It’s May 1934, and Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are running out of time. Both the authorities and the public want them dead, you see, after news broke of the couple’s murderous crime spree. Yet the notorious pair have no idea that they’re walking into an ambush when they arrive in Shreveport, Louisiana. Here, officers are hiding in the bushes, ready to fire 130 rounds into the lovers’ car.
Both Bonnie and Clyde died that day, with their bodies full of holes from dozens of bullets. And yet amid such a gruesome scene, one small detail may have stood out. One of the gangsters was wearing just a pair of socks with no shoes – but they were dressed like this for good reason.
Legend has it that the connection between Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow was instantly palpable. In fact, some historians say that the then 19-year-old Bonnie was so smitten with 20-year-old Clyde that she didn’t hesitate in joining him on his life of crime. And it appeared that she had a taste for outlaws, too, as her first husband was ultimately put behind bars for life following a conviction for murder.
Clyde, too, found himself in jail just after meeting Bonnie. According to the FBI, he was locked up for burglary – although he didn’t stay incarcerated for long. Bonnie decided to sneak a gun onto the premises for her lover, and he went on to use the weapon to escape. And while authorities eventually recaptured Clyde, the prison-break scheme marked the start of the couple’s law-breaking antics together.
Furthermore, although Clyde was eventually paroled in 1932, he had been forever changed by his time at Eastham Prison Farm. For one thing, he had suffered a slew of sexual assaults while behind bars, and these ordeals had led him to retaliate. Seemingly in an act of vengeance, Clyde had murdered his aggressor with a lead pipe – with this apparently being the first time that he had ever killed someone.
Another inmate took the blame for the crime, however, and Clyde ultimately left Eastham. Yet John Neal Phillips’ 1996 book, Running with Bonnie & Clyde: The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults, suggests that the young man became ruthless afterwards. According to the biography, Clyde’s sister, Marie, once said, “Something awful sure must have happened to him in prison because he wasn’t the same person when he got out.”
As such, Clyde decided to fight back against the prison system after his release, with the crime spree that resulted being born more out of revenge than in a bid for notoriety. He and his fellow former inmate Ralph Fults thus began to rob stores and gas stations in order to save enough money to attack Eastham.
And Bonnie started participating in the men’s crimes, too – albeit not always successfully. In April 1932, for example, she and Fults found themselves behind bars following a bungled hardware store robbery. Yet while the grand jury ultimately let Bonnie go, they convicted Fults. Understandably, he never rejoined Bonnie and Clyde’s gang again.
Then, after Bonnie had left prison and reunited with her love, Clyde’s illegal behavior started to escalate. And in August 1932 – a mere seven months after his release from Eastham – the young man committed his second murder. He and a group of friends were sipping booze at an Oklahoma country dance when Sheriff C.G. Maxwell and deputy Eugene C. Moore walked their way.
Clyde and his associate Raymond Hamilton then opened fire on the cops, with their bullets killing Maxwell and nearly ending Moore’s life. Murdering law enforcement officers would become somewhat of a trend for Bonnie and Clyde after that; in fact, it’s said that they’d take out nine officers who got in their way.
Next, Bonnie and Clyde welcomed Clyde’s friend W.D. Jones into their criminal fold; the teenager had known the outlaw’s family since his early years. And on Christmas Day 1932, the men took Doyle Johnson’s life as they stole the victim’s car. The dangerous crew struck again less than two weeks later.
On that occasion, Bonnie, Clyde and Jones found themselves in a police trap – although one that had been set for another criminal on the lam. So, to escape capture, Clyde opened fire once again and murdered Tarrant County deputy sheriff Malcolm Davis in the process. A few months after that, the trio holed up in Joplin, Missouri, with Clyde’s brother, Buck, and his wife, Blanche.
Although Buck and Blanche had encouraged Clyde to surrender to the police, he nevertheless continued to hide in the Joplin home. There, the group all drank and played cards late into the night. But while the rest of the married couple’s neighbors avoided the rambunctious bungalow, no one told police about the suspicious people living there.
Eventually, though, the police thought that the Joplin house may be hiding a bootlegging operation in the garage. And when the authorities arrived to inspect the premises for such illegal activity, Clyde, his brother and Jones didn’t hesitate in opening fire.
The wild shootout ended the life of Detective Harry L. McGinnis, while Constable J.W. Harryman suffered a fatal wound. Clyde fired rounds from his Browning automatic rifle, with its blasts being so strong that they sent splinters into the face of a police sergeant who was hiding behind a tree. And while officers duly returned fire, the bullet aimed at Clyde bounced off a button on his suit coat.
