1141 users online (176 members and 965 guests)  


Websleuths News


Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 18
  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    299

    Haunted by the Past

    The Stigma of a Gruesome Crime Can Linger Over a House, But It Won't Scare Away All Buyers or Silence All Owners
    By Paul Duggan and Michael E. Ruane
    Washington Post Staff Writers
    Sunday, February 5, 2006; C01




    Houses like the one Christopher Price bought three years ago can be found in neighborhoods all over the Washington area -- ordinary houses not much different from those next door, except for the awful, abiding memories of what took place within their walls.

    See that house over there ? That's where . . . .

    Neighbors on either side of Price's ranch-style house near Annapolis -- old-timers who were there on that dreadful, long-ago morning when the bodies were discovered -- never shared the history with him. Then, on a winter afternoon a couple of years back, Price found out that his perfectly lovely house has an unlovely past.

    A man had been stabbed 17 times with a steak knife in the room that Price uses as an office. And in the room where he and his fiancee watch TV in the evenings, a woman was stabbed seven times before being bludgeoned with a wood-splitting maul. "It did keep us awake a couple of nights, thinking about it," Price said.

    On suburban cul-de-sacs and city streets across the country, they are houses that neighbors point to, the ones they don't forget. Long after the shock of murder wears off, long after the crime-scene tape comes down and life on the block resumes a peaceful rhythm, the memories linger, kept alive in whispers.

    See that house ? . . .

    Real estate professionals call them "stigmatized properties" -- houses that are structurally sound yet "psychologically impacted."

    To some who live in them, stigmatized houses are fascinating. "A conversation piece," Price calls his. Others are loath to discuss the grim histories: They're hoping their children won't find out; they're worried about their equity; they're afraid that skittish relatives won't visit if they hear what happened in the kitchen, the den, the master bedroom.

    One woman said that after she and her husband contracted to buy their house, they were stunned to learn from a neighbor that the previous owners, a married couple, had been shot to death in the basement. More than a year after moving in, the woman recoils at the thought of publicity.

    "No, no, no, no, no," she said. "Absolutely not. . . . I have a daughter who would never set foot in my house again if she knew."

    Some buyers knew the facts beforehand, though, and didn't flinch. Some used the stigmas to leverage discounts. As for buyers who heard the stories later -- one man learned of a multiple murder under his roof only when his gardener brought it up -- their reactions varied. Some were uneasy, others blase. Some took it as a spiritual challenge, a chance to bring joy to a house scarred by hate.

    One couple talked openly about ghosts in their house.

    Fury in the Family
    Price, who lives in Anne Arundel County's Cape St. Claire community, learned of his house's former notoriety while talking with a police officer. Then he immersed himself in old newspapers, absorbing more details, and read a book about the killings, "Sudden Fury," by Leslie Walker, now a Washington Post business columnist.

    The victims, Robert and Kathryn Swartz, had adopted their son Larry in 1973, when he was 6. Abandoned as a toddler, the boy had bounced from one abusive foster home to another before arriving in Cape St. Claire.

    He was 17 when his anger exploded in parricidal violence on a January night in 1984, ignited, his attorneys said, by the repressive, demeaning discipline that the couple had imposed on him. He eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, spent about a decade in prison and, at 38, died of a heart attack in Florida.

    "The book goes on about the paramedics coming in, the police coming in, and they turned the corner and went down the stairs, and there was blood here and evidence there," said Price, who paid $220,000 for the property, becoming the third owner since the Swartzes were murdered. The husband and wife who sold it to him had lived in the house for two years, unaware of its history.

    "I can walk around my house and I can picture it, which is interesting," Price said.

    He enjoys talking about it, he said. When he met a woman from Annapolis at a computer conference in Orlando recently, he asked her whether she recalled the murders. "And she was like, 'Oh, yeah, yeah.' . . . And I said: 'Yeah? Well, I live in that house now!' "

    Bob Gneiser, 74, also has no qualms about living in a murder scene, although Gneiser wishes people would forget about his house, a brick-and-wood split-level in the Carderock Springs section of Bethesda. Reporters and camera crews still show up at his door occasionally, revisiting one of the most enduring mysteries in the annals of local crime. And Gneiser, a retired radio and TV newsman, grudgingly tolerates them.

