The Murder House
A mysterious mansion hidden in the hills of Los Angeles remains frozen in time since December 6, 1959. During that dark night, a doctor murdered his wife in a frenzied hammer attack, and then killed himself. Fifty years later, visitors started reporting paranormal activity. Now the abandoned house is the focus of an Internet obsession. This is the true story of 2475 Glendower Place.
by Jeff Maysh
It looked even scarier than she had hoped. Jennifer Clay stared up at the Spanish-style house from the bottom of a crumbling flight of concrete steps. In this hillside neighborhood of manicured homes, the mansion with peeling white paint stood out like a broken tooth. Jennifer’s mom and cousin had agreed to join her in climbing up to the old house, but as soon as they saw it, they changed their minds. Two arched windows stared down like hollow eyes over the bourgeois community of Los Feliz. The peephole in its tired wooden door was boarded up, and a “no trespassing” sign poked out from the dirt-pile yard. Jennifer started the climb alone.
The 31-year-old blogger had become hooked on Internet speculation about the property. She’d read how Dr. Harold Perelson attacked his wife while their three children slept nearby. She’d read breathless accounts of how this million-dollar home had remained empty ever since, becoming a creepy time capsule from 1959. When neighbors reported paranormal happenings, the house became a macabre tourist attraction. Jennifer couldn’t get the rumors out of her mind. Were the evil doctor’s Christmas presents really still wrapped under the tree? What clues inside might explain what possessed him to destroy everything he loved?
During that summer of 2012, Jennifer chronicled her adventures on her blog, My LA Bucket List. She recalls that her mom and cousin “kinda freaked out in fear,” but agreed to take a photo as she posed on the stairs (and a male commenter would later compliment her legs). Jennifer was just the sort of girl who would pull back a section of broken fence and simply slip into a property considered among California’s creepiest, alongside the sites of the Manson Family murders.
“The place was pretty much a shit show of paranormal proportions,” Jennifer would write, noticing through a window “two nasty mustard sitting chairs that creeped me the eff out.” But nothing was more sinister than the house gargoyle, a broken statue in a dried-up fountain. Recalls Jennifer: “It was smiling.”
Jennifer bravely circled the estate, removed the window screens and took pictures through the grimy windows. She saw dust particles dancing under fractured sunbeams that illuminated a glamorous spiral staircase. She saw vintage packets of Spaghetti O’s in the kitchen, old Vanish stain remover boxes and antique copies of Life. Jennifer was left breathless by these ephemera of family life interrupted one night during the Eisenhower presidency. “It’s similar to the feeling you get when you go to a haunted house, but it’s, like, a real one,” Jennifer explains. As she peered into the 1950s, she saw clothes, left out to dry, private letters, books. And there in the living room, she saw the fabled Christmas presents. As promised by visitors before her, their ribbons were still tied. Just then, Jennifer felt “something ominous.”
Maybe it was the same feeling that drove away the homeless, who once tried to shelter there many years ago, but fled citing unsettling chills, mystery footsteps, unholy noises at night. Maybe it was the feeling described by neighbors in a newspaper that they were being “followed.” Adrenaline squirted in her veins now. She found the concrete steps again. Her footsteps retraced the escape route taken by one of the doctor’s daughters, who fled the house soaked in blood. “I imagined her running away from her crazy dad,” Jennifer says, “and just how awful that must have been…I almost got the same feeling.” She was running now, her hands covered in decades of black dust. She cared no longer for answers, for adventure, or her bucket list. “Oh my gosh,” she thought, “I can’t get away from this house fast enough.”
* * *
America has long been obsessed with haunted houses. Its most infamous is a three-story colonial home in Amityville on New York’s Long Island. There, in 1974, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr. — reportedly possessed by the spirit of a dead Indian chief — methodically shot both his parents, then his four brothers and sisters as they lay in their beds. When George and Kathy Lutz moved into the home a year later in December 1975, they described strange phenomena, chills, bad smells and complained that their children’s beds “slammed up and down on the floor.” A priest who came to bless the house reportedly left with bleeding hands and a warning from the spirit world. A book and movie followed, and the Amityville house became part of American horror history — though it has long been suspected of being a hoax. Now Glendower Place is quickly assuming its throne, becoming an Amityville horror for the Facebook generation. In 2013, bloggers from the website Cracked climbed up there and declared it “the World’s Creepiest Haunted House.” Forbes included it on a list of “notorious” houses, alongside the Ohio home where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer claimed his first victim.