With death and destruction in their wake, Bonnie, Clyde and their crime crew then loaded into a car and fled the scene. Yet owing to that quick getaway, the group left behind a pile of possessions, including Bonnie’s handwritten poems and rolls of undeveloped film. Authorities went on to process the images and so discovered the now-iconic photos of the young gangsters holding guns and clenching cigars between their teeth.
And Bonnie’s words proved chilling, to say the least. What’s more, although she had penned most of her poetry from behind bars, what she had written also held true once she had come out of prison. For example, one piece, called “The Trail’s End,” foreshadowed her and her partner’s crime spree. Bonnie began, “You’ve read the story of Jesse James, of how he lived and died. If you’re still in the need of something to read, here’s the story of Bonnie and Clyde.”
Of course, the story of Bonnie and Clyde would become a gruesome one. She continued her poem with a warning, writing, “Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow gang, I’m sure you all have read. How they rob and steal, and those who squeal, are usually found dying or dead.”
Then, once the poems and the photos became front page news, Bonnie, Clyde and their friends had a name: the Barrow Gang. And the nation watched with bated breath as the outlaws continued their crime spree from Texas all the way to Minnesota and everywhere in between. During this time, though, the robbers took on a new modus operandi.
Rather than murdering those that got in the way of their crimes, the Barrow Gang would kidnap them. The unfortunate victims who suffered as a result included Dillard Darby and Sophia Stone, whose car the group had wanted to steal. Normally, the criminals would apprehend a vehicle then drive its passengers far from home. And on occasion, they’d also leave their hostages with cash to get back to where they had come from.
But Bonnie, Clyde and the others remained merciless when necessary. And the headlining duo weren’t the only ones who’d pull the trigger when someone threatened to curtail their exploits. Throughout the course of their crime spree, four others would commit murders: Buck, Jones, Hamilton and Henry Methvin – another member of the gang.
And as the reality of these horrific crimes set in, public intrigue and interest in Bonnie, Clyde and the Barrow Gang transformed into outrage. The released photos had yet another impact on the outlaws, though: they made it hard for them to travel normally and still avoid detection. No longer could the Barrow Gang dine in restaurants or sleep in motels along the way.
Thanks to their newfound infamy, then, the five criminals spent all their time together – either in their getaway car or camping. Yes, since Bonnie and Clyde’s crew weren’t able to stay in any place where they could potentially be recognized, they were forced into making their own meals over campfires and cleaning themselves in streams instead.
Hamilton even excused himself from the Barrow Gang for a short period of time. In late April 1933, he and Buck had taken a car from a man named Dillard Darby. Then Hamilton had absconded with the new vehicle on his own, keeping his distance from his compadres until June 8 of that year.
Yet things continued to deteriorate for the Barrow Gang – and quickly. Two days after Hamilton’s return, Clyde drove Bonnie and Jones through the Wellington, Texas, area in their getaway car. As he did, though, he failed to notice warning signs up ahead – as, unfortunately for the trio, a nearby bridge was still being built.
And when Clyde, Bonnie and Jones reached the bridge, they had no chance of crossing. Instead, their car flipped off the road and into a ravine. What happened next remains up for debate, however; some sources believe that the gasoline in the vehicle caused it to burst into flames, while others say there was a battery acid leak.
Either way, Clyde’s failure to pay attention left Bonnie succumbing to third-degree burns on her leg. As Jones described to Playboy in 1968, “[Bonnie]’d been burned so bad [that] none of us thought she was going to live. The hide on her right leg was gone from her hip down to her ankle. I could see the bone [in] places.”
Yet the accident made the love between Bonnie and Clyde ever more apparent; as the young woman couldn’t walk on her leg, her beau would carry her around. And the injury initially didn’t stall Clyde’s criminal spree in any capacity, either. He and Jones had a failed robbery attempt shortly thereafter and murdered a town marshal in Alma, Arkansas. Consequently, this killing forced them to skip town – even though Bonnie’s health was up in the air.
And Bonnie’s injury did go on to mark the decline of her and Clyde’s criminal activity. After the Arkansas murder, the Barrow Gang ended up in Missouri, where Blanche secured a cabin for the outlaws. The property’s owner, Neal Houser, noticed some irregular activity after they checked in, however.
For one thing, the cabin was apparently intended for three guests, but Houser actually counted five people exiting the car. And he also noted the unusual way in which the group had parked their vehicle upon arrival. Houser later revealed that the car had been put into the garage “gangster style” – allowing the crew to drive right out at haste if necessary.