    "I know what they want," he said. "So I tell them, 'Go ahead and get it, and get the hell out of here.' "

    On a night three decades ago, a charming, 39-year-old State Department foreign service officer, William Bradford Bishop Jr. -- a multilingual Yale graduate and former Army intelligence officer -- went home from work and clubbed his family to death with a ball-peen hammer, police said.

    They said he loaded the bodies in a station wagon (his mother, his wife, his three young sons), drove them to North Carolina, piled them in a shallow hole and set them on fire. Then he vanished. Why it happened, and what became of him, are anyone's guess.

    Later that year, while house hunting, Gneiser and his wife, Carolyn, saw a Bethesda split-level that they loved. "I had covered the story like everyone else, but I had never been to the scene," Gneiser said. "So it didn't register with me."

    Their real estate agent broke the news: It was the Bishop place, put up for sale by estate lawyers. Carolyn Gneiser didn't care. "It wouldn't have mattered if you told her Ghengis Khan and Adolf Hitler lived there," Gneiser said. "She wanted that house."

    They wound up paying $106,000, a stigma bargain. A smaller house next door had sold recently for $113,000.

    "It's been a great home for 30 years," said Gneiser, now a widower. "I know some people get upset at these things," he said of the house's history. "In fact, my brother -- he lives in Florida -- he has refused to come up here and see me." But so be it.

    "The only way I'm leaving," Gneiser said, "is in a box."

    A person selling a house, and the seller's agent, can wind up paying civil damages if they lie to the buyer about a death or other calamity that occurred on the premises. But in most of the country, including the Washington area, unless the buyer asks whether any traumatic events took place in the house, the seller isn't obligated to tell.

    Many sellers of stigmatized houses choose not to volunteer the stories, real estate professionals said. And because sellers' agents are bound by their clients' wishes, they tend to keep quiet, too.

    On a shaded cul-de-sac in the Layhill area of Silver Spring, a 3,200-square-foot brick house stood empty for two years, a pall hanging over it.

    Mildred Horn, who was divorced, lived there with her 8-year-old son, Trevor, who had suffered brain damage and was kept alive by a respirator. On March 3, 1993, police said, an ex-con hired by the boy's father broke into the house, shot Mildred Horn and a nurse, then pulled out Trevor's breathing tube and smothered him.

    Police said the father, Lawrence Horn, then 54, a former Motown Records engineer, wanted control of his son's $1.7 million trust fund from a medical malpractice settlement. Now, he and the hit man are serving life in prison.

    For years, "when March third came, we subconsciously knew we were depressed for a reason," said Eugene Sprehn, 65, who lives nearby. "And the third of each month . . . we would remember."

    The current owners, a husband and wife in their late forties, first saw the empty house in 1995. They thought, "Oh, this seems nice," said the wife, a corporate recruiter who did not want her name published. Then, while she and her husband were waiting for the real estate agent to arrive, they got to talking with a neighbor, who let on about the murders.

    Their decision to buy wasn't easy, the wife said. But "tragic as it was, you move on." She said a stigma price break "made it more affordable, and we could get into the market." In 1990, Mildred Horn had paid $388,000 for the place; her estate sold it for $315,000.

    "For the first couple of years after we bought it, every anniversary, people would be showing up," the wife said. But no more.

    Now she and her husband have a young son and daughter. There's a basketball hoop in front of the house; there are toys in the yard and flowers. The gloom has lifted.

    It was "a nightmarish thing," she said. "But out of that often comes the ability to create some good."

    Haunting Visitors
    A ghost story:

    By August 1998, Natarajan Ramachandran, 40, an investment adviser, had run up $10 million in debts, some to casinos, and was under investigation for passing $2 million in worthless checks. For him, death was a way out -- and he wasn't going alone.

