THE TRUTH BEHIND THE WOODEN GUN
FACT: The so-called Escape-proof Lake County Crown Point, Indiana jail that once housed John Dillinger, became the biggest joke and the loudest laugh of the nation and/or perhaps the world, during the month of March 1934. Many called it Clown Point, and also called Wooden gun, Indiana. Mail was actually delivered to Wooden gun and Clown Point,Indiana and was received, and this was a time before zip codes came into existance, before the Picasso sculpture was erected in Chicago and treatment facilities like Morningside Recovery came to Indiana.
Its not known if John Dillinger could have benefited from treatment or rehabilitation at a place like Morningside Recovery or if he was too intelligent for such practices. As you read on, its pretty clear that any doctor or volunteer at a Morningside Recovery center could have potentially fallen victim of Dillinger's brilliance just like the guards from Lake County Crown Point did all those years ago.
THE TRUTH BEHIND DILLINGER'S MOST FAMOUS ESCAPE.
DID HE USE A WOODEN GUN, A SOAP GUN OR A REAL GUN?
John Dillinger had taught the So-called escape proof Crown Point a valuable lesson because they underestimating the brilliance of his criminal mind. After planning the escape carefully, he took his time and waited for the right moment. When he was ready, Dillinger remained calm, he made the escape look like child's play. Dillinger used psychology to bluff the guards; he put the image of a real gun into their minds and let them know he meant business. Anyone of these guards could have stopped Dillinger at anytime during the break, but he kept his cool and let them know he was escaping at all costs. Armed with only a piece of wood, and his wits, he fooled the guards. This escape would blast Dillinger to stardom, a super criminal of the times.
It began when Dillinger and fourteen other prisoners were placed in the exercise bullpen. Sam Cahoon broke Crown Point rules by entering the exercise area when prisoners were present. He was bringing in soap and other supplies for Saturday night baths. At 9:15 a.m., Dillinger struck what appeared to be an automatic pistol in Cahoon's side and ordered him into the cell, stating, "Get in quick or I'll kill you." Then he captured and forced two jail porters into the cell. Dillinger looked down the corridor and saw Ernest Blunk, the fingerprint expert. He commanded Cahoon to call Blunk from the foot of the stairs. Blunk responded, and was easily captured. Cahoon was then locked in the cell with his fellow companions, and Blunk because the bait to lure in other guards. One by one Crown Point officials were bluffed into captivity, driven by fear of being shot or perhaps killed.
Dillinger's plan worked like a charm. He had successfully immobilized the entire security of Crown Point armed with a piece of wood and his wits. Dillinger had succeeded in locking up ten guards and a few trustees and took the only master set of keys to the jail with him. To add to Sheriff Holley’s embarrassment, Dillinger stole her own personal police car for his escape.
John Dillinger, prisoner Herbert Youngblood, and Earnest Blunk headed for the Main Street Garage. The trio walked behind the Criminal Courthouse building and into the garage. Edwin Saager, a mechanic was busy working on a car when Dillinger came in, and didn't even notice his presence. Leaning on the car talking to Saager was Robert Volk. He didn't notice anything out of the ordinary either. Dillinger walked up with a machinegun in his hands and asked Saager, "Which is the fastest car?” Saager thought Dillinger was a deputy, so he pointed to Sheriff Holley’s black V-8. Dillinger then requested that Saager join the party, but he declined because he was to busy. Dillinger pointed his machine gun and forced Saager into the back seat with Youngblood. Dillinger and Blunk climbed into the front. Blunk was ordered to drive. As the car pulled out of the garage onto Main Street, Blunk claimed he tried to sideswipe another car to attract attention, and then he ran a red signal light. Dillinger warned Blunk that if he tried this again he'd be shot. He advised Blunk to drive the speed limit. He said; "Thirty miles an hour is enough, there's no hurry!" As they passed by the First national and commercial bank, Dillinger made a remark that he was tempted to rob the bank, but he'd better wait. Blunk noticed how cool and calm Dillinger remained during the entire trip. He told Blunk he wished he could have said goodbye to Sheriff Lillian Holley before he left. Dillinger had Blunk turn at every corner and stick to gravel roads. Blunk remembered that they only passed through one town during the drive, and that was the town of St. John, which was on route 41. As they approached the town, Dillinger told Blunk to stop the car; he jumped out and broke the police spotlight off the side of the vehicle, because every cop in the country would be looking for the car.
Dillinger released Saager and Blunk in a remote area without telephones. He gave them four dollars for carfare, and apologized that he couldn't give them more, but it was all he could spare. He told them that he would send them something at Christmas. Saager and Blunk later picked up by some farmers passing by. The farmers followed the tire chain tracks for a while until the chain markings disappeared. When the two returned to Crown Point, reporters quickly surrounded them for a story. Both Blunk and Saager stated as Dillinger dashed for freedom, he was singing, "Get along little dogie” and The last roundup." In a interview with reporters Ed Saager was asked, "Did you see the toy gun at all in the car?" Saager replied, "I just got a glimse of it yes." Reporter, "Can you give me a description of it? Was it made out of wood or what?" Saager replied, "Well, it looked rather much like it, Yes." So we do have an actual witness stating he did see what appeared to be wooden gun.
Crown Point officials were busy trying to clean up the mess that Dillinger left behind. Everyone at Crown Point was blaming each other for the break. Dillinger had locked up the whole jailhouse before he departed, taking the master set of keys with him. The keys turned out to be the only master set to the jail. Officials had to break their own men out of the jail with wielding torches. Sheriff Lillian Holley was sitting on the steps crying, and nobody was guarding prisoners. The press took a picture of Holley on the stairs and printed the photograph with headlines, which stated, "Sheriff Lillian Holley, the woman he left behind.” Holley was so mad that she publicly stated if she could see Dillinger; she'd kill him herself.
