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.
2. Two Teen Misfits Go On A Weeklong Winter Murder Spree Across Nebraska’s Badlands in 1958
Charles “Little Red” Starkweather was a runty James Dean wannabe who’d been bullied while growing up for his poor vision, speech impediment, and pigeon toes. He would later remark, “They say this is a wonderful world to live in, but I don’t believe I ever did really live in a wonderful world.”
At age 19 he fell pompadour-over-heels for 14-year-old Caril Ann Fugate. In December 1957 he robbed and killed an attendant at a gas station where he’d reportedly been denied in an attempt to purchase a gift for Caril on credit.
On January 21, 1958, toting the rifle he seemed to carry with him everywhere, Starkweather paid a visit to the Fugate house, but Caril was not home. An argument about his gun escalated into murder when Starkweather shot both of Fugate’s parents to death and fatally bludgeoned her two-year-old sister using his rifle. When Caril Ann finally arrived home, seeing three dead family members left her unfazed—she reportedly watched TV while Starkweather made sandwiches and wrapped the corpses in newspaper. They placed a sign outside the door stating that everyone in the house was sick with the flu.
With police and neighbors growing suspicious after several days, they finally fled the house in a car. On January 27, they picked off a farmer and two teenagers—the latter pair were killed over a grand total of $4. They murdered three more people the next day and then killed a shoe salesman on January 29. They even managed to slip past a two-hundred-strong Nebraskan National Guard barricade before being apprehended on a lonely Wyoming road. All in all, the blood-soaked spree that had begun in Fugate’s house claimed 10 lives. Starkweather died in the electric chair at age 20, while Fugate was finally paroled in 1976.
The deadly duo’s exploits were immortalized in the 1973 film Badlands and the Bruce Springsteen song “Nebraska.”
3. Canada’s “Barbie & Ken” Killers Rape And Murder Three Girls On Videotape—Including Barbie’s Sister
They seemed like the perfect couple—far too good to be true.
This pair of toothy Canuck yuppies committed all three of their murders shortly before getting married, after which they applied to have their last names changed to “Teale” in honor of a serial killer from a fictional book.
Paul Bernardo—superficially charming, handsome, and hell-bent on success—was actually the “Scarborough Rapist,” who committed an estimated twenty or more sexual assaults of escalating severity on Canadian women in the late 1980s. When he met Karla Homolka—a veterinary assistant with a pretty yet emotionally flat face—she became the first of his girlfriends to egg on his sexual proclivities. She nicknamed his penis “Snuffles” and made it her duty to find young virgins for Paul to forcibly deflower.
Their first victim was Karla’s youngest sister Tammy, offered up because Tammy was still a virgin. In July of 1990, Karla fed Tammy some spaghetti sauce that had been laced with crushed Valium. Paul was able to rape Tammy for about a minute before she became conscious. Then in December, Karla knocked Tammy out with anesthetics she’d stolen from the veterinary clinic. The couple then proceeded to film themselves raping Karla’s unconscious sister while her parents slept upstairs. Tammy eventually choked to death on her own vomit, whereupon her killers cleaned her up and notified the authorities, who ruled it an accidental death.
On one of the many videotapes they made, Homolka performs oral sex on Bernardo while rubbing his genitals with her younger sister’s panties. She tells him:
I loved it when you fucked my little sister. I loved it when you fucked Tammy. I loved it when you took her virginity. I’m glad you made me lick her cunt….I want to rub Tammy’s underwear all over your body.
They would drug, rape, and kill two more girls who were in their mid-teens, all while videotaping it. Bernardo would later claim that it was Homolka who actually killed both girls.
Homolka was a seasoned manipulator skilled at playing the public’s presumption of innocence when it comes to female predators. An examining psychologist once said that “there is a moral vacuity in her which is difficult, if not impossible, to explain.” A Canadian reporter suggested that Homolka “simply lacks the moral gene.” Karla was able to plea-bargain to a sentence of only 12 years for her role in the murders. She was offered the deal before prosecutors became aware of all the videotapes that suggested her role in the murders was at least equal to that of Bernardo’s. She was released from prison in 2005 and now reportedly lives in Canada with at least three children she bore after her release.
4. Lovebirds Murder At Least 17 Women By Answering “Lonely Hearts” Ads
Raymond Fernandez was a brain-damaged Latin lover who allegedly believed he had magical powers to seduce women. Martha Beck was a morbidly obese mother of two who fell immediately under Fernandez’s magical powers when they started corresponding through a Lonely Hearts Club, which was the pre-computer era’s equivalent of Tinder.
Fernandez was impressed that Beck abandoned her two children to move in with him. He then laid out his scheme—she would pose as his sister while he seduced other women through Lonely Hearts ads. Then they would rob and kill the women before going on to their next victim.
From 1947-1949 they murdered at least 17 lonely, love-starved women. Most of the victims were poisoned, although Martha hammered one woman to death and drowned another woman’s young daughter. Raymond also boasted that he’d killed another woman during a long bout of forced sex in which the poor lady suffered a heart attack.
Beck and Fernandez proclaimed undying love for one another until March 8, 1951, whereupon they both were fried in the electric chair.