An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Hunter S. Thompson's Widow Opens Doors To His 'War Room'


After gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson died 12 years ago, his widow couldn't bring herself to touch anything. She's left his home office pretty much as is. Now she's turning it into a museum and artist's retreat. Aspen Public Radio's Claire Woodcock took a look for our Backstage Pass series.

CLAIRE WOODCOCK, BYLINE: Hunter S. Thompson called it The War Room. It's in the basement area of his home in Woody Creek near Aspen, Colo. He would spend up to 16 hours a day in this room writing articles for Rolling Stone and cult classics like "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas."

ANITA THOMPSON: Well, this room is full of history. And it's not something I take lightly.

WOODCOCK: It's been a journey for Thompson's widow, Anita, since her husband's suicide more than a decade ago. For a long time, she let very few people in here. The wall above his desk is covered with Polaroids, press passes and letters. She picks up a ruler.

THOMPSON: And it says, character is action on both sides in Hunter's handwriting. He understood from an early age that acting on your thoughts and on all the things you want to do for the world and for yourself and to make the world a better place - you need to act, whether that be writing or protesting or resisting.

WOODCOCK: Hunter S. Thompson was known for gonzo journalism, writing without any pretense of objectivity with the reporter as part of the story and, in his case, a reputation for being difficult. Here's actor Johnny Depp playing Raoul Duke, one of Thompson's drug-addled personas in the 1998 film adaptation of "Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas."


JOHNNY DEPP: (As Raoul Duke) We had two bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid.

WOODCOCK: Hunter hired Anita about two decades ago to help with his archives. They fell in love and got married. And even after his death, she's still uncovering new things about him.

THOMPSON: It's been a pleasure to unearth some things, you know, in the files and learn more about the love of my life through his history.

WOODCOCK: Anita Thompson kept everything the way the writer left it because it provided a sense of stability for her during a frightening time, even the massive amount of ammunition Hunter had. He liked guns.

THOMPSON: I wouldn't let anybody dust. I just felt like maybe if I left everything as it is somehow he would come back. Even if I knew that wasn't true, it did bring me comfort.

WOODCOCK: Anita left to finish her bachelor's degree in New York, coming home once a month to check up on things. While she was away, she realized the significance of Owl Farm as a literary landmark.

THOMPSON: My lawyer asked me - he said, so you're saving all the manuscripts and letters and photos and why - the beer cans. What, do you save every gum wrapper? And I said, well, why do I have to make any decisions about what to save and what to throw away? I just simply don't throw anything away. Would you throw Mark Twain's gum wrapper away (laughter)?

WOODCOCK: Johnny Depp, by then a close friend, did buy 800 boxes of Thompson's archives. That cleared out space. After renovations, one side of the house will become a museum. The other part will be a place where writers and musicians can stay and work on long-term projects.

THOMPSON: And I hope those who visit Owl Farm, it helps them find their own voice.

WOODCOCK: She hopes to have Owl Farm ready for guests in about two years. But she may not make that deadline, which is OK with Anita Thompson. She says she wants it done right. For NPR News, I'm Claire Woodcock.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINKANE'S "JEEPER CREEPER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claire Woodcock