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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