Family Plans To Have John Dillinger Exhumed To Prove It Isn't Really Him

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

clockAug 2 2019, 15:29 UTC

Everett Historical / Shutterstock / Captain Roger Fenton / Flickr / IFLScience

Relatives of American gangster John Dillinger are planning on having his body exhumed in order to "prove" that it isn't him.

John Dillinger was a gangster famous for a string of up to 24 bank robberies in the 1930s with his group, known as the Dillinger Gang, as well as several successful escapes from prison. His activities were used by J. Edgar Hoover – in his role as director of the Bureau of Investigation – to campaign for the creation of the FBI.


At around 10.40pm on July 22, 1934, Dillinger was shot and killed by FBI agents in an alley outside a movie theater in Chicago. According to the autopsy, the bullet that killed Dillinger entered through the back of his neck, severed his spinal cord, and passed into his brain and then exited under his right eye, severing two sets of veins and arteries in the process.

Before burial, his body was publicly displayed at the Cook County morgue, where around 15,000 people flocked to view it thanks to his infamy. He was buried in concrete and scrap iron in an Indianapolis cemetery, so as not to be disturbed by vandals, CBS News reports.

His death has been surrounded by conspiracy theories for years, however, with many people claiming the man in the grave is not who the FBI says he is. Before his death, Dillinger had dyed his hair, grown a mustache, had plastic surgery on his face, and burned his fingerprints off using acid in order to stop himself from being identified by the police. What conspiracy theorist could resist?

John Dillinger's death mask. David / Flickr

Several of Dillinger's descendants – Carol Thompson Griffith and her brother Mike Thompson – are attempting to get his body exhumed for DNA testing, 85 years after his death. The two, who will be participating in a documentary about Dillinger's death, say they have new evidence that he is not the man in the grave.


"I have been presented with evidence that demonstrates that the individual who was shot and killed at the Biograph Theater in Chicago on July 22, 1934 may not in fact have been my uncle, John H. Dillinger," Mike Thompson and Carol Thompson Griffith state in affidavits. 

"It is critical to learn whether Dillinger lived beyond his reported date of death of July 22, 1934. If he was not killed on that date, I am interested in discovering what happened to him.

"This evidence includes the non-match of his eye color, the ear shape and protrusion from the head, the fingerprints not matching, the existence of a heart condition, and the apparent non-match of the anterior teeth.

"It is my belief and opinion that if the FBI killed the wrong man outside Biograph Theater, it is also important to identify the man in the grave at Crown Hill Cemetary."


The FBI responded to the claim, calling the idea that they shot a stand-in for Dillinger a "myth" and stating that "a wealth of information supports Dillinger's demise," including his mutilated fingerprints, according to AP.

The body is expected to be exhumed and re-buried in September, CBS News reports.