Hunter S. Thompson Declared War On Christmas, Burned Christmas Tree In 1990

Hunter S. Thompson was never a writer to do things by half measures, and a video of the writer stuffing his Christmas tree into the fireplace that surfaced seems to only cement his reputation as a bit of an eccentric. Hunter S. Thompson, creator of the term “gonzo journalism,” was being interviewed by Time’s Sam Allis, according to Open Culture, and apparently caused great concern.

“I gave up on the interview and started worrying about my life,” Allis said in witnessing Hunter S. Thompson’s annual Christmas tradition.

Hunter S. Thompson Declared War On Christmas, Burned Christmas Tree In 1990

Thompson’s secretary Deborah Fuller would move the Christmas tree onto the front porch in order to prevent the writer from indulging in his Christmas firelighting experiences. However, Christmas 1990 marked Hunter S. Thompson’s desire to set the tree on fire in the living room fireplace, and much to Allis’ horror, he chose to do this with a box of 9 mm bullets nearby.

Deborah Fuller, his secretary or babysitter, depending on the account, can be heard on the video, pleading with Hunter S. Thompson to not stuff the tree in the fireplace. Before Allis came to interview Thompson, Thompson told Fuller, according to Dangerous Minds, “Let’s give the journalist a memorable experience to write about. He needs to learn how to burn the creosote out of a chimney. We can’t run the risk of a chimney fire during the year.”

Hunter S. Thompson was an American author and activist who was frequently fuelled by a mix of alcohol and drugs throughout his career as he always looked for the next story to chase. He went on to write two novels that were later adapted into Hollywood screenplays: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, about his drug-fuelled adventures through Las Vegas, and The Rum Diary.

Hunter S. Thompson Declared War On Christmas, Burned Christmas Tree In 1990

According to Biography, in a celebration of his life, Hunter S. Thompson’s ashes were shot from a cannon while Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” played. Certainly, this comes as no surprise for a man who counted burning his Christmas tree in a fireplace – a definite fire hazard – as a Christmas tradition.

Christmas trees represent some $13 million in damage annually for homeowners, according to the American Christmas Tree Association. While a fireplace glowing brightly near a beautifully decorated tree might be picturesque, it also represents a significant fire hazard. Real Christmas trees should be regularly watered, but eventually, they do dry out. The heat release value from a Christmas tree with a low moisture level can soar to over 3 megawatts, one of the highest heat release rates for any consumer goods or items, Doctor Fire reports.

To be sure, Hunter S. Thompson would have been in no condition to worry about the risk he was posing to his home. The renowned author was a notorious alcoholic with serious drug dependencies. Shortly before he decided to burn the Christmas tree, Hunter S. Thompson smashed a Polaroid camera on the floor. He was so serious about setting the tree on fire that he added lighter fluid to it in an effort to ensure it burned in the too-small fireplace.

On the video, the voices of Fuller and Allis can be heard, pleading with Hunter S. Thompson to stop trying to stuff the tree into the fireplace. According to reports, burn marks can still be seen on the fireplace mantle. Allis said in his account that whether the tree could fit in the fireplace did not matter at this point to Hunter S. Thompson; he was full of Chivas Regal and gin mixed with pink lemonade.

While many, including Johnny Depp, have long since been enamored with Hunter S. Thompson’s work, the author’s questionable mental stability is clearly in evidence in the recently surfaced video. While Thompson may have been an outstanding writer, it would seem that he enjoyed the heat of a moment a little too much.

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)