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Bidders pay $109,000 for pieces of ‘Whitey’ Bulger’s life at large

Steven Davis, the brother of Debra Davis who was allegedly killed by mobster Whitey Bulger, kept track of the items sold at the auction.John Tlumacki

Some came for the slice of local history, others showed up to support victims and their families, and one man just wanted to have a beer while wearing James “Whitey” Bulger’s slippers.

“I needed a nice pair of slippers,” said Rockland resident Richard Kemp, who spent $210 on Bulger’s used shoes and slippers Saturday at the court-ordered auction of hundreds of items belonging to Bulger and his girlfriend, Catherine Greig. “I’m gonna relax, sit around, and drink a beer in Whitey’s slippers.”

Billy Brooks, 47, of Hingham paid $3,600 Saturday for Bulger’s rat-shaped pencil holder, one of the most coveted pieces at the auction — given the gangster’s status as a longtime FBI informant.


“It was kind of an expensive joke,” Brooks conceded.

Brooks also left the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center sporting Bulger’s replica 1986 Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup championship ring on his right pinky, and the gangster’s hand-carved pine crucifix tucked under his arm.

He paid $9,100 for the ring, inscribed: “Thanks Jim, Love Chris & Karen.”

Karen Stanley, the daughter of Bulger’s other longtime girlfriend, was married to Chris Nilan, a member of the Canadiens championship team.

The US Marshals Service, which held the auction to benefit the families of Bulger’s victims, said the total proceeds were $109,295 — with Bulger’s gold diamond claddagh ring fetching the highest price, $23,000.

Colm Dunphy, a 52-year-old Quincy real estate developer, said he bought the ring because he liked it and “It’s my birthday.”

He said the ring was the only reason he came to the auction and he was willing to spend “as much as it took.”

Most of the items were seized from the Santa Monica, Calif., apartment that Bulger and Greig shared as fugitives until their capture in June 2011 after 16 years on the run. Other items came from a London safe deposit box and homes in South Boston, Quincy, and Louisiana.


South Boston attorney Richard Lane, a close friend of Greig’s twin sister, Margaret McCusker, paid $110 for an assortment of items, including framed photographs of cats and dogs, many the beloved pets of the gangster and his girlfriend.

“I bought the cat pictures that I want to give Margaret and keep them in the family,” Lane said. “I think as you get older you try to keep whatever you can of your past that means something to you.”

He said Greig, 65, who is serving 10 years in prison for helping Bulger evade capture and contempt of court, might want the photos when she is released in 2020.

One of the framed photos is of Tiger, a stray cat that Greig doted on — drawing the attention of a neighbor who would eventually tip the FBI to their whereabouts. Bulger later lamented in a letter, “A cat got me captured.”

Lane also left the auction with Bulger’s and Greig’s black leather, reclining loveseat, purchased for $35.

There were only 75 registered bidders at the convention center, but another 225 online bidders made for a lively auction.

The highest appraised item, Greig’s diamond ring, sold to an online bidder for $14,500 — slightly below its assessed value. Another online bidder paid $6,400 for the white fisherman style hat Bulger was wearing when he was captured.

John Kelley, 54, of Andover paid $5,200 for one of the prized items at the auction: Bulger’s ”psycho killer skull ring.” He also paid $4,900 for the boxing mannequin Bulger topped with a safari hat and propped in the window of his apartment to make it appear as if someone were keeping watch; and $1,000 for 10 of Bulger’s hats.


Kelley said he bought the hats for his fiancee’s father, who is called Whitey by his family because of his strong resemblance to the 86-year-old former South Boston crime boss.

While paying for some of the items, Kelley recognized Steve Davis, whose sister was allegedly strangled by Bulger, standing a few feet away. The two men hugged after Kelley apologized for Davis’s loss and said he hoped he wasn’t offended by the auction.

“People got hurt,” Kelley said. “The money will help them out. We’re just here to support the families.”

Davis, who bid on Bulger’s walkie-talkies, coins, and some other items, said, “Basically I was just trying to boost the values up.”

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

The money raised at the auction will be split among the families of 20 people murdered by Bulger or his crew and three Bulger extortion victims, after auction and storage costs are deducted, according to authorities.

Torrey Browne, 40, of Holbrook eyed some books in Bulger’s vast collection on war and crime.


“I’m curious to see the handwritten notes . . . to see inside the head of a killer,” said Browne, referring to Bulger’s notations in the margins.

But Browne said he had mixed feelings about purchasing them.

“I’m wary about bringing that bad Whitey mojo into my house,” he said.

Shelley Murphy can be reached at shmurphy@globe.com. Reis Thebault can be reached at Reis.Thebault@globe.com.