Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (1910-34) and Clyde Chestnut Barrow (1909-34) today are undoubtedly folk (anti-)heroes. Modern retellings have focused on the romantic relationship between the pair, at times casting their exploits in the Robin Hood-mould. The very names âBonnie and Clyde’ can even be used positively to describe an especially-devoted couple. The historical Bonnie and Clyde, however, were violent criminals who murdered 13 people during their 2-year crime spree during the Great Depression. As in the case of Al Capone (see below), their perceived glamour has somehow outstripped the appalling crimes they committed and turned them into pop culture icons.
The circumstances of their deaths perhaps have something to do with their post-mortem reception. Police finally caught up with Bonnie and Clyde on an isolated road in Louisiana on May 23rd 1934. Concealed in bushes at the side of the road, four police officers ambushed the pair in their stolen Ford V8 and shot the car to pieces with automatic weapons and shotguns. Although Bonnie and Clyde’s brutal crimes brought the heavy arm of the law on themselves, there is a lingering sense that the police were somehow unfair in ambushing them, rather than confronting them on an equal footing.
Apparently this resentment at the officers is shared by the ghosts of Bonnie and Clyde, for they are said to haunt the weathered memorial on the road commemorating their last stand. Here, they usually materialise as strange lights and mists (perhaps just ordinary lights and the common weather phenomenon of mist). Their stolen car is on display in Primm, Nevada, and is also said to be haunted by the ghosts of its most famous occupants. The Baker Hotel, Texas, played host to Bonnie and Clyde for several nights during their career, and their ghosts are sometimes seen in the ballroom.
This latter detail fits in with the unfairly sympathetic view of Bonnie and Clyde in popular culture. It has been speculated that they haunt the Baker Hotel to remember happier times, the specific location of the ballroom suggesting their (historically unattested) fun-loving side and the beautiful romance they are portrayed as having in modern interpretations. If we can apply rationality to the subject of ghosts, albeit briefly, surely two hardened murderers who beat and robbed desperate people during the Depression would come back as malevolent spirits to torment the living, rather than posing for tourist photographs and visiting a ballroom?