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The legend of LA’s Murder House

Although the surroundings are idyllic, the property itself shows signs of decay.

Although the surroundings are idyllic, the property itself shows signs of decay.

Published Apr 5, 2016


Los Angeles - The three-storey home at 2475 Glendower Place ought to be one of the most desirable properties in Los Angeles.

Built in 1925, in the then fashionable Spanish Revival style, it sits in the leafy hills above the Los Feliz neighbourhood, at the fringes of Griffith Park and with a panoramic view of the city below. Birds chirp in the nearby trees, a bougainvillea tumbles over a neighbour's wall. This week, the four-bedroom, three-bathroom house went on the market for $2.75m (about R33m) - a steal, given its size and location.

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But there's a caveat, and it's one that could be a deal-breaker for superstitious buyers.

Although the surroundings are idyllic, the property itself shows signs of decay. The terraced lawn is patchy, the concrete driveway is cracked and there are stains the colour of dirty dishwater on the stucco façade. Legend states that nobody has lived in the 5 050-sq ft. house for almost 60 years - ever since a grisly, unexplained murder-suicide took place at the property. Google the address and you'll find 2475 Glendower has another name: the Los Feliz Murder House.

At 4.30am on 6 December, 1959, the home's then-owner, Dr Harold Perelson, bludgeoned his wife Lillian to death as she slept. He then went to the bedroom of the couple's teenage daughter, Judye, and attacked her with the bloody hammer. But he managed only a glancing blow - enough to wake the 18-year-old, but not to kill her. She screamed and ran from the house. When the commotion woke the Perelsons' younger children, who were 13 and 11, their father told them: “Go back to bed. This is a nightmare.”

Judye, bleeding and distraught, woke a neighbour, who made it into the house in time to find Dr Perelson guzzling pills. The 50-year-old cardiologist was dead before the ambulance arrived. Police found him lying on the floor beside his wife's bed, with a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy open at the first canto of the Inferno: “Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”

The motives for the awful crime were unclear. Police speculated that the doctor had become engulfed by financial difficulties. It is thought he had previously attempted suicide. Local LA historian Kim Cooper points to the case of Martha Taft, who, four months after the Perelson murder, bludgeoned her husband to death with a hammer as he slept in their Pasadena mansion - 10 or so miles from Los Feliz - and then tried to poison herself.

“At her trial, a toxicologist testified that based on her intake of prescribed drugs including Equanil - also known as Miltown - she would have been completely unaware of what she was doing and behaving as if in a trance,” Mr Cooper says. “The judge agreed, because at the time there were so many incidents being reported of people who were taking these drugs to regulate their moods and would have these terrible breakdowns. Martha Taft was freed. And a doctor like [Perelson] would certainly have had access to the same drugs.”

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2475 Glendower was sold through probate the year after the incident, to a couple, Emily and Julian Enriquez, who furnished some of its interior, but - so the story goes - never actually moved in. When Emily died in 1994, the property passed to their son, Rudy, a music store manager from nearby Washington Heights. He also never lived there permanently and the house was allowed to descend further into neglect.

In more recent years, the home has become a destination for ghost-hunters, LA crime tourists and the morbidly curious. As its reputation has spread, stories and images circulated online from those brave enough to have climbed the steep steps to the house, peered through the dusty windows and, in some cases, crept warily inside. One visitor examined packaged food and magazines, another claimed to have seen a Christmas tree surrounded by unwrapped presents. The furnishings were from the mid-Century, they said, suggesting the home had been crystallised in time on that gory night in 1959.

One of the property's earliest owners was Frederik Zelnik, a celebrated silent film director whose final work was the 1939 murder mystery I Killed The Count. Now, the story of the Murder House is being developed as a Hollywood horror movie, based on a long-form article by British journalist Jeff Maysh.

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Though the deaths at 2475 Glendower were chilling, they are not nearly so notorious as several other LA slayings of the later 20th Century, such as the Tate-LaBianca killings, the OJ Simpson trial or the so-called Wonderland murders of 1981. What sets the Perelson murder-suicide apart, however, is the scene of the crime.

10050 Cielo Drive, where Sharon Tate and her friends were slaughtered by the Manson Family, was demolished in the 1990s, just like Simpson's Rockingham estate. The Los Feliz home of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca - also Manson Family victims - was sold, renamed and occupied by new owners after their murder. So too was the house at 8763 Wonderland Avenue in Laurel Canyon, where four people were beaten to death in July 1981.

The legend of the Murder House persists in large part because the house itself still exists - apparently, all but untouched. “It's actually rare that these famous murder houses survive, because of the stigma,” said Mr Cooper, whose company Esotouric runs several true crime tours of the city. “There's something very powerful about the idea of a place that hasn't changed. It hasn't been remodelled, no one else has lived there, it's frozen in time - and that's probably why this myth has grown as much as it has.”

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And yet, and yet. Has the Murder House really remained untouched for more than five decades, or is its myth merely the wishful thinking of the internet age? Several of the items described by trespassers cannot have been there in 1959, such as a packet of spooky SpaghettiOs, a product that wasn't even on the market until the 1960s. The Christmas tree, if it existed at all, probably did not belong to the Perelsons, who were Jewish.

Rudy Enriquez died last year, with no children, and 2475 Glendower is being sold by estate agent Nancy Sanborn of Berkshire Hathaway, who specialises in probate sales. From what she has heard, many of the ghost stories told about the house are untrue. “According to the neighbours, the Enriquez family did move into the house. Mr and Mrs Enriquez lived there for years,” Sanborn said. “It's an urban myth that the house has been empty since the murder.”

It's true that Mr Enriquez never lived there, but he used the building for storage and often visited. The neighbours thought he “really enjoyed the attention it got,” Sanborn added.

Asked about the house by the Los Angeles Times in 2009, Mr Enriquez insisted: “The only spooky thing there is me. Tell people to say their prayers every morning and evening and they'll be okay.”

Its property listing says that 2475 Glendower is “waiting for that special person looking for a wonderful opportunity to remodel or develop”. The next owner will be presented with a choice: tear down the house and rebuild, or renovate the existing one and live with its history. Sanborn has sold her fair share of murder houses before; most of her buyers aren't bothered by ghosts, she says. “It's all about the price at the end of the day. If somebody thinks they're getting good value, they couldn't care less what happened there.”

The Independent

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