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The Treasure Tales of the Lost Loot of Shock Short

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Legend or Legacy ?

The Treasure Tales

of the Lost Loot

of Shock Short

by Junior Warren

As a child my grandmother told me the first stories about Shock Short. Stone County Old Timers in the 1960s would whisper and speculate about the “Lost Loot” that Shock was supposed to have hid in Galena. While most people speculate that the Treasure Tales of the Lost Loot of Shock Short is a local urban legend of the Ozarks. Still, one of Galena, Missouri’s native sons made a living robbing banks in the 1930s.

Tale of Two Brothers

United States Congressman Dewey Jackson Short of Missouri stepped into the international spotlight. George Leonard “Shock” Short, brother of the congressman, earned headlines across the United States for bank robbery.

The Great Depression helped to make Shock Short a controversial folk hero. Local stories point out his Robin Hood compassion and his Jesse James’ bravado.

The Treasure Tales of The Lost Loot Of Shock Short lives on in Galena, Missouri.

President Roosevelt’s Depression Era economic policies drew fire, from Galena, Missouri’s most famous native son, United States Seventh Congressional District Congressman Dewey Short. Meanwhile, George Leonard “Shock” Short, brother of the congressman, handled the redistribution of America’s wealth in the Midwest by robbing banks.

From 1932 to 1935, Shock Short and the Irish O’Malley Gang hit banks in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois , Kansas, and Oklahoma. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics agents were the law enforcement headliners of the day in the 1930s.

1930s – Bankrupt America – Dumbfounded Government

Meanwhile the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation seemed best suited to keep track of official paperwork. The massive numbers of bank robberies since the 1929 collapse of the stock market was forcing Washington D.C., leaders to try and find a way to stop the various mobs of bank robbers that were finishing off the remaining banks.

The Justice Department’s BI agents were years away from becoming professional Federal Bureau of Investigation agents. At the time, Many of the young agents hadn’t even fired a gun and they were being ordered to go after the gangsters of the era: John Herbert Dillinger, Alvin Karpis, Pretty Boy Floyd, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrows.

Bankers Are The Bad Guys – 1930s

Time had given the gangsters a big head start. Public sentiment was against the banks. Banks were the villains Bankers are the bad guys. In the 1930s – Money was NOT the “root of all evil”; it was the banks. Banks foreclosed on homes and farms – people were homeless. Mother Nature added insult to injury – more than a million tons of topsoil blew into the Atlantic Ocean. Nature’s Dust Bowl became an apocalyptic economic event.

Wealthy Americans would call the bank robbers, “hoods, “”henchmen,” and “gangsters.” Homeless penniless, Americans would view the bank robbers as “Robin Hood,” “knights in shining armor,” and basically, “neighbors who had the guts to stand up to banks and big government and fight the system.”

The line of Black and White between Good and Evil and Right and Wrong had been blurred because of the lack of Green. Bank robbers had become “Celebrities” and “Entrepreneurs” While the heroes were bank robbers; the villains were banks, local, state and the U.S. Government. America’s Conservative Hard Work Ethic had been knocked on it’s backside and none of the rules of “an honest day’s work for an honest day’s wage” seemed to apply anymore. Everyone seemed broke.

The Herbert Hoover Administration’s ideas to save the U.S. Economy had seemed worthless and “Too Little, Too Late.” Americans were broke. Americans had gambled that Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats might have the ideas to save the economy.

Newspaper headlines of the 1930s reveal that bank robberies in the United States spread like a series of national wild fires from the East Coast to the West Coast and across the Midwest. A bankrupt economy had brought a rebirth of the Days of the Wild West and the six shooters had been traded for Tommy guns. Fast horses had given way to automobiles with V8 engines.

The 1930s had set the stage for the bank robbers. In Galena, Missouri, George Leonard “Shock” Short, had chosen the lucrative career of bank robber. Short and his gang were equally successful, as the other gangs, but, not as famous, or infamous, as the nationally known gangsters of the era.

Revenue Rewards

Congressman Dewey Short’s efforts to get Galena on the map were well known locally. Congressman Short got credit for getting the Historic Y Bridge at Galena built. He convinced the U.S. Congress to make the funds for Table Rock Dam a reality. Even the U.S. Navy commissioned a vessel: The U.S. S. Stone County. The congressman’s actions were instrumental in bringing revenue into Stone County during the Great Depression and into the years following World War II.

Tales of Treasure Tunnels

The local legends always credit Shock Short with being willing to share some of the money with his fellow Stone County citizens. The tales suggested that he would give neighbors money to help clothe their kids and even keep banks from foreclosing on homes and making even more people homeless.

