As we’ve discussed here before, Bonnie and Clyde were, perhaps, the most famous criminal duo of all time. They terrorized the Southern half of the United States as they went on a crime spree with the rest of the “Barrow Gang” robbing banks, gas stations and restaurants for 21 months throughout 1932-1934 before being gunned down on May 23, 1934. While their legacy lives on in infamy, with almost a century passing since their gruesome deaths, it can be hard to separate out their facts from the fictions. So, we’re here today with some little known facts about Bonnie and Clyde to help provide a clearer picture about who the duo really was.
Bonnie was married but Clyde was not
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker got married at the age of 15 years old (just 6 days before turning 16) to Roy Thorton. The couple met in school, fell in love, dropped out of school, and married on September 25, 1926. The couple’s relationship was short-lived, as Roy was constantly having brushes with the law, and they quickly started having issues up until Roy was imprisoned for robbery in early 1929. Since he was in prison, the couple never got divorced, but they also never saw each other after January of 1929.
Thorton continued to have issues with the law up until his death. He was killed on October 3, 1937, after trying to escape the Huntsville State Prison. Three years prior to his death, supposedly, when he heard of Bonnie’s death, he commented, “I’m glad they jumped out like they did. It’s much better than being caught.” Despite not seeing Bonnie for over 5 years prior to her death, she died wearing his wedding ring around her finger.
Bonnie and Clyde met in 1930, two years prior to their criminal spree together
While Roy was in prison for murder, according to the most credible account of their meeting (there have been several versions shared around), Bonnie and Clyde met at a friend’s house in Dallas, Texas in 1930 when Bonnie was 19 years old. Supposedly, Clyde met Bonnie when she was in the kitchen making hot chocolate for her friend, and it was love at first sight. However, Clyde was imprisoned shortly after they met. So, Bonnie paid him regular visits in prison and even smuggled a gun into prison to help him escape. While he did get out, he was caught again quickly after his escape. It was when he was released on parole in 1932 that he met back up with Bonnie and the two began their life of crime together.
Clyde’s early arrests are shocking
Clyde Barrow was first arrested at the age of 17 for failing to return a rental car on time. His second arrest came when he and his brother, Buck, (a later member of the Barrow gang) stole turkeys. He was repeatedly sexually assaulted while in prison, which led him to kill his tormentor by crushing his skull with a pipe, though an inmate already serving a life sentence took the blame for the death to keep Clyde from harsher punishment. This leaves many historians questioning how the correctional system damaged Clyde Barrow, leading to the events that inevitably made him infamous- that mixed with his rejection from the navy. Apparently, Clyde was set on joining the navy; he even got a tattoo “USN” on his left arm as a teenager prior to applying. However, the navy rejected his application due to ‘lingering effects from a serious boyhood illness’. Supposedly, this devastated Clyde.
In January 1932, right before his release from prison, when he met back up with Bonnie Parker to begin their life of crime together, Clyde saw no end in sight as he served a 14-year sentence for robbery at the Eastham Prison Farm. Supposedly, the work conditions were so brutal that Clyde took an axe to his foot, severing his big toe and part of his second toe in an attempt to be moved to a less terrible facility to serve out his sentence. Unfortunately, his self-mutilation was for nothing, as he was released on parole six days later and was permanently crippled from this. He ultimately was unable to wear a shoe while driving because of this incident.
Bonnie, herself, walked with a limp after an accident
On June 10, 1933, slightly less than a year prior to the couple’s death, Clyde crashed a car after missing a detour sign. The Ford V-8 smashed through a barricade, was sent airborne, and eventually crashed into a dry riverbed. The battery was torn open, which caused acid to splash into the car. This burned Bonnie’s right leg, down to the bone at places. The third-degree burns she received from this incident gave her a permanent limp, requiring Clyde to carry her at times when they needed to move quickly.
Bonnie wrote poetry and eerily seemed to predict their death two weeks prior to it
According to many, Bonnie Parker was an excellent creative writer in school who excelled at writing poetry. Parker, herself, was imprisoned in 1932, prior to leaving on her life of crime with Clyde, for attempted hardware theft. In prison, she wrote a collection of poetry entitled “Poetry from Life’s Other Side.”
The eerie part of the tale comes in, however, when she sent her mother a disturbing and foreshadowing ode just two weeks before her and Clyde were shot to death. If you enjoyed the 1967 film, you might remember the end of the poem, which they included in it. When I first watched the film, I had no idea those were actually Bonnie Parker’s words, but they were. She sent the poem to her mother which she called “The Trail’s End” that ended with the stanza:
“Some day they’ll go down together;
And they’ll bury them side by side,
To a few it’ll be grief—
To the law a relief—
But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.”
Read the full poem here: https://allpoetry.com/The-Trail%27s-End
To Bonnie and Clyde’s dismay, they were killed two weeks later, and unfortunately, against their wishes, they were not buried together.
The couple’s death
You can read more about the couple’s death and the car they died in, which tours around the country now, in our in-depth piece here: https://www.maloriesadventures.com/blog/the-death-of-bonnie-and-clyde-and-the-car-they-left-behind
Aside from the fact that tourists used to sit in the car they died in (which was decorated by the shells of over 130 rounds of bullets) as a sideshow attraction for DECADES, it’s also eerie to know that souvenir hunters actually tried to cut off parts of their bodies at the scene of their death. After hearing the commotion, people gathered to the scene and attempted to try and take pieces of Bonnie’s hair and blood-soaked dress. (And apparently a couple of people succeeded in leaving with locks of her hair.) One man even attempted to cut off and take Clyde’s trigger finger and another his ear before law enforcement intervened.
While Bonnie and Clyde are shrouded in myth and mystery, one thing is certain. This couple has lived on throughout history just as famous as they were the day they died. Their legacy lives on through the facts, the fictions, and the mystery.