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Firsthand Accounts Of What Bonnie And Clyde Were Actually Like

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Vote up the most surprising accounts of the true natures of Bonnie and Clyde.

The crime spree that defines Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow's place in history and popular culture lasted a relatively short time. Between 1930 and 1934, the couple robbed, killed, and loved while traversing the middle of the US. Often, Bonnie and Clyde were accompanied by other members of their "gang" - fellow criminals like W.D. Jones and Raymond Hamilton as well as Clyde's brother, Buck, and his wife, Blanche.

Bonnie and Clyde met their ends May 23, 1934, ambushed by a group of law enforcement officers near the Louisiana and Texas state line. Their deaths received widespread attention, adding to the lore surrounding the doomed duo. The legendary status of Bonnie and Clyde has muddied the waters on what they were actually like, but some of the people they knew best have provided their own accounts.

Take a look at what family members, associates, and some of their victims said about what the outlaws were truly like, and vote up the most surprising stories. 

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  • As Bonnie and Blanche waited for Clyde and Buck to complete a bank robbery in May 1933 (often identified as Okabena, MN, but it may have taken place in Lucerne, IN), it started to rain. Blanche described how the "wind blew, lightning flashed, and the thunder was so loud you couldn't hear anything else."

    With such intense weather all around them, Blanche recalled:

    Bonnie was so frightened she hardly knew what to do. She covered her head with pillows so she couldn't see the lightning and started crying, saying she wanted to be home with her mother.

    Blanche found the whole thing rather amusing:

    I wasn't afraid of storms at that time and laughed at her fears, as they had laughed at me for being afraid of machine gun fire... I couldn't understand why Bonnie would be so afraid of storms. She didn't act that bad when she was in a gun battle, but she feared God's work more than machine-gun fire.

    As a child, Bonnie had actually been afraid of guns, according to her cousin, Bessie. Bonnie would scream when she touched a gun, something that Bessie thought about often "after Bonnie went away with Clyde... how she ever learned to handle guns, load for him, or even fire them herself."

    713 votes
  • 2
    626 VOTES

    Bonnie And Clyde Could Get Pretty Friendly With Their Captives

    In Gaylon Barrow's Bonnie and Clyde - Clyde's Story, the author provides details of the outlaws and their activities as told to him by his father, Earl Barrow. Earl was Clyde's cousin and heard stories from his fugitive relative when they were at their grandfather's farm. 

    One of the events featured in the book involves the kidnapping of mortician H. Dillard Darby and Sophie Stone in Ruston, LA, in April 1933. After the Barrow gang stole Darby's car, the undertaker persuaded Stone to pursue the criminals in her car, and the two gave chase.

    Gaylon Barrow described how Clyde eventually stopped to intercept Darby and Stone, forcing them into the gang car and driving them all the way to Arkansas. The gang "took a liking to them and told them we would let them live" - and they did. After the gang crossed the state line, Darby and Stone were let out of the car and given $5 for the trouble. 

    Darby confirmed that Clyde and Bonnie were reasonable, and later said, "Neither of us is much worse for the experience." While Darby was with the gang, Bonnie even said:

    I know we're going to get it sooner or later. I know you would enjoy embalming us. Promise us you will. 

    There's a mixed take on Buck Barrow's overall demeanor. Historian E.R. Milner states Buck wanted to kill the pair, but it's unclear how serious he may have been. Gaylon Barrow's account indicates Buck was simply joking and, either way, the group started engaging with Darby and Stone. 

    In December 1933, Sergeant Tom Purcell from the Missouri State Highway Patrol recounted when the Barrow Gang kidnapped him - another nonviolent, albeit less friendly, interaction:

    Pulled up alongside a car to investigate its rather suspicious appearance... Bonnie stuck a shotgun through a window of the coach they were in and told me to "stick them up." I was not able to do anything else and they took my gun and told me to get in. We drove out of town about 70 miles and they told me to get out. Bonnie and I sat in the back seat; Clyde and [W.D.] Jones in the front, with Clyde driving. Both Bonnie and Clyde admitted their identity, which I already recognized from familiarity with their photographs... They did not harm me in any way but kept me covered and would have shot, I am sure, if I had made a move.

    Still one more take on Bonnie and Clyde came from police officer Percy Boyd, a member of law enforcement they kidnapped in Oklahoma in April 1934. Boyd found Bonnie to be almost likable after his 15-hour ordeal. He came to realize neither Bonnie nor Clyde ever intended to kill any members of law enforcement.

