John Dillinger Still Causing Trouble in Indiana

By Andrew Greiner
|  Thursday, Oct 8, 2009  |  Updated 10:47 AM EDT
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Johnny Depp played John Dillinger in the movie "Public Enemy."

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John Dillenger continues to cause a ruckus in Indiana 75 years after he escaped from a jail there.

As the story goes, the famous outlaw made a fake gun out of old pieces of washboard while he was locked up in a Crown Point, Indiana jail. He used the “gun” to take a prison guard hostage and waltz out of confinement.

Now, two different organizations claim to have the pretend pistol.

A Texas auction house that has made news lately for selling off Dillinger related items says it has the piece and it’s putting it on the block. Heritage Auction Galleries is offering the gun as part of a large collection of Dillinger related effects.

But an Indiana museum says not so fast, we’ve got the fake gun.

"We have authenticated our gun," Speros Batistatos, the president of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, which houses the Dillinger museum.

"(Dillinger's) full-blooded sister, Audrey, provided us with a letter authenticating the gun" at the time, Batistatos told the Northwest Indiana Times."At no time has anyone ever stepped forward claiming we don't own the gun. … Now all of a sudden, they are."

Heritage Auction Galleries received its collection of Dillinger related gear from the “Public Enemy’s” brother, Hubert when he died in 1974. The gallery’s director of arms and militaria, Dennis Lowe, said it was just part of an entire lot.

"We're making no claims beyond what we know to be true," Lowe said. "The wooden gun that we have was in the personal effects of Hubert Dillinger on his death in 1974."

The debate is difficult to resolve because of the mythic lore surrounding Dillinger. Some people say the gun was actually made of soap, others say it was a real gun and still others say Dillinger never used a prop to escape from jail.
 
Either way, both entities will continue to stake their claim.

"I'm going to say we have the real gun," Batistatos said."We're comfortable with our custodial chain …my response (to the auction) is buyer beware."
 

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