Before the Internet, 2475 Glendower Place retained its anonymity, hiding at the foot of Griffith Park, at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains. There, shocked hikers sometimes find the severed limbs of murder victims in the undergrowth. Mountain lions prowl. And for many years, another house in the neighborhood was famed for its spookiness. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, ‘The Ennis House’ at 2607 Glendower Avenue provided the exterior for “House on Haunted Hill,” a 1959 B-movie in which a sinister doctor dumps a body into a vat of acid. But today, the hillside serenity is only broken by the occasional rumble of a diesel engine. A white tour bus chugs through the hills, en route to the Los Feliz house once owned by George Hill Hodel, considered by some conspiracy theorists as a suspect in the dismemberment of an L.A. woman now known as “the Black Dahlia.” Painted on the side of the vehicle is: Dearly Departed Tours. The Tragical History Tour of Los Angeles. Its next stop is the “Murder House.”
Behind the wheel, tour guide Scott Michaels wears a T-shirt that says “future corpse.” A showman, he revels in telling the story of the “Christmas mystery” at Glendower Place, and “the daughter with a hole in her head, screaming.” Michaels tells me: “Everyone loves a haunted house mystery. The irony of a happy thing [like Christmas] turning tragic is appealing, that’s why people like roller coaster accidents…it ticks all those boxes. It’s a house on a hill and it’s spooky to look up at it from down on the road.” As a spin-off from the tour, Michaels hosts the popular “Find a Murder” website. Its forum is obsessed with the Murder House.
“All of my friends think I am crazy to be into this, it’s so nice to read…it’s not just me!” writes one online homicide enthusiast. They call themselves “death hags” and have dedicated much time to tracking down the surviving Perelson children: “All three children are still living,” reads one post. “I have made the assumption that they were taken in by their father’s sister Esther Perelson Kramer who lived in NY.” These keyboard detectives, the type who wrongly identified the Boston Bomber online, like to fill in the gaps between facts and leap to quite dangerous conclusions. I had to find the real truth. What really caused a doctor to attack his family and kill himself? Why has the house remained empty during a property boom in which investors descend on empty homes like vultures? “You can’t have a house sit empty for 50 years and not expect it to fall apart. It’s a tear-down now,” a former neighbor, Jude Margolis, told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. “It’s a shame.”
The answers were buried deep in the bowels of the Los Angeles Archives and Records Center, a stone’s throw from the historic Hall of Justice where Charles Manson and his monstrous “family” stood trial for murder. The staff there has better things to do than research haunted houses. But if you fill out enough forms and stand in line long enough, its labyrinthine archives slowly bare their secrets, one dusty file at a time. In May of this year I spent many hours at a bank of Indus microfilm machines, feeding them cassettes and twisting their wheels. The left wheel controls father time, the right maintains focus. Decades of conflict and contention whirred past. Then the Perelson family history appeared.
It all began so brightly for Harold Perelson, who was born on February 1, 1909, in New York. His father, Henry, was a Polish printer’s clerk, his mother, Molly, was Russian, and they had fled Eastern Europe to escape imperial repression, land shortages and chronic unemployment. The Perelsons were part of a flood of 13.5 million immigrants that washed up in the States, many of them blue-collar Poles, Italians and Slavs, eager to scrap for their piece of the American dream. The Perelsons settled on Pitkin Avenue, in Queens, and Harold grew up the eldest of four children.
Richard Alba, a professor of sociology at the City University of New York, describes the era as “a tale of rags-to-riches, as the second generation moved out of tenements and sweatshops to leafy middle-class suburbs and professional office suites…making rapid upward progress and achieving success with remarkable ease and speed.” Young Harold was sent to medical school where he revealed a quick mind and entrepreneurial spirit. He gifted his parents with the idiom many Jewish parents covet: “My son, the doctor.”
Yet New York could be hard to crack for the son of émigrés, so Harold packed his bags for the sunshine of Southern California. He landed a job at an Inglewood physician’s office, published several papers in the field of neurology and later became a cardiology professor at the USC School of Medicine. Success and riches came in abundance, his family life thrived: Dr. Perelson married Lillian Silver, another second-generation immigrant from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. They had three children, Judye, Debbie and Joel, and looked for a dream family home, in the hills of Los Angeles. They thought they had found it in the Los Feliz neighborhood, at a price of $60,000 — half a million dollars in today’s money. For the son of a Polish clerk, it was extraordinary.
