One of the most confounding crimes of the 1970’s was the List family murders.
On November 9, 1971, John List shot and killed his wife, mother and three children in the house (pictured above) at 431 Hillside Avenue in Westfield, New Jersey. He left their bodies neatly lined up on Boy Scout sleeping bags in the grand ballroom.
He turned the AC up and tuned the PA system on to a gospel music station and quietly slipped away into history. Almost.
Last thing I remember, I was running for the door,
I had to find the passage back to the place I was before,
Relax, said the night man, We are programmed to receive,
You can check out anytime you like… but you can never leave
Such a lovely little place.
During the 1980’s this dainty Queen Anne style duplex in Sacramento, California was a boarding house for senior citizens operated by a lady named Dorothea Puente.
The only problem was that Ms. Puente never let her boarders leave…. alive.
In fact, none of the tenants made it out of their garden plots until a suspicious social worker alerted police in 1988 to the disappearance of several at-risk adults. In the end, seven dismembered bodies were found on the property. Dorothea was later convicted of murdering her tenants and burying them in her yard so she could continue to collect their social security checks.
Newspapers dubbed her the “Death House Landlady”.
Dorothea’s track record wasn’t the best…. she was arrested in the 1960’s for running a brothel.
After spending time in jail, Puente dove into a life of crime by trolling bars for elderly men on benefits. She would befriend them, forge their signatures and steal their money. Dorothea was busted for these crimes in the early 1980’s and was on supervised parole and not permitted to have contact with senior citizens. So it is a complete mystery how she was able to run a boarding house for elderly and disabled people.
The world learned about a German Jewish girl named Anne Frank through her own candid words preserved in a personal diary that miraculously survived the Holocaust.
Sadly, Anne did not survive.
But her words have lived on for generations, as has the very house where she and her Jewish family hid for 2 years before being found by the Nazis.
The house is located on the Prinsengracht canal in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. The front part of the building is now a memorial museum for Anne and the victims; and the back secret annex – where they hid – has been preserved as it was during World War II.
Opened as a public museum on May 3, 1960, the building and annex have been restored with period artifacts. Millions of people have now toured the site to pay tribute to Anne, her family and four other Jewish people who eventually perished in Nazi concentration camps after their hiding spot was betrayed.
The house and the twin house next door, were built by Dirk van Delft in the year 1635. The building was originally a private residence, then a warehouse, then a manufacturing company for household appliances, and in the 1930’s it was used as a production place for piano rolls. In December of 1940, Anne’s father Otto Frank moved the offices of the spice company he worked for into the building known as Prinsengracht 263.
On a cold mid-November night in 1959, this unassuming farmhouse in rural Kansas was the location of the brutal murders of 4 members of the Clutter family.
The case – and the house – became infamous after flamboyant American writer Truman Capote took an interest in the homicides and decided to visit the small town where the crime took place in Holcomb, Kansas.
Capote was so taken with the murders that he embarked on a 6 year-long journey of chronicling the story and the capture, prosecution, & execution of the perpetrators Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Edward Smith.
Capote’s odyssey resulted in his opus magnum: In Cold Blood, which later became a major motion picture in 1967.
The house at the center of it all sits at the end of Oak Avenue on 7 acres of pastoral farmland.
The original farmstead was called “River Valley Farm” and locals still refer to the property as such. The current 2-story farmhouse was built in 1948 for $40,000 by Herb Clutter in order to house his family of six.
If you haven’t read the book or seen the original movie about the Clutter murders (or the more recent 2005 Hollywood film Capote), let me fill you in on the crime.
The Wikipedia description of Madame LaLaurie begins like this:
Marie Delphine LaLaurie (née Macarty or Maccarthy, c. 1775 – c. 1842), more commonly known as Madame LaLaurie, was a Louisiana-born socialite and serial killer known for her involvement in the torture and murder of black slaves.
And this is the New Orleans house where it all took place…
If you are a fan of the hit show American Horror Story, you might be familiar with this woman. Madame LaLaurie is played this season by none other than the superbly wicked Kathy Bates – whom we all love and remember as the deranged Annie Wilkes from the movie Misery. The writers of AHS: Coven (season 3) have mined the real life history of the sadistic socialite killer to depict on the small screen.
Here’s what you need to know:
Born in New Orleans in or around 1775, Delphine LaLaurie married three times over the course of her life and was a prominent socialite in the upper echelons of New Orleans society.
She was long rumored to be abusive to her household slaves – above and beyond what was even acceptable back then in the age of slavery – but the community largely turned a blind eye due to Madame’s wealth and social standing.
All that changed on the night of April 10, 1834 when fire fighters responded to a blaze at the LaLaurie mansion on Royal Street.
The rescuers discovered an elderly slave woman chained to the kitchen stove. She admitted starting the fire in an attempted suicide to avoid the fate of the slaves in the room on the upper floor. Sure enough, the rescuers found bound slaves in the third floor slave quarters who exhibited evidence of malicious long-term torture.