    Bonnie asked Boyd to do her a favor as they let him go. She wanted to make sure the gift she had for her mother, a rabbit named Sonny Boy, got to her mother should anything happen to them. Boyd asked her if there was anything she wanted him to tell the press. Her response:

    Tell them I don't smoke cigars.

    626 votes
  • 3
    489 VOTES

    As A Child, Bonnie Stewed 'From Morning To Night' And Loved Getting Attention

    Described by her mother, Emma, as "a beautiful baby, with cotton-colored curls, the bluest eyes you ever saw, and an impudent little red mouth," Bonnie was restless her entire life. As a young girl, she was "generally in a stew from morning to night," giving little consideration to any consequences for her actions. 

    Bonnie was fierce enough to fight boys at school, bold enough to dip into her grandfather's alcohol stash, and generally mischievous in nature. She also liked to act, and enjoyed getting attention. Emma recalled a performance that went awry at Bonnie's school during which her daughter showed her true colors:

    Bonnie was so outraged at... being taken out of character... that she began weeping tears of anger... The boy who was the cause of it all, snickered, and that was too much. Bonnie tore into him right before everybody. 

    And at that, the audience just howled... Bonnie stopped at the sound of laughter. It gave her a new idea. People were being amused. She would amuse them further. She backed off and started turning somersaults and cartwheels right down the middle of the stage, and the program broke up in a riot. 

    489 votes
  • 4
    531 VOTES

    Bonnie 'Loved With All Of Her Heart' And Was Fiercely Loyal

    Bonnie's cousin, Bessie, observed Bonnie's ability to love and stick by the people she cared for. Bessie said Bonnie's mother, Emma, was the future fugitive's "overpowering devotion," but also offered insight into some of Bonnie's romantic interests: 

    Although Bonnie had a lot of childhood sweethearts, she never had a date with a boy till she was 15. Soon after she began dating, she fell in love with Roy Thornton... by the time she was 16, she and Roy were married. When Bonnie loved, she loved with all of her heart, and that was the way she loved Roy.

    There was a complexity to Bonnie's love as well. Bessie noted, "when [Bonnie] was through with him, she was through. Bonnie was like that. She was loyal too, even after she ceased to love Roy. That's why she never married [Clyde]."

    Bonnie's intense love and sense of loyalty influenced her relationship with Clyde. After he went to prison in 1930, Bonnie risked everything and smuggled a gun to him so he could escape - essentially starting her life of crime

    531 votes
  • 5
    461 VOTES

    Clyde Didn't 'Fight Fair,' Even With His Own Brother

    Marvin "Buck" Barrow was six years older than his brother Clyde. When Buck and his wife, Blanche Caldwell Barrow, joined Bonnie, Clyde, and W.D. Jones in March 1933, he'd already spent time in prison.

    As boys, said their sister Nell, Buck "was notorious for stealing," and as a result, law enforcement "began classing the Barrow boys together." In 1933, however, Buck purportedly wanted to get Clyde to stop his criminal ways. After Buck and Blanche became part of the Barrow Gang, Buck took part in numerous robberies and was involved in the killing of two police officers in April and another in June of the same year. 

    The dynamic between the Barrow brothers was often full of tension. Blanche, in her memoirs, described times when Buck and Clyde were always arguing and couldn't agree on anything. At one point, when the group was sick of riding in a cramped car:

    Buck started complaining about all of us having to ride that way. Soon the argument came to blows. I was sitting between them and go that more than they did....

    Buck stopped the car and told Clyde to get out, that he would show him what he could do. But Clyde wouldn't fight fair. He grabbed his shotgun, the one he had killed most of his victims with. He had done that before, during an argument, so I knew he wouldn't fight fair. 

    Blanche explained that Buck "would have whipped him in a fair fight" but never would have grabbed a gun to do so. While "Clyde would shoot [Buck] if he got mad enough," Buck never wanted to kill Clyde.

    461 votes
  • The most famous photos of Bonnie and Clyde are ones they posed for. Other images that feature the duo included them with weapons in hand or, in Clyde's case, next to one of the cars he stole. The image of Bonnie with a cigar in her mouth was one she mugged for as fellow gang member W.D. Jones looked on. Jones recalled

    Bonnie smoked cigarettes, but... I gave her my cigar to hold.

    The photo was one of many on the undeveloped rolls of film found at the couple's apartment in Joplin, MO, in April 1933. The cigar picture particularly bothered Bonnie when it became popular, however. She didn't like how it made her look, telling Clyde, "they're gonna think bad enough of us as is, Clyde. They damn well need to get it right."

    The pictures did propel Bonnie and Clyde to national fame, but with opposite results - they became heroes.

    511 votes