Shock Short and the O’Malley gang were credited with the successful simultaneous bank robberies of two banks in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1934. One of the gang’s jewelry store robberies is reported to have got them $75,000 in precious stones. Chicago Typewriters spit hot lead and the nation’s presses set the cold type that reported the O’ Malley gang’s daring, which included the skills of Daniel “Dapper Dan” Heady – to the jail break assistance of “Pretty Betty.”

Local legends also suggest Shock Short hid bank loot, in and around, Galena, Missouri. Stories credit Shock and his gang with digging numerous tunnels in and around Galena to easily escape law enforcement and to hide the money.

The 1930’s Controversial Gold Standard

21st Century bank robbers traditionally go for the bills because coins are bulky, heavy and not as easy to carry out the door in a hurry. There was nothing traditional about The Great Depression. The Stock Market was smoke. More than 3,000 U.S. Banks failed virtually overnight. Americans were making runs on banks to get their money out before they became penniless. FDR had ordered the “Bank Holiday” to close banks to keep people from withdrawing their money and to buy time for some faith to be restored in the banking system.

The United States of America – The Great Democracy was in a nose dive to Third World Status.

Since the days of Washington and Franklin, the United States had been on the Gold Standard, which meant U.S. Banks had gold coins. The new administration had threatened to take the U.S., off the gold standard, which meant the U.S. Government and not citizens would have gold coins and citizens would no longer be paid in gold or be able to use gold to pay debts.

American monetary tradition – The Gold Standard – was a presidential pen stroke away from oblivion.

FDR signed the Executive Order and U.S. Gold Coins became the property of the U.S. Government. Dollar bills became the legal tender of the nation. Confiscated gold got melted down and shipped to a secure location – “America’s Vault” – Fort Knox.

One Shock Short legend claims that there maybe jewels and gold coins in the stolen loot. The most popular local urban legends and folk tales claim that the long lost bank loot is hidden in the City of Galena or in and around some of the suspected tunnels or known caves.

Sister of Two Famous Brothers

In the 1970s, when Omen’s Liberation swept the country like a runaway brush fire. The Equal Rights Amendment national debate pointed out the differences in wages between men and women, Fashion shattered tradition, especially for men. Conservative national figures were turning in their dark business suits for wide lapel-ed, checkered sports jackets, wide ties and polyester pants. Metropolitan America “lived by the clock” as people used their fast paced lives to become workaholics. There was not enough hours in the day to work. Metropolitan America had no time for the slower paced lifestyle of rural America.

Stone County, Missouri, in the 1970s, was still Rural America – people didn’t lock their doors at night out in the country. They usually left their car keys in their vehicles. In 1972, the Stone County Sheriff had three deputies in his office and they all used their personal vehicles as patrol cars. Stone County was a living, breathing Norman Rockwell painting.

Bess Allman, an elderly Galena woman had a smile for everyone. She called men and women, “honey” or “sweetie.” Known and respected throughout Stone County, Bess Allman always stood ready to help out friends and neighbors. In the decades before cell phones, email and computers, Bess Allman was a living library of information about Galena and Missouri. She seemed like any other woman old enough to be a grandmother, but she had two famous brothers: Dewey and Shock.

Congressman Dewey Short had stood in the international spotlight and his brother, Shock had earned headlines throughout the Midwest. Meanwhile, in Galena, their sister: Bess lived her life as a friend and neighbor in the local spotlight.

When I met Congressman Short it was because Bess Allman had called my mother and told her Dewey was back in town for a few days. Bess Allman made sure I got to meet and shake hands with Dewey in Galena. My mother had told Bess about my interest in politics and I had seen Mrs. Allman around Galena through the years when my mom went to the courthouse or went shopping on the square.

This house in Galenam Missouri was a home for Bess Allman, the sister of a congressman and a famous bank robber. Photo by Junior Warren.

As a kid, I had heard that Bess Allman had a husband. In the late 1970s, while researching some local information I heard the story that the two story home on the other side of the railroad tracks on the banks of the James River had been built for her as a wedding present from her new husband. In my childhood in the 1960s, the house had been known as the Standridge Farm and later, the Bessie Lawrence Farm.

I never had the opportunity to ask Bess Allman any questions about her brother, “Shock” Short. To my knowledge, Bess Allman lived most, if not all, of her life in Galena. Her last home in Galena is reported to have been a white two story, near the courthouse, and across the street from the old Bank of Galena building.

The Tunnel Tales

If Shock Short and his gang had dug all the tunnels that legends credit them with digging – they would of never had any time to rob banks. However, Missouri tourism once promoted the state as The Cave State and there is no shortage of caves throughout Stone County, Thus, the stories about The Tunnels Of Galena may have some basis in fact.

The James River Tunnel

The James River Tunnel is supposed to be around a boat ramp, near the old Bill Rogers Motel, on the bank of James River. Legend states that this tunnel would allow Shock or any member of his gang the ability to use the tunnel to emerge up into the sunlight inside the city limits of Galena.