After Dillinger’s famous escape, officials had found an old washboard under the bed of his cell. This was a prop left to stage a scene, and to convince officials that he whittled the wooden gun from the missing top brace of the washboard. This event was staged by Dillinger to protect those who aided his escape and false rumors began that he carved the gun out of wood.
Crown Point made another grave mistake by broadcasting the incorrect license plate number of Sheriff Lillian Holley's car that Dillinger stole with orders, to Shoot to kill. The failure to produce the correct license number was an important factor in Dillinger's escape. This license number belonged to A.C. Mayes of Crown Point. This was a serious error of judgment; Crown Point had placed A.C. Mayes, and any passengers who might be riding in his car in grave danger. News also came out that Sam Cahoon, the turnkey who let Dillinger out, had served two sentences in Crown Point for intoxication, and wasn't even a guard. Governor Paul V. McNutt was hot under the collar when he called the break inexcusable, and ordering a full-scale state investigation. Prosecutor Robert Estill began a full investigation, the results of the inquiry were turned over to the Grand Jury.
Fingerprint Expert Ernest Blunk was placed on suspension and charged with a felony for aiding Dillinger in his escape. Blunk was later exonerated due to lack of evidence. A couple of weeks after Dillinger bluffed his way out of the escape proof jail; Earnest Blunk took a mysterious trip. Upon his return, he told reporters that he went to Indianapolis where he was questioned by Deputy Attorney General Edward Barce, and three State investigators, but State, County and City officials insisted they were unaware of his presence in the State Capital. Many sources believe Blunk met with a Dillinger associate and made arrangements to collect money as a payoff for his part in the escape. I personally spoke to a relative of Ernest Blunk, who agreed that he was probably paid off my Dillinger for his part in the escape.
WAS DILLINGER ARMED WITH A REAL GUN?
There is no solid evidence that a real gun was smuggled into the jail and given to Dillinger and no such gun has ever surfaced, but the wooden gun did surface and is at the Hammond Indiana Museum near the Chicago/Indiana border. During his escape Officer Marshall Keith Leg hesitated, and began reaching for a nearby black jack. Dillinger warned him by stating, “I don't want to kill you, but one way or another, I’m getting out of here.” Believing that Dillinger meant business, Keith Leg reluctantly surrendered. Dillinger also disarmed Warden Hiles, a national guardsman of his .45 automatic pistols. Dillinger had succeeded in capturing nine men with a piece of wood, he did find two machine guns in the in the Warden’s office.
THE TRUE STORY OF THE SOAP GUNS
The story of John Dillinger's escape is often confused with another escape attempt. Dillinger used a wooden gun to bluff his way out of Crown Point jail, NOT a gun made of soap.
The story gets mixed up with Dillinger gangster Harry Pierpont and Charley Makley, who DID use soap guns in an attempt to escape death row in Columbus, Ohio penitentiary.
Pierpont and Makley were displaying their gallantry and smarts in another desperate escape for freedom. Although heavily guarded and under constant watch, Pierpont and Makley had managed to create two very realistic looking toy soap guns. The guns were cleverly designed using raw materials such as cakes of soap; card board, fountain pens, pieces of jigsaw puzzles, tin foil, wire, thread from their blankets and shoe polish to blacken these created works of art. This would be the first escape attempt ever from Columbus, Ohio’s death row. The risks were high and the odds of escaping were not good, but they figured they had nothing left to lose.
Pierpont’s ingenious plan was the combination of Dillinger’s fake gun idea, and the Michigan City break, which included several men to assure a successful break, using power in numbers. Armed with soap guns Pierpont and Makley grabbed guards as hostages, but the guards pulled away from their grips and the guards opened fire.Bullets hit Makley in the head and shoulders, while Pierpont was hit in the spine, it was over. Guard Harold Whetstone was injured from a ricocheted bullet that nicked his head. Makley died soon afterwards from his wounds suffered from the event. Pierpont was desperate and knew this plan had to work, but the end result would prove disastrous. On September 26, the Ohio State Supreme Court over ruled Pierpont’s appeal and announced that he must die in the chair on October 17, for the murder of the Sheriff. The announcement came just four days after the failed escape attempt.
The decision to over rule Pierpont’s stay of execution was considered, but the attempted escape was the final act, that sealed his doom. On October 17, 1934, Harry Pierpont was half carried (Due to recent wounds) to the electric chair, and entered the execution chamber at 12:07 a.m. He was strapped to the chair, and the electrodes were adjusted around his legs and arms.
The pain of his wounds most likely caused most of these tears. When asked if he had any last words he replied, “Today, I am the only man alive who knows the who’s and how’s and as my end comes very shortly I’ll take this little story with me on the last walk.” After he made the brief statement, the death mask was affixed and a guard gave the signal. The switch was thrown and for two minutes a light glowed red behind the chair. Pierpont’s body stiffened and jerked for two endlessly, until Doctor Dan Bowers said, “It is death.” The time was 12:15 a.m.; just eight minutes after Pierpont had entered the death chamber.
Tony Stewart, author of Dillinger, The Hidden Truth - RELOADED
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According to the Detroit Free Press newspaper below Dillinger was a butcher of human beings, a born killer and murder was his profession. Far from the truth! Did the FBI and police authorities actually have people convinced that this hogwash was true?
The author of this article truly had an extraordinary imagination and a deep hatred towards Dillinger and Crown Point officials. He was definitely out to assist in the ruining of the careers of Robert Estill and Lillian Holley.
But they didn't need any help, Dillinger already made the arrangements when he checked out of Crown Point.
BELOW: Newspaper Courtesy of The Paul Rosa Collection.