Some urban legends don't die.
True or false: John Dillinger, the notorious 1930's gangster, had a huge penis, and when he died (after being gunned down by FBI agents) his penis was surgically disconnected from his body, and sent to the Smithsonian to preserve in a jar.
The answer is false.
But if it's not true, how did this tall tale grow into the urban legend, everywhere from Boy Scout cook outs to tree houses everywhere?
No one knows for sure this legend it all got started. There's no documentary evidence that Dillinger was known for his sexual prowess or his modern day porn star penis.
There's a lot we don't know and will never figure out about Dillinger, but there are some things we do know about America's #1 Public Enemy:
1. He briefly served in the Navy.
By the age of 20, he was committing crimes. When he stole a car near Mooresville, Indiana, he went on a joyride and was nearly gunned down by the police (foreshadowing?).
He decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy to resist arrest. John didn't take to well to the Navy and they didn't take to him, with his obvious subordination and going AWOL. He spent some time solitary confinement before finally deserting for good in December, 1923.
2. He spent most of his adult life in prison.
He was 21 when he was sent to prison for a botched robbery on an elderly clerk in a grocery store. Dillinger spent the 8 ½ years doing time with some scary, hardened criminals, learning from them valuable tools needed for a life in crime.
Only days after getting paroled, he joined forces with an Indianapolis gang and started a crime spree that would make him one of the nations most wanted. He died at the age of 31, in 1934, so he only had 2 years to commit his many crimes.
3. He helped bust some of his fellow gang members out of jail.
Dillinger was a team player when it came to crime, and he was desperate to reunite with some of his old prison buddies to form the ultimate bank robbing gang. Dillinger arrange to have three .38 pistols smuggled into the Indiana State Prison.
Meanwhile, Dillinger had been arrested and was stuck in a Lima, Ohio jail. The men who Dillinger helped get out of jail were able to return the favor and get him out, gunning down the county sheriff (with the smuggled guns) in the process.
4. He robbed police stations.
He may not have had the world's largest penis but he did have incredibly big balls for robbing police stations.
5. Dillinger was a huge celebrity, even before any rumors of his supposedly enormous penis surfaced. When a car dealership learned that he used one of their automobiles as a getaway car, they used it in their advertising. "Will they catch John Dillinger? Not until they get him out of a Ford V8!"
6. He escaped from jail using a gun he claimed he made from a block of wood, a razor handle, and a coat of black shoe polish.
If that's not resourceful and thrifty, I don't know what is.
7. He had bad plastic surgery to hide his identity.
Since everybody knew his face, Dillinger went to some underworld plastic surgeons. The surgeons, Wilhelm Loeser and Harold Bernard Cassidy, gave Dillinger a basic facelift, removed some identifying marks — such as moles and scars, — filled in his famous cleft chin, and used some chemicals to burn off his fingerprints.
Dillinger wasn't happy with the results and felt that all that pain hadn't been worth it; he looked pretty much the same as he did before the surgery.
8. One of his mistresses turned him in.
In July of 1934, he spent much of the month holed up in a Chicago apartment, with his girlfriend Polly Hamilton and a Brothel owner named Anna Sage. Apparently, it took at least two women to satisfy him.
Romanian-born Sage contacted the FBI and offered to give Dillinger up for part of the reward money ($25,000) as well as them helping her to avoid deportation. On July 22, 193, agents watched as Sage, Hamilton, and Diller went to see the Clark Gable crime film, Manhattan Melodrama.
After the movie, the trio left the theater, and were quickly surrounded by federal agents. Dillinger struggled to get his gun from his pocket but was quickly gunned down in a hail of bullets. He died on the scene.
9. His body was seen by thousands.
Dillinger was a celebrity-criminal and this became even clearer after his death. Souvenir-hunters tried to collect his blood at the scene of the crime, and people lined up to see his bullet-riddled body when it was put on display at the morgue.
Dillinger's casket was encased in cement to deter grave robbers, but his headstone had to be replaced several times after memorabilia collectors took pieces of it for their own collections.
Here's the newsreel of Dillinger's death:
Maybe John Dillinger didn't have a gigantic penis, but he did have nerves of steel and an appetite for thrills. Today, we'd call him a sociopath, but back then, he was a celebrity.