The tunnel might be there; however, Galena, Missouri experienced severe flooding in 1993, so any tunnel would of probably been washed away or collapsed by the rising waters. Even in the 1930s of Shock Short’s era, poisonous “cotton mouth” and water moccasins snakes were common around the banks of the James River. It would be unlikely a local boy would dig a tunnel anywhere near these poisonous snakes.

The Family Home Tunnel

Another Shock Short legend claimed there was a tunnel in the City of Galena that would allow Shock Short to easily leave Galena if there was news of a posse and he could emerge inside his family’s home.

The Church Tunnel

One Shock Short legend states that one time in the 1930s, someone tipped off Shock Short that the Greene County Sheriff from Springfield was coming to see the Stone County Sheriff with a warrant for Shock’s arrest. The legend states that Shock slipped into a tunnel in Galena and emerged a few minutes later – out of a church on top of a hill in Galena.

This is the Bank of Galena Museum in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren

The Bank of Galena Tunnel

Before The Great Depression, there was a Bank Of Galena. When the banks of the depression failed, the Bank of Galena was one of the causalities The irony is there is suppose to be a tunnel underneath the old bank building. The story of this tunnel states that it was actually in the bank. It was suppose to allow Shock the ability to disappear into the tunnel and emerge into the sunlight a short distance from the bank into one of two nearby homes on either side of the street.

Are The Galena Tunnels Real ?

As of 2011, no one has admitted ever finding any of the tunnels.

Some Americans were fond of keeping their money in mattresses and in the walls of their homes, even before the Great Depression, thus, the rumors of money in root cellars and basements may have some basis in reality.

Although the East Side of the Galena Square in the 1960s hosted the U.S. Post Office, a beauty shop, a barber shop and the Hog Heaven Cafe, in 2011, that area is now the parking lot and the building of the Stone County Judicial Center, thus, searching for treasure tunnels underground probably will not be happening any time soon.

While the Shock Short legends credit Galena with a spider web of suspected subterranean tunnels, the one place that seems immune to the tunnel tales is the Stone County Courthouse, in the center of the square.

As a child growing up in Stone County in the 1960s, some of the old timers swore that Shock Short had hidden money away in tunnels in Galena. Perhaps, the tunnel tales are stories grandparents and parents told their children to inspire their imaginations. However, newspaper archives document that Shock Short and the O’Malley Gang robbed numerous banks in several states.

While local citizens obviously respected Congressman Short, the treasure tunnel tales have made Shock Short a legendary local folk hero.

Where the heck is Galena, Missouri ?

Galena, Missouri sits on the banks of the James River. Springfield, Missouri is about 40 miles away and Branson, Missouri is around 25 miles as the crow flies. In the spring and summer, visitors can rent a canoe and float the James River.

A 2005 photo fo the James Rivers Outfitters sign in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren

Campers can camp out at the James River Outfitters by the historic Y Bridge.

The Bear's Den offers fast food and soft drinks, near Galena High School, in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren.

For hamburgers and soft drinks, tourists can dine at The Bear’s Den, near the Galena High School.

This 2005 photo shows the exteriors of two of the four cabins of Pop's Retreat, on the banks of the James River, in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren.

This 2005 photo shows the first floor layout of one of the cabins of Pop's Retreat. Photo by Junior Warren.

If you want to spend some time enjoying nature you might want to consider renting one of the cabins at Pop’s Retreat on the banks of the James River.

This 2005 photo shows the second floor layout of one of the cabins of Pop's Retreat in Galena, Missouri. Photo by Junior Warren

Bring your camera, especially if you are interested in nature photography – in recent years – eagles are a common sight flying around Galena.

Does the Legendary Lost Loot of Shock Short lie beneath the streets of Galena, Missouri ?

Time will tell.


5 Responses

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  1. That is a super-peachy-keen post. Thanks for really blathering on like that! Seriously, I don’t think I could have spent more effort wishing for something heavy to fall on me to erase that nonsense from my mind!

    Some Blithering Idiot

    May 31, 2011 at 1:58 AM

    • The Reverend Harold Bell Wright published “The Shepherd Of The Hills” in 1907. Americans east of the Muddy Mississippi, suddenly realized that The Ozarks was a real place. It was that Dark Continent in the middle of the United States between California and Florida. If you were a kid in rural southwest Missouri in the 1960s you had to live against the “stereotype.”

      My mother loved Cartoonist Al Capp’s Lil’ Abner comic strip, but in grade school kids in my part of rural Missouri were “hillbillies,” who were suppose to be barefoot and walk around saying, “shucks” and “reckon.”

      Folklorist Vance Randolph was suppose to be the close friend of Bill Rogers. Galena, Missouri’s legendary outdoors man who served as a fishing guide on the James River and built the Bill Rogers Motel and Cafe.

