The Truth About John Dillinger's Plastic Surgery

John Dillinger was one of the most notorious criminals in American history. According to Crime Museum, he robbed around a dozen banks across the Midwest, purloining over $300,000 over the course of his career. He twice escaped from prison and killed several police officers in order to make his getaways. He was pretty much the reason the government created the FBI, and the bureau's first director, J. Edgar Hoover, appointed a special task force to specifically try to bring Dillinger down. As you might expect, the criminal's face was plastered on Wanted posters and newspapers all over the country.

IFL Science reports that Dillinger dyed his hair and grew a mustache in an attempt to evade detection, but his mug was so well-known during the height of his notoriety that he was forced to take drastic measures. He had plastic surgery in order to alter his appearance and had his fingerprints removed with acid. According to his entry in the Military Wiki, he had the doctors remove a pair of moles, fill in a depression on his nose, excise a scar, flatten his dimples, and tug the corner of his mouth up in a wry smirk. However, despite his best efforts, he couldn't escape the law forever. After an Indiana brothel keeper tipped the FBI off to Dillinger's location, agents tried to arrest him as he left a theater, but ended up shooting and killing him after he pulled a pistol out of his pocket. Or, did they?

Some aren't convinced that the FBI shot John Dillinger

Not everyone was as convinced as Hoover and his FBI agents that they had gotten their man. In fact, according to The Associated Press, a pair of his relatives still call the official version of the story of Dillinger's death a "myth." A niece and nephew of the gangster filed affidavits in an Indiana court in June 2019 to have their uncle's body exhumed in order to corroborate their "evidence that demonstrates that the individual who was shot and killed at the Biograph Theater in Chicago on July 22, 1934 may not have in fact been my uncle, John H. Dillinger." The exhumation was to be part of a larger documentary project about the criminal's life and death for The History Channel.

But if you were hoping to learn of what they found when they dug him up, you'll be disappointed to hear that the documentary was stopped dead in its tracks. First, as the Indy Star reports, The History Channel pulled out of the project in September of that year. Then in December, the AP reported that a judge dismissed the lawsuit brought by Dillinger's relatives, saying that it was up to the owner of the cemetery to give permission to exhume the body. Without that, the mystery has remained buried in the same place it's been since 1934.