John Dillinger is one of the most infamous mobsters of the 20th century, forming a notorious gang in the prohibition era and creating a big problem for law enforcement in the United States. What made this criminal tick? Listen to find out.
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Hi Everyone, welcome back to Killer Astrology. I’m your host, Laura, and it’s been a while. The past two-ish months have been really hard. I am currently in the middle of my Saturn return and my whole life has changed. I’ve moved out of state unexpectedly and have found myself in a place I never expected to be, though I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. My Saturn return story is interwoven with a Pluto-Sun conjunction, so there’s a lot going on. It’s an opportunity to heal parts of me I didn’t know needed healing, and it’s really profound and uncomfortable and strange. To anyone else in the middle of their Saturn return, or anyone else working with a big Pluto transit, I’m here with you. It’s hard and sad and scary, and full of the unexpected, but we will come out the other side...completely changed, but okay. That’s true of any transit, really.
Whether or not you’re going through something right now, there are a couple of upcoming astrological changes that may be significant for you, and could bring you a fresh new perspective on your world. This coming week, on March 4th, we have two interesting occurrences in the sky. The first is a conjunction between mercury, the communicative messenger of the gods, and big and bold Jupiter in Aquarius. The second is the transit of Mars, representing our energy and drive, into gemini. The combination of these two events may impact your thinking. Maybe you’ll have expanded intuition or an increased ability to take in information. Or maybe you’ll have a stronger drive to look at things with curiosity, to learn about new topics or new people. You may take steps that lead you to finding your people, your crowd. Have fun with it.
Today we’re looking into the story and astrology of John Dillinger, who, along with his group of loyal followers, was responsible for multiple bank robberies and for the deaths of at least 10 people in the early 1930s. Dillinger fit in with the likes of Al Capone and other depression era gangsters, whose crimes caused so much dissonance that major changes were initiated to restructure the judicial system in the United States. For a little historical background: prohibition was enacted in 1920 and through that law, alcohol was outlawed in the country. A number of groups of rebels saw an opportunity to make money smuggling alcohol, and a couple of hot criminal hot spots spring up around the country, particularly in New York, Chicago, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. Illegal sales of alcohol were a huge money maker for some, but as the roaring 20s came to a close, much of the population fell on hard times when the great depression hit in the 1929. Desperation hit, and some groups went to great, violent lengths to keep themselves afloat, or to get rich in this chaotic time. John Dillinger is an integral part of the gangster story, motivated by greed to get in on the dangerous action.
John Dillinger was born on June 22nd, 1903 at 7:05 AM. He has a 29 degree gemini sun, a taurus moon, and Leo rising, which tells us that he was a curious boy with a good amount of energy, who could be a bit obstinate at times. With Venus in Leo in his first house, he had a warmth about him and could be quite a charmer, which undoubtedly helped him attract like-minded kids who shared his interests and acted in accordance with his plans.
Dillinger grew up in a middle class neighborhood of Indianapolis called Oak Hill. He was the second child born to his parents separated from his sister by a 15-year age gap. His parents were church-goers and had a stable standing in the community. John’s father owned a grocery store and provided a suitable income for their family, but lived in the land of extremes when it came to his parenting. Sometimes he was authoritative and controlling, even abusive, beating his son when he misbehaved. Other times, he was liberal and permissive, relaxing John’s curfew and buying him candy. In a birth chart, the placement of the sun and aspects to the sun can give clues about what a person’s father is like. John Dillinger’s chart shows the sun opposite erratic Uranus, which mirrors his father’s unpredictable behavior. Dillinger’s mother may have been a buffer for him for the short time that she was in his life, but sadly she died of a stroke when Dillinger was 3 years old. Had she survived, she could have been a source of loving guidance for her son, given the positive sextile aspect between the moon and Jupiter in his chart. But she didn’t get the chance to accompany him into adulthood. Instead, Dillinger’s most prominent female role model was his sister in his early years. Since his father was a busy store owner, his sister essentially raised him until his father remarried when Dillinger was 6. While he may have had a positive relationship with his sister, his relationship with his stepmother was contentious, to say the least. He carried a lot of resentment toward her, and it’s possible that his anger fueled more of his bad behavior. Based on his birth chart, I believe that buried angst over the death of his mother unconsciously fueled Dillinger’s criminal behavior.
