Depending on the inevitably unreliable source, John Dillinger's Johnson, is claimed to be between 13 and 23 inches long.
According to some, it is also imprisoned within a glass beaker, shrouded in a formaldehyde solution and hidden away in a dark stockroom somewhere within the bowels of the Smithsonian Institution. There it sits on its isolated perch, gathering dust, and staring out at all of the other useless artifacts of history - things such as Washington's wooden teeth, Ulysses S. Grant's liver and John F. Kennedy's panty collection.
It is only brought out for the occasional "qualified guest," for those who know the password or for the curious foreign dignitary. Of course, if you visit the Smithsonian and inquire as to the whereabouts of the outlaw's organ they will tell you it's nothing more than an urban legend ... a myth.
June 22, 1903
John Dillinger is born in the middle-class Indianapolis neighborhood of Oak Hill. His mother dies when he is only 3 years old. His father - a grocer - is a stern disciplinarian, with little time to raise his son. Dillinger becomes increasingly unruly with age. By his 11th birthday, he leads a gang called "The Dirty Dozen." His interest in the opposite sex is also rapidly developing; he most likely loses his virginity by the age of 13. By the time he drops out of school at 16, his interest in girls is all-consuming. He stays out all hours of the night and runs with a wild crowd. His now remarried father moves the family to the sleepy farming community of Mooresville. There, he hopes, a pastoral lifestyle will be a positive influence on his troubled son.
To truly understand my search for John Dillinger's dick, you must start in Mooresville. I grew up there, not far from where Dillinger lived. The Mooresville of my childhood was probably not too different from his, save for the better roads, the fast food joints and the mullet-headed teen-agers who, instead of experimenting with corn liquor and "demon jazz," preferred hallucinogen-laced marijuana and bad Molly Hatchett albums. Fifty years later, it was still just a dusty Hoosier farmtown. Like Dillinger before me, I couldn't wait to get the hell out of Mooresville. Unlike him, I couldn't get laid to save my life.
In Mooresville, John attempts to return to school. He fails every subject. He spends his time at the local pool hall, and quickly earns a reputation as a cad. But when John meets Frances Thornton he falls hard. He promises to give up his wild ways. Though still in his teens, he proposes. Her stepfather breaks up the relationship - his daughter's suitor has developed too much of a reputation for any respectable girl in town. John turns to prostitutes, and soon contracts a severe case of gonorrhea.
I was 8 years old when my father first informed me of the theft of Dillinger's manhood. In my teens, my mother would reinforce the tale, filling in one gruesome detail after the other while levying her own castration threats. While usually hurled following the discovery of a rogue issue of Playboy beneath my bed, she once chased me with a straight razor after finding me necking with a girl on the front porch.
John meets Beryl Hovius. He falls head over heels for the young beauty. He asks the 16-year-old to marry him. She accepts. Struggling to keep a job, Dillinger turns to armed robbery. John and an acquaintance rob a local grocer. Both are caught. The prosecutor talks the elder Dillinger into waiving counsel for his son, telling him that the judge will treat his son more leniently if he doesn't fight the charges. His accomplice, an ex-con, opts for an attorney. At the age of 21, Dillinger receives a sentence of 10 to 20 years. His friend receives two years.
The rumor of Dillinger's dick - its enormous size and subsequent removal - is plausible enough. One autopsy photo released to the press clearly shows a monstrous bulge beneath the sheet where his member would certainly lie. Many women who had been interrogated by Hoover's G-Men attested to Dillinger's potency as a lover. And, as for the mutilation, Dillinger had made fools of lawmen throughout the Midwest for over a year. Killing Dillinger was simply not enough payback for J. Edgar Hoover. And what is the ultimate retribution that can be exacted from a ladies man who repeatedly humiliates you?
In prison, Dillinger writes long love letters to his wife Beryl. Regardless, she divorces him in 1929. Depressed, he grows closer to his stepmother, who writes and visits frequently. At Michigan City Penitentiary he falls in with the prison elite - bank robbers. He begins advanced studies in Crime 101.
