Gangsters in the Northwoods

(Thursday, 14 August 2008) by Michele Cozzens

sign.jpgOur neck of the woods has a fascinating gangster history, brought to the spotlight last spring when Johnny Depp was in town filming the story of the 1934 shootout at Little Bohemia in Manitowish Waters where John Dillinger and his gang were targeted by the FBI. I had dinner at Little Bohemia last night with my sister and brother-in-law. We took in the history and got a good look at the setting for Depp's movie, "Public Enemy," to be released in 2009.


The shootout was actually a disaster for the FBI. Barking dogs tipped off the presence of the agents in the parking lot and when a group of innocent patrons of the lodge stepped outside, shots were fired and then everything went to hell. Dillinger's gang members, still inside, fired back and two innocent civilians and an FBI agent were shot. The entire Dillinger gang escaped, and according to some old-timers, Dillinger wasn't even there, but instead was at another lodge down the road.


Gunshots in the windows at Little Bohemia have been preserved and I have to say, looking at them really gave me the creeps. The rest of the lodge is in fine shape and sports a fresh coat of paint and new asphalt in the parking lot and driveway. The grounds are well groomed and feature stately red pines. In addition to the Dillinger memorabilia, pictures of Johnny Depp are now proudly displayed.


Because he eluded the FBI so many times, Dillinger, a notorious bank robber, was labeled "Public Enemy Number One," and the head of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, placed a $15,000 price on his head. He was finally brought down when betrayed by the infamous "woman in red," (Anna Sage), who identified him outside of a Chicago theater in July of 1934.

We picked up information about other gangster related sites in the Northwoods, which during prohibition and the Depression, was filled with gambling parlors and houses of ill repute. All dirt roads led to the Northwoods, an out-of-the-way hiding spot for the bad boys of Chicago.




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