With energetic Mars in the third house trine to playful mercury in gemini, Dillinger had sharp curiosity and a flair for interacting with his community and his friends, but just didn’t go about it in the most...innocent of ways. As a kid, John and his group of friends called the “Dirty Dozen” would go around town pulling pranks and doing some small time stealing. While he was disciplined by his father and in school, his punishments didn’t deter him from continuing to act out. As he got older, John’s crimes became more severe. In his teenage years, he was repeatedly absent from school and was punished frequently for his misbehavior.
That mars-mercury aspect coupled with his gemini sun meant that John needed a lot of stimulation, and the mundane routine of school-home-school-home didn’t supply it to him. He felt bored with his routine and his life, and he stayed out all night trying to catch the high he craved. Since he felt that school was not for him and preferred to make his own money, John dropped out of high school at 16 and began working at a machine shop. His dad wasn’t supportive of this endeavor and urged him to continue his schooling, but he refused. His father, fed up and concerned about his son’s behavior, decided that it would be best for the family to move away from the fun, out into the country. In 1920, he sold his store bought a farm in Mooresville, Indiana which was about 18 miles away from the city. His attempt to keep John away from the temptations of the city was a failure, since John kept his job and rode his motorbike to work for his shifts. He was reported to be a diligent worker with a lot of dexterity, but the prospect of a steady career wasn’t enough to keep him happy. He stayed out all night getting drunk, getting into fights, and employing prostitutes.
A couple of years after his family moved to the country, John went on a date and decided to steal a car in hopes of impressing his new girl. Later in the night, he was pulled over by police and arrested, but he escaped custody and joined the Navy the next day (July 22nd, 1923) to avoid his punishment. Sometimes, going into the service motivates a quote, unquote “troubled” young man to turn his life around. But that wasn’t the case for John. On the day he enlisted in the service, mars, the warrior, was exactly conjunct his Leo ascendant, and mercury had just entered Leo and was in 0 degrees. Leo is the only sign ruled by the sun, so it’s centered on serving the self. The combination of mercury and mars in Leo indicated that Dillinger was making an impulsive decision that he believed was in his best interest. It was out of loyalty to himself rather than loyalty to his country, and he was not interested in making this a long-term affair.
I just want to point out a non-coincidence here: For all intents and purposes, Dillinger’s entrance into the Navy was the first time he became intimately involved with the system of the United States, so there’s an interaction of the astrology there, as well. The date that he enlisted in the Navy, July 23, 1923, was also less than a week before Saturn returned to its exact natal position for the United States. Saturn rules government, structure, and systems, and the Saturn return is a time for refinement; creating new structures to make way for taking the future in the right direction. It just so happens that Dillinger’s chart interacted with he United States’ chart for the first time during the country’s Saturn return, and the crimes crimes he committed later caused the United States government to create some major changes to the criminal justice system.
It was Dillinger’s talent for making quick escapes that would later confound authorities. It started with his entrance into the Navy, and it seemed like he went out as quickly as he went in. Being the free-spirited adventurer that he was, he felt tied down by the strict rules imposed by the Navy. After just 5 months in the Navy on the USS Utah, he made what you may think of as his first infamous escape and went Awoll after his boat docked in Boston on December 4th, 1923. Not so fun fact -- the USS Utah later sunk in Pearl Harbor in 1941.
When he left Boston, Dillinger went back to the place he knew best: Indiana. Just after his return, he married a 16-year old woman from Moorestown and moved with her into his father’s house. His relationship with his dad was strained when Dillinger stole a number of chickens from a nearby property and his father was forced to bargain with the police to keep his son out of jail. Potentially in response to a contentious living situation, John and his wife Beryl moved out and landed at her parents’ house in Martinsville, Indiana. John got a job at an upholstery shop and joined a local baseball league where he met another troublemaker, Edgar Singleton. Ed was a drunk with a talent for risk taking, and he partnered with Dillinger to carry out a robbery at a local grocery store. Dillinger would do the heavy lifting inside, and Ed would drive the getaway car. On September 6th, 1924, during mercury retrograde, the two men carried out their plan, but it didn’t turn out as they expected. Dillinger entered the grocery store and hit the owner, Frank Morgan, over the head with a metal bolt that had been wrapped in Fabric. The man wasn’t hurt, and was able to turn around and wrestle the gun that Dillinger was holding out of his hand. It fired in the exchange, and Dillinger feared that he had shot the grocer. He fled on foot in the direction of his friend’s car, but given that this was a mercury retrograde period and he had decided to rely on a car to get away, he was let down. Singleton was nowhere to be found. John was quickly stopped by the police and arrested. On September 16th, just 10 days later, he plead guilty to assault and battery and conspiracy to commit felony. He had no legal representation, and the legal advice he had received was no help (mercury retrograde strikes again). He was surprised by the severe sentence he received: 2-14 years for robbery and 10-20 for conspiracy.
