At this point, Bonnie and Clyde have reached a level of icon-status that has made their story into more myth than reality. To be clear, they were two very real individuals, but the details of their story have gotten lost somewhere in the romanticizing of their story, as is often the case when historical figures enter into a certain echelon of pop-culture. Nowadays, they are a movie with Faye Dunaway, a song with Jay-Z and Beyonce and a catch-phrase for “ride or die” love, but who are the real Bonnie and Clyde?
A good place to find out more about the factual story of these two Depression-era criminals is the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum in Gibsland, Louisiana. Gibsland itself is another of those small towns with which I constantly seem to be falling in love with, so, I would recommend a stop here regardless of the museum. The museum is simply a delicious maraschino cherry on top of this small-town sundae.
Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum isn’t a huge sight and, in terms of of actual artifacts, there isn’t much offered here, but in regards to kitsch and quirk it has more than enough to offer. It also offers a unique, immersive opportunity to learn more about the pair that has become so immortalized in modern day. Personally, I also love the museum because its a bit macabre, with its fake-blood spattered mannequins and bullet-riddled car (notably the one used in the 1967 film). Its a bit of dark tourism and perfect for those with a bit of eccentric side (like myself).
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow originally crossed paths January 5, 1930 in West Dallas. Based on the most credible accounts of their first meeting, historians believe it was a case of love at first sight and that Bonnie followed Clyde and his gang due to her infatuation with him. From this initial meeting, the two set off on a spree of gas station and small shop robberies. They also worked on slowly adding members to their gang and by the summer of 1933 their posse included up to 9 members, all working together to pull off petty crimes and heists. When cornered, the duo weren’t unaccustomed to murder, managing to kill several civilians and police officers.
Even at that time, the press dealt in hyperbole when it came to the couple. Their mythology was already being quickly crafted and it set the foundation for later depictions and the visual of the duo in the public consciousness. Many of the ideas and much of the information proliferated by the press was pure yellow-journalism. Though Bonnie was dubbed the criminal mastermind “moll”, one member of the gang alleged that he never saw her even shoot a gun.
The pair met their untimely end in Bienville, Lousiana where, after the much publicized (and notably exaggerated) Grapevine Murders, police cornered them and gunned them down in broad daylight in while they sat in their getaway car. The pair was shot more than 50 times each. The police made sure that Bonnie and Clyde would never ride again.
The Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum does a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of this pair and the information provided here is only a snippet of what you can learn and see there. Additionally, and as aforementioned, Gibsland is also an idyllic little Louisiana town that is totally worth checking out. If you’d like to learn more about the museum, this site has a ton of useful info!