Dillinger museum showcases guns

July 22, 2009 (HAMMOND, Ind.) Dillinger was gunned down outside the Biograph Theatre on Chicago's North Side and a legend was born. The legend is still very much alive in Hammond, Ind.

The John Dillinger Museum is run by the South Shore Conventions Authority in Hammond. It's a rare collection of everything Dillinger-- including his youth, his family and his Midwest bank robbing adventures in 1934. On the 75th anniversary of his death, there was a special exhibit.

"We have amassed three historic artifacts and for the first time ever in the last 75 years. We have brought together ... first and foremost ... the wooden gun Dillinger used to break out of the Crown Point Jail. And when they did, he and a couple of other convicts absconded with two Tommy guns that we have on display as well," said Speros Batistatos, pres. CEO South Shore Visitors Authority.

The wooden gun is the main attraction. Dillinger carved it while awaiting murder charges in the Crown Point Jail. He used the gun to escape. But how do they know it's the real thing? p> "When the FBI was actually looking for John Dillinger he went down to his farmhouse in Southern Indiana. And he took a lot of photos. And there's a photo of him holding a Thompson Submachine gun and the original wooden gun," said Erika Scheeringa, dir. public relations at Visitors Authority.

Dillinger was a young man; He had just turned 31 when he died. He had only been robbing banks for a year when he was gunned down. Yet 75 years later Chicagoans are still talking about him.

"He pushed the envelope so the cops and the FBI had to come up with new technology to battle this crime wave," said Batistatos. "Captain Matt Leach of the state police put radios in state police cars because of John Dillinger."

Because of Dillinger and his wooden gun, the FBI created the Most Wanted List. Where does that hand carved gun go now?

"We're going to lock it up. We're going to lock it up," said Scheeringa.

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