Oh goody – I haven’t done a crime scene house in a while. Those are the most popular posts on my blog by far, believe it or not. And how can you not enjoy the intrigue and romance of the Dillinger Gang’s bloody 1930’s Robin Hood rampage through the United States?
John Dillinger c. 1933
The Little Bohemia Lodge near Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin was the sight of one of the most famous FBI vs. gangster gun battles in American history.
John Dillinger and his gang were hiding out at the remote lodge in late April of 1934 when they were ambushed by earnest FBI agents who, in their overzealousness to catch the famous outlaw, bungled the attempt horribly. The result was the escape of their most wanted man (Dillinger) and the shootings of 3 innocent men.
Here’s a historic photo taken on the day after the epic gun battle in 1934:
And here’s House Crazy Sarah examining the evidence outside the Little Bohemia Lodge nearly 8 decades later when she drove through Wisconsin on her way back from Canada.
Oh Yes She Did!
I was roughly in the vicinity of Manitowish Waters in northern Wisconsin so I just had to stop in for dinner at the now infamous lodge. Of course I dragged my two kids and my co-pilot mother (Granny Franny) along with me.
This place was irresistible. I had done some research beforehand and knew that the lodge had been astoundingly preserved since the day that Dillinger fled from here.
Here’s how the dining room appeared in 1934:
This is the same room from the opposite angle as it appears today:
If you look closely, you can see it has many of the same tables and chairs all these years later!
The lodge was built in 1927 by Emil Wanatka right off of highway 51 in northern Wisconsin. The building suffered a fire in 1928 but was rebuilt in 1930. There is a newer addition on the south side and off the back towards the lake. But the Little Bohemia Lodge remains largely in the condition it was at the time of the infamous FBI raid and shoot-out in 1934
This is how the bar area looked in 1934:
Here’s that same bar area today:
Isn’t it amazing?
Sprinkled throughout the facility are memorabilia and artifacts from the epic gun battle such as the vintage newspapers [above] and this “Tommy Gun” style vintage machine gun in the bar area:
Of course, there’s the regular “northern woods” décor like the taxidermied animals and deer antler light fixtures:
But someone back in the 1930’s had the incredible foresight to preserve all the bullet holes in the walls and windows from the FBI/Dillinger siege…
Today, guests at the lodge can stroll around and ogle over the carnage that was left behind.
Upstairs, there are several severely shot-up rooms that are preserved behind glass…
Unfortunately, we came AFTER the tours of the upstairs had ended for the day, so I didn’t actually get to see the rooms up there in person. [Go before 5:00pm if you want the full tour!]
Truthfully, most of the bullet riddled rooms on the upper level are the result of Hollywood’s magical touch because the 2009 major motion picture Public Enemies used the Little Bohemia Lodge as one of the filming locations. So Johnny Depp – who played John Dillinger – was actually at this remote Wisconsin lodge trading fake gun fire with some FBI agent actors!
The owners of the lodge liked how the set crew recreated the rooms so much that they kept the rooms in that condition, thinking it would be even more of a tourist attraction.
Indeed – the place was packed for dinner when we were there and it was a Monday night!
Have a look around the outside of the lodge…
Above is a view from the south side where you can just get a glimpse of the lake behind.
The lake is called “Little Star Lake” and it is one of the many gorgeous freshwater lakes in the northern Wisconsin wild.
John Dillinger and several key members of his gang escaped the FBI raid in 1934 by jumping out the back windows of the lodge and running along the lakeshore then fleeing into the woods.
I can just envision a bunch of Depression era gangsters breaking out those top windows with their elbows and sliding down the roof in their black fedoras and trench coats!
Today, a lakeside sign beckons to boaters on the waterway:
It is not uncommon to see dinner guests roaming around the grounds trying to find all the bullet holes from the FBI raid in the innocent bystanding trees…
(My son Noe above with his finger stuck in a bullet hole left by the FBI agents in April of 1934!)
The Little Bohemia Lodge is amazingly beautiful inside and out. I would highly recommend a stop over there for a lakeside lunch or dinner if you are ever in northern Wisconsin.
And remember John Dillinger only left here because he had to! (Or so goes the lodge’s slogan)
***ps…….. check out this other majorly shot-up location I blogged about last year: Ma Barker’s shootout house for sale in Florida!