDougal stepped in, "made eyes" at
Officer Mulvaney, and said she would like to accompany him to a safe on an upper floor so Professor Ashworth could feel assured that the mask was properly secured. Officer Mulvaney allowed as how that would be quite all right with him. By the time Marj and the cop returned, another mask had been quickly made, was concealed in a smock, smuggled out by another student, but has disappeared.


The mask preserved by Mulvaney evidently made its way to the Northwestern University crime lab originally opened by forensics expert Calvin Goddard following the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. When the lab was sold to the Chicago Police Department in 1938, its chief technician kept most of the Goddard materials but helped set up the state crime lab in Wisconsin. Upon the technician's death, he left most of the Goddard collection to his brother--including the death mask--and these eventually were purchased by a Wisconsin collector who sold the Goddard mask and its mold at auction in 1990 for $10,000.



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Source: http://www.gangstersandoutlaws.com/deathmask.html
Last edited by DeppInTheHeartOfTexas on Sat Feb 09, 2008 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby gemini » Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:35 pm

Thanks great tidbit DITHOT. I have been absorbed in these stories lately.
Gee I can't believe all the myths and stories I have been reading about Dillinger that I missed the one about his penis size. I even looked at that photo in the morgue and didn't see the bulge :lol: :blush:

I was intrigued by the stories that someone was shot in Dillinger's place. I thought it strange that his father didn't think it was him and even his sister who positively identified him said this..

At the Harvey Funeral Home in Mooresville, Audrey Dillinger Hancock was not convinced the body was that of her infamous brother. After allegedly reviewing a scar on the back of the corpse’s thigh, Audrey conceded, “It’s all right. That’s Johnnie.”

Was it the plastic surgery that confused them? From the photos I've seen of him before and after he did not look very different. Not enough that a family member could not recognize him. The surgery was to have removed a cleft in his chin. Then again maybe they were hoping it was not him.
I do love conspiracy theories! :press: :investigate: Maybe when they realized it was not him they decided to go along with it.
Last edited by gemini on Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Unread postby gemini » Fri Feb 08, 2008 6:42 pm

Here is a little more of the conspriracy theory of the wrong body...
Finally, the compelling postmortem evidence displayed physical inconsistencies between the dead man and John Dillinger. Morgue photographs show a face only remotely resembling Dillinger’s famous visage, the more prominent discrepancies not attributable to the plastic surgery Dillinger had undergone. Dillinger’s eyes were blue; the dead man’s were brown. The corpse was shorter and heavier than Dillinger’s recorded height and weight. The body possessed scars (including one from abdominal surgery that Dillinger had never undergone), wounds and birthmarks which Dillinger’s records fail to report. And there was evidence that the dead man had a congenital rheumatic heart condition, which certainly would have precluded Dillinger’s famed athletic abilities. Such evidence points to the conclusion that John Dillinger had escaped his own execution.

Here is the link
http://www.lonepinepublishing.com/cat/9781894864107/gallery/excerpt
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers



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Unread postby Linda Lee » Fri Feb 08, 2008 7:23 pm

Thanks, Ma DITHOT. It's very interesting separating the fact from the myth.
Gemini wrote:
I do love conspiracy theories! Maybe when they realized it was not him they decided to go along with it.

:highfive:
There are certainly a lot of unaccounted for discrepancies, the FBI would have good reason for a cover up. :eyebrow:
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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Feb 08, 2008 7:42 pm

I thought the same thing about his father and his plastic surgery. My guess was his father didn't want to believe he was really dead and I thought the plastic surgery wasn't terribly drastic. Everyone loves to think someone famous isn't really dead...hmmm...I think I feel a discussion question coming on! :ONBC:
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Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby Lucky13 » Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:05 pm

I would have to say it probably was Dillinger. If it wasn't, me thinks his "bankrobbing" would have continued.

I doubt he would have found a new "career". :lol:
~ Yah, I wanna take that ride with you!

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Unread postby fansmom » Fri Feb 08, 2008 10:24 pm

Not to be morbid, but I've only ever been with one person as he died, and he looked radically different after death than he had a few days before. :tear:

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Unread postby gemini » Fri Feb 08, 2008 11:31 pm

Lucky13 wrote:I would have to say it probably was Dillinger. If it wasn't, me thinks his "bankrobbing" would have continued.

I doubt he would have found a new "career". :lol:

That $210,000 missing suitcase would have been enough to last a long time in those days. Not that I really disagree that it wasn't Dillinger but my resentment of the way Hoover and the FBI handled things makes me wish it were true.

Here I am with another link but you ladies keep me thinking of things I've read. This article seems to think Anna Sage turned him in more for the money he had in his room than for the FBI reward.
http://gritsforbreakfast.blogspot.com/2005/08/self-serving-snitch-at-center-of-john.html
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Unread postby fansmom » Fri Feb 08, 2008 11:47 pm

Interesting link. Thanks, gemini.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Fri Feb 08, 2008 11:49 pm

Interesting, but if she had stolen that much money couldn't she have just disappeared and escaped deportation? Unless she was being watched I suppose.
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Unread postby fansmom » Fri Feb 08, 2008 11:53 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Interesting, but if she had stolen that much money couldn't she have just disappeared and escaped deportation? Unless she was being watched I suppose.
Or bought her way out of it.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:13 am

Good point. :cool:
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

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Unread postby fansmom » Sat Feb 09, 2008 12:26 pm

I hadn't realized how common the Dillinger's penis story was until I was reading Carl Hiaasen's "Stormy Weather" last night, and came across a reference to it. (The reference is pretty disgusting, so I wouldn't recommend looking it up.)

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Unread postby gemini » Sat Feb 09, 2008 2:17 pm

DeppInTheHeartOfTexas wrote:Interesting, but if she had stolen that much money couldn't she have just disappeared and escaped deportation? Unless she was being watched I suppose.

I was thinking the same thing when I read this article but I read some other stories of those who thought Anna Sage, the crooked cop Sgt. Zarkovich, and his mob connections together put the finger on Dillinger. Maybe even Polly Hamilton.. I can't find the article I read it in but I saw where his wife divorced Zarkovich and she named Anna Sage as the other woman even though she was a bit older then him. This showed they were intimate long before she supposedly called him to finger Dillinger. Then there was talk that Zarkovich was the one that was insistent that Dillinger be killed and not arrested. I also read that after the FBI released Anna Sage from protective custody she didn't come home until Van Meter was killed and Pierpont executed because she feared retaliation. Maybe that's why she left or was afraid too many people knew what went down.
Sorry ladies I have been reading entirely too many Dillinger conspiracies lately.
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Unread postby Raven » Sat Feb 09, 2008 3:24 pm

An excellent tidbit DITHOT!
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