John spent 8 years in jail for his crimes and played on the baseball team for the Indiana State Reformatory. As a part of his sentence, worked for the prison’s shirt factory. Being good with his hands, he was able to fulfill more projects than was expected of him, so he made friends by using his extra time to help them meet their own quotas. One particular friend, Harry Pierpont, would wind up being a loyal follower of Dillinger’s in the future. When Pierpont was sent to the Indiana State Prison, he asked for a transfer, saying that he wanted to play for their better baseball team. However, he didn’t join the baseball team when his transfer was fulfilled. Instead he spent his time working and creating friendships with the other, more seasoned criminals who served their sentences alongside him. From these new friends, Dillinger learned the ins and outs of creating a good heist, and was able to plan for a crime-filled future.
In a 1933 letter sent to his father, Dillinger essentially admitted that he had no hopes of turning his life around. He wrote, “I know I have been a big disappointment to you but I guess I did too much time, for where I went in a carefree boy, I came out bitter toward everything in general… if I had gotten off more leniently when I made my first mistake this would never have happened.” That last sentence there shows that Dillinger had a bit of a victim mentality, or at least resisted taking responsibility for his actions. This is likely connected to his natal Neptune-Sun conjunction, since Neptune can be associated with escape, and denial of conflict. His words also indicate that he had resigned himself to a dark future, one that would begin not long after that letter was sent.
In May of 1933, Dillinger’s step mother was dying, and 184 Mooresville, Indiana residents signed a petition for his release from prison, presumably so he could see her before she died. Astonishingly, the petition was granted and Dillinger was released on parole, but he didn’t arrive home in time to say his final goodbyes to the mother figure he was pretending to love. Instead, he took the secrets he learned from his prison buddies and began working with a small group of accomplices to rob a series of local banks. On June 10th, just 10 days after he was released from prison, Dillinger and his gang robbed their first bank in Carlisle, Ohio, and walked out with $10,600.
I had a major astrology geek moment when I looked at the transits for this day. First of all, the Venus rules money and resources, and the United States has Venus at 3 degrees of cancer. Neptune signifies confusion, escapism, and dissolution, and John Dillinger has Neptune at 3 degrees of cancer. On the day of his first bank robbery, Mercury, the quick-moving, sometimes sneaky messenger who rules Dillinger’s sun sign, Gemini, was at 3 degrees cancer. So this date started a fated series of events in which John Dillinger brought conning and swindling out into the open in the United States. It’s not that he was the only person doing it, he was just the one who brought the problem to the forefront and caused a big commotion.
Over the next three months, Dillinger and his friends would manage to steal about 50,000, the modern equivalent of about a million dollars, from 5 different banks. Their last robbery of this string took place in mid-September in Bluffton, Ohio, and the group was finally caught. Dillinger was jailed in Lima, Ohio, on September 22nd, and on his intake police found what appeared to be prison escape plans in one of his pockets. 5 days later, 4 men (Harry Pierpont, Russell Clark, Charles Makley, Harry Copeland) escaped from the Indiana State Penitentiary, using guns that Dillinger had had smuggled into the shirt factory, and they made their way to Ohio to break their friend out of jail.
They arrived on October 12th, on the day that Jupiter was conjunct Dillinger’s 3rd house mars. Jupiter is often called the planet of luck, and the third house is the realm of movement, going from point A to point B. This was a lucky day for Dillinger to move, and that’s what he did. But it wasn’t a pretty confrontation. When they got to the Lima, OH jail, Dillinger’s friends]s shot the town sheriff and locked his wife and deputy in a cell, then took the keys and set Dillinger free. The sheriff died shortly after the escape, and Dillinger and his gang got back to their bank robbing business. Before they carried out any organized robberies for money, they needed to get themselves some equipment. Shortly after Dillinger’s escape from Lima, he and his group traveled to Peru, Indiana to visit and rob the police arsenal for guns, ammo, and bullet proof vests. They did his easily and prepared themselves for more financially lucrative exploits in the near future.
