The Amazing Story of Ernest Hemingway's Stolen Elk Antlers, Returned to His Family After 52 Years

You need to hear this incredible story of a set of bull elk antlers owned by Ernest Hemingway. 

Legendary author Ernest Hemingway lived out his last days in Ketchum, Idaho, as many people already know. It's where he was buried after his suicide in 1961.

What you may not know, Hemingway was an accomplished and traveled hunter. After 52 years, a set of elk antlers from his cabin was finally returned. That by itself would have been an amazing story, but it gets even better.

The thief was none other than fellow legendary journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson.

The news of this bizarre theft and subsequent return was broken by Bro Bible. The antlers ended up in Thompson's possession in what was apparently a spur-of-the-moment decision.  "He got caught up in the moment," Anita Thompson, Hunter's widow, told Bro Bible. "He had so much respect for Hemingway. He was actually very embarrassed by it."

The story begins when Thompson traveled to Ketchum in 1964. It was four years after Hemingway had committed suicide. Thompson was working for a newspaper called The National Observer and was working on a story speculating on why Hemingway chose a remote mountain valley in Idaho as the place to live out the remainder of his days after years of traveling the globe.

EH 7018P Ernest Hemingway on safari, Africa. January, 1934. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Image via Wikimedia.

While working on the story, Thompson visited Hemingway's house. He may have even made a reference to the antlers in the story he wrote. It was apparently during this visit that Thompson decided he needed a souvenir. But as the years went on, Thompson began to feel remorse more and more for his crime.

"Hunter started thinking about it more when he realized his place in American literature and history," Anita told Bro Bible.

A decade removed from Thompson's death, the journalist's own home in Aspen, Colorado, is now becoming as iconic as locations associated with Hemingway. Perhaps it was because of this that Anita apparently decided now was the time to make amends. Returning the antlers was also something Thompson had always wanted to do.

"We planned to take a road trip and quietly return them, and not make a thing of it. Not even mention it, just return them. But we never did," Anita told Bro Bible. "We talked about a few times as a 'wouldn't it be neat if...' thing because we assumed we would."

So Anita contacted Hemingway's family about what she wanted to do and drove the antlers up to Ketchum earlier this month. She actually spent a few days at Hemingway's house visiting with family and Hemingway's widow.

Admitting Thompson's crime to the victims was probably not easy, but the Hemingway family was gracious of the gesture and ultimately decided grandson Sean Hemingway should have possession of the long-stolen antlers. They were sent to him in New York, where he runs a museum.

There have been many cases of stolen trophies and antlers. Very few have a happy ending after such a long period of time and probably even fewer involve two famous figures like Thompson and Hemingway!