Then, once they’d got into the cabin, the Barrow Gang continued to exhibit abnormal behavior – including covering the property’s windows with newspapers. Furthermore, when it came time to eat at nearby restaurant the Red Crown Tavern, Blanche was noticed for her horseback riding breeches – an article of clothing not usually worn by female locals.
Eventually, Houser could no longer ignore his guests’ strange behavior. As a result, then, he decided to reach out to regular Red Crown Tavern patron William Baxter, who happened to serve as captain of the local highway patrol. And as it turned out, Houser wasn’t the only one in Missouri to find the Barrow Gang suspicious enough to warrant calling the police.
At one point, you see, Clyde and Jones headed into town to buy supplies for Bonnie’s injured leg. And during that visit, the duo purchased not only the medication and bandages that the outlaw needed, but also cheese and crackers. All in all, then, a local pharmacist thought the combination was highly unusual, and so they rang Sheriff Holt Coffey with their concerns.
Law enforcement officers from Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma had reached out to Coffey, too, warning him that some very dangerous individuals could be on the hunt for such provisions. So, Coffey called Baxter, who phoned into Kansas City for the necessary tools for the job to come – not least an armored car.
Then, under Coffey’s direction, the group of police officers crept toward the Barrow Gang’s cabin with submachine guns in tow. But the siege they had planned, which began at 11:00 p.m., didn’t go quite as expected. For one, the cops would soon find out that their weapons couldn’t hold a candle to Clyde’s Browning Automatic Rifles.
Yes, as it often went with the Barrow Gang, the officers’ approach led to a gunfight. At first, the outlaws got lucky when a stray bullet hit the authorities’ armored car, short-circuiting its horn and mimicking the sound of a cease-fire signal. With that, the cops stopped shooting – and they also failed to pursue the gangsters’ getaway car as the group sped away.
But the Barrow Gang hadn’t escaped the scene unscathed. Pieces of glass had showered into Blanche’s eyes, almost blinding her entirely. Worse still, a bullet had struck Buck, entering his forehead and exposing a piece of his brain. And while the gravely injured man remained conscious and even ate while on the getaway route, his fellow criminals feared the worst for him.
So, when the Barrow Gang pulled into an abandoned amusement park close to Dexter, Iowa, they prepared for Buck’s apparently impending death. Clyde and Jones thus dug into the earth, hollowing out a grave if they needed it. Even so, Buck didn’t succumb to his wound quickly afterwards. Instead, the public would discover the outlaws’ hiding place – and this in turn would incite yet more violence.
While hiding out at the amusement park, those who lived nearby spotted that the place was littered with blood-soaked bandages. They then contacted police, who realized that the injured people hiding out could be the Barrow Gang. And the cops – along with about 100 onlookers – ultimately circled the notorious criminals.
Although Bonnie, Clyde and Jones managed to evade capture on foot, this time law enforcement would snag two members of the Barrow Gang. Buck was hit by a bullet to the back, presumably making it easy to apprehend both him and Blanche. And Clyde’s brother would pass away shortly thereafter – an ending that would set the remaining Barrow Gang members on a new path.
Firstly, Bonnie, Clyde and Jones chose new areas to target. They traveled westward into Colorado and as far north as Minnesota, for example – even venturing to Mississippi. And the trio once again embarked on a robbing spree. At one point, they also raided an armory in Plattville, Illinois, where they obtained further weapons and ammunition.
Nevertheless, the group’s next move may seem strange for criminals on the lam. At the start of September 1933, you see, they decided to go home and visit their respective families in Texas. The lovebirds thus headed to Dallas, while Jones drove onward to Houston, where his mother lived.
Police quickly caught up with Jones, whom they apprehended without any gunfire on November 16. Bonnie and Clyde, on the other hand, remained in Dallas, where Clyde once again embarked on robberies and his girlfriend continued to recuperate from her health issues. Still, even though the notorious couple remained free during this period, the cops hadn’t given up on ultimately detaining them.
Instead, on November 22 – just six days after Jones had been taken into custody – the police decided to set an ambush to catch Bonnie and Clyde. A trio of officers hid out at a rendezvous point where Clyde had planned to reunite with relatives; when the outlaw passed by, however, he sensed something fishy.
