‘In Cold Blood’ murder house in Holcomb, Kansas

image from: www.pinterest.com

image from: www.pinterest.com

On a cold mid-November night in 1959, this unassuming farmhouse in rural Kansas was the location of the brutal murders of 4 members of the Clutter family.

The case – and the house – became infamous after flamboyant American writer Truman Capote took an interest in the homicides and decided to visit the small town where the crime took place in Holcomb, Kansas.

Truman Capote:

image from: www.pbs.org

image from: www.pbs.org

Capote was so taken with the murders that he embarked on a 6 year-long journey of chronicling the story and the capture, prosecution, & execution of the perpetrators  Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Edward Smith.

Capote’s odyssey resulted in his opus magnum: In Cold Blood, which later became a major motion picture in 1967.

The house at the center of it all sits at the end of Oak Avenue on 7 acres of pastoral farmland.

image from: en.wikipedia.org

image from: en.wikipedia.org

The original farmstead was called “River Valley Farm” and locals still refer to the property as such. The current 2-story farmhouse was built in 1948 for $40,000 by Herb Clutter in order to house his family of six.

If you haven’t read the book or seen the original movie about the Clutter murders (or the more recent 2005 Hollywood film Capote), let me fill you in on the crime.

Two criminally-minded drifters heard rumors that Herb Clutter was a wealthy farmer who kept $10,000 hidden inside his house outside rural Holcomb. On the night of November 14, 1959, they broke into the family home with the intent of robbing the family.

When they did not find the money, the pair became enraged and ended up shooting/slashing Herb Clutter, his wife Bonnie, and their 2 youngest children Nancy, 16, and Kenyon, 15. (Two older daughters were already grown and out of the house.)

The Clutter family victims:

image from: incoldbloodtrumancapote.blogspot.com

image from: incoldbloodtrumancapote.blogspot.com

1959 crime scene photo:

image from: www.dailymail.co.uk

image from: www.dailymail.co.uk

Six weeks after the heinous murders of the Clutter family, Dick Hickock and Perry Smith were arrested - thanks to a jailhouse snitch. After five years of trials and appeals, they were both hanged on April 14, 1965.

Once Truman Capote’s book was released the following January, the town of Holcomb - and particularly the Clutter farm - became the focal point of widespread fascination with the crime. The 1967 film adaptation In Cold Blood was actually filmed on location in Holcomb and inside the actual house on Oak Avenue where the murders took place.

*shivers*

image from: roadtrippers.com

image from: roadtrippers.com

The house was sold in 1964 to a divorced cattle rancher named Bob Byrd. Byrd, however, traveled frequently to tend to his ranches and was hardly ever at the Clutter house. He was the one who rented out the house to the film crew for the 1967 movie. Tragically, Bob Byrd committed suicide after 20 years of owning the property - though not inside the house.

In 1990, Leonard and Donna Mader purchased the house from two of Bob Byrd’s relatives who lived there for a time after his suicide. The Maders were long-time Holcomb residents already familiar with the Clutter house, having visited there numerous times.

image from: http://www.hauntedcolorado.com

image from: http://www.hauntedcolorado.com

In 2006 the house went up for sale – actually, it went up for auction. But it failed to get an adequate minimum bid and was subsequently taken off the market. Presumably it is still owned by the Mader family.

Here are some interior photos from when the house was listed in 2006:

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

Above is the kitchen with original cabinets designed by Herb Clutter himself.

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

Below: the ominous steps to the basement where Mr. Clutter was shot and killed:

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

1959 crime scene photo of the basement:

image from: www.gcpolice.org

image from: www.gcpolice.org

(Don’t worry – I didn’t use any dead body pictures in this post.)

The upstairs hallway:

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

The master bedroom where Mrs. Clutter was found dead:

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

That same bedroom in 1959 after her body had been removed:

image from: www.gcpolice.org

image from: www.gcpolice.org

Another upstairs bedroom:

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

image from: ww.hauntedcolorado.net

Truman Capote posed here for a magazine article promoting his book in 1967:

image from: www.theguardian.com

image from: www.theguardian.com (photographer: Steve Schapiro/Corbis)

The current owners of the Clutter murder scene house have been pestered by morbid lookiloos since they first bought the house over 2 decades ago.

At one point in the early 1990′s they were so frustrated with all the unwanted visitors, that they decided to open the house up for tours and charge people a $5 fee so that they could have some monetary compensation for their troubles. The house tours, however, were short-lived because the Mader family grew weary of having to keep their home in show-ready “museum” condition. (Ugh, I know the feeling!) Plus, relatives of the deceased accused the Maders of trying to profit from the tragedy.

image from: www2.ljworld.com

image from: www2.ljworld.com

Rumors persist that the house is haunted by the ghost of Nancy Clutter – the pretty teenage daughter of Herb Clutter – whose apparition is said to walk the house at night. But this claim is probably more of an internet fabrication than a true tale since the current owners claim no paranormal activity takes place there.

Today, the entrance to the property on Oak Avenue is guarded by large “No Trespassing” and “Private Drive” signs.

image from: www2.ljworld.com

image from: www2.ljworld.com

But people still show up at the end of the lane to take pictures and gawk at the house where 4 members of the Clutter family were killed in cold blood.

Truman Capote’s non-fiction book In Cold Blood, went on the become one of the best-selling true crime novels of all time.

image from: www.abc.net.au

image from: www.abc.net.au

Sadly, Capote became so obsessed with the case that he descended into severe depression and alcoholism and never again published another full-length book. He died in 1984 from liver cancer.

No happy endings in this one folks. :(

 

~~~

***Please note that the former Clutter house on Oak Avenue is a privately owned residence. Please respect the right to privacy of the current occupants of the house.

 

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Cold_Blood

http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/clutter-family-home

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/apr/06/in_the_end/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2010/08/09/haunted-homes.html#38bd1069-1970-414f-a5d2-020ae531d771

https://roadtrippers.com/places/in-cold-blood-clutter-house-holcomb/22745

http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/family/clutter/3.html

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/nov/16/truman-capote-in-cold-blood

http://www.hauntedcolorado.net/In_Cold_Blood_House.html

 

[A special thank you to Deanne for requesting this post!]

 

 

 

16 Responses to ‘In Cold Blood’ murder house in Holcomb, Kansas

  • Pingback: 'In Cold Blood' murder house in Holcomb, Kansas...

  • livewire1965 says:

    Sad story but the home is still beautiful

    • Jeff Balaam says:

      I was fortunate enough after getting in contact with one of the owners daughters to be invited out for the day to The Clutter House. It was a 3 year back and forth communication but finally got the thumbs up. I guess I would have been cautious to if I were them….but anyway after a 40 year interest in the case….this was an lifetime dream to be able to be inside that house. It was surreal when I first walked in and I actually was shaking for the first hour because I could not believe I was there. The owners are such kind people Herb Clutter would be proud they’ve taken such good care of the house. I thought perhaps I would have some anxiety as I toured and sat in each room…..and spent time in the basement…..but I didn’t….It’s just a beautiful house on beautiful land where something unthinkable happened over 50 years ago. I thought I knew everything about the house but learned many new things such as there’s a fourth room upstairs next to where Bonnie Clutter was murdered. There is a “Summer Kitchen” they call it where you can shut all the doors off to the main house and there’s another kitchen that leads out into the back of the home. Alot of other things too that I’m so happy to have learned. Next month it will be a year ago and I still can’t believe that April Sunday I spent there…..as it was turning nightfall…..I walked back and forth, down and back the long chinese elm drive that leads to house….the one Capote so beautifully describes in the beginning of the book….

      • housecrazy says:

        Jeff, thanks for sharing that. It is somehow comforting to know that the house is well taken care of, and I like the way you’ve mentioned that Herb Clutter would be proud.

        • Jeff Balaam says:

          Oh you are welcome….I could talk about it all day long. I was 10 years old when I saw the Richard Brooks Film and it just became a passion of mine all these years…absorbing everything I could. Mrs. Mader made the nicest compliment to me as I was leaving…she said they had never met a nicer person who had come to see the house and that I knew more than did…..I cherish her saying that. I can still see her sitting in the dining room of the house and I hugged her thanked her…(And I’ve done so a million times since as well as to her wonderful daughter who set the visit up) They presented me with a beautiful framed photo of the lane taken during a Christmas Snowfall and also gave me small bricks from the fireplace in the living room….if you’ve seen the early 50′s Clutter Christmas photo they are standing in front of it….Also I brought them an enlarged Canvas of the photo of Capote standing by the fireplace looking out towards the living room window. The daughters captured a photo of me in the same stance. I have both enlarged side by side on my “Clutter Wall”…..one more very interesting detail. I own the JESUS CHRIST painting that Perry Smith did in prison…it’s signed by Hickock….If you know about the Kansas Reads Program about 6 years ago, the owner let the library display it for a week. He then put it on Ebay….I got in contact with him and it was mine a week later. But anyway, I drove with that framed painting in the trunk of my car from California all the way to Kansas. About an hour after I was there…I asked Donna if it was okay if I brought something in…..They had strange looks on their faces but I think they liked me from minute one….anyway…I brought it in….No disrespect to the Clutters….If it was any other subject painting I would not have brought it in…..But I photographed it in every room in the house and basement. Although I feel the house is already blessed….it was blessed again…and the weird part…is that it was 54 years since Perry & Dick had been in that house…..and they were back again….but this time perhaps with regret and gulit and asking forgiveness….with everything I know about the Clutters I feel they have forgiven Perry & Dick as well as the two surviving daughters….I don’t know….I can only imagine the morning of November 15, 1959 when the phone rang and the Clutter Daughter heard what had happened…..but all these years later I guess you’d have to go thru such a horrific thing to really know what the true experience is like….and I wish them peace….What happened in that house affected so many people…just think about it…from the family to Capote to KBI & FBI to all the millions and millions and millions of people whi have seen the film and read the book. Herb Clutter could have never imagined in 1948 when the house was built, that 11 years later two strangers would drive down that beautiful lane and end everything he loved and created. And Nancy….would she ever believe that an actress would be playing her on the same screen where she and Bob Rupp had been to the theatre before in Garden City….or be in a book that is still read by so many still today….it’s really complex to think about it…but I have a thousand times and will continue for the rest of my life….

  • Sue says:

    Thank you so much for the clarity about In Cold Blood. I never read the book, but saw my Mom reading it. I never saw the movie either. I am now so sad at the loss this family suffered as if it just happened. Love the bright happy kitchen and all the rooms are nice really. Did not know Capote was obsessed about the crime, but he must of drenched himself in the details to write the book.

  • Sel says:

    interesting post…..Capote, an enigma of himself brought forth many issues…
    not from the result of his book, rather, the self inflicted behavior throughout
    his silently suffered life. Facing ones demons is never an easy thing..

  • Deanne says:

    AWESOME!! Well written and great photos! Thanks for giving me props at the end, so happy it worked out! I will miss this blog! Wishing you the best!!!!

  • Perri R. says:

    Great post (I just watched “Capote” last night, so this was timely). “In Cold Blood” is a must-read – not entirely factual, but an astonishing novelization of a true tragedy. The house is so much more beautiful than I thought it would be, lovely design, and I didn’t know Mr. Clutter had built it himself. It’s a pity that people continue to come to gawk, but I can understand the public’s ongoing curiosity, too.

  • Suzan S. says:

    And now it’s additionally sad that Philip Seymour Hoffman, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Capote, is dead from an apparent drug overdose. (02 Feb. 2014)
    He left behind a longtime partner, Mimi O’Donnell…and 3 kids aged 10 and under.
    RIP Philip

    On a happier note, I Loved the white tile kitchen countertop with the blue tile lip on the edges. Love the opening into an eating area that Mr. Clutter allowed for when designing the cabinets.

  • ciara greenwood says:

    So weird that i’ve been in a house like this several times. My mother grew up in holcomb and was alive when this happened. The house has been previously owned by some family friends of ours and they actually give private tourings to anyone that knows them. They have paid us to clean their windows more than once and in the house, they have the bedroom where the mother was killed, you walk in and you feel all the happiness sucked from you. they have all their christmas stuff in there, but the moment you walk in, you just feel so sad. Mrs. Mader went into the basement and broke a glass down there and it echoed through the house and you could hear it breaking as loud as if it were in the room with you. She said that it was the effects of what the mother must have felt like hearing her husband, son and daughter killed in all the rooms before finally it was her turn, all the while bed ridden and unable to get out to safe herself or them. A very sad sory.

  • Pingback: 10 More Infamous And Terrifying Houses Of Murder | DB-Optimum.Com

  • Jennifer Harrison says:

    Such a tragedy!! But so nice to see that the house is still basically the same as it stood when Mr. Clutter had built it!! Love the kitchen.

Leave a Reply


~ House Crazy Sarah ~
Sarah Felix Burns

"So many houses, so little time"




Featured house artist:
Naomi Maddux - custom stained glass and mosaics
Featured house artist:
Julia Callon featured on Wondereur

(Click on the images above to learn more about these artists)

Featured house books:
Creating the Artful Home
Mushroom House of Charlevoix

(Click on the book cover images for purchase information)

My first novel
JACKFISH - The Vanishing Village
My second novel
Song Over Quiet Lake
Rivit Media
Publisher