Hunter S. Thompson Sets His Christmas Tree on Fire, Nearly Burning 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.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

Hunter S. Thomp­son Chill­ing­ly Pre­dicts the Future, Telling Studs Terkel About the Com­ing Revenge of the Eco­nom­i­cal­ly & Tech­no­log­i­cal­ly “Obso­lete” (1967)

Hear the 10 Best Albums of the 1960s as Select­ed by Hunter S. Thomp­son

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

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