Truman Capote’s Ashes: What Happened to Them?

The saga of Truman Capote’s infamous feud with his Swans comes to an end with the eighth episode of ‘Feud: Capote vs the Swans.’ The final episode unfolds like a fever dream for Capote, who imagines a parallel reality in which he made peace with his Swans, in which, instead of shutting him out completely, they shared their grievances with him, took out their anger on him, and gave him a chance to make amends. All of that, however, remains within the pages of his books, and when he dies, all that’s left of him and his feud are ashes. Following his death, the show takes a time jump, and we land in 2016, where Capote’s ashes are being auctioned. Did this really happen? What happened to his ashes in real life?

Capote’s Ashes Were Divided Between Jack Dunphy and Joanne Carson

Image Credit: Johnny Carson/YouTube


When Truman Capote died at Joanne Carson’s home, he was cremated, and his ashes were split between Carson, who had been one of the few friends Truman had in his final years, and Jack Dunphy, his close friend and partner over the years. A few years later, when Dunphy died, it is said that his and Truman’s ashes were mingled and scattered in Long Island. The other half of his ashes remained with Carson. A part of Carson’s half of the ashes was interred in the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary in LA, close to where Marilyn Monroe’s remains are laid to rest. The part that remained was kept by Carson in a carved Japanese wooden box.

The ashes of her friend are said to have been a source of comfort for Carson, who would travel with them, feeling that this way, she was keeping her friend close and keeping the adventure in his life going. Reportedly, the room in which Capote died was left untouched, with several of his belongings, including his typewriter, kept there as is by Carson. The knowledge of her keeping Truman’s ashes also invited trouble, and twice, his remains were stolen from Carson’s house. Fortunately, both times, the ashes were returned. Apparently, in 2013, on the opening-night gala of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ on Broadway, an invitation was extended to Truman’s ashes, though Carson politely declined for fear of once again having the ashes stolen.

Before her death in 2015, Joanne Carson reached out to Julien’s Auctions to handle the auction of her estate once she was gone. It is through this that the box containing Truman’s ashes found itself at the auction. Of course, this was the first time that the auction house was putting up ashes at auction, and with it came the ethical and moral dilemma of whether it was the right or wrong thing to do. But then, this wasn’t the first time that someone’s body part (so to say) was being auctioned.

Reportedly, Napoleon’s penis was auctioned off in 1977 for $3,000 (around $15k, at least today), and William Shatner’s kidney stone brought in $75,000. On the weekend of the auction of Truman’s ashes, two locks of Marilyn Monroe’s hair went for $70,000. Compared to all this, the auction house had estimated a price of no more than $4k-6k for the writer’s ashes, but a mysterious buyer got it for $43,750. According to the auction house, they received bids from buyers from China, Russia, Germany, and South America, apart from the buyers in the US. Apart from the ashes, Truman’s other belongings were also auctioned. A set of his prescription bottles fetched $5,000, and his clothes at the time of his death went for $6,400. His ice skates and books were also among the total 50 items belonging to Truman that were auctioned off and bought in the range of anywhere between $50 to $2000.

Whatever qualms the auction house may have had about putting up ashes for auction were removed when they considered the personality in question. They confessed that had it been anyone else; they would probably have not put up their ashes for auction out of respect for them. But considering Truman, he would have loved to see his ashes being auctioned off. He lived for the drama and the scandal, and he wouldn’t have been offended by people fighting over his ashes. If anything, he would have been amused. It would certainly have made it into his book if he could have it his way. The buyer of the ashes, who chose to remain anonymous, assured that they would be respectful of Truman’s adventurous nature, and this can be considered the beginning of another adventure in his story.

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