Built in Spanish Revival style, the handsome home at 2475 Glendower Place was originally designed in 1925 for Harry F. Schumacher by architect Harry E. Weiner. When Schumacher died, the house was sold on December 6, 1932. (Paranormal fanatics like to point out it was the same date of Harold’s later meltdown). Next, Frederic Zelnik moved in. Zelnik, an influential producer-director of German silent cinema, was forced to flee Germany for London after Hitler rose to power in 1933, moving to Los Angeles where he continued to produce movies until his death in 1950. Web sleuths also like to link the house to another death, of a 20-year-old Hollywood writer in 1931, who died in his bed of a mysterious infection after playing tennis. But according to the Times, Donald Beaton died at number 2457,
not 2475. One must pay close attention to house numbers.
When Harold acquired the home in the 1950s, it was described as a “delightful 12-room home, with terraced lawns, artistic gardens and a magnificent view.” A spacious tiled entrance hall and stairway led to a charming living room, a glass conservatory, dining room, den, breakfast room and kitchen. Upstairs, the second floor had four master bedrooms and three baths, while the third floor boasted a bar and a ballroom. There were staff quarters too, though the Perelsons’ only “help” was a teenaged babysitter who was also a neighbor.
Cheri Lewis was 14 and had grown up in the shadow of the Perelsons’ house, in the cottage directly opposite 2475 Glendower Place. She and I meet in June, at her busy dental practice in Beverly Hills. She is spritely, with bright eyes, and speaks to me in hushed tones against the unpleasant buzz of the dentist’s drill. “My dad was kind of a playboy,” she recalls, and reveals his fondness for Lillian Perelson’s cooking. “She was sweet, Lillian…she made tomato soup, with hotdogs cut up in it. My dad thought that was wonderful gourmet cooking, and my mother, who actually was a gourmet cook, rather poo-poohed that.” Dr. Lewis says there was a general feeling that Lillian Perelson and her lawyer father should have been together, and Harold with her mother, Esther: “They would have been much better suited partners,” she says.
I ask Dr. Lewis if she saw any hint of violence in the doctor. “There wasn’t anything strange or bizarre…he was quite a mild-mannered man,” she says. It was the previous doctor who was aggressive, while Perelson was “very gentle,” she tells me, in the first unsettling moment of this investigation. The drilling stops and in the silence, Dr. Lewis says thoughtfully: “He gave good injections.”
Dr. Harold Perelson was an injection specialist. On December 30, 1938, he had filed a patent for a medical device of his own invention. The attachment to a hypodermic syringe was designed to inject drugs directly from a sealed glass capsule, reducing the danger of contamination and spillage. After developing the device for a decade, in 1949 he entered into a verbal agreement with a gentleman called Edward Shustack, a man he hoped would turn “the general idea” of his product into a medical hit. Perelson and Shustack agreed to split the profits. Harold and Lillian Perelson sunk $24,496 into the project. $7,000 came from Lillian’s own savings.
According to court documents, Shustack spent 11 more years developing the magic syringe for sale. But he had no intention of giving the doctor any of the money. In a complaint filed on July 21, 1952, Perelson claimed that Shustack, using a fake name, spirited away his rights to the device. A shady corporation “masked the deception of fraud,” the court heard, and the doctor was double-crossed. Furious, Perelson sued, demanding compensation of $100,000, (nearly a million dollars in today’s money). But the case was long and drawn out. After two years of expensive legal posturing, the court awarded Perelson just $23,956. It is not known if the syringe ever came to market.
Three years later, worse luck arrived for the Perelson family. On November 3, 1957, Judye was driving her siblings in her father’s ’52 Oldsmobile. As she crossed the intersection of Vermont and Los Feliz boulevards, she collided with another car. Judye suffered hand and knee injuries, concussion and “severe shock”; young Joel had a head injury and “severe shock to the nervous system”; Deborah’s cheek was sliced open. The other driver, Eleanor Keller, claimed that Judye, then 16, drove through a red light without looking. But Dr. Perelson took the Keller family to court, claiming Eleanor’s carelessness and negligence caused the crash. He demanded $20,000 in damages for each daughter, and a further $10,000 for his son. He won. But the court awarded just a fraction of what he sought, only enough to cover the medical bills. It was another bittersweet victory in the courts, and another blow to the family’s finances.
