Burroughs estate, eBay track thief

It's easy for online fans of William S. Burroughs to find merchandise associated with the author.

Go to the Internet auction site eBay and dozens of Burroughs items are offered for sale -- books, movies and CDs that Burroughs helped create.


Earl Richardson/J-W Photo Illustration

Personal items taken from the estate of author William S. Burroughs showed up recently on the online auction site run by eBay Inc.

Police say other items made an appearance on the site recently: identification cards, credit cards and prescriptions, all stolen from Burroughs' Lawrence home after his death. It was unclear Thursday whether any of the stolen items had been sold through the Internet auction.

Sgt. George Wheeler of the Lawrence Police Department said no suspect had been identified, but police and eBay officials are working together to track the seller.

Burroughs was famous as a leading author of the Beat Generation who wrote "Naked Lunch" and other novels. He lived in Lawrence for more than a decade until his death in August 1997 at age 83.

Famous and not-so-famous fans of Burroughs often made treks to Lawrence to meet him. After Burroughs' death, those pilgrimages continued to his home in the 1900 block of Learnard.

It was during one such visit in early 1999 that the theft occurred, Wheeler said.

"It appears they gave guided tours through the house," he said. "(Estate officials) feel the items were taken from the inventory of the estate during that time."

Those items were mostly paperwork, Wheeler said.

"It looks like a bunch of papers in a drawer that the thief just scooped up," he said.

The police report said "no value can be assessed" on the items.

Wheeler said James Grauerholz, executor of Burroughs' estate, was advised this month that those items were for sale on eBay. He looked at the site and determined they could only have come from the house.

Wheeler said officers contacted eBay about the matter. Company officials are working with police to track the person who put the items up for bid.

Callie Gregory, a spokeswoman for eBay Inc. in San Jose, Calif., said that in such situations, the company removes the suspicious item from its site.

Because of the public nature of the site, she said, eBay "is probably the last good place in the world to sell a hot item."

Grauerholz said the house was being rented by new tenants, but otherwise declined to comment on the case.

"It's in the capable hands of the Lawrence Police Department and their law enforcement colleagues," he said.

-- Joel Mathis' phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is jmathis@ljworld.com.


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