In their two-story brick home at the end of Oak Street in the rural town of Holcomb, Kan., Herb and Bonnie Clutter and their two teenagers were found bound and shot to death in November 1959. Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, parolees who had heard from a one-time fellow inmate that the Clutters were wealthy and kept money in their home, were convicted of the crimes. Hanged in 1965, Smith and Hickock only found $50 in the house.
The crimes - and the house where they occurred - would become the subject of international attention when Truman Capote, then already successful as the author of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” was inspired by a short article that ran in the New York Times and decided to make the Clutter family the subject of his next book. After 8,000 pages of notes and four lonely and difficult years in Holcomb spent interviewing and researching, Capote published what he called the “nonfiction novel,” “In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences,” to wide acclaim. While many questioned the facts detailed in the book - Capote was famous for refusing to take notes during interviews insisting, instead, that he could recall every word by memory - the literary community embraced the work as a groundbreaking new form.
Put up for auction in August 2006 by Faulkner Real Estate, the historic home was taken off the market when nobody came forward with a sufficient bid. That may be due to rumors that Nancy Clutter, Herb’s popular teenage daughter, still haunts the building, walking the halls at night. Over the decades since the crime, only two other couples have lived in it. “It’s like the Amityville Horror House in New York, or J. R. Ewing’s house outside Dallas,” one neighbor once said of the Clutter home.