On November 15, 1959, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith broke into a house in Holcomb, KS. They were looking for a safe that was supposedly filled with money. Unfortunately for them, they never found it—mainly because it didn’t exist.
That didn’t stop them from murdering—or maybe it encouraged it—the family of the house. The Clutters—Herbert, Bonnie, Nancy and Kenyon—were found in different rooms of their home, tied up and shot dead.
On December 30, 1959, Hickock and Smith were arrested in Las Vegas, NV, and brought back to Kansas. They were tried, found guilty of the murders of the Clutter family and executed by hanging on April 15, 1965, in Lansing, KS, at the Kansas State Prison.
The murder sent shockwaves through Kansas and the entire country. One person who showed interest in the crime was the author, Truman Capote. Thanks to him and his excellent penmanship, the murder of the Clutter family and the perpetrators’ trial was immortalized in his last book, In Cold Blood (1966), which, in turn, has inspired three movies—In Cold Blood (1967), Capote (2005), and Infamous (2006).
The house, where the Clutters lived and died, is in the outskirts of the small village of Holcomb, just outside the considerably larger town of Garden City, in the southwestern corner of Kansas, some 70 miles east from the Colorado border. Capote described Holcomb as a village that “stands on the high wheat plains of western Kansas, a lonesome area that other Kansans call ‘out there,’ and “has an atmosphere that is rather more Far West than Middle West.”
And even today the village has the same atmosphere. It’s quiet, you don’t see many people or cars roaming about and the biggest attraction of Holcomb seems to be the very house that got infamous on that quiet November night in 1959.
The house is still inhabited and it seems like it’s gone through a rather recent renovation. It looks like any house in the American countryside with its red roof and big garden, if only it hadn’t the spooky history it’s got.
In 2006, the house, built by Herbert Clutter himself, was put on auction for $260,000; however, the highest bid it received was a mere $100,000 and the auction failed.
If you’re a history and literature buff like me and you happen to pass through Kansas, you can drive quite close to it to snap a photo. It’s on Oak Street, right at the end of the dirt road off Main Street.
The current residents of the house are probably quite annoyed by the people who come to their driveway and take photos of the house, so please be considerate and don’t stay too long.