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Dillinger's Wooden Gun
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Dillinger's Wooden Gun

When the Lake County Jail was constructed in Crown Point, the building was considered escape proof. With the sheriff living in the attached space, convicts checked in, but didn't break out.

In 1934, Lake County housed John Dillinger when was turned over to Crown Point to stand trial for the shooting death of East Chicago Police Officer William Patrick O'Malley.

While in jail in Crown Point, Dillinger posed for photographs with law officials, including Sheriff Lillian Holley and prosecutor Robert Estill. 

On March 3, 1934 — as legend goes — Dillinger fashioned a gun out of wood and used it to overpower guards, locking 24 in as he and another prisoner, Herbert Youngblood, escaped the jail.

The legend grew from there.

Some believed the gun was made of soap, while others recounted tales into which no "mock gun" was used at all, but that guards were bribed to let Dillinger out of the jail.

By 1999, three different museums claimed to have the Dillinger wooden gun. The gun that Dillinger is shown holding in a photograph at his family's farm after his escape looks closest to the one housed in the Dillinger Museum at the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Hammond.

The legends will continue to be legends; Dillinger was killed by FBI agents in Chicago on July 22, 1934, before he could stand trial for the O'Malley death and before he could tell the tale himself.


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Sports Director

Hillary has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.

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