So, Clyde kept on driving to remove himself and Bonnie from the suspicious situation. And as he did so, the cops popped up from their hiding place and started blasting the gangsters. But while family members caught in the crossfire didn’t get hit by any bullets, the couple themselves weren’t so lucky: a single shot from a BAR hit both Bonnie’s and Clyde’s legs.
And from there, things would only get worse for the two outlaws. Six days after the failed ambush, a grand jury in Dallas handed over an indictment for both of the criminals. They were wanted for a murder they had committed in January of the same year, when they had slayed Tarrant County Deputy Davis.
But it would be an early 1934 crime that would truly light a fire under the authorities who sought to capture Bonnie and Clyde. That January, Clyde completed his initial mission of exacting revenge on the prison system that had so damaged him by successfully raiding Eastham.
That incident also saw Clyde release a handful of prisoners, which reflected poorly on the state of Texas. But this wasn’t the only aspect of the raid that would trigger authorities to retaliate once and for all; Joe Palmer, an associate of Clyde’s, additionally shot Major Joe Crowson in the hullabaloo.
And as Crowson fought for his life, prison chief Lee Simmons promised him one thing: he would make sure that everyone involved in the endeavor was killed. Crowson’s death escalated that vow, as did an event that occurred three months later, when Bonnie, Clyde and escaped prisoner Methvin took down highway patrolmen H.D. Murphy and Edward Bryant Wheeler.
Some eyewitnesses claimed that Bonnie had not only fired a gun at the officers, but that she had delivered close-range fatal shots, too. Methvin disagreed, asserting that he had actually taken the first shot and that Bonnie had instead approached the men to help them in their last moments.
Still, this reported act of mercy did little to improve public perception of the criminal couple. It didn’t help, either, that rumors swirled about Bonnie and Clyde’s behavior: namely, that she had laughed as one of the patrolmen’s bodies had hit the ground. With that, many citizens wanted the duo dead, and the authorities promised a $1,000 reward to anyone who could make it happen.
And it turned out that a quartet of police officers from Texas and Louisiana would be the ones to bring down the Barrow Gang for good. One of the men, Frank Hamer, had studied Bonnie and Clyde’s movements and realized that they traveled in circles in and out of state borders. This method was used to exploit a rule that prevented police from pursuing criminals across state lines.
It was also noticed that Bonnie, Clyde and Methvin made points along the way to visit their respective family members. Hamer recognized, too, that the trio would soon make a routine stop at Methvin’s Louisiana home. So, he and the rest of the officers camped out in Shreveport, hiding alongside a road for more than 24 hours in the hope of any sign of Bonnie and Clyde.
On the morning of May 23, Hamer and his team had almost decided to give up when they heard something: the V8 engine of Clyde’s stolen Ford. Then, when the outlaw got close enough to the officers, the cops opened fire. The first shot fired hit Clyde in the head and killed him in an instant. Bonnie apparently shrieked when she saw that her love had died before her eyes.
Still, the officers continued to fire, spraying approximately 130 rounds into Bonnie and Clyde’s car. The lovers both died with anywhere from 25 to 50 bullet holes in their bodies – many of which would have caused fatal injuries on their own. And yet the officers continued shooting for so long that they all went temporarily deaf.
The bullet-riddled bodies even posed a problem for undertaker C.F. Bailey, who found it hard to embalm the corpses with so many holes in them. Such a gruesome end didn’t do much to deter the public from their interest in Bonnie and Clyde’s story and demise, though. Her funeral, for one, proved to be a public event, drawing more than 20,000 spectators.
Meanwhile, Clyde was eventually laid to rest alongside Buck and beneath a gravestone that reads, “Gone but never forgotten.” And those who examined his corpse would likely agree, as even in death something strange was noticeable about the outlaw. You see, Clyde had been plagued by a foot-based issue ever since he had left Eastham.
While at the prison, Clyde had done all that he could to avoid hard labor – including having one of his fellow inmates ax off two of his toes. And this gruesome act had affected the gangster for the rest of his life. For one thing, he could never walk normally again, meaning he spent his final years limping on his mangled feet.
These balancing problems plagued Clyde behind the wheel of a car, too. In particular, he could no longer drive with shoes on as he couldn’t press the pedals properly. So, on the last day of his life, Clyde got behind the wheel of his and Bonnie’s getaway car with just socks on his feet.
As such, Clyde perished without shoes on, with his body riddled with gunshots and his love Bonnie dead by his side. And the story of the infamous gangsters continues to spark intrigue. Numerous songs, TV shows, books and movies draw inspiration from the criminal couple, keeping their tale alive decades later – and for years to come.