Murderabilia: 'Whitey' Bulger Items Go Up For Auction
Wanna walk in James "Whitey" Bulger's shoes?
His size 9 1/2 Asics sneakers — with extra cushion insoles — are among hundreds of items once owned by the convicted mobster that are being auctioned off by the government, to benefit Bulger's victims.
On the block is pretty much everything but the kitchen sink that was seized from the California apartment where Bulger was captured five years ago, with his girlfriend Catherine Greig, after 16 years on the run.
Think of it as a great big Gangster Garage Sale. There's heaps of the mundane, like little ceramic cats, dinner plates and used furniture from the modest Santa Monica apartment where the fugitives were trying to blend in as just another couple living out a quiet retirement.
But there are also some doozies. It turns out the former mob boss who went to the mat at his federal trial — denying he was ever a government informant — kept his pens in a ceramic mug in the shape of a rat.
"Read into that what you may," laughs Thomas J. Abernathy III, an assistant chief inspector for the U.S. Marshals Service asset forfeiture division. "You gotta love the rat-cup."
Apparently, many do. The pre-bidding price was already north of $2,500 on Friday morning, 24 hours before the live auction was set to begin.
Also hot is lot 1103: a sterling silver "psycho killer skull ring" worn by the killer now serving life in federal prison.
"It's definitely one of the most unique items we have here," Abernathy says.
All of Bulger's stuff will be staged at the auction to look like a replica of his apartment, complete with the boxing mannequin that stood in the fugitive's window, making it look like someone was watching his place.
For the right price, you can take home his wooden desk, couch or flat screen TV. You can buy his collection of books (many with handwritten notes in the margins), including one on how to change your identity. Or you can bid on his desk calendar with his personal notes, his hoodies and jeans, or the white hat he was wearing when he was caught.
But Abernathy says the Marshals did draw a line.
"We were obviously very careful in what we thought was tasteful and would bring in the most income to the victims," he says.
You will not find his deodorant, or any intimate apparel, on the block.
"We certainly don't want to glamorize or minimize the severity and the brutality of his crimes," says U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz. "On the other hand, we'd like to generate a certain amount of interest... and have a successful action."
'A Piece Of Boston History'
"What he did was horrible, but I have a weird nostalgia being from Southie," says Mark Jette, who still lives in Bulger's old neighborhood. He can recall interactions with Bulger as a teenager, around the neighborhood and at one of Bulger's favorite bars.
"We used to see him everywhere," Jette recalls. "I remember his driving up down, and all the kids would yell, 'He's here!' Him and Cadillac Man and all, they would hand out $5 bills to all the kids... So we saw a different side of him as kids."
Curtis Kelley, a cook who works in Southie, says he'd spend a thousand dollars for some Bulger memorabilia.
"I'm going, definitely I'll go," Kelley says. "Just to say I have a piece of Boston history."
Jette says he cringes at the idea of buying any so-called "murderabilia." But he says he is intrigued that he could own, for example, a pair of the sunglasses or one of the fedora hats he often saw Bulger wearing.
"If the proceeds are going to the victims, it's fine," Jette says.
But some of the victims and relatives see it differently.
"It sickens me to think, you know, the people and the hype on this," says Steve Davis, whose sister Debra Davis was strangled to death. "I mean, he was a rat bastard. He's a nobody!"
Davis says any proceeds from the auction won't be worth the pain it's stirring up all over again.
"I wish they'd put it to rest," he says. "They should have just destroyed everything. By the time I get a check... it's probably not even dinner money."
Especially since some of the most valuable things are not on the block, says Patricia Donahue, whose husband was killed by Bulger.
Federal law bars the government from selling any of the 30 guns Bulger had stashed away. And officials are still deciding what do to with the memoir that Bulger was in the midst of writing when he was caught.
"I think that would probably be more money than anything they have up there, but they don't want to release that," says Donahue.
One thing already going directly to victims: the $822,000 in cash that Bulger hid in his wall. Officials say they're already cutting those checks.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.