What Actually Happened to Truman Capote's Ashes?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Truman Capote over the past two months, it’s that the man loved a spectacle. It’s only fitting that the aftermath of his death was just as dramatic as his life—and the series finale of Feud: Capote vs The Swans shows us why.

Long after Capote's death—which was the result of alcohol-induced organ failure—his ashes are presented at an auction. The room is filled with eager buyers (some even called in from overseas!) who all want to purchase Capote’s remains. Among the crowd is Capote's pseudo-stepdaughter, Kate Harrington (formerly known as Kerry O’Shea), whom we first meet in episode 4. After Capote ended his relationship with Harrington's father, he agreed to take her under his wing and help her begin a modeling career.

During the auction, Harrington sits anxiously, offering hasty bids until her account says she can’t afford to go higher. Seconds later, Capote’s ashes sell to an anonymous bidder for $45,000. She goes home empty-handed, but with the assurance that Capote was adored by many—just as he always hoped.

While the moment was a fitting end to the series, the truth about what happened to Capote's ashes is even more interesting.

Who Bought Truman Capote’s Ashes?

Truman Capote died at the home of his friend, Joanne Carson, home in 1984. Then, he was cremated, and his remains were divvied up between two people. Half of Capote's ashes were given to his ex-partner, Jack Dunphy, and the other half was given to Carson. Many believe that when Dunphy died in 1992, his ashes were scattered together with Capote's remains in Long Island.

Carson kept her share of Capote's ashes in an urn in her home—though at one point in 1988, they were allegedly stolen. According to W, Capote’s urn was swiped from Carson’s house during a Halloween party, along with $200,000 worth of her jewelry. Six days later, Capote’s ashes were returned to Carson. She claimed that a car veered into her driveway one night and then sped off. When she went outside, she found Capote’s ashes next to a garden hose.

Her friend, Laurence Leamer, had a different version of events. Leamer was present at Carson’s Halloween party, which he said had a low turnout. “I go into the party, and it’s kind of pathetic,” Leamer said. “There are all these tables around the pool, and candles, and champagne, and everything. And there’s just nobody there.”

People claims that one of their reporters was in attendance that night—they were hired to drum up press for the gathering. In order to save face, Leamer says Carson ran out of the room where Capote stayed, yelling, “Somebody’s stolen Truman’s ashes. They’ve stolen the last manuscript to Answered Prayers, and they’ve stolen $200,000 worth of jewelry.”

portrait of truman capote
We drove around L.A, trying to decide what to do with the ashes,” recalled Joanne CarsonBettmann - Getty Images

“I believe she made it up,” Leamer said. Either way, Capote’s ashes wound up in the driveway, unharmed. After the incident, Carson asked Leamer to help her find Capote’s final resting place. Together, they scoured the city for options. “We drove around L.A, trying to decide what to do with the ashes,” Lemur recalled. “They’re sitting in my lap, and we’re discussing it with Truman. It’s like, ‘Truman, where do you want to go? It’s as if he’s having this conversation with us.”

They landed on Westwood Memorial Park, which held Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood’s ashes. Initially, there weren’t any spots available, but by a stroke of luck, Peter Lawford was about to be evicted. Lawford was formerly married to Patricia Kennedy, John F. Kennedy’s sister. The Kennedys reserved his tomb in advance, but declined to pay the bill after Peter and Patricia divorced.

According to Leamer, the mortician offered them his spot. “The Kennedys didn’t pay for that, so we can take Mr. Crawford out of here, and we can put Mr. Capote in there, and we’ll cut you a special price.” Carson agreed to the deal, but before handing Capote’s ashes over, she split them in half, keeping a quarter of his remains back at her house. In 2016, a year after Carson’s death, her portion of Capote’s ashes were auctioned off—as shown in Feud.

They were valued at $6,000 and sold for $43,750 to an anonymous buyer. Capote's final resting place is still unknown.

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