I was haunted by nightmares throughout my youth, my dreams a kaleidoscope of autopsy tables and razor blades. I grew up and moved away, but the visions persisted. Fast forward 25 years - I am living in Los Angeles. I am a moderate success as a failed writer. Three failed marriages, but I'm still standing. My fourth wife, Loretta, doesn't seem to be a typically suffocating and controlling female neurotic - at first. That all changes as soon as we encounter some minor financial troubles. Soon it is not so much a marriage as it is a struggle for total domination. The final straw is broken when, despite my severe allergies, she comes home with a new kitten. That night I lie in bed, my eyes swelling up like oranges, watching her stroke that pussy ... "Bobbi," she calls it. It's all so obvious. Bobbi as in Bobbitt - Loreena Bobbitt.
May 10, 1933
Dillinger is paroled from prison after serving over eight years. Good behavior and a petition from his neighbors in Mooresville are cited in his release. Before he goes, he hatches a scheme to break his buddies out of jail. But first, he rushes home, having been informed weeks before that his stepmother is on her deathbed. He arrives an hour too late.
Not long after my fourth divorce, I receive word that my father is ill. I consider us close, despite the fact that we haven't been in contact nearly so much as we should. And so, I am shocked to hear that he has been struggling with one form of cancer or another for nearly two years. It's only then that I realize it's been nearly four years since we have talked. Within hours I am on a Greyhound bus.
Mary Longnaker is an attractive 23-year-old when she meets Dillinger in the late spring of 1933. The sister of one of John's prison friends, she is married - but in the process of getting a divorce. She is already seeing another young man - a good prospect to help support her children. But when Dillinger tells her about the planned prison break that will free her brother (among others) she begins to return his advances.
In Mooresville, I divide my time between Scotty's Tavern and my father's hospital bed. He is recuperating from surgery. Yet, my mind is elsewhere. I sit in hospital waiting rooms thinking of Dillinger and his women - his Achilles' heel. His first crime caper was stealing a car so he could impress a date. Really, when you think about it, women were probably the primary reason behind all of his crimes. Without flashy cars, nice clothes and lots of money, how many dumb Hoosier farmboys can even dream about success with the opposite sex? A writer's wit and empty pockets certainly never did anything for me.
Through a series of robberies, Dillinger acquires enough cash and guns to go forward with his plan. He travels back and forth from Dayton to Michigan City, using two other lady friends to courier messages and bribes to the Indiana State Penitentiary. In between, he pursues Mary relentlessly. He offers to pay for her divorce. He proposes. Yet she remains noncommittal.
Women were Dillinger's obsession ... and his doom. Every woman he ever loved eventually betrayed him. Either they ratted him out to the cops, or they died. Yet, I suppose this misses the point. After all, betrayal in love is an absolute given. To me, what is remarkable is the power that he held over the fairer sex. I am perplexed by the secret of his power, yet the answer seems so obvious. I am at Scotty's, enjoying multiple Bud-Light tallboys, when I have an epiphany. The truth behind Dillinger's dick, perhaps the truth behind every dick, can only be found in the women who love those dicks.
Sept. 20, 1933
Dayton police receive an anonymous tip placing John at Longnaker's apartment. After an unsuccessful stakeout, detectives ask Mary's landlady and neighbors to call them upon Dillinger's return.
Still in Mooresville, I begin my search for John Dillinger's Johnson on the Internet. Unfortunately, while there is plenty on the man himself, there is little about his penis. I do find one promising site, www.DillingersDick.com. Beneath an advertising banner for something called "The Ejacumatic VII," I find a number of provocative illustrations. However, it lists no facts, only explicit detail on how to order a book entitled He Lost His Manhood For You. I dash off an e-mail to the owner of the site, J. Christopher Harnley, asking for an interview.
Sept. 22, 1933
Working from an anonymous tip, the Dayton police raid the Longnaker apartment. Dillinger ends up behind bars in Lima, Ohio. Thanks to his efforts, nine men escape from the Michigan City Penitentiary four days later. Sgt. Aldredge of the Dayton Police would later describe the call he received.
"He's here!" a female voice whispered.
"John Dillinger, you dumb flatfoot!"