On October 23rd, transiting Venus, the planet of money, was exactly trine to Dillinger’s natal Venus, so it was a day of with lots of earning potential, even if the money was earned through indecent means. Dillinger and his group held up Central National Bank in Greencastle, Indiana, and made out with a whopping 75000 dollars, or 1.5 million dollars today. In the following weeks, they continued to terrorize financial institutions in the midwest and were responsible for a string of additional robberies in Indiana and Wisconsin. How did they do it?
We know that John Dillinger was a charmer, but we also know based on his birth chart that he had a knack for acting, since he has Neptune conjunct his sun,. Neptune dissolves boundaries, promotes a sense of fantasy, the sun represents the self. This combination of energies made it easy for him to blur the lines of his identity and present himself in different lights, playing different roles in his twisted endeavors. This undoubtedly helped him carry out his heists. The gang was able to pull off their heists using force and a bit of acting: sometimes the group would pose as security system repair men, movie producers looking for a good place to shoot a film. In addition to acting, he and his gang had other useful tools. One of the methods for their success was a strict rulebook that included points like: never drink before a job and keep a low profile in your down time. When they weren’t completing jobs, members of this group lived “normal” lives, spending time with girlfriends or wives and hanging out in their Chicago apartment. But they were gaining a certain level of notoriety in the community that couldn’t be ignored.
Newspapers were full of stories chronicling the crimes of the Dillinger and Pierpont gang. They gave detailed and theatrical accounts of the robberies, including accounts from surviving witnesses. Having Leo rising in his birth chart meant that Dillinger was a performer, he enjoyed having an audience, and it didn’t seem to matter whether it was an adoring or critical one. The attention from the press wasn’t lost on Dillinger, who often clipped articles about his exploits from the newspaper and kept them for his entertainment.
The attention to the criminal activity going on around the country was also not lost on the United States government. They had their eye on Dillinger and the other gangsters of this era, too. On August 10th, 1933, in response to all the criminal activity going on around the nation since prohibition was enacted in 1920, The United States created the Division of Investigation, a powerful expansion of the Bureau of Investigation.
This was an attempt to crack down on gang activity that was starting to feel out of control for federal forces, and John Dillinger was one of the men who fueled this change. Like other gangsters, he had committed crimes in various states, and a unified federal response was lacking. The creation of the Division of Investigation opened the door for a federal response to interstate crime, but it wasn’t enough to catch Dillinger. The FBI didn’t have full arrest powers until June of 1934. There needed to be a unified local response in addition to a federal response.
In the fall of 1933, The Chicago police created what they called the Dillinger Squad, a group of 40 officers whose mission was to keep Dillinger and his group from causing more damage. Knowing that the police were on their trail and closing the distance between them. The gang decided to take a quick trip down south, spending time with their girlfriends in Florida. Coincidentally (or not) the group left for their trip on December 4th, 1933, one day before the repeal of prohibition. But it wouldn’t be long before they returned. On January 15th, the group robs First National Bank in East Chicago, Indiana, and they are confronted by police. There is a shootout, bullets flying from both sides, but Dillinger is saved by his bulletproof vest. Others were not so lucky. One of Dillinger’s associates, Red Hamilton, and two other witnesses wound up dead in the shootout. Officer William Patrick O’Malley is also killed in the process, and Dillinger is on the hook for his murder. He responds doing what he does best: escaping, and makes his way to Tuscon, Arizona, where he encounters an unexpected problem: a fire in his hotel. The fire causes confusion for Dillinger and the rest of his group, and they wind up getting picked up by Arizona police, and quickly extradited back to the midwest.
Dillinger is placed in Jail in Crown Point, Indiana, and is a target of continued media attention. He speaks with reporters and photographers, winning them over with his charm and his sense of humor, there’s that Venus in Leo in the first house again, and he may have used these superpowers on the cops in Crown Point, as well. On March 3rd, 1934, Dillinger escaped from his cell using either a gun that he forged from wood, or a real gun that a corrupt officer provided him during his stay. Nonetheless, he escapes driving the sheriff’s car across state lines, which constitutes as a felony and allows the FBI to get involved in the case.
Dillinger stays on the run for about a month, robbing almost a half dozen banks with an old prison friend and spending time with his girlfriend, Billie Frechette and her family in early April. All the while, police are pursuing him and charges are being brought up against his associates. His partner, Pierpont, and his other associate, Makley, are both sentenced to death by electric chair for their slew of robberies and the killings associated with them. Although he hides out with his girlfriend and her family, the threat of capture by police gets more and more real. On April 9th, 1934, Police arrest Billie Frechette and take her into custody. Although he is a seasoned escape artist with a talent for freeing those close to him, Dillinger determines for one reason or another that he cannot get Billie out of prison and he goes into hiding. While it seems counterintuitive, and it is, being in hiding doesn’t stop Dillinger from committing more crimes,.
