The Realtor’s listing says it all: “Although the current children are perfectly normal – Hunter S. Thompson grew up here!”
That’s right, the Gonzo journalist’s childhood home in Louisville is for sale.
Thompson’s father, Jack, bought the two-story, stucco bungalow in the Cherokee Triangle for $4,100 in the winter of 1943. The asking price now for 2437 Ransdell Ave. is $435,000. (UPDATE: The house sold June 24 for $412,500, according to the property records database of The Courier-Journal.)
Thompson, who committed suicide in 2005 at age 67, is almost as famous for his wild drug- and alcohol-induced behavior as for his rambling, first-person narratives that became known as Gonzo Journalism. The Rolling Stone magazine correspondent and author of several books, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is perhaps most famous locally for his classic 1970 magazine story, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.
“Jim Thompson, nine years younger, remembered his older brother as a wild man who terrorized their house,” author William McKeen writes in Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson, which will be published in July by W.W. Norton.
McKeen said Jim Thompson told him about an elaborate tableau of the Gates of Hell that his brother painted on his bedroom floor. “He kept a rug over it, but required little prompting to reveal it to visitors,” McKeen writes.
Unfortunately – or, perhaps, fortunately – the Gates of Hell were sanded off the floor years ago, said McKeen, who heads the journalism school at the University of Florida.
The bullet holes also have been patched, said Hunter Thompson’s childhood friend, Gerald Tyrrell.
“I was in the house with him when he took his .22 rifle and, by mistake, put a bullet through the bedroom floor,” Tyrrell, 69, said in an interview Wednesday.
“The bullet went through the china cabinet downstairs and missed a plate by not much. There was a shard of wood in the corner of the cabinet that was just hanging. His mother and grandmother were out of the house at the time, so we glued it back and nobody ever noticed.”
Tyrrell said he has fond memories of the house: “We went to Hunter’s house every day after school, or all day if there wasn’t school. All of the neighborhood kids were there.”
Thompson amassed a large army of lead soldiers in the basement, which they used to wage epic battles in the in fortifications they dug in the backyard. His bedroom was filled with books – he was always a voracious reader – and lots of mementoes, including a flag he swiped from the nearby golf course, Tyrrell said.
When Tyrrell was in high school, his father made him stop hanging out with Thompson, who by then was frequently in trouble with the law for a wide assortment of petty crimes. After serving 30 days in jail on a robbery charge, Thompson left Louisville for the Air Force and returned only occasionally.
The 2,600-square-foot bungalow has been owned for 21 years by Rick McDonough, an editor with The Courier-Journal.
“An awful lot of people drive by and snap pictures,” McDonough said. After Thompson’s suicide, several people knocked on his door to express their grief, and somebody even left a filter-tip cigar and flowers on the sidewalk.
“It’s a curiosity,” he said. “But I don’t know that anyone’s willing to pay a premium for it.”