Let’s have a look at another infamous crime scene house…
Holcomb, Kansas is one of those fly-over places that you would never hear anything about if it weren’t for the horrible events that occurred here. Even still, the events may have been lost to history if it had not been for famed and flamboyant American writer, Truman Capote coming across the story by chance.
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 Truman Capote took an interest in the homicides and decided to visit the small town where the crime took place in Holcomb, Kansas.
He later wrote about the events, the murderers, and the town in what was to become his magnum opus, the non-fiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood.
Here’s a quick run down of the murders:
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.)
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 final book which later became a major motion picture in 1967. The actual home was featured in that movie!
Capote is pictured (below) outside the home during production:
The house at the center of it all sits at the end of Oak Avenue on 7 acres of pastoral farmland.
Since the release of Capote’s book and the subsequent movie, this murder-scene farmhouse has become a destination for true-crime fans, often undeterred by the prominent “Private Property” signs on the perimeter of the land.
Before all the infamy, the Clutter home was the jewel of the small town of Holcomb. It was a source of community pride for it’s “modern” design.
The original farmstead was called “River Valley Farm” and locals still refer to the property as such. The newer 2-story house was designed and built in 1948 for a cost of $40,000 by Herb Clutter himself to house his family of six.
The entire Clutter family in happier times:
Stylish, modern and not your traditional farmhouse, the Clutter house became the toast of the town.
The Clutters would host family gatherings, parties, and meetings for the local 4-H Club and Farm Bureau here.
The home was built with 2.5 bathrooms at a time when not everyone in rural America had running water! A local newspaper even ran a story with photos of the family and their new residence.
The blond brick house stood out among the white wood-sided farm houses typical to the area. It also had an unusually large basement, which would later become the site of Herb Clutter’s murder.
Some people from outside the community are surprised the home wasn’t just demolished after the tragedy, but locals see it differently: why destroy such a solidly built home? The house didn’t do anything wrong.
Still, the unfortunate home became the face of a horrific true crime story.
Once Truman Capote’s book was released, the Clutter farm became the focal point of widespread fascination.
In the photo below, Truman Capote was photographed in the Clutter family living room, just as they had left it before their deaths.
In the years following the murders, the home switched hands several different times. Divorced cattle rancher Bob Byrd initially bought the property in 1964. 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.
Eventually Leonard and Donna Mader bought it from Byrd’s relatives in 1990. The Maders were long-time Holcomb residents who were familiar with the Clutter house.
The home has remained virtually unchanged since the time of the Clutter murders — just as isolated and with the same layout and design on the inside.
In 2006 the house was listed for auction. But it failed to get an adequate minimum bid and was subsequently taken off the market. Eventually, the house was passed on to other relatives of the Maders by a deed transfer, according to county records.
Here are some interior photos from when the house was listed back in 2006:
Above is the kitchen with original cabinets designed by Herb Clutter himself.
Here’s an old photo of the kitchen form another angle but you can see Herb’s cabinets:
The dining room:
An old photo of the living room with the dining room in the background:
And the same area in 2006:
The opposite view of the living room in 1959:
Below are the steps to the basement where Mr. Clutter was shot and killed:
Here’s a 1959 crime scene photo of the basement:
The upstairs hallway in 2006:
The same angle when the Clutters lived there:
It’s virtually the same (minus the bunk beds).
The master bedroom where Mrs. Clutter was found dead:
That same bedroom in 1959 after her body had been removed:
Another upstairs bedroom:
Truman Capote posed here for a magazine article promoting his book in 1967:
At one point in the 1990’s the Mader homeowners were so frustrated with all the unwanted visitors, they decided to open the house up for tours and charge 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.
Internet rumors persist that the house is haunted by the ghost of Nancy Clutter – the teenage daughter of Herb Clutter – whose apparition is said to walk the house at night. But this claim is probably more of myth perpetuated by outsiders because none of the occupants of the house have ever reported any paranormal activity.
Today, the entrance to the property is still guarded by “No Trespassing” and “Private Drive” signs.
Nonetheless, people from all over the world 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 senselessly killed.
Truman Capote’s non-fiction book In Cold Blood, went on the become one of the best-selling true crime novels of all time.
Sadly, Capote became so obsessed with the Clutter case that he descended into severe depression and alcoholism and never again published another full-length book. He died in 1984 from liver cancer.
The Clutter house, however, remains a sad constant on the Kansas prairie.