Check out The Wild REAL Story of the Infamous Criminal Couple Bonnie and Clyde!
If you’ve seen the 1967 movie named after them or the Netflix show The Highway Men, you might think you know the story of Bonnie and Clyde. But the story has been romanticized, fictionalized, and exaggerated over the years, distorting the reality of who they were and what they did.
We’re going to set apart truth from fiction when it comes to this infamous duo and their two-year crime spree. Today we’re telling the real story of Bonnie and Clyde
- Who are Bonnie and Clyde?
- The Beginning
- On the Run
- Tabloid Gold
- Desperate Times
- The Beginning of the End
- Ambush and Death
- The Real Story
If you are someone who prefers visuals over text, we have got it all covered for you, here’s the full article in video form:
With that checked, let’s go back to reading the real story of Bonnie and Clyde:
Who are Bonnie and Clyde?
Bonnie Parker grew up in Rowena, Texas, and got married to Roy Thornton in 1926 when she was only 15. Their marriage was tumultuous as Roy was constantly in trouble with the law, and in 1929 he went to prison for murder. Bonnie never saw him again, but they never divorced and she wore her wedding ring until her death.
Bonnie went to Dallas to live with her mother, and she worked as a waitress. But she was bored and lonely. She dreamed of having a more adventurous and fun life.
As for Clyde Barrow, he grew up poor and even lived under a wagon in Dallas with his parents and six siblings for months before his father could afford a tent. When he got older, he tried to join the navy but was rejected. He was arrested for the first time at age 17 and began committing numerous crimes, including robbing stores and stealing cars.
He was in and out of prison for several years. He killed his first man when he was 21 and in prison, but another prisoner who was serving life already took responsibility. He had an inmate chop two of his toes off with an axe so that he could not be assigned to hard labor. Bonnie and Clyde’s lives couldn’t have been more different, but once they crossed paths, they quickly became inseparable.
Bonnie and Clyde likely met for the first time on January 5, 1930, when he was 21 and she was 19. The story of their meeting wasn’t too remarkable; they just met at a mutual friend’s house, but they were immediately drawn to each other. They quickly fell in love, and Bonnie became very loyal to Clyde.
He offered an escape from her boring life, and she was his perfect companion. Clyde had jumped right back into his life of crime after leaving prison, and Bonnie was soon right by his side. They began robbing small stores and gas stations. Clyde had a plan to get enough money and guns to attack the prison he had been in and release the inmates.
Bonnie was first arrested on April 19, 1932, after attempting to rob a hardware store. Bonnie spent two months in jail, but then the charges were dropped and she reunited with Clyde, who had killed at least one police officer while she was in jail.
On the Run
Bonnie and Clyde were part of a gang of murderers and thieves. Their primary group included Clyde’s brother Buck and his wife Blanche and a teenager named W.D. Jones. Clyde and his gang killed four people between April and December 1932, including a young father whose car they stole.
Clyde started out 1933 by killing a deputy sheriff named Malcolm Davis with Bonnie by his side. By March, Bonnie and Clyde had holed up in a temporary hideout in Joplin, Missouri.
Although they were hiding out, they weren’t very discreet. They held loud card-games that ran late into the night with drunk men arriving and leaving at all hours even though alcohol was still illegal in the U.S. One neighbor called to complain, and two officers showed up at what they suspected was a bootlegger’s house. Clyde and his brother opened fire and killed one of the officers.
The other was seriously wounded. Bonnie and Clyde fled the scene, leaving behind all of their possessions, including a camera with several rolls of undeveloped film and a poem that Bonnie wrote. These items would help turn Bonnie and Clyde into celebrities rather than common criminals.
The police had The Joplin Globe newspaper office develop the film, and they found several pictures of Bonnie and Clyde posing with weapons and cigars. The Globe sent some select pictures over the newswire, including one of Bonnie holding a pistol and clenching a cigar in her teeth.
The media pounced on these images since it was the midst of the Great Depression, and the only way to sell newspapers was through sensational stories.
They also printed Bonnie’s poem, entitled “Suicide Sal.” The story of two rebellious outlaw lovers was pure gold to reporters, and Bonnie and Clyde were quickly glamorized, romanticized, and made into characters.
The public saw them as attractive, rich, and happy, which was a rarity in the Great Depression and brought about feelings of envy and the desire to live vicariously through them.
However, the way they were portrayed largely didn’t reflect their reality, particularly when it came to Bonnie. She may have posed with a cigar and a machine gun, but she didn’t smoke cigars and she was rarely involved in shootings.
