Bonnie and Clyde

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow died in 1934, but their exploits as outlaws and bank robbers continue to live on in infamy. The couple, along with sundry other murderous co-conspirators, roved the central U.S. during the Great Depression committing crimes that earned them fame and frustrated the authorities who chased them.

On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde drove through rural Bienville Parish between Shreveport and Ruston. A group of police officers from Louisiana and Texas joined forces and followed a tip that the pair would be in the area visiting the family of a fellow gang member.

The officers hid in the bushes along highway 154 between the towns of Gibsland and Sailes, guns drawn. As Bonnie and Clyde drove past in a stolen Ford V8, the officers opened fire, shooting 130 rounds into the vehicle. The couple sustained scores of wounds and died, ending their crime spree and the associated manhunt, ensuring their story would be immortalized.

Today, a small roadside attraction marks the spot where the couple died, about eight miles south of Gibsland on Highway 154 toward Sailes. Coming from Gibsland, you will pass it on the right. An older stone monument – not unlike a large tombstone – sits on the spot, though it’s long been the victim of vandalism; ironically, much of it gunfire. In 2014, a newer podium-style monument was erected that places the emphasis more on the “good guys,” the police who conducted the ambush.

Gibsland’s fascination with Bonnie and Clyde doesn’t end with these small monuments. Back in downtown, the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum has been open since 2005 in the former Ma Canfield’s Cafe. Here, Bonnie and Clyde stopped in the morning of their death and bought two sandwiches to go. Legend has it that Bonnie died with her sandwich in hand, half-eaten.

Among the museum’s many treasures are graphic photos of Bonnie and Clyde post-shooting, one of Clyde’s Remington shotguns, Bonnie’s hat, glass from the Ford V8’s windshield, and replicas of Bonnie and Clyde’s tombstones. There’s also a replica of the car the couple drove to their death, memorabilia like movie posters and a small gift shop. Visitors can also watch a short documentary on the couple.

For years, the museum had been run by L.J. “Boots” Hinton, the son of one of the officers involved in the ambush, but he retired in February due to health reasons. New owner Perry Carver is at the helm, and planned improvements and upgrades are underway.

As if that wasn’t enough, Gibsland is also home to the so-called Authentic Bonnie & Clyde Festival, which takes place each year on the weekend closest to the couple’s May 23 demise. The festivities include food, music, guest speakers, historical meetings, street vendors, and a parade with antique cars, and a classic car display. There is also a Bonnie and Clyde lookalike contest, from which professionals are strictly barred.

The festival culminates in a reenactment, which takes place on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. each year. Festival attendees head for Highway 154 and watch as actors drive a replica car down the road, to be met inevitably with a hail of gunfire and lots of fake blood.