Bonnie and Clyde, a dynamic duo shrouded in mystery and crime. As more and more time passes by after their deaths, the more they get set into legend, and the harder it is to separate out the truths from the legends of this infamous couple. Why were they so beloved? Well, they rose to infamy as (questionably) the most famous outlaws of all time as America was facing the impacts of the Great Depression. People were starving and struggling to get by, and Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow did whatever they could to ensure they didn’t go hungry. They took matters into their own hands when most of the country was afraid to do the same thing (though to be fair, because of this, crime was at an all-time high in these times)- making them heroes to many.
While they were seen as a sort of Robin-Hood like figure, however, it’s important to point out that they generally didn’t rob big banks, rather mom-and-pop stores, restaurants, gas stations, and small banks, sometimes only leaving having stolen $5 or $10 total (equivalent to $88 – $177.00 today with inflation). Regardless, people idolized them, and they were well protected by family, friends, and occasionally even strangers as they ran from the law over their 21-month crime spree. They were supposed to have killed 13 people along their spree, and most of the victims were police officers and other officials.
Why Were they So Beloved?
Simply put, Bonnie and Clyde were a young, attractive couple in love who were challenging the way society worked and fighting to keep from going hungry. They stole to feed themselves and their families. And they were making front page news daily, making them celebrities, in a way. They weren’t married, so that only added to the scandal of their tabloids. Undeveloped photos of the two left behind at a hideout were confiscated by police and later published, as well, which provided everyone with an image of what the couple looked like and showed them having fun, helping people to both relate to and idolize them more.
A Death Mark on the Couple
Their crimes hit a turning point when they shot and killed highway patrolmen H.D. Murphy and Edward Wheeler near Grapevine, Texas on Easter Sunday of 1934. It was then that head of Highway Patrol, L.G. Phares, offered a $1,000 reward for their dead bodies. (Note it was a reward for their bodies- not their capture). They were wanted dead… not alive. Officials likely knew how big these outlaws were getting, and it was clear they were showing the public that you could stand up to the man and get away with it. They became a symbol of hope for outlaws everywhere. They were celebrities. And that kind of power was dangerous in the hands of criminals. So, officials knew they wanted them dead.
On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde were shot to death by law enforcement officials, led by Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer and Texas Officer Maney Gault, when they fired 167 bullets at the couple. Officials recruited Barrow Gang member Henry Methvin’s father, Ivy, to help trap the couple (likely so Methvin could get a lighter sentence or to at least secure his safety). Ivy parked his truck on the side of a major road and pretended to change a tire, as he had word that Bonnie and Clyde would be headed that way. The couple did come, and they stopped to help him with his tire. Supposedly, the officials planned to take Bonnie and Clyde alive; however, a logging truck came by which supposedly forced one of the deputies to open fire against the original plan. Despite everything, after firing 167 bullets, it’s questionable whether or not the officers really had any intent to ever bring in the couple alive. With as famous as they had gotten and how much people idolized them, it’s likely law enforcement was so afraid of the legendary duo that they wanted to ensure they were dead- why else would they have fired 167 bullets into them within 20 seconds? We may never know if they really intended to bring them in alive, but we do know that Bonnie and Clyde both died that day with 17 entrance wounds on Clyde and 26 in Bonnie. Bonnie was 23 years old when she died, and Clyde was 25.
Despite wishing to be buried together, they were separated in death. Bonnie’s gravesite can be found in Crown Hill Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas, while Clyde can be found in Dallas at the Western Heights Cemetery.
The Bonnie and Clyde Death Car
The car that Bonnie and Clyde were shot to death in was a 1934 Ford Model 40 B Forder Deluxe Sedan in a tan color. The reason that was so important is that this car was faster that most police cars at that time, making it the perfect getaway car when running from law enforcement. It was one of the first Ford vehicle equipped with a V8 engine, which was the epitome of speed in 1934. After supposedly taking in 112 bullets, the ‘Bonnie and Clyde Death Car’ was confiscated by a Louisiana sheriff’s office before a federal judge ruled that the car must be returned to its former owner, Ruth Warren of Topeka Kansas, who Bonnie and Clyde had stolen the car from. Warren eventually sold this car to Charles Stanley who toured it in fairgrounds, lecture halls, and offered it as a sideshow attraction. Believe it or not, up until the 1970s, tourists were allowed to sit inside the vehicle (it had been reupholstered to remove the bloody interior) and take photos. While it still tours the country from time to time, occasionally making it hard to find, the ‘current permanent residence’ of this car is in Primm, Nevada. Up until 2021, it called Whiskey Pete’s Resort and Casino home before moving across the street to Primm Valley Resort and Casino, where you can visit it now as of 2022.
There are many cars around the country that claim to be the ‘death car’ of Bonnie and Clyde, but the car at Primm Valley Resort and Casino is the one that can be traced back to the death of the couple. And, if you compare the bullet holes in this car to the bullet holes in the crime scene photos from that deadly day, there’s no denying it. It would be hard to recreate those bullet holes in the exact locations, and they match up perfectly with that car. So, be wary of other places claiming to have the real car. People also confuse cars used in the 1967 film as the real car.
So, if you’d like to see the real death car today, be sure to get off of the Primm exit (Exit 1) on Interstate 15 right at the border of California and Nevada. If you’re coming from California, you want to exit right (and if you’re coming from Nevada, you want to exit left) over to Primm Valley Resort and Casino. Enter at the main casino entrance facing the highway (and that major gas station) and from there, enter into the main doors of the casino and take a right. Keep walking right until you leave the casino floor and enter a hard-floored hallway, and that’s where you’ll find the car. If you turn at the entrance and keep going right, you can’t miss it. Also touring with the car is the shirt Clyde Barrow wore when he was shot to death, signed by his own sister for authenticity. This torn short, if you look close enough, still has very faded but distinct blood stains on it.
If you’re as fascinated by this couple as I am and want to learn more about the truth of their adventures, be sure to read one of my favorite books, “My Life with Bonnie and Clyde” by Blanche Caldwell Barrow. Blanche (who you may remember was portrayed by Estelle Parsons in the 1967 film) was the only member of the Barrow gang to live through the gruesome adventures and write out her own memoir about it. It’s an extremely fascinating tale that I highly recommend you read for yourself.
Read little known facts about the infamous duo here: https://www.maloriesadventures.com/blog/little-known-facts-about-bonnie-and-clyde