Deep love is a form of madness that can inspire extreme behavior. In many cases, neither partner exhibited the merest inkling of such behavior before meeting and becoming entangled with their lover. If one or both partners has underlying mental disorders, an intense love affair may unmask or even multiply the psychiatric damage. In severe cases, one partner may be able to transmit their psychosis to another. This is technically known as “shared psychotic disorder,” but the French also have a term for it—folie à deux, or “a madness shared by two.”
All of the following cases combine love and murder—a madness shared by two.
1. The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde
Deep amid the bleak starving pits of the Great Depression, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow’s murderous love story captivated a nation disillusioned by authority figures and hungry for antiheroes. What seemed most fascinating was that although Clyde was mostly pulling the trigger, Bonnie appeared to be calling the shots.
Bonnie was a tiny ball of fire—a 4’11”, 90-pound, 19-year-old former honor-roll student who was already married to a man imprisoned for murder on that portentous day in 1930 when she met petty criminal Clyde Barrow and they instantly fell deep off a cliff for one another.
From 1931 to 1934 Bonnie and Clyde, as well as other members of the Barrow Gang, terrorized the south central USA with a blazing and brazen series of bank and store robberies that often left lawmen and passersby dead in a locust swarm of lead.
But it was their penchant for self-mythologizing—as expressed through Bonnie’s poetry and selfies that were uncovered at one of their hideouts—that made them American folk heroes as they consistently frustrated and evaded the law:
An excerpt from Bonnie’s poem “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde”:
They call them cold-blooded killers
They say they are heartless and mean
But I say this with pride, I once knew Clyde
When he was honest and upright and clean.
But the laws fooled around and taking him down
and locking him up in a cell
‘Til he said to me, “I’ll never be free,
So I’ll meet a few of them in hell.”
From 1931 to 1934, they are thought to have killed at least 13 people in shootouts that peppered their endless robberies and burglaries. In 1934 they were finally ambushed on a lonely Louisiana road by six armed lawmen who shot over 100 bullets into their car. They loved together and died together.
The 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway made them folk heroes to a new generation, with a hit single by Georgie Fame & The Blue Flames and a ballad by Merle Haggard adding to the legend.