    In his 5,000-square-foot tract mansion in Herndon, he gathered his family in the master bedroom -- his wife, Kalpara; their daughter, Reha, 11; and their son, Raj, 7 -- and ended their lives and his with a 9mm Ruger rifle.

    "I believe there's a place between this life and life ever after," said the house's current owner, Jerome Peters, 52. "People's energy or spirits can get tied up in that."

    Which explains the spectral presence of Raj and Reha in the 20-room house, he said. His wife, Brenda, 56, said, "We feel they haven't passed over yet."

    The Peterses were living in Herndon and shopping for a bigger house in 2002 when they toured Ramachandran's former residence in the Crossfields neighborhood.

    "We put the down payment down," Brenda Peters said, "and then I got to thinking. . . ." Two of her daughters had gone to school with a brother and sister from Crossfields who were murdered. "I just wondered if this was the house," she said.

    She asked her agent, who didn't know. The seller's agent didn't know, either, and asked the seller, who had bought the house in 1999. The seller confirmed it.

    To Jerome Peters, who owns an information technology company, "it was just a house -- it didn't matter what happened." But his wife said: "I had to think about it. I mean, to know a family was killed in your house, in your bedroom, it's a little unsettling."

    They stuck to the deal, for a full-market price of $746,000, and arranged for a Baptist minister to stop by and bless the place.

    "Call it an energy or some kind of presence or some being -- I don't know what it is," Jerome Peters said. But "we don't find it frightening at all."

    Weeks and months go by with no hint of Raj and Reha, the couple said, and then, suddenly, fleetingly, the dead children are there, in glimpses, in wisps of sound.

    Brenda Peters said her son's girlfriend came bounding up from the finished basement a while back, mystified and shaken, saying a small boy had just walked past her and into a bathroom, which was empty when she looked in. Her son wasn't surprised, Brenda Peters said. He told his girlfriend that he had seen the boy before.

    "I've heard them," said Jerome Peters. Home by himself, "I've heard footsteps. . . . I've heard the sounds of children."

    Brenda Peters said: "I was in the sunroom. A movement caught my eye at the top of the stairs. And I saw the little girl walk into the bedroom. I saw the long hair in a braid, and she was Indian. . . .

    "It was so clear."

    As for the siblings' murdered mother, there has been no sign of her, the couple said.

    "Every time I make changes in the house, I wonder if she'd approve," Brenda Peters said. "We feel she's still here, too."

    Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.

    2006 The Washington Post Company

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Baltimore, MD
    Posts
    891
    Wow...that's really interesting. I don't know what I'd do if I knew someone had been murdered in my house. It would definitely be interesting.


    Happiness...consists in giving, and in serving others.
    - Henry Drummond

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    344

    Houses with a eerie past

    Very interesting. I have driven past the house(several times) in La Crosse Wi that 15 year old babysitter Evelyn Hartley was violently abducted and vanished from in 1953. I get an eerie and sad feeling, and wonder if the current owners know it's morbid history. I'm sure they do as Evelyn's mysterious disappearance is still well talked about in La Crosse(even a book was published last fall).. One can see the basement window (on the side of the house) that the abductors supposedly entered and dragged Evelyn out of.

    If I drive slow enough I can see the backyards she was supposedly dragged though leaving a blood trail and then I turn the corner and see the house where her scent ended in it's front yard at the street. About a mile and a half away I drove past the house she and her family had lived in at that time. I wonder which window was her bedroom, things like that.

    When my family and I were heading to Maryland on vacation last summer to visit friends, we drove through Cleveland so I made a detour to see the park (Halloran Park)10 year old Beverly Potts vanished from in 1951. I walked through the park and up to the corner of the street she lived on. Drove past her old house, and from actually standing there saw how close and cramped the houses are, and how close she lived to the park. She vanished without a trace somewhere between that park and her house, and no one saw or heard a thing.

    While in Maryland I saw the old Wheaton Plaza (now called Westfield) that the Lyon's sisters vanished from in 1975, and saw the house they lived in a few blocks away.