“My family are on the merry-go-round again, same problems, same worries, only tenfold,” Judye wrote to an aunt just before the murder-suicide in 1959. “My parents, so to speak, are in a bind financially.” Money problems had also taken their toll on the doctor’s health. “He had a couple of coronaries, they put him on the coronary ward,” recalls Dr. Lewis. “I was 14 at the time… Judye would come over to our house with some regularity.”
Dr. Lewis describes Judye as an uncomplicated teenager, who was too old to be considered a friend. “I was a kid by comparison,” she says. “My mom designed hats and clothes for the studios, she was quite handy with sewing things. Judye would bring something over, like a size 14, and there was Judye, a size two, and she’d say, ‘Can’t we just take it in?’” Dr. Lewis uses her hands to draw a petite female form beside the empty dentist’s chair. “Here’s the tent…and here’s Judye.”
Yearbooks from Barrister High School in 1958 show Judye was popular, a member of the “Girls’ League,” and secretary of the student body. Outside of school, Judye was an usherette at the Huntington Hartford Theater, on Hollywood and Vine, a glitzy, mid-century auditorium fashioned from white Vermont marble and gold fittings. Dr. Lewis recalls seeing towers of shoeboxes in the home, a result of Judye’s love for shopping. She was driving a sports car just before the killings, a newspaper said, suggesting that the Perelson family’s reversal in fortunes had not affected her spending. But Judye’s father was changing. The good doctor was no longer driven by the ambition to succeed, to invent, to heal, to help others. His reading became darker. That summer of ’59 he turned to melancholy books.
So much has been speculated about the doctor’s violent attack, yet so little facts are known about the deaths themselves. The Los Angeles Coroner’s Office had the answers, hidden away in archives. The autopsy reports made for unpleasant reading, and included grim diagrams of the family’s injuries. Opening the envelope was the second chilling moment of this investigation. Yet now the brutal truth of that night can be accurately told, for the first time.
It was nearly 5 o’clock when the sun dipped behind the mountains, on December 6, 1959. December in Los Angeles is known for its duplicitous weather. Its days are warm and bright, followed by deceptively cold nights. On evenings like this, residents enjoy cocktail hour wearing tennis sweaters. Lillian Perelson had eaten a dinner of green beans before retiring to bed. She slept soundly in her nightdress, her head resting on the pillow in the marital bed on the second floor of the house. By midnight the temperature had dropped like a guillotine into the 40s. There was not a sound on Glendower Place at 4:30 a.m., when Harold stood over the bed, with a ball-peen hammer in his hand. Lillian didn’t have the chance to scream. He struck her so hard that the gaping, inch-wide hole in the back of her head turned the pillow the color of claret.
Seeing what he had done, Harold turned and walked out of the bedroom. He opened the door to the en suite bathroom, and passed through another door that led to his eldest daughter’s bedroom, where her name was marked on a sticker on the light switch. He struck her too, without warning, over the head with the same hammer. But Judye caught just a glancing blow and let out a scream. It was a scream so otherworldly, that neighbors on Glendower Place sat bolt upright in their beds.
“Lay still,” Harold told Judye. “Keep quiet.”
But Judye did not.
Cheri Lewis can still remember the screams. She had a young friend, Shelley, visiting for a sleepover. Shelley panicked. “At first it sounded like a wild animal screaming,” Dr. Lewis says. And then she could clearly hear the voice she knew to be Judye’s:
“Don’t kill me…”
Inside her bedroom, Judye somehow escaped her father, whose hands were covered in blood, as was his shoulder. Judye ran into her parent’s bedroom. There she saw the full horror of her father’s work. Judye sprinted down the hallway and found the spiral staircase. She ran out the front door, taking deep breaths of cold night air. The smiling gargoyle in the fountain watched on as she flew down the concrete steps. She banged desperately on the door of the Lewis house. Getting no answer, she began hammering on the French windows next to the front door, smearing them with blood. Upstairs, Cheri and Shelley were frozen in fear. Judye tried another neighbor, Marshall Ross, who finally opened his door. Together, they called the police.
Back in the Perelson house, the two younger children had woken up to the sound of their sister’s screams. “Go back to bed. This is a nightmare,” Harold told 11-year-old Debbie. Then he strode away, dripping blood onto the floor. Meanwhile, Marshall Ross was climbing the steps to the Perelson house. He found Debbie and 13-year-old Joel waiting on the first floor. Then he climbed the stairs and came face-to-face with the doctor.
“Go on home,” Harold told him, according to the Coroner’s report.
