StMU Research Scholars

Bonnie and Clyde’s Darkest Hour

Bonnie and Clyde’s days were slowly getting numbered. Their last few robberies occurred in Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana. They had to be extremely careful, realizing that they can get recognized, as had happened in Missouri and Iowa that left multiple casualties. The couple would sleep in their car during the night and drive during the day to avoid scrutiny. With bad luck, the couple were setup in Grand Prairie, Texas in November 1933 by the Dallas Texas Rangers and deputies. They escaped the officers’ bullets and reached an attorney on the freeway. They held him up at gunpoint and fled with his car, towards Louisiana. The couple were already accustomed to their situations, always too close for comfort.1

Bonnie and Clyde met in Texas in January, 1930. Before that time, Clyde was born into a family of a poor farmer. Clyde had a passion for music and at one point was considering to pursue a career in music. Influenced negatively by his older brother Buck, and a shady family friend, Clyde went from learning how to play instruments to stealing cars. Bonnie was very similar to Clyde when growing up, as she also had a love for music and acting. She always had a dream of performing on the silver screen. When Bonnie was nineteen, she was married to Roy Thornton, who was just another criminal. Clyde who was twenty-one and  unmarried, was already sent to prison a little while after the couple met. He was able to escape with the help of Bonnie, who had snuck him a gun, but he was later recaptured and sent back to prison. Clyde was paroled in February 1932, and rejoined Bonnie to resume their life of crime with each other.2

The Rangers responsible for the capture and killing of Bonnie and Clyde | Wikimedia

With the capture of the couple’s friend “Jones” (who rode with the couple for eight months) on November 16, 1933, law enforcement learned of the close ties Bonnie and Clyde had with their families. This resulted in another ambush attempt, which led to putting their mothers in danger. Clyde was furious and decided to retaliate by being focused on the East Ham Prison Farm.3 In January 1934, Clyde broke out an old friend, Raymond Hamilton, who had previously been a part of the Barrow gang. A guard was killed and multiple prisoners escaped. Among those prisoners was Henry Methvin, who had begun riding with Bonnie and Clyde. The crime spree began once again, to include the brutal murder of two motorcycle cops, who were parked and waiting for an Easter meeting with family members. Henry Methvin got spooked and shot at the first cop, then Clyde shot the second cop. By mid-afternoon they played dead by their motorcycle on what was then a country road off Texas 114. But the end was near.

Clyde’s bullet riddled Ford V8 sedan with Texas Rangers in the background, 1934 | Courtesy PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX

Referring to the importance of values Bonnie and Clyde had with their families, the Rangers once again set up another ambush. This ambush would involve Methvin’s family this time. When police learned that Methvin had split up from the couple on the evening of May 19, 1934, they realized this was a huge opportunity. Police assumed they would search for Henry at his father’s farm, so they planned an ambush along the road that the outlaws were expected to take. The six rangers confiscated Iverson Methvin’s truck (Henry Methvin’s father) and removed one of its tires, then placed it alongside highway 164, which is between Sailes and Gibsland, LA. They figured if Clyde saw the truck, they would slow down and want to investigate. Sure enough, they were right. At 9:15 am on May 23, 1934, they saw Clyde’s stolen Ford v8 slow down while approaching the truck. The officers opened fire at the car, killing Bonnie and Clyde instantly. About 130 bullets were fired at the car, blowing a hole in the back of Clyde’s head and shooting off Bonnie’s right hand.4

The bodies of Bonnie & Clyde, 1934 | Courtesy PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX

 Bonnie’s wish was to be buried next to Clyde, but their families had different wishes. Although they created a romantic image of two young lovers running from the big, bad cops, Clyde’s driving skills, Bonnie’s poetry, and her beauty, it was destroyed by the truth. Though they often captured police who caught up to them and let them off unharmed hours and hundreds of miles later, they killed thirteen people, some bystanders slain during bungled robberies.5 They really never got away with much money when they robbed banks. Bonnie and Clyde were desperate criminals, sleeping in their most recently stolen car and constantly fearing death in a hail of bullets from a police ambush. Still, they were the stuff of legends.