    It is very interesting to visit the actual places these unsolved diappearances occured. Gives one a whole new perspective to the story and makes it seem so much more real, and unreal at the same time.

    I don't think I could live where something awful happened. I would look at the room and just picture it occuring. It would be interesting though, to go inside the house Evelyn Hartley was abducted from, see the livingroom where she obviously stuggled, (and the basement.) and the house she lived in. The house Beverly Potts lived in and the Lyons girls house. To see which room was their bedroom etc.

    I think most every town has a house where people point and have a story to tell. Just the other day I drove past a house in the next town over that was built on the site of a house that was demolished by a tornado in 1965. The entire family was killed. That is kind of haunting, to know on the land your house sits on is where five people died.

    The grocery store Brian Carrick was last seen in Johnsburg, IL in 2002 (and his blood found in the back room) I drive past often to go visit one of my friends. Brian's family still lives across the street from that grocery store.

    Anyway, very interesting article, and I just wanted to share some of "those houses" I have seen.
    Last edited by joellegirl; 02-05-2006 at 08:55 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Posts
    3,140
    Quote Originally Posted by joellegirl
    Very interesting. I have driven past the house(several times) in La Crosse Wi that 15 year old babysitter Evelyn Hartley was violently abducted and vanished from in 1953. I get an eerie and sad feeling, and wonder if the current owners know it's morbid history. I'm sure they do as Evelyn's mysterious disappearance is still well talked about in La Crosse(even a book was published last fall).. One can see the basement window (on the side of the house) that the abductors supposedly entered and dragged Evelyn out of.

    If I drive slow enough I can see the backyards she was supposedly dragged though leaving a blood trail and then I turn the corner and see the house where her scent ended in it's front yard at the street. About a mile and a half away I drove past the house she and her family had lived in at that time. I wonder which window was her bedroom, things like that.

    When my family and I were heading to Maryland on vacation last summer to visit friends, we drove through Cleveland so I made a detour to see the park (Halloran Park)10 year old Beverly Potts vanished from in 1951. I walked through the park and up to the corner of the street she lived on. Drove past her old house, and from actually standing there saw how close and cramped the houses are, and how close she lived to the park. She vanished without a trace somewhere between that park and her house, and no one saw or heard a thing.

    While in Maryland I saw the old Wheaton Plaza (now called Westfield) that the Lyon's sisters vanished from in 1975, and saw the house they lived in a few blocks away.

    It is very interesting to visit the actual places these unsolved diappearances occured. Gives one a whole new perspective to the story and makes it seem so much more real, and unreal at the same time.

    I don't think I could live where something awful happened. I would look at the room and just picture it occuring. It would be interesting though, to go inside the house Evelyn Hartley was abducted from, see the livingroom where she obviously stuggled, (and the basement.) and the house she lived in. The house Beverly Potts lived in and the Lyons girls house. To see which room was their bedroom etc.

    I think most every town has a house where people point and have a story to tell. Just the other day I drove past a house in the next town over that was built on the site of a house that was demolished by a tornado in 1965. The entire family was killed. That is kind of haunting, to know on the land your house sits on is where five people died.

    The grocery store Brian Carrick was last seen in Johnsburg, IL in 2002 (and his blood found in the back room) I drive past often to go visit one of my friends. Brian's family still lives across the street from that grocery store.

    Anyway, very interesting article, and I just wanted to share some of "those houses" I have seen.

    Me too! I find the thought of seeing a house where something happened fascinating. I have no stories to add, wish I did. I know I have a morbid personality. Anyone else have some good stories?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    5,076

    In Cold Blood: The Clutter House...

    About two months ago, I remember reading a link to a site which talked about the 1959 case made famous by Truman Capote in his book "In Cold Blood". A movie based on the book came out in the late 1960's.

    The Website had photos of the house where the murders took place. The current owners of the house actually knew the family and they give tours at times to interested persons.