“Don’t bother me.”
Ross watched the doctor walk into a bathroom. Harold found the drawers where he kept his medicines, and pulled them open. Blood smeared everywhere. He pulled out bottles and boxes of pills, opened the lids. He tore apart two capsules of Nembutal, a barbiturate, and turned on the taps, mixing the yellow powder with water in the washbasin. Nembutal is known as “death in a bottle,” a favorite of suicide-seekers hoping for a quick death; it killed Judy Garland. It tasted bitter. To be certain of his fate, the doctor then swallowed 31 small white pills, believed to be codeine or a powerful tranquilizer. Then he turned back into a bedroom. The last Marshall Ross saw, the doctor lay down on a bed, and waited for the drugs to work.
It took fifteen minutes for the police cars to climb the hill from the Hollywood station. At 5:15 a.m. LAPD detectives Anderson and Pozzo dashed up the concrete stairs. By the time they found the doctor, he was on the floor. His head lay on a pillow covered in his daughter’s blood, the hammer in his hand. He was only just breathing, and would be dead before the ambulance arrived. The police gathered the rest of the pills and laid them on a dresser in his room. There they discovered on a nightstand next to Perelson’s bed, a copy of Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.” It was opened to Canto 1: Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Cheri Lewis recalls the morning after the murder. She was due to babysit Joel and Debbie Perelson that night, she says. “When I opened the door in the morning, when Shelley’s parents came to collect her, the whole door was a mass of blood, I remember my hand being in this sticky blood.” She says her family covered over the peep window in the door for years. “It scared me,” she says, “I insisted I couldn’t deal with it.” Coroners who inspected Lillian’s body found the whites of her eyes to be blood red: She had died of asphyxiation, drowned in her own blood.
“We were all walking around in a state of panic. My mother was highly strung, she and Harold were good friends.” Dr. Lewis’s father, an attorney, did some digging. “He got court records, it came out that [Perelson’s] coronaries were not coronaries but suicide attempts. It’s not atypical for someone who has suicide attempts to then go after the people who have created the problem. It came out that his wife was — or the doctors — were going to have him committed, or she had to do it at the end of a certain discrete period of time.”
I found a court document from just after the terrible incident, that shows how Lillian’s sister, Gertrude Saylan, petitioned to take over as trustee for the children’s compensation payments from the car accident. It seems Lillian’s family assumed the guardianship of the younger children, not Harold’s as Internet sleuths often suggest. A year later, in 1960, the mansion was sold in a probate auction to a Lincoln Heights couple, Emily and Julian Enriquez. But they didn’t move in. No one did.
The house just paused, and life spooled past it like microfilm in fast-forward. Night and day flickered past in stroboscopic flashes. History played out in time-lapse beneath the house, the city’s vast, twinkling valley a gilded stage. Its characters named themselves Monroe, Mansfield and Phoenix. On the horizon, buildings rose downtown, and behind them riot flares blossomed, and lives were untimely interrupted. Biggie, Michael, Rodney. Even when the ground shook, it troubled not the house or its foundations. In this city of front-page secret lives, now a TMZ circus, the house locked its violent mystery behind its crumbling façade, aging ungracefully above the land of the facelift and injection filler. And all the while, the grim gargoyle stood guard, grinning the decades away.
Three years after her visit to the haunted house, Jennifer Clay’s blog post about 2475 Glendower Place is the most popular page on My LA Bucket List. Jennifer tells me about an email she received from someone claiming to be related to the Perelsons. It said that Judye had changed her name “like ten thousand times over the years” and that her brother moved to Israel, “became Hasidic, and won’t talk to anyone.” It is understandable that none of the children responded to my requests for an interview.
When owner Emily Enriquez died in 1994, her son Rudy inherited the mansion. A music store manager who lived just a short distance away in Washington Heights, Enriquez also chose not to live in the property. Over the years he has been approached many times by potential buyers and became the focus of attention for the Internet death hags. “I don’t know that I want to live there or even stay here,” Enriquez told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. When asked by reporter Bob Pool if he knew about the rumors of ghosts in his property, Enriquez said: “Tell people to say their prayers every morning and evening and they’ll be OK.”
A neighbor, Sheree Waterson, told the Times that a friend of hers tried one night to explore the mansion in what she described as “a Nancy Drew moment.” The woman snuck in through a back door, but didn’t get far before the burglar alarm sounded. Soon, her hand was throbbing painfully. “She’d been bitten by a black widow. There was a red streak going up her arm. She had to go to the doctor,” said Waterson, a clothing company executive. “Two nights later the alarm kept going off at my house on my back door. But there was no one there. It was like the ghost was following us.”