In a small town, everyone knows everything about everyone else. Though one of the reasons I initially fled Mooresville, it is now invaluable in my investigation. After several fruitless nights of interviewing the patrons of Scotty's, I come across the weathered frame of 90-year-old Walt Buford. Hunchbacked with osteoporosis, he is a walking library of Mooresville lore. The interview is shaky at first - I can't understand a word the man is saying. Finally, he clucks out his dentures and places them in the Beer-Nut dish. "Dillinger ran around with a lot of girls in this town," he tells me. "But, I don't believe in gossip. Not even about ripe old chippies ... like Clara Emmis or ... Edith Barnett or ... " A half-hour later, I leave the bar with 15 leads scrawled on a cocktail napkin.
Late September 1933
Mary Longnaker's landlady would later claim that she did not turn Dillinger in. She had not even been home the night of the raid ... Mary is nowhere to be found. Speculation is that she has eloped.
More often than not my list of leads takes me to the graveyard. I become increasingly disillusioned. Of course, I tell myself, my father's worsening condition is likely the true cause of this depression. His cancer has metastasized. He is terminal, yet seems almost relieved by the news. Meanwhile, my mother has not spoken to him since my return. That night I dream that my mother is in the kitchen frying sickly-looking sausages. I am roaming my backyard in an apron. I can't find my underwear.
Just as I am about to surrender, I get my first big break. My list of Dillinger's local loves has dwindled to just two names. I find Bessie Harlow at a convalescent home in Bloomington. At 92 she is bedridden, partially deaf and nearly blind. Throat cancer has claimed her larynx, but she is still able to speak through an electronic voicebox. I enter the room and am startled by the synthetic wheeze of what sounds like an eerily aging robot: "Where's my goddamn Jell-O!" For the next 45 minutes I politely endure a metallic monologue on the merits of Roma Downey versus Della Reese. She finally passes out without answering a single question.
Oct. 12, 1933
Four men arrive at the jail in Lima, Ohio, demanding the release of Dillinger. They say they are deputies sent to return the bandit to Indiana for parole violations. The sheriff asks to see their credentials - he is promptly shot in the stomach. On his way out of jail, Dillinger reportedly sees the dying sheriff and becomes irate with his rescuers.
That night, I receive a response from J. Christopher Harnley. He agrees to meet me for an interview in his hometown of Greencastle. We set a date to meet at the Rusty Bucket Saloon on Main Street.
Oct. 12-23, 1933
Dillinger's gang embarks on a crime spree, robbing banks and stealing machine guns and bulletproof vests from police armories. On the 23rd they hit the Central National Bank in Greencastle. One witness would later report that Dillinger paused before a farmer who stood at the teller's cage with a stack of bills in front of him. "Is that your money or the bank's," Dillinger asked.
"Keep it. We only want the bank's."
I find the last woman on my list, Myrna Waters, living in the Chicago suburb of Romeoville with her grandson Buddy. He answers the door of their trailer clad only in a Foghat T-shirt. His scruffy beard barely covers the burn marks that engulf the right side of his face. Before I can ask, he points to his face and pronounces: "Just a common household chemical-mixing explosion." He tells me that his mother can no longer speak, but can hear and make hand signals "like a motherfucker." She is propped up on the couch, an oxygen tank in her lap and tubes up her nose.
"Did you know John Dillinger?" Tears flood her eyes. Weeping, she gingerly lifts both of her arms ... as if to embrace me. But then, all motion stops. Her arms stay there ... suspended in the air. I realize instantly what she is telling me. Her hands measure the unfathomable distance of 18 inches. Tears stream down her face, and by the end of my visit, I am in tears as well. I have experienced the true power of Dillinger.
Late February 1934
After months of nonstop robbery, the gang decides to lay low in Tucson, Ariz. When a fire breaks out in their hotel, local lawmen recognize Dillinger and his compatriots. They are arrested without a shot fired. All are extradited to Indiana to stand trial for murder.
Leaving Myrna's, I head for Chicago. I visit the Biograph Theater - site of Dillinger's assassination. I kneel in the alley where he died, riddled with FBI bullets. It is said that the G-Men never announced themselves, firing haphazardly into the crowd. Two innocent bystanders were seriously wounded. Crowds later tore down a blood-stained telephone pole and brought home crimson splinters. Others dipped handkerchiefs in the blood puddles for souvenirs. Even today it remains a tourist attraction.