Initially the press focused more on the narrative that they were bank robbers rather than focusing on their ruthless killing of police officers and others.
Although Bonnie and Clyde did rob a few banks, they robbed many more small stores and gas stations. After fleeing Missouri, they robbed a bank in Minnesota and then kidnapped two people in Louisiana when they stole their car.
They kidnapped a number of people during their two year crime spree, but they were known to release their hostages once they were far away, and sometimes they gave them money to get home.
These types of stories were front-page news, which made life more difficult for Bonnie and Clyde and the gang as it became more challenging to hide from the public. The FBI also issued a warrant for Bonnie and Clyde’s arrest on May 20, 1933. Their actions got more desperate and violent, and their lives were far from glamorous.
They could no longer stay in hotels or homes within the public eye or go to restaurants, so they resorted to cooking what they could over a fire, camping in the woods, and bathing in streams. There was also constant bickering between the five members of the group because they were always together, typically in the car.
On June 10, 1933, Clyde lost control of their car and flipped it over. Battery acid burned Bonnie’s leg so badly that the others didn’t think she would survive. They got help on a nearby farm but quickly fled despite her injuries.
They kidnapped two police officers, had a failed robbery attempt, and killed another man along the way. In July they arrived in Platte City, Missouri and checked in to the Red Crown Tourist Court. Before long, the locals began getting suspicious of them, and someone alerted the sheriff.
He called in reinforcements, and a group of officers with submachine guns soon surrounded the cabins.
The gang escaped after a gunfight, but Clyde’s brother and sister-in-law were seriously injured.
The Beginning of the End
They ended up hiding at an abandoned amusement park near Dexter, Iowa. The locals again got suspicious, and they were soon surrounded by police and 100 townspeople. Bonnie and Clyde still somehow managed to get away, but Buck and his wife were captured, and Buck died five days later.
In January 1934, Clyde helped several people escape Eastham Prison in Texas, including Henry Methvin. Methvin then killed two police officers, but the killings were blamed on Bonnie and Clyde, and the story surrounding the killings was greatly exaggerated. One of the police officers had a young fiance, and she wore her wedding dress to the funeral.
A short time later, Clyde and Henry killed a 60-year-old man named William Campbell in Oklahoma. These killings helped turn public opinion even more against Bonnie and Clyde.
Ambush and Death
Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer was tasked with hunting them down. Hamer was feared and admired as a Texas Ranger with 53 confirmed kills. He studied their movements and figured out their pattern of travel.
Hamer along with five other officers set up an ambush along a highway in Bienville Parish, Louisiana. The group waited in their hiding spot for more than a day and had almost given up when they saw Clyde approaching in a stolen Ford V8 on May 23, 1934. Henry Methvin’s father had agreed to act as a diversion, and he was waiting on the road with his truck.
When Clyde stopped to talk to him, the officers started shooting and didn’t stop until they had fired about 130 rounds, long after Bonnie and Clyde were both dead. The coroner’s report stated that Clyde had been shot 17 times and Bonnie had been shot 26 times, both with several headshots.
News of the killings spread quickly, and a frenzied crowd soon overwhelmed officers at the scene. One woman cut off locks of Bonnie’s hair and dress. One man tried to cut off Clyde’s trigger finger and another man tried to cut his ear.
Everyone was trying to get a souvenir of some kind. More than 20,000 people attended Bonnie’s funeral, but Clyde’s funeral was kept private. They were both buried in Dallas but not side-by-side as they requested.
The Real Story
Even though they may have appeared glamorous and their exploits made for good headlines, the reality is that Bonnie and Clyde were unrepentant criminals and killers who left a wide path of devastation.
Although they looked carefree and alluring in their photos, their lives on the run were far from glamorous as they hid in the woods and frequently fought due to the stress of their situation.
People at the time celebrated their bank robberies since banks were not popular during the Great Depression, but the truth is that the majority of their robberies targeted small businesses and local gas stations.
People point out the fact that they released many of the people they kidnapped as proof of their mercy, but they killed at least nine police officers and several civilians, including elderly widows and young fathers. Many lives, including their own, were destroyed by their actions. This is the real story of Bonnie and Clyde.
For an even more detailed retelling of this story, we recommend Go Down Together: The True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, written by Jeff Gunn. This factual account tells the historic story of these criminals in a captivating way and also examines the effect of the media on their legacy.
Go to alux.com/freebook and sign up so that you can save 30 dollars and get the audiobook version for free thanks to our partnership with Audible!
Now that we’re wrapping up this story, we’d like to know: Did this article change your opinion on Bonnie and Clyde? Let us know in the comments.