Dave Schrader, the host of a paranormal radio show, says he was lucky enough to be snooping around the house one afternoon when Rudy Enriquez arrived. Schrader too had become obsessed with “The Murder House,” and quizzed Enriquez. “He said the Perelsons were Jewish…so why would they have a Christmas tree?” he recalls. According to Schrader, Enriquez said he used the house as storage for belongings left to him by friends who had passed away.
My research has revealed that some items visible through the windows could not have belonged to the Perelsons: Spaghetti O’s were not marketed until 1965; The copy of Life magazine photographed by Jennifer Clay features the actress Yvette Mimieux, and is dated May 9, 1960, five months after the murders. Yet in debunking these facts, new, more sinister explanations arise. A rumor suggests that a new family briefly rented the home after the Perelsons, and were not told of the tragedy. It is their Christmas tree that stands in the living room. And if the myth is to be believed, that family fled the house on the anniversary of the murder-suicide, in such a hurry they didn’t stop to take the presents.
It is these legends that keep the trespassers coming. Today the neighbors yell at rubberneckers who make the pilgrimage up their quiet street. One neighbor thumped on the hood of the Dearly Departed vehicle when Scott Michaels reversed into a private driveway. Another group once held a macabre picnic in the Perelson’s back yard. Yet weird things still happen that cannot be explained, like the home’s burglar alarm that sometimes screams in the middle of the night, making the neighbors sit up in their beds. Perhaps the alarms are caused by curious explorers, like Jennifer Clay, but who really knows?
One night in July I stuffed a hopeful letter to Rudy Enriquez into the overflowing mailbox. When I returned at the end of August, the mailbox was still full. That night I sat for a time watching the sky above Glendower Place turn an inky black. There was an eerie “supermoon” that night, and it inspired deep thought. Perhaps those who obsess with ghosts are just searching for the reassurance of an afterlife. Maybe the true terror in this house is the very real specter of a loving father and husband who turned into a hammer-wielding killer. A doctor with a bathroom full of narcotics and ready-to-shoot syringes, failure gnawing at his mind and darkness eclipsing his soul. He is a suburban monster more frightening that any horror movie trope. That his story lives on in Internet forums and local lore is a chilling reminder that it could happen to any family. Even yours.
Dr. David Adams is a psychologist who specializes in husbands who commit familicide. He says a man who murders his wife and at least one child tends to be an older gentleman, in his 50s, and an average of seven years older than his spouse. Dr. Perelson was 50, and eight years older than Lillian. “Many of these guys, these types of perpetrators, are very invested in their public image,” he says. “When there is a prospect that their reputation or status can be harmed, they suffer a narcissistic injury. [Their murders] are almost like a type of damage control.”
It is likely, Dr. Adams believes, that the doctor’s mental health, and the threat of losing his position and livelihood as a doctor tipped him over the edge. Though he did not leave a suicide note, there was the copy of Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” It reveals a man who, at 50, was midway upon the journey of his life, who had lost his way, who had “found myself within a forest dark.”
I had discovered clues into why the doctor did it, but not why the house had remained empty for so long. No one ever will know, because my letter never reached Rudy Enriquez. According to a family friend, the owner passed away this year. I found an obituary from a funeral I believe to be his, held in June 2015. It said he left behind no children. Now, with the ownership of the house in question, it may be put up for sale.
Worryingly, California’s Civil Code has a “Three-Year Rule” for “murder houses”: Realtors are legally obliged to tell buyers of a material defect like a violent death–but only if the death occurred within three years of the date an offer is made to purchase the home. I spoke with veteran realtors George and Eileen Moreno, who have sold property in Los Feliz for decades. I just wanted a recent valuation.
“You want me to tell you my scary story?” Eileen said, as soon as I mentioned the address. She told me about the first time she laid eyes on the property, before she knew about its past. A horrendous feeling washed over her. “I said, ‘Oh, my God somebody died in that house.’” Eileen told me: “I knew something terrible had happened…oh my God.” There are ways of cleansing a house, Eileen said. There are spiritual cleansers, Reiki practitioners, sage burners, priests. In this neighborhood, the property could be worth $2 million, but the question remains: could you ever sleep at night in The Murder House?