March 3-6, 1934
Dillinger escapes from jail again. He pulls a gun on an attendant and takes him hostage. He uses the guard as bait and captures a dozen more prison workers. He and an accomplice escape in a sheriff's car, loaded with hostages. They release them at the Illinois state line, where they give them each a few dollars for their trouble. Dillinger's gun turns out to be a carved piece of dark wood. Dillinger heads straight for Chicago. He quickly rounds up a new gang, including Lester Gillis, AKA "Baby Face Nelson." The gang's next target is a bank in Sioux Falls, S.D. On the 5th, one of the gang spends the day in town posing as a Hollywood producer looking for "locations for his new gangster film." With hundreds of townspeople milling about outside the bank, the robbery goes off without a hitch. The citizens cheer as the dapper, young "actors" emerge from the bank and take off in their getaway car - $50,000 richer.
I arrive home from Chicago, and am told that my father is in a coma. "He'll be dead by tomorrow," my mother says coldly. She refuses to come to the hospital with me. "Sometimes you're dead long before they bury you."
March 31-April 5, 1934
A robbery in Iowa ends with one of the gang severely wounded. Dillinger knows his luck can't hold much longer. He goes into hiding with one of his girlfriends in St. Paul. The feds find him anyway. He escapes in a shootout, but is wounded in the process. Dillinger returns home to Mooresville. He stays with friends and visits his father for what would be the last time.
My father is gone. I can tell it from the second I arrive at the hospital. In the glaring white hell of its antiseptic hallways no one dares to look me in the eye. I expect the doctor to give me the usual speech about no more suffering, God and heaven and all that crap. I dread it, perhaps because I don't know what's scarier - that people say these trite and inane things in the face of death, or that they might actually believe them. Instead: "I know this is a difficult time for you. But your father had been a tortured man for the last two years. Ever since the first operation."
"The penisectomy. He didn't seek treatment in time. Penile cancer ... "
April 20, 1934
Dillinger dreams of escaping to Mexico, but fears he might be recognized even there. He reunites the gang to plot their next move. They are only at the Wisconsin summer resort of Little Bohemia for a few days when the FBI closes in. They raid the resort, but open fire on a car full of innocent visitors, killing one. Alerted by gunfire, the gang escapes in a bloody shootout. Baby Face Nelson escapes in an FBI car after shooting three agents, killing one of them.
I dream that I am in a slaughterhouse. My ex-wife operates a meat grinder. Long tubes of gristle spill into a basket below. My mother watches, wearing a bloodstained smock and chewing on a corndog. She tires of it and hurls it into the meat basket. It bounces off my father's severed head as he meekly smiles at me.
Sensing the ever-tightening FBI noose, Dillinger hides in the Chicago suburb of Calumet City. He pays a doctor $5,000 to perform plastic surgery. A caustic solution is used to alter his fingerprints. A scar on his lip and the dimple on his chin are removed. The bridge of his nose is enhanced. He almost dies during the procedure when his doctor administers too much ether.
In preparation for my interview with Harnley, I begin to research him. I find a copy of an earlier book, Gonads, G-Men and Gore, at a used bookstore. I study his picture on the book jacket - burly and imposing; he looks more like a biker than an author. Naked beneath his leather jacket, a hideous tattoo traverses his monumental gut. It is strangely distorted between the twin sagging heaps of fat that line both sides of a crevasse-like hernia scar. It is a giant winged penis. The testicles bear the inscription "Live Free or Die."
June 22-30, 1934
Dillinger's 31st birthday is a somber occasion. His face is grossly swollen from surgery. One big score is all he needs to escape to Mexico. On the 30th, the gang hits a bank in South Bend rumored to have as much as $100,000 on-hand. Gunshots erupt; one of the gang is hit in the head. The rest narrowly escape, leaving behind one dead cop and six wounded bystanders. Their take: $4,800.
