Hotel Congress relives famed John Dillinger gang capture

By Noah Lopez

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tucson's Hotel Congress relives a piece of Tucson history this Saturday night, with a two show performance of one of the hotel's finest memories.

Of all of Tucson's brushes with greatness, perhaps the most intriguing was the arrest of America's Public Enemy No. 1, John Dillinger not the brutal shooting of Dillinger outside a Chicago theater, but the arrest of the Dillinger gang following the Hotel Congress Fire in 1934.

On Jan. 22 1934, an early morning fire tore through the hotel, flushing the hotel's patrons out onto the street including Dillinger and six of his notorious gang members.

In the days that followed, two fireman and a couple of citizens reported seeing members of the gang to police. From a tip from the two citizens, the police had the address of where the Dillinger gang was holed up, and proceeded with a stakeout.

Tucson police were able to round up most of the gang at the house, and they knew Dillinger wasn't far behind . a few hours later, they captured Public Enemy No. 1. In the space of five hours, without firing a single shot, the Tucson police had captured the Dillinger gang.

This Saturday, the hotel fire and subsequent arrest of the gang will be recreated at the Hotel Congress. Staged as a parahistorical drama in the round, the Congress lobby will be transformed into an exciting arena for gangsters, holdups, shoot-outs, stunts and chases.

The two act docudrama, titled "The Capture of John Dillinger," runs approximately 25 minutes, and covers two weeks of the gang's activities, including the fire, and the eventual capture.

The performance will refer to its characters by the aliases they used to register at the hotel, and will deviate only slightly from the factual history.

After his capture, Dillinger was extradited to Chicago, where he escaped a month later.


The Capture of John Dillinger" plays two shows this Saturday, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $3 for adults and $2 for children. Admission to the second show includes free admission to club.

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