Dillinger in the morgue.

John Dillinger Museum

Field review by the editors.

Hammond, Indiana

Welcome to Indiana! The John Dillinger Museum, just east of the Illinois state line on Interstate 80, is the bloodiest attraction we've ever encountered in a state welcome center.

The gory parts are the legacy of the late Joe Pinkston, an Indiana maverick who collected more relics related to the notorious gangster than anyone. In the 1970s he opened the Dillinger Museum in his hometown (Nashville, Indiana), and suggested that John Dillinger was actually a good guy, paid to "rob" banks by Depression-era bankers who didn't have the money to cover their accounts!

Gangster gals.

Joe died under strange circumstances in the late 1990s. Indiana bought his museum and moved it into its welcome center, muting Joe's conspiracy theories and supplementing his gore with interactive exhibits. Today the Dillinger Museum walks a thin line, careful not to glorify lawbreakers, but also careful to paint Dillinger as a kind of tommy-gun-toting victim, maybe.

It opens promisingly, with a hooded mannequin strapped into an electric chair -- not John Dillinger, who never made it that far, but Bruno Hauptmann, the convicted Lindbergh baby-killer! A big push button next to the chair has a sign that asks, "Could you 'pull the switch'?" Unless you have an enormous amount of self-discipline you already know what the answer will be.....

Dillinger car.

After the execution comes a chronological walk through the short life of Dillinger (1903-1934). Displays include his Indiana boyhood reading material (pulp novels glamorizing Jesse James) and his baseball shoes, but soon enough you're sitting in a real jail cell "similar to the one Dillinger lived in for nine years," and pondering exhibits such as the lucky rabbit's foot that he gave away six months before his death, and "an exact replica" of the crude wooden gun he used to bluff his way out of the Crown Point jail, just down the road.

Creepy wax dummies from Joe Pinkston's old museum are scattered throughout: Dillinger characters such as Billie Frechette, J. Edgar Hoover, Melvin Purvis, and "Loyal Mary" Kinder.

Death Pants.
Dillinger's Pants of Death.

The museum ends, as it began, with its best material. Dillinger's death mask is displayed, along with his original tombstone from Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, removed from his grave after too many people chipped pieces off of it for souvenirs. One of Joe's most prized exhibits, Dillinger's pants of death, have their own showcase in the new museum, although their blood stains seem to have faded over the years.

Finally, another interactive exhibit awaits with another warning that what you're about to see may shock you. Lights illuminate a little room, revealing Dillinger's wax corpse on a slab, blood running everywhere! It's an accurate reproduction of a photograph taken in a Chicago morgue, where Dillinger's body was exhibited to the public after he was gunned down by the FBI. We know that because copies of the photo are available in the gift shop, along with key chains with little wooden gun charms.

Obsessive personal collections like Joe Pinkston's are usually sold piecemeal or thrown away when their owners die. Joe would probably be pleased that his Dillinger Museum, although slightly tempered, is enjoying a happy afterlife.

John Dillinger Museum

Indiana Welcome Center

Address:
7770 Corinne Drive, Hammond, IN
Directions:
I-80/94 exit 3 (Kennedy Ave.). Drive south and make an immediate right onto Corinne Drive. The Dillinger Museum is in the Indiana Welcome Center.
Hours:
Daily 10-4 (Call to verify)
Phone:
219-989-7979
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

More Quirky Attractions in Indiana

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Indiana.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

April 16, 2014

My Sights

Create and Save Your Own Crazy Road Trip!

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Indiana Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Bible Mini-Golf, Lexington, Kentucky (Apr 14-20, 2014)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Nearby Hotels and Motels, Hammond, Indiana

Nightly rates found:

Book Online Now