I bury my father. My mother is not in attendance - the body isn't even cold and she has taken up with a florist named Marty. As we lower him in the ground, I realize that my mind is anywhere but here. I am consumed with anticipation over my meeting with Harnley. I am filled with rage at my mother. But I feel nothing at all for my father.
Early July 1934
Dillinger returns to Chicago under the alias Jimmy Lawrence. He takes up with a new girlfriend, a 26-year-old waitress named Polly Hamilton. She introduces him to her landlady, a Romanian immigrant named Anna Sage. The three become fast friends.
I arrive at the Rusty Bucket, but see no sign of Harnley. I am working on my third Cement Mixer when a balding nebbish approaches me. I see a copy of He Lost His Manhood For You beneath his arm and almost spill my drink. "I see you are shocked by my diminutive size. Obviously, you have seen the picture on my book jacket. Let me assure you, Mr. Hayden, that size does not matter. The photo is merely to mislead those in control who would attempt to silence me."
July 20, 1934
Little does Dillinger know that Sage is facing deportation on a vice charge. She contacts the FBI and makes a deal. In exchange for $10,000 in reward money and the feds dropping the deportation case, she'll help them get to Dillinger. J. Edgar Hoover agrees.
Before I can ask a question, Harnley is off and running: "Unlike you, few people today realize that Dillinger was a hero. They've been brainwashed by those in control." His style of speech is erratic and jerky ... it's like listening to Katharine Hepburn on speed. "The New World Order began with that malevolent cross-dressing Hoover. But there have always been secret societies that rule us from behind the scenes ... The Abbasids, the Knights Templar, the Freemasons, the Illuminati ... " I feel myself plunging headfirst into an endless chasm of nausea and despair. Suddenly I am overwhelmed with sadness over my father ...
"BUT WHAT ABOUT HIS DICK?"
July 22, 1934
Anna calls Polly Hamilton to complain that she is depressed over a recent breakup. She hints at suicide. Upon hearing this, John suggests she accompany them to the movies. On the evening of July 22, 1934, the three head for the Biograph Theater to see Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama. Unbeknownst to Dillinger, Anna wears a reddish-orange dress as a signal for the agents who are lying in wait outside the theater.
"The dick? The dick means nothing ... certainly not in the face of one of the greatest conspiracies to ever befoul mankind!" Harnley rattles on like a hummingbird trapped in a beer keg. "You are asking all the wrong questions ... "
His voice echoes in my head; my stomach churns. "But, what about your Web site? Dillinger's dick!?"
"Reasons concerning the marketplace, my boy. My hit counter went through the roof when I changed it. Maybe someone took it, maybe someone didn't. Doesn't matter. Let's talk about what matters ... jack-booted thugs who would steal your right to have a Tommy Gun ... " Waves of wretchedness overwhelm me. I stumble to my feet and head for the restroom.
July 22, 1934, 10:15 p.m.
Upon leaving the theater, agents open fire on Dillinger. It is disputed whether they announced themselves or even attempted to arrest him. Two innocent bystanders are shot in the hail of bullets. Dillinger is hit in the left side and stumbles for cover in an alley. He tries to pull his gun, but is shot three more times. The fatal bullet enters the back of his neck and exits beneath his right eye. He collapses on the ground and dies.
I barely make it to the bathroom when the world begins to spin. I will never find the answers I seek. I will never understand anything but this wretchedness. Some men are emasculated from birth. Others are emasculated by love. Eventually, we are all emasculated by death. I drop my pants and unfold my mother's straight razor. I hold it up to the light, feeling its gleam in my eye. One sharp release, I tell myself, and then freedom. An unearthly chill passes through my body ... It is the ghost of Dillinger, the ghost of my father ... The ghost of all the emasculated souls of the world sharing communion with me.
Aftermath: Anna Sage collects only $5,000 of the $10,000 reward. She is promptly deported to Romania. Regarding the rumors of Dillinger's endowment, one female coroner's assistant later admits that she peeked at the autopsy. "It was," she said, "average-sized, so much as I know of such things ... "
This article originally appeared in the March 29, 2001 issue of NUVO Newsweekly. Thankfully, G. Scotty Hayden no longer has nightmares. He is currently recuperating at Muskatatuck State Hospital, where he runs creative writing and finger-painting workshops.