The Clutter Family Murders

The real story behind Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood”.

Josie Klakström

--

In April this year, the home with a dark history went back on the market. What was once home to the Clutter family was said to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000 in price.

The house via people.com

The seemingly regular farmhouse continues to attract visitors six decades later, to see the place where four people were viciously murdered. Its former owners even charged $5 per visitor and created a flourishing operation, before it was closed down due to a lack of business permits.

The story sounds like a film script, but how much of Truman Capote’s novel is true?

The Clutter Family via SundanceTV

The Clutter family of six were farmers who lived in Holcomb, Kansas. Their farmhouse was large, with 14 rooms and acres of agricultural land surrounding it. Herbert Clutter had made his fortune using new technology to grow wheat and had been interviewed by The New York Times for what was considered a pioneering move at the time.

The 48-year-old and his wife Bonnie had four children, adults Beverly and Eveanna, 16-year-old Nancy and Kenyon who was 15. Capote misused Bonnie’s back pain in the novel and gave her postnatal depression with her final child, Kenyon. He said she became bedridden and depressed, but the reality was that Bonnie was a happy woman, who played a part in the local community and attended the gardening club.

Holcomb had a population of less than 300 in 1959 and chances were that every family knew each other. The Clutters were known around town as being an upstanding family, with Herb known as “the salt of the earth”.

The problem with being part of a small community was that everyone knew each other’s business, and the town knew that the Clutters were wealthy.

300 miles away in a cell at Kansas State Prison, 33-year-old Richard Hickock, who had been convicted of theft, had begun scheming to rob the family of their riches. His cellmate, Floyd Wells had worked as a farmhand for the family and knew that the Clutters was rich. He told Hickock that Herb kept a safe in the house which contained $10,000…

--

--

Josie Klakström

Josie is a freelance journo who writes about writing, true crime, culture and marketing. www.truecrimeedition.com