    I have visited a number of places, including houses, where crimes have taken place. It adds a great amount to one's knowledge and feel for what happened to be at the site. In 1974, I visited Dealy Plaza in Dallas, Texas, where John F. Kennedy was shot. I was struck by the size and shape of the place. If it wasn't actually a well planned triangulation-of-fire ambush, the setting was perfect for one.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Posts
    3,140
    This thread got me interested in "stigmatized properties"....I found these articles.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...020401226.html


    http://www.styleweekly.com/article.asp?idarticle=11719

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    344

    Touring the Clutter House

    That is interesting that the current residents of the old Clutter house let people in to see the place. That is another story that has stayed with me ever since I heard about it. If I am ever in Kansas maybe I'll check it out.

    I've never had the guts to ask the residents of a" house with a dark past" if I could see it. I've been tempted, as one of the times I drove past the house in La Crosse Wi where Evelyn Hartley vanished, one of the owners was outside by the garage. I'm always afraid they will be offended, think I'm rude for asking etc. I am always with my family so I don't think I'd look too threatning but still....who knows, maybe they would understand the interest but I've never taken that chance yet.

    Driving by is very neat, but it is even more neat to stand in front of such a house as I did with the house Beverly Potts lived in, and walking through that park she was last seen was quite a feeling.



    Speaking of assassination sites, it was very interesting to be in Ford's Theatre in Wash DC where Lincoln was shot, and then to go across the street to the house where he died in the back room.

    I hope to see Dealy Plaza in Dallas someday.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    5,076

    Visitors to an Historic House...

    I live in an historic house (in Maryland) which is close to 200 years old. From time to time, we get unannounced visitors who are interested in looking at it and asking questions. Most of the time we are happy to oblige. Of course, there are times when we are on our way out the door, and do not have time to talk to them, or are busy with company, etc. But most of the time, we are more than happy to talk to visitors and show them around. In fact, we have learned some very interesting bits of history about our place from these visitors.

    One Sunday afternoon, I was working on one of my cars at another house about two miles away. Of course, the tool that I really needed was at my house, and so I left my project to drive back home and get it. My house is located about a quarter of a mile back from the road, and generally hard to find, but as I drove up, I saw a car in the driveway, and a young couple was walking around the house taking photos.

    I walked over to them and introduced myself. They told me that they had driven all the way from New Jersey in order to look for the farm of one of their ancestors, and they thought that my house had belonged to him. As they related more, I realized that although my farm had once been part of the larger land tract they were referring to, they were actually looking for a much older house, which had once stood about a mile from mine.

    I told them that if they would follow me in their car, I would take them to the location of that house and they agreed. After showing them where the house had stood, I took them back to the origional family graveyard - set a long way back from any public road. The first grave they walked up to was that of the ancestor they had been researching - a man who had died in the mid 1700's. There was just enough daylight left for them to get photos of his grave. They thanked me and left for New Jersey. I have often wondered how those photos came out.

    I cannot speak for every person who owns an historic home, but I can say that it doesn't hurt to ask. The worst that can happen is that they might tell you "no". But on the other hand, they might be a wealth of knowledge on the subject, and happy to talk with you about it.

    There is something about asking Questions that compels Answers. It is hard to explain, but it seems to be true because I have seen it occur many times. In the case of this couple from New Jersey, they were standing in my yard asking eachother questions about their ancestor. I thought that I was on my way home to get a tool, but ended up spending the next hour or two answering some of their questions, and making suggestions as to where they could find more information. If they hadn't asked, they might still be wondering.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    175
    I have visited the historic site of the Dummett Sugar Mill Ruins in Ormond Beach FL where my sister was raped and murdered. It really does add so much to one's knowledge about the crime itself to visit the actual place. While it was a strange, cathartic experience, it is one that I have repeated several times and each time I go I gain a different perspective.

    Many early cultures believed that places hold spiritual relevance. I find myself wondering if this is true with places such as these. The Dummett Sugar Mill was the first steam powered sugar mill in the state/area and was destroyed by fire by the Seminole Indians. Visit the link if you like.

    http://volusiahistory.com/pUSterr.htm

    Richard wrote: I have visited a number of places, including houses, where crimes have taken place. It adds a great amount to one's knowledge and feel for what happened to be at the site.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    92,363
    Mullins--
    I am very sorry to hear of your sister's murder. It must be just awful for your family.


