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

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:

Hunter S. Thompson’s Har­row­ing, Chem­i­cal-Filled Dai­ly Rou­tine

Hunter S. Thomp­son, Exis­ten­tial­ist Life Coach, Gives Tips for Find­ing Mean­ing in Life

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

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Comments (33)
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  • Dan says:

    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)

  • JJ says:

    He gnawed on that tree’s bark.

  • kathy ray says:

    the sto­ry is on ‘trend­ing’.

  • Greg Poris says:

    Thats awsome , what an idiot.

  • Hunter S. Thompson says:


  • Mickey says:

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

  • Sean says:

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

  • Colin F. says:

    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.

  • Sean says:

    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”.

  • Z Richter says:

    A Page called Bat Coun­try full of Thomp­son enthu­si­asts men­tioned it

  • d says:

    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.

  • d says:

    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).

  • Owen says:

    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.

  • VirgilCutty says:

    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.

  • Buzz Fugazi says:

    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.

  • Ronin says:

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

  • spooch says:

    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

  • ThelemicWaves says:

    You mis­spelled Genius.

  • Maddog Frenzy says:

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

  • Vicki says:

    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.

  • gysin says:

    R U Sir­ius repost­ed this

  • Miss Bird says:

    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

  • R. Goodman says:

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

  • R. Goodman says:

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

  • Hayduke says:

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

  • Scott Stewart says:

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

  • amulgated sheep lovers of america says:

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

  • Ryan says:

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

  • Douglas says:

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

  • Stephen Ripp says:

    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.

  • Scott says:

    It was post­ed on FB by The Cri­te­ri­on Col­lec­tion.

  • Ronald Pottol says:

    Yeah, hear­ing that song was a sur­prise, but that album (The Trin­i­ty Ses­sion, by Cow­boy Junkies) was released just two years ear­li­er, and is amaz­ing, record­ed with just a sin­gle micro­phone, also includes Lou Reed’s favorite cov­er of Sweet Jane. The review in the stereo snob mag­a­zine The Absolute Sound has a line I still remem­ber, “Peo­ple Mag­a­zine’s (review­er name for­got­ten) hat­ted it, I can­not think of a high­er endorse­ment”. Amaz­ing played loud on head­phones.

    And Hunter, speak­ing from some of my own expe­ri­ence, don’t use accel­erents, just wait anoth­er week, when it’s dry enough, you wont need any­thing! Burn­ing out in the open upright, it’s two min­utes from igni­tion with a cig­a­rette lighter to it just being a smok­ing pole. :-D

    Boy, is he missed

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