After a botched bank robbery in which Dillinger and one of his associates is injured, the group make their way to Wisconsin where they keep themselves hidden as best they can. They stay at a lodge called Little Bohemia, where the owner recognizes them and writes a letter to the attorney general, tipping off the authorities. On April 22nd, The authorities arrive at the lodge and see three men walking out. Assuming these are their targets, they begin to shoot. But this is a grave error. Offers wind up shooting a different group of men, killing three of them, and giving Dillinger and his group the opportunity to escape out the back door.
After his narrow escape in Wisconsin, Dillinger manages to lay low for a couple of months. On May 23rd, his girlfriend, Billie, is sentenced to two years in jail for refusing to give her boyfriend up to police, and four days later, Dillinger is desperate enough to keep himself hidden that he gets plastic surgery from someone associated with the mob. About a month later, on June 22nd, the FBI names Dillinger “Public Enemy #1”, and the next day they offer a 10k dollar reward for his capture.
One might think that having a 10,000 dollar bounty on his back would keep a man safely tucked away in his hideout, but Dillinger just couldn’t resist the temptation of a good heist. On June 30th, he carried out a robbery in south bend Indiana with his new gang, of which Homer Van meter, an old jail buddy, and “Baby Face” Nelson, another infamous gangster, were members. This new gang was much much less organized, and frankly more reckless, than Dillinger’s previous group. Just like the first time Dillinger committed a robbery, that time with his friend Ed Singleton, mercury was in retrograde and there were unexpected forces that interrupted the plan, and things went awry. This time, retrograde mercury was exactly conjunct Pluto in the sky, and there was a deeper darkness woven into the day, one that wasn’t present for the event that initially put Dillinger into prison.
When he and his gang entered the Merchant’s National Bank in South Bend Indiana, his accomplice, Nelson, fired a machine gun at an empty target, startling the bank patrons and drawing attention from witnesses and police officers outside. This prompted a shootout during which a police officer was shot and killed, and Van Meter was shot in the head. It was a chaotic scene with bullets flying in all directions, though the bullets weren’t just coming from law enforcement. South Bend citizens got themselves involved in the drama, jumping on and beating gang members and shooting their own guns at the criminals. As it turns out, many of those armed citizens were hoping to secure the reward money for taking down Dillinger themselves. None was successful, and the thieves wound up walking away with a total of 30,000 dollars.
Now John Dillinger was a smart man. At this point, it must have been clear to him that his jig was up and he was inching closer and closer to the danger zone with police. On Independence day in 1934, Dillinger moved into the apartment of Anna Sage, a brothel owner, who he trusted to keep his confidence for a time. That turned out to be another mercury retrograde mistake. Anna Sage was an immigrant from Romania who had gotten on the wrong side of the law due to her choice of profession. She was in hot water and was in danger of losing her livelihood and returning to a country she had fled. In an effort to avoid deportation, she scheduled a meeting with the FBI and she gave Dillinger up, telling the authorities he was staying with her and keeping them apprised of his whereabouts.
On July 22nd, 1934, she told agents that she would be going to the movies with Dillinger. On this day, Mars, Mercury, Pluto, and the sun were all in Dillinger’s 12th house, also called the house of hidden enemies. He had no idea that his confidant was snitching on him, a mercury in the 12th house affair, and that force would soon be used against him, mars in the 12th. The FBI stationed themselves in the vicinity. That evening, after the movie ended, FBI Agent Melvin Purvis waited for Dillinger outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago. Dillinger walked by Purvis upon his exit, making direct eye contact but not recognizing him. When he passed him, Purvis pulled out a gun and yelled at Dillinger that he was surrounded. Before Dillinger could grab his gun from his belt, he was dead, shot 7 times: three times in the back, once in the front, twice in the face, and once in the neck. He was buried in Indianapolis on July 23rd, laid to rest with family. Over the next few months, two more notorious gangsters, Pretty Boy Floyd and Dillinger’s former accomplice, Baby Face Nelson, are shot and killed by authorities. In July of 1935, the Division of Investigation officially becomes the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and by 1938, with prohibition and the great depression in the past, the Gangster era officially comes to a close.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Killer Astrology. I’ll be back soon with another episode. Until then, remember, people may lie, but the stars never do.
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