  1. Encyclopedia Brittanica, 2019, s.v. “Bonnie and Clyde,” by John Phillip Jenkins.
  2. Jeff Guinn, “The Irresistible Bonnie Parker,”  Smithsonian (website), April 2009.
  3. Pauline Kael, “ Bonnie and Clyde,” The New Yorker, October 1967.
  4. John Treherne, The Strange History of Bonnie and Clyde ( New York: Stein and Day, 1985) 143-151.
  5. Karen Blumenthal, Bonnie and Clyde: The making of a legend (New York: Vikings Children Books, 2018), 51-56.

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70 Responses

  1. Bonnie and Clyde are so iconic. Two lovebirds that loved causing trouble, but if we’re being honest it was more than that. They were people trying to make it in life. They really had nothing going for them since they were children they were influenced to do bad things although they wanted to be something great. In the end, it caught them and got them killed in a way history will know them forever.

  2. Growing up you hear about the romanticized version of Bonnie and Clyde. Ive actually never heard the real story about the. I never knew they had a spree killing of 13 people. Now knowing this and seeing people every year dress up like Bonnie and Clyde for Halloween or keep romanticizing it just feels weird now. Couples always compare to Bonnie and Clyde and how they were partners till the end and they died together but this story shouldn’t be one of the most iconic romantic stories of all time.

  3. I find it so interesting that the story of Bonnie and Clyde is so often romanticized. Like the article says, they ended up killing a total of 13, innocent people. There’s not much to romanticize about that. And as far as criminals go, it seems like they weren’t even necessarily that good at it. They lived a hard life of crime that meant going from town to town, sleeping in their car, and hiding from police. I wonder what caused them to become such a popular, romanticized story.

  4. Was their goal to be known or did they commit all these crimes for the satisfaction of it. I really don’t understand how they could live like this. I think its very wrong to have used their mothers to reel them in to being arrested. Especially if they were close to their family that is too far. They should’ve planted the truck before they used the mothers. This was a great article to read to get a glimpse at the infamous Bonnie and Clyde.

  5. This was a great article, I have always known who bonnie and Clyde were but I never took the time to research and truly learn about them. It was great to be able to read about their background and what they had done beside running from the police. I had never knew about the polices tactics t0 catching them, I never knew they ambushed their mothers. It is so interesting how protective they were of their families, especially considering Clydes family had such a negative influence on him.

  6. This was a great article! I have always heard of Bonnie and Clyde but never bothered to research them or their story. I am so glad I decided to read this article because it showed me that the romantic image of Bonnie and Clyde was really a lie and were just two people with no money and nowhere to go. You did an amazing job depicting the story of Bonnie and Clyde. great work!

  7. I read this article with little knowledge about Bonnie and Clyde, as I only heard that they were this iconic couple who would commit crimes together. I feel like if their living circumstances and influences were different, they would have lived different lives but would still have met because their dream lives were very similar. Media has romanticized their love for decades but once you read how it was actually like, you can see that this kind of lifestyle would not have ended well under any circumstances.

  8. The story of Bonnie and Clyde is iconic. They were two lovebirds that loved causing trouble but it was more than that. They were people trying to make it in life, you could say. They really had nothing going for then since they were children they were influenced to do bad things although they wanted to be something great. In the ned it caught to them and got them killed in way history will know them forever.

  9. I always thought of Bonnie and Clyde’s story as a “runaway lovers” kind of love story, but it turns out to be the total opposite. One thing I found interesting from their story is that this young couple actually had dreams that they wanted to accomplish in the future but were discouraged by their unsupportive lifestyle. After having some understanding of their story, I hope the media stop glorifying this type of relationship because, in the end, it wasn’t even a happy ending at all.

  10. To be honest, this article is very interesting to read. I have heard so many stories about this couple; however, it is actually my first time reading about Bonnie and Clyde’s story and how their story came to an end. Something that really caught my attention was how Clyde’s family, instead of supporting him and his dreams of pursuing a music career, influenced him negatively and helped him turn into the person he became. I would definitely like to read more about their story after reading this article.

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