      Vance Randolph’s reported visits to Galena earned the James River a reputation as “The Float Fishing Capitol Of The World.” However, when Table Rock Dam went operational in the late 1950s, Galena “reeled in her fame” and seem to accept the “ghost town” path.

      Congressman Dewey Short, Galena’s favorite son, was leaving Congress in the 1960s, and rural Missouri south of Springfield to the Arkansas line was once again left for a future Lewis and Clark to discover.

      While Wright’s novel started the trickle of tourist into Branson – there was still just a two lane state highway into and out of town in the 1960s. Silver Dollar City helped to round up and bring in tourists to The Ozarks. The Baldknobbers and musicians like Roy Clark and Buck Owens got Americans to bring their guitars and dreams to Branson.

      Meanwhile, 25 miles south to southeast, in Galena, us, kids who grew up in the countryside around Galena were stuck with the stereotypes suggested by Lil’Abner and the popular “Beverly Hillbillies” TV show.


      One of the reasons that I wrote the article on Shock Short was, in the hopes, that some tourism would come into Galena, Missouri.

      My grandmother first told me the Shock Short stories. Since childhood, people have whispered about the reported hidden loot, which may only be “folklore.”

      In researching the Newspaper Archive, I found old newspapers that reported on the robberies of Shock Short and the O’Malley Gang.

      John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde weren’t the only bank robbers in The Great Depression. Hollywood has remade the Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde stories, so often that probably most kids in America know about the gangsters’ escapades. Meanwhile, one apparently successful gang has been overlooked.

      While Stephen Spielberg or no other Hollywood director is kicking in the door to make a new gangster movie. Perhaps, they might want to reconsider.

      After all, How many of America’s gangsters had a brother in the United States Congress at the time that they were “knocking off” banks?

      History and Folklore

      The other reason that I put the information out there is as a child I loved the stories that Grandma DeLong told me about Shock Short, who was considered a “Robin Hood” folk hero. Thus, now, that the information is filed away in the Internet, perhaps future folklorists can dig up more details and urban legends about the controversial figure.

      The History Is Out There.

      I have found information about Shock Short out on the Internet. I have found information about his colleagues, the Irish O’ Malley gang.

      What I have yet to find is – “How much of The Original Loot From Bank Robberies Was Ever Recovered ?”

      The stories of the tunnels might just be folklore, but through the years people have claimed to know where some of the tunnels were dug. Thus, it is left to Historians and Treasure Hunters to discover if there could be any merit to the stories or if it is just “folklore” and “urban legends.”

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

      I’m disappointed that you didn’t like the story.

      Junior Warren


      June 9, 2011 at 12:26 PM

  2. I liked the story, very much! The main reason I found your story is that I was looking for more info about my great grandfather, George Washington James, first cousin to Frank and Jesse James. He was born in Joplin, Mo, but acording to my grandmother’s (his daughter) birth certificate, they were in Galena, Mo., Stone Co.

    I would like to visit Galena someday, looks and sounds like a very interesting place, maybe a more historic area than we know! Always fun to search…


    Carol Hawkins

    Carol Humphries-Hawkins

    July 25, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    • Miss Humphries- Hawkins,

      Thank you very much for your kind comment. I grew up on the tales of Frank and Jesse James. I always thought Jesse got a raw deal after the Civil War, which probably pushed him to declare war on the railroads and banks.

      There might be some other Stone County Old Timers who are familiar with the last name of James, but off hand I can’t think of any “James” locally around Galena. The Stone County Historical Society is a great resource. The US Gen Web Stone County Missouri website at might have some more information. They have a Stone County Photo Album on line with tons of photos. The site also has a listing of census and some civil war records. If you are into History, you could spend hours on the site just reading and it is user friendly, so it is quick to point and click. A few months ago they were working on a registry of names of all the headstones in Stone County cemeteries, so that might be done by now.

      I always heard about Shock and I met his brother, the congressman, Dewey and saw their sister, Bess Allman around town. I’m just surprised that Hollywood has never done The Bank Robber Brother Of The Congressman Film, especially when all this happened in the Era of The Tommy Gun Gangsters of the 1930s.

      Galena is a quite little town these days. The courthouse, medical lab on the square and James River is about all that keeps Galena going these days. There is a Bank of Galena Museum but I don’t know their hours of operation. Years ago, when I stopped in, they had some interesting political campaign buttons and the like – but that was years ago.

      These days, people usually come to Galena to camp at the James River’s Outfitter’s Campground on the bank of James River and there is the Pop’s Retreat Cabins that also sit upon the banks of the James River.

      Galena is definitely an interesting little town, but like the Stone County soil, you usually have to “dig deep” to even come up with tidbits of information. Good Luck on your search. Don’t be surprised if your great grandfather ends up back in Galena or Stone County, Missouri. If I can be of any help, just send me an email.



      July 26, 2011 at 11:06 AM

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