News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 24, 2013

John Dillinger death mask on display this weekend

One of four originals on loan from private collection


News Release

---- — SPRINGFIELD — Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation Museum officials announced today, Sept. 24, extended visitor hours this weekend only to catch a rare glimpse of one of four John Dillinger death masks in existence.  

Dillinger was noted by historians as the most notorious criminal in U.S. history, standing out among more violent criminals such as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde. Dillinger pulled off numerous robberies and murders across four states between 1933-34. Wanted by dozens of police, sheriffs and the FBI, Dillinger met his fate at the hands of law enforcement in a hail of gunfire outside a crowded Chicago theater.

Four plaster death masks were cast from Dillinger’s face shortly after his death. One of which is on display at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment in Washington, D.C. The Dillinger death mask is part of the Gangs of Illinois display at the ISPHF Museum.

"The Dillinger death mask is symbolic of the Prohibition era when mob bosses and bootleggers struggled to control territory through violence with each other and with law enforcement," said ISPHF president Ron Cooley. "The mask is as mysterious as it is intriguing, leaving one to guess Dillinger’s method of operation," he added.

The ISPHF Museum will be open for this rare viewing opportunity from Thursday, Sept. 26, to Saturday, Sept. 28, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., in conjunction with the Route 66 Mother Road Festival. The ISPHF Museum is on old Route 66 at 4000 N. Peoria Road, Springfield, Ill. For more information, interested visitors can go to http://isphf.org, or call 217-525-1922.