Some say that the gun was real, snuck into the jail by a corrupt police investigator. Others, including Dillinger’s hostage, believe he crafted the gun using razor and shelving from his cell. The ‘gun’ may have even been carved from a potato. Or a washboard. Whatever the case, Dillinger’s gun was convincing enough to help him hightail it out of the state’s custody.
Unfortunately, or fortunately if you are a fan of law and order, Dillinger made one very costly error during his escape, as he stole a sheriff’s car and crossed state lines with it. This was a federal crime, which allowed J. Edgar Hoover and his special agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigations to get involved in the case.
Several months later, those very federal agents bracketed Dillinger at the Biograph Theatre in Chicago. After the fugitive attended a showing of the 1934 film Manhattan Melodrama, he left the theater and spotted the surrounding law enforcement. Agents claim Dillinger pulled a pistol and attempted to flee into an alleyway, where he was gunned down by famed FBI agent Melvin Purvis.
Among the most disturbing details of his death…as Dillinger lay dying, dozens of pedestrians dipped their handkerchiefs in the spreading pool of his blood. As souvenirs.