Truman Capote's Ashes Just Sold At Auction For Nearly $45,000

There are a lot of ways to try to connect with your literary heroes, from dressing up in costume to buying their old house to... buying their ashes? Yes, Truman Capote's ashes were just sold at auction. And I don't know what surprises me more — how inexpensive the ashes of a dead literary genius seem to be or the fact that you can buy and sell cremated remains at all.

Truman Capote was one of the great writers of the 20th century. His novels, including In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's continue to be loved to this day. Capote himself, however, passed away in 1984 from liver disease at the age of 59. And that, naturally, is where the story of his remains starts.

Capote was cremated, and his ashes were stored in a carved wooden box. They've been stolen and retrieved twice, but have otherwise been kept in the room in which he died, in the Bel-Air house of his close friend, Joanne Carson (wife of Tonight Show host Johnny Carson). However, after Joanne Carson's death in 2015, Capote's ashes became part of her estate, and executors decided that, when much of the rest of the estate was to be auctioned off, Capote's remains would be as well.

Which sort of begs the question: You can sell human remains?

The answer, surprisingly, is yes. Although there are strict laws prohibiting people from removing remains from graves or disinterring ashes, there is no federal law preventing people from buying or selling human remains that have not been unlawfully dug up or removed from their resting place. Three states do have such laws on the books, but California, where the auction was held, is not one of them.

And the auction house responsible for the sale thinks that actually, Capote would have appreciated the whole thing. “He loved to create press opportunities and to read his name in the paper. I think he would love it that he’s still grabbing headlines today,” Julien Auction's president said. “Truman told Joanne that he didn’t want his ashes to sit on a shelf. So this is a different way of honouring his request. It is just furthering the adventures of Truman Capote.”

So what do the ashes of one of the most influential writers of the 20th century go for on the open market? Apparently: $43,750.

Which seems kind of low to me. After all, you have to pay more than ten times that for F. Scott Fitzgerald's old house, and all you get out of that is a house; there are lots of houses, but there's only one carved box containing the ashes of Truman Capote.

Images: Roger Higgins/Unsplash