BONES IN THE BACKYARD, MILLIONAIRE MURDERER, CASINO MASSACRE AND MORE
John Dillinger went from a nobody to public enemy number one in just 18 months. His rise was meteoric: his sudden end an historic and very public indignity
Stunning crime photos, present and past, from around the world
FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover loved favourable publicity, sometimes going to distasteful lengths to get it. During the crime wave of the early 1930s he routinely put the corpses of criminals on public display. John Dillinger, like ‘ Pretty Boy’ Floyd and Bonnie and Clyde, was one of them.
A bank robber, killer and escape artist, Dillinger was a criminal icon even in his time. He confounded the police and FBI with the same reckless ease as he robbed banks, but the good times couldn’t last. The ‘ G- Men’ might have killed him, but it was betrayal that saw him shot dead at Chicago’s Biograph Theater courtesy of brothel madam and informant Anna Sage.
Hoover wasn’t the only person to behave in this way. As Dillinger lay in an alley beside the Biograph, shot four times by FBI agents Herman Hollis, Clarence Hurt and Charles Winstead, not every bystander was appalled by the sight. Some rushed to his still- warm body with handkerchiefs and pieces of cloth, dipping them in Dillinger’s blood to take as souvenirs.
After his death Dillinger’s body was put on display at a local morgue, thousands of people filing past as though he was a celebrity lying in state. They paid for the privilege of seeing him for the last time. Many people who’d already filed past rejoined the back of the line so they could look at him again.