Sales of Whitey Bulger memorabilia rise with film release
Boston — There’s a mugshot from Alcatraz, an autographed prison shirt and poker chips featuring his photo.
All kinds of memorabilia related to Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger is being peddled to coincide with the release of the new Johnny Depp movie on Bulger’s life.
“Black Mass” hit theaters last week. Now, Bulger items are all over eBay and sellers are hoping to cash in on the movie’s buzz.
Some relatives of Bulger’s victims aren’t happy about all the hawking.
Patricia Donahue, whose husband was killed by Bulger and an associate in 1982, said she doesn’t understand why anyone would want to buy or sell anything that belonged to Bulger.
“People just can’t seem to get enough of this man, who’s a psychopath,” she said.
“You try to make money off a man who has killed … and the victims’ families are still around. I think it’s in very bad taste. I think people should just let it rest and let it go.”
Bulger, now 86, was one of the most notorious gangsters in Boston, running a violent criminal organization from the 1970s into the 1990s after serving time in Alcatraz from 1959 to 1962 for armed robbery and truck hijacking. He fled Boston on the eve of a racketeering indictment in 1995 and remained one of the nation’s most wanted fugitives until he was captured in Santa Monica, California, in 2011.
In 2013, he was convicted of participating in 11 killings and a litany of other crimes. He is serving life in prison.
A memorabilia store in Peabody is auctioning off an orange jail-issued shirt supposedly worn by Bulger at the Plymouth County jail. Store owner Phil Castinetti said he has received a $25,000 bid from a Boston restaurant owner for the shirt. He said he bought the shirt from a former inmate who Bulger befriended in jail.
“Whitey took a liking to him. When the kid got released, he signed it and gave it to him and told him to get a jumpstart on life, do the right thing, and sell it,” Castinetti said.
Plymouth County Sheriff Joseph McDonald Jr. said he doesn’t believe the shirt is authentic or was ever worn by Bulger.
But Castinetti said he spoke with another inmate who told him he saw Bulger sign the shirt and give it to the inmate Castinetti bought it from. He plans to continue the phone auction until Oct. 4.
Even one of Bulger’s most vocal critics is selling two Bulger items on eBay, depictions of Bulger drawn by a courtroom sketch artist.
Steve Davis, the brother of a 26-year-old woman Bulger was accused of killing in 1982, said he decided to sell the sketches to try to raise money for the families of other Bulger victims.
The jury found Bulger guilty of participating in 11 murders, but acquitted him of playing a role in seven others. In the killing of his sister, Debra Davis, the jury issued a “no finding,” indicating they could not make a decision.
One sketch shows Bulger in court shortly after he was captured, with his brothers, former state Senate President William Bulger and former Boston Juvenile Court clerk magistrate John Bulger seated in the front row. The other shows the courtroom when the verdict was announced at Bulger’s trial. Davis said his original asking price for the sketches was $500,000, but he is willing to consider lower offers. He hadn’t received any bids by Wednesday, but Davis said he has received interest from a potential buyer.
“I’m not trying to profit off anything. I want to give it to the families,” Davis said.
He criticized others who try to profit off Bulger’s name.
“It sickens me. People trying to sell anything they can with his name on it,” he said. “This guy ain’t no movie star; he’s a rat scumbag.”
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