Hunter S. Thompson’s Widow Returns Hemingway’s Stolen Elk Antlers

It’s just like it sounds.

A set of antlers similar to this one was recently returned to Ernest Hemingway's estate after a 54-year absence. (Photo: Erin Pence/iStock)

 

Note: Originally published August 19, 2016.

 

Hunter S. Thompson was reportedly ashamed, or at least coy, about what he had done. It was roughly three years after Ernest Hemingway had committed suicide in Ketchum, Idaho. Thompson was visiting the late author’s home, trying to find what had made the area so attractive to Papa in his final days. Over the entrance to the cabin was a 6×6 set of elk antlers (it’s unclear if they were from a Hemingway hunt, but they are presumed to be). When the admiring journalist left Ketchum and headed to his home in Aspen, Colorado, so did the antlers.

That was in 1964. Some 52 years later, the antlers are back in Ketchum, returned not by Thompson himself, but by his widow.

Anita Thompson recently gave an interview to BroBible.com in which she said, “He got caught up in the moment. He had so much respect for Hemingway. He was actually very embarrassed by it.”

Hunter, 27 at the time, wanted to understand what brought Hemingway back to Idaho after years as an expatriate in one country or another. He visited Papa’s Ketchum home while on assignment for The National Observer, then headed back to write an article about his conclusions. The antlers came off the cabin’s front doorpost and along for the ride.

Thompson never boasted about the theft; never invited friends over to see his prize. As much as the gonzo journalist loved to insert himself into stories and “tell it exactly as I saw it,” he was less than forthcoming about the antlers. They stayed in semi-seclusion for the remainder of his life, hung unceremoniously in his garage.

 

The Hemingway antlers, a 6x6 bull from an unknown hunt. (Photo: Anita Thompson/BroBible.com)
The Hemingway antlers, a 6×6 bull from an unknown hunt. (Photo: Anita Thompson/BroBible.com)

 

Thompson and Hemingway were similar in many respects: both spent time as reporters, wrote books, drank to excess, and, sadly, committed suicide. Thompson took his own life in 2005, leaving Anita with stolen property in her possession. She talked with her family several times about returning the antlers, a “Wouldn’t it be neat?” sort of talk she never expected to go anywhere. Finally, during the first week of August 2016, she made the 11-hour drive to Ketchum to return the trophy.

Hemingway’s machismo would have taken a hit by the antlers’ return: they traveled back to Idaho in a Prius.

The irony? Before Thompson died he nailed a piece of paper to his own front door. It read: “Please don’t steal from this home, by the management.”