  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    3,330
    Quote Originally Posted by Richard
    There is something about asking Questions that compels Answers. It is hard to explain, but it seems to be true because I have seen it occur many times. In the case of this couple from New Jersey, they were standing in my yard asking eachother questions about their ancestor. I thought that I was on my way home to get a tool, but ended up spending the next hour or two answering some of their questions, and making suggestions as to where they could find more information. If they hadn't asked, they might still be wondering.
    My parents also live in an old house, a mere 100 year old baby compared to yours. They also had visitors that were relatives to the original owners. They were really old themselves, and so had visited back when things were original to the home and were able to tell them some history. They also told of setting the dead out in the parlor for a week long wake! I have never seen a ghost there. I have been to older homes that gave me the creeps though.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    5,076

    Visiting and asking questions...

    Quote Originally Posted by gardenmom
    My parents also live in an old house, a mere 100 year old baby compared to yours. They also had visitors that were relatives to the original owners. They were really old themselves, and so had visited back when things were original to the home and were able to tell them some history. They also told of setting the dead out in the parlor for a week long wake! I have never seen a ghost there. I have been to older homes that gave me the creeps though.
    Reading your post reminded me of a story someone told me recently about visiting some old people. This woman had been adopted as a baby and was searching for her birth parents and for some family history.

    She had already learned who her father was, and that he had died rather young after moving back in with his parents. Her father had been an only child. She had also learned that his parents (her grandparents) had later died, but she knew their home address and decided to stop by and ask to see the house.

    The young couple who lived in the house invited her in and showed her around. They had never met her grandparents or her father, but suggested that perhaps the very old couple across the street might have known them, since they had lived there many years.

    Crossing the street, she knocked on the door and was soon talking to a very nice old man and woman, who had indeed known her family. They sat and talked for several hours, when the old man suddenly remembered something. He went to his bedroom and from a closet shelf, took a box down and brought it into the room where they were sitting. He said, "I guess I have been holding this for you all these years."

    He handed her a box of photographs and told her that it had been given to him by her grandfather only a few days before his death. He recalled that her grandfather had simply brought them over and asked him to hold on to them. He had noticed the box from time to time over the years, but could never bring himself to throw it out.

    Among the photos were pictures of her father at various ages, pictures of her grandparents and other relatives, and letters written by her father. In one photo her father is holding a baby. At first she thought that it was a photo of him holding her, but the date on the back indicated that the photo was taken after she had been adopted and would have been older than the child in the photo. That photo led her to do more research, and she learned that the baby was actually a younger brother that she had never known. After more searching, she located and reunited with him.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Posts
    299
    Richard, u're not far from the original exorcist house are you?

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Posts
    5,076
    Quote Originally Posted by marylandmissing
    Richard, u're not far from the original exorcist house are you?
    I believe that house was somewhere in Cottage City, Maryland. You're right, I am not too far from there!

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    344
    I guess the difference with me is the houses I mentioned in my above posts are houses that had tragic crimes occur in them or are the homes of the victims. If they were a just a very old historic home, or my ancestors lived there it would be easier to ask to see it. I guess I am afraid of the owners of a house with a tragic history will say something like "Why do you want to see where something awful happened?" or are tired of people knocking on their door. Of course I know there is a good chance owners could totally understand the interest, may even be very interested themselves and be nice about it.. It is true I will never know unless I ask. Chances are if the owners don't want me to see it they will most likely just say no and not give me a hard time about it.

    I also love to see historic homes and sites, they don't necessarily have to have a tragedy associated with them. I've always loved to see president's homes, especially Lincoln's in Springfield, IL. Been in that home many times! Well, I guess that house does have a tragedy tied to to it, but Lincoln didn't die there, it is where he raised his family while he worked as a lawyer.

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast


Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 3
    Last Post: 05-14-2011, 03:56 PM