A column I wrote earlier this month about John Dillinger and the museum dedicated to his Lake County connection attracted plenty of reader questions and feedback.
"Mr. Potempa: Regarding your recent column. I met author Carol Sissom at The Covered Bridge Festival last Fall, where she was selling her book 'Banking with Dillinger.' She told me some trivia including the fact that actor Johnny Depp purchased Dillinger's personal possessions from his family. I asked if that included the infamous wooden gun used in his Crown Point jailbreak and she said yes. But isn't the wooden gun supposed to be a part of the collection at The Dillinger Museum at the Indiana Welcome Center as you mentioned? A mystery? Where is the actual wooden gun? Thanks, Dee, one of your faithful readers"
ANSWER: Thank you Dee. I directed your question to Nicki Mackowski, director of public relations for South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority, since they are the governing body operating The Dillinger Museum. She confirmed her organization DOES own the original fake wooden gun (which was often referred to erroneously as "carved from soap") the gangster used to fool jail authorities. She said it is kept locked away, and a re-creation is featured in the museum. So as to what (if anything) was purchased by Depp (who starred as Dillinger in the 2009 film "Public Enemies" by director Michael Mann) from the Dillinger Family, it's a long shot for getting the real story.
Reader Tim Mulvihill is one of the many readers who wrote to me expressing displeasure that Dillinger is still getting newspaper due decades after his demise.
"Hi Philip, I'm so sick about hearing about Dillinger. The Dillinger Gang killed my grandfather, Lloyd Mulvihill, in 1934. He was a cold blooded killer, not a Robin Hood. He doesn't deserve a museum, and any money made off his name should be paid to the families of the officers his gang killed. My grandmother, Ethel Mulvihill, told me a story about John Dillinger. She said Dillinger did not escape from the Crown Point jail with a wooden gun, he bribed one of the guards for their gun. The wooden gun they auctioned off is worthless as far as I'm concerned. The police departments back then were as corrupt as the criminals. You have to remember, this was during the Great Depression, and even the police needed money to live on. There was no money from the government to pay their salaries. They got money from local merchants and such. I believe my grandfather was assassinated because he was going to testify against John Dillinger at his trial. My grandfather's testimony would have sent Dillinger to the electric chair. My grandfather, Lloyd Mulvihill, and his partner, Martin O'Brien, were both shot eight or nine times in the head and neck with a machine gun. As far as I'm concerned, police officers are the ones that need a museum, not a heartless killer. Sincerely, Timothy I. Mulvihill"