Hunter S. Thompson Sets His Christmas Tree on Fire, Nearly Burns His House Down (1990)

in Literature, Random | December 18th, 2015

It was something of a Christmas ritual at Hunter S. Thompson’s Colorado cabin, Owl Farm. Every year, his secretary Deborah Fuller would take down the Christmas tree and leave it on the front porch rather than dispose of it entirely. That’s because Hunter, more often than not, wanted to set it on fire. In 1990, Sam Allis, a writer for then formidable TIME magazine, visited Thompson’s home and watched the fiery tradition unfold. He wrote:

I gave up on the interview and started worrying about my life when Hunter Thompson squirted two cans of fire starter on the Christmas tree he was going to burn in his living-room fireplace, a few feet away from an unopened wooden crate of 9-mm bullets. That the tree was far too large to fit into the fireplace mattered not a whit to Hunter, who was sporting a dime-store wig at the time and resembled Tony Perkins in Psycho. Minutes earlier, he had smashed a Polaroid camera on the floor.

Hunter had decided to videotape the Christmas tree burning, and we later heard on the replay the terrified voices of Deborah Fuller, his longtime secretary-baby sitter, and me off-camera pleading with him, “NO, HUNTER, NO! PLEASE, HUNTER, DON’T DO IT!” The original manuscript of Hell’s Angels was on the table, and there were the bullets. Nothing doing. Thompson was a man possessed by now, full of the Chivas Regal he had been slurping straight from the bottle and the gin he had been mixing with pink lemonade for hours.

The wooden mantle above the fireplace apparently still has burn marks on it today. It’s one of the many things you can check out when Owl Creek starts running museum tours in the near future.

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via Gothamist

Related Content:

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Read 10 Free Articles by Hunter S. Thompson That Span His Gonzo Journalist Career (1965-2005)

by | Make a Comment (33)

Comments (33)

  1. Dan says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 10:16 am

    Hi there,

    Just curious, does anyone know who mentioned our post on their Facebook page today. Got a big surge of readers from them.

    Thanks in advance
    Dan (editor)

  2. JJ says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 10:22 am

    He gnawed on that tree’s bark.

  3. Sanjaya says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 10:25 am
  4. kathy ray says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 10:28 am

    the story is on ‘trending’.

  5. Dan Colman says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 10:36 am

    Sweet, that must be it. I know that it was on the HST Facebook page yesterday, but something new is happening today. Trending must be it.


  6. Greg Poris says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 10:30 am

    Thats awsome , what an idiot.

  7. Hunter S. Thompson says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 10:44 am


  8. Mickey says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 12:31 pm

    So the overrated “journalist” was also a stupid, drunk jackass. Got it.

  9. Sean says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 12:41 pm

    The admin of the Hunter S. Thompson page shared the link and Facebook picked it up as Trending.

  10. Colin F. says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 12:47 pm

    I first heard about Mr. Thompson from the Joe Rogan Podcast, I was interested so now I just set up notifications if new stories with his name pop up.

  11. Sean says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 12:59 pm

    Hunter lost his father when he was in high school and his mother was a severe alcoholic. It’s evident that throughout his career the same illness that destroyed his mother began to take ahold of him. Many psychologists suggest he was Bipolar and its hard to disagree. He wrote a lot about his love of alcohol and drugs (just not Ether) and one of his most well-documented trips into the darkness can be found in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. He always wrote with the passion of a hypomanic and like many famous artists, poets, and writers who came before him exhibiting the same affliction he committed suicide.

    The man was hardly overrated or an idiot, he suffered feel an illness that was imprinted on him at birth and was completely outside of his control.

    I long for the day that American’s wake up and start recognizing and treating mental illness with the attention they deserve instead of writing off genuiuses like Dr. Thompson as “just another drunken idiot”.

  12. Z Richter says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 1:14 pm

    A Page called Bat Country full of Thompson enthusiasts mentioned it

  13. d says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 1:58 pm

    I just ended up here from the “trending” news feed.

    I read a few intros and yours was of a unique tone, so I stopped by.

  14. d says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 2:03 pm

    Actually, checking out that feed shows that the link to this article is the single link being shared by the majority (10 of the top 19 posts checked).

  15. Owen says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 2:23 pm

    On the side of Facebook there is a trending column, and one of the trending things is this story. The first link when you click for more information is “”.

    It’s a mix of traffic from the fan page and Facebook’s trending tab.

  16. VirgilCutty says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    You almost got it. He was all those things except overrated. Now pull your lower lip over the top of your head and swallow. Good boy.

  17. Buzz Fugazi says . . .
    December 19, 2015 / 9:36 pm

    Trending on FB brought me here. HST, R.I.P. Glad to find out that Owl Farm will be enabling Gonzo Pilgrimage. See you there… sober and unarmed, but reverent just the same.

  18. Ronin says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 5:34 am

    Sorry, Mickey… you worked for how many magazines and have how many books in print?

  19. spooch says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 7:08 am

    misguided angel by the cowboy junkies, what a song to play while burning down the house, still in love with margo timmins to this day

  20. ThelemicWaves says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 7:45 am

    You misspelled Genius.

  21. Maddog Frenzy says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 7:55 am

    “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” -HST

  22. Vicki says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 9:32 am

    Greg and Mickey,

    In our country anyone is entitled to their own uninformed opinion. Artists and writers (good ones at least) view the world with a little madness. Just out of curiosity, have you read anything by Thompson?

    I know it may be too much for you to ponder so go sit in your big pleather chair and wait for your day long consumption of something you can understand like football or “real” wrestling.

  23. gysin says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 10:00 am

    R U Sirius reposted this

  24. Miss Bird says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 10:08 am

    The Hunter S Thompson fb page is where I found it.

    Met him in Boulder in 2003, late summer. Wrote a story about it.
    Would love to share sometime.
    Thanks for the vid! Ha!

    Best wishes, Miss Bird

  25. R. Goodman says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 10:21 am

    I don’t Thompson would be impressed that tours of his home may be in the offering….

  26. R. Goodman says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 10:24 am

    Overrated? You must not have read his works….the man, like him or not, is a literary and journalistic treasure.

  27. Hayduke says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 11:11 am

    Obviously, it was the pink lemonade that sent him over the edge.

  28. Scott Stewart says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 12:28 pm

    Anyone else amused that the Cowboy Junkies’ “Misguided Angel” is the soundtrack for this scene of mayhem?

  29. amulgated sheep lovers of america says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 12:31 pm

    A very different way to celebrate the absurdity called yuletime. Nobody hurt.

  30. Ryan says . . .
    December 20, 2015 / 2:04 pm

    Yes, it was the official Hunter S. Thompson Facebook page.

  31. Douglas says . . .
    December 21, 2015 / 2:17 pm

    Thanks for that. I couldn’t place the song and was trying to catch lyrics to look up. Misguided Angel it is indeed!

  32. Stephen Ripp says . . .
    December 22, 2015 / 7:26 am

    I find this behavior very normal for the good Dr.. He was always interested in experimenting how much the boundaries could be pushed. He makes the rest of us look like amateurs.

  33. Scott says . . .
    December 26, 2015 / 10:05 am

    It was posted on FB by The Criterion Collection.

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