I present to you: the infamous Black Dahlia House, a.k.a. the The Sowden House, a.k.a. the “Jaws House” at 5121 Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, California.
Built by Lloyd Wright [not to be confused with his famous father Frank Lloyd Wright] in 1926 in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, the neo-Mayan temple-esque house has both old Hollywood glamour AND an insanely ominous creep factor about it – for good reason.
The house is quite possibly the location of the long unsolved 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short – a.k.a. The Black Dahlia.
In addition, the home has been featured in several films and has seen its share of movie stars and news coverage. Most recently, a cadaver-sniffing dog indicated that there were human remains buried in the basement, lending credibility to the long held theory that the home’s former owner Dr. George Hodel murdered and mutilated at least one – and possibly several – young women here.
The iconic house just popped up for sale last week so have a look inside while I fill you in on the house’s backstory…
It is priced at $4,888,000 and has 5 bedrooms, 6 bathrooms in 5,600 square feet. As stated above, it was built in the 1920’s by Lloyd Wright for his friend painter/photographer John Sowden and his wife.
The couple requested something dramatic and theatrical and Lloyd Wright delivered. Wright was not only an avant-garde architect like his father, but also a landscape architect and a production designer at Paramount Studios. All of these elements converged in the Sowden house.
Ample use of ornamental concrete blocks on the facade and courtyard resulted in the home having the look of a Mayan temple… or some bizarre film set.
The home was extensively remodeled during the early 2000’s by designer Xorin Balbes. He restored much of the stonework, added a pool & spa in the courtyard, and completely redid the kitchen, converting three rooms into one large open kitchen:
But getting back to the Black Dahlia connection…. the home was owned from 1945 to 1951 by Dr. George Hodel, a physician who studied surgery in school and specialized in venereal diseases. On January 15, 1947, the mutilated body of 22 year old Elizabeth Short was found in a vacant lot in the Meimert Park area of Los Angeles. The gruesome and sensational nature of the case caused the press to go into overdrive and they named the unfortunate victim “the Black Dahlia”.
Dr. Hodel, who had been accused of molesting his teenage daughter around that time and who was previously investigated for the death of his secretary, became one of many suspects in the Black Dahlia case. He was placed under police surveillance and was even recorded making some very incriminating statements like “Supposin’ I did kill the Black Dahlia. They couldn’t prove it now.”
Dr. George Hodel:
Here’s the kicker:
The doctor’s own son, Steve Hodel, himself a retired City of Los Angeles homicide detective, argued in his 2003 book “Black Dahlia Avenