• True Stories

14 Bizarre Stories From Hunter S. Thompson's Life

Hunter S. Thompson lived a pretty out-there life and there are plenty of true stories to prove it. This should come as no surprise, since just a few of his credos were: "Buy the ticket, take the ride," "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me," and "'Crazy' is a term of art; 'Insane' is a term of law. Remember that, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble." When these are the credos you live by, you find yourself in some wild situations. 

Hunter S. Thompson was a man who played by his own rules to such an extent that he invented new ones, got other people to follow them, published his findings and called it all "Gonzo." His exploits are the stuff of legend. Who else could make a year-long stint on the campaign trail seem interesting to the masses? Or make going to the Kentucky Derby seem like the most insane trip of one's life? Who else could set the bar on the depravity that is Vegas? 

Hunter S. Thompson lived an amazing life, and he lived it his way right up until he was done with it. These are the craziest Hunter S. Thompson stories, may they inspire you to have some of your own. Buy the ticket. Take the ride.

  • Photo: Georges Biard / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    He Terrorized Jack Nicholson With Fireworks And The Sounds Of Pig Slaughter

    One of Hunter S. Thompson’s illustrious celebrity friends was Jack Nicholson. They had an odd, long-running joke of giving each other strange gifts. Nicholson's birthday present from Thompson took the cake by far. 

    Reaching Nicholson’s house after dark, Thompson arrived at a ridge overlooking the building and launched a 40 million candlepower parachute flare, which lit up 40 miles of darkness and looked like “the first flash of a nuclear explosion.” Not missing a beat he aimed a million-watt spotlight on the house and played the amplified sounds of dying pigs (this wouldn't be the last time he employed this trick) through a loudspeaker. Thinking that might not be enough, he began firing his automatic pistol into the air.

    Nicholson didn't respond.

    What Thompson didn’t know was that Nicholson was being stalked by a crazed fan at the time. When Thompson got no reaction from the extensive theatrics, he left a fresh elk heart on Nicholson’s doorstep.

    In a painting Nicholson would do in honor of Thompson's death, he wrote, "How'd ya like the Elk Heart?" as a nod.

  • He Went Hunting For Pygmies Instead Of Reporting On The Fight Of The Century

    In 1974, Hunter S. Thompson and Ralph Steadman (an artist and Thompson's long-time Gonzo compatriot), went off to Zaire for coverage on the Rumble in the Jungle between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. It remains one of the all-time strangest events in sports. It was hosted by an eccentric African dictator, covered by the world’s top journalists, and cost a fortune if, by chance, you were able to track down some tickets.

    Rolling Stone wanted to be at the center of the madness, so of course they sent their very best men to cover it. But instead of attending the fight, Thompson gave away his tickets (or, according to Steadman, sold them for weed) and then went of on a quest to find the wanted war criminal Martin Bormann. (And also to find pygmies, so he could ask if it was possible for them to be eaten by cobras). Whether he met his pygmies or not we'll never know, but he did meet some locals from whom he bought some ivory. While dealing with the locals he claimed to be George Foreman's doctor, Dr. Bormann.

    Later, George Plimpton and Norman Mailer discovered Thompson in the hotel pool, hammered thanks to Wild Turkey and high on who knows what. He didn’t even know who’d won the fight.

    Once Thompson and Steadman made it back to the states, Thompson's ivory was confiscated by customs. Instead of paying the meager fees and taxes (he didn't know they were only around $60), Thompson charged past security, grabbing the tusks and making a run for it.

  • He Fired At His Cartoonishly Evil Neighbor's House

    Owl Creek was Thompson's sanctuary; it meant the world to him. So in 1985 when multimillionaire Floyd Watkins moved in and started destroying Thompson's utopia, he stood up to the madman (in his own Gonzo way) to stop him.

    Watkins began by putting up giant concrete walls and barbed wire around his property, ruining the view, and the feel of the entire neighborhood. Then he went a step further, not affecting just his own property but everyone else's. He redirected all the natural streams to his land for his trout.  

    Not content with just stealing the county's water, he insisted on paving all the county roads so as to not get dust in his house. He would threaten any board members who had vetoed his request. All of this didn't go over too well, so the community began harassing him with threatening phone calls, as well as graffiti-ing and destroying his land. 

    It escalated further when Watkins purchased Bengal tigers and armed gunmen to guard the property. So Thompson fired at his entire property. Watkins chased him down, catching up with Hunter, who denied nothing. When police later questioned him, he had destroyed the automatic weapon. No charges were ever filed.

  • Photo: Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas / Universal Pictures

    His Daily Diet Was Full Of Illicit Substances 

    Even on the most mundane of days Thompson's diet and schuedule were pretty out of this world. He would rise around 3 pm and consume various hallucionigens and other illict substances throughout the day.