fb-pixel Skip to main content

On eve of Bulger auction, victims start to get share of seized money

The court-ordered auction next week of many of James “Whitey” Bulger’s worldly possessions will give the public a chance to bid on everything from his “psycho killer” skull ring to his plastic Christmas tree.
The court-ordered auction next week of many of James “Whitey” Bulger’s worldly possessions will give the public a chance to bid on everything from his “psycho killer” skull ring to his plastic Christmas tree.

The families of James “Whitey” Bulger’s victims will each soon receive a little over $39,000 — their share of $822,000 seized from the gangster’s Santa Monica, Calif., apartment after his capture five years ago, according to federal prosecutors.

Yet, authorities hope Bulger’s personal possessions and those of his girlfriend, Catherine Greig, will fetch a lot more at Saturday’s court-ordered auction to benefit the victims’ families.

Assistant US Attorney Mary B. Murrane said the government started sending checks to victims’ families this week, which mark the first payments they have received since the court approved the forfeiture of Bulger’s assets after his 2013 murder and racketeering conviction.


Proceeds from the auction and additional cash seized from the gangster will be distributed later.

The hundreds of items slated for auction were on display Friday for the first time at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and ranged from the pricey to the quirky to the downright mundane, and included a headless mannequin dressed in Bulger’s jeans, white hoodie, and shoes.

Bulger’s “psycho killer skull ring,” a skull belt buckle, his replica 1986 Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup champion ring, shoes, hats, sunglasses, cookware, Christmas decorations, a hand-carved pine crucifix, a Bible, an iron, a crockpot, framed photos of cats and dogs, a survival suit, binoculars, and a black leather reclining loveseat are among the offerings.

There’s also a vast collection of books, many about war, history, and crime, with handwritten notations from the opinionated Bulger.

“I thought it was a glorified yard sale,” said Patricia Donahue, whose husband, Michael, was shot to death by Bulger in 1982, after attending Friday’s preview. She said she was surprised by how unimpressive Bulger’s possessions were and gratified that he apparently didn’t live lavishly on the run.

While doubtful the items would fetch much, Donahue said, “I really hope they do well because it’s all about the victims.”


Bob Sheehan, whose Texas company, Gaston & Sheehan, is auctioning the items for the US Marshals Service, described them as ”more your average guy type of things that you and I would have in our home.”

Greig’s diamond ring, appraised at $15,000 to $20,000, is the most valuable item, followed by Bulger’s gold diamond claddagh ring, assessed at $10,000 to $15,000, according to Sheehan.

He predicted items of nominal value will attract collectors looking for a piece of something Bulger owned.

By Friday, a preliminary bid of $2,600 was made for the rat-shaped pencil holder owned by Bulger, a longtime FBI informant, on the auctioneer’s website, txauction.com. People may bid at the auction, which starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at the convention center, or online through the website, which will simulcast it.

Another item of interest is a framed, slightly tattered American flag, which includes a handwritten note by Greig, apparently recounting how Bulger rescued it.

She wrote: “In the summer of 2004, on a busy crowded street a man was sweeping the ground with the flag. A patriotic passerby watched and watched then ... he stepped forward and took the flag off the ground and cleaned it. Slowly people from the road came to shake his hand.”

Bulger, who loved to read and was a military history buff, wrote notes in many of the books being offered at auction..

In the margins of “Ghettostadt,” by Gordon Horwitz, Bulger wrote that the Auschwitz concentration camp should have been reopened to house Nazi guards.


In “Last Train to Alcatraz,” by Leon “Whitey” Thompson, Bulger, who served time at the notorious prison for bank robbery, wrote that the author had done “a disservice” to the inmates and, “This work is strictly fiction.”

There is also a handwritten note by Bulger, complaining about a CIA-sponsored LSD experiment he was duped into participating in the 1950s while in prison. “Unethical treatment,” he wrote. “Manic elation to the depths of depression.”

Bulger, 86, who is serving a life sentence at a federal penitentiary in Florida, was convicted in 2013 of participating in 11 murders while running a sprawling criminal organization from the 1970s to the 1990s.

He was acquitted of seven other slayings and jurors could not reach a decision on whether he strangled 26-year-old Debra Davis in 1981.

Under a court-ordered agreement, the proceeds of the auction and cash seized from Bulger will be split among the families of 20 people murdered by Bulger or his crew and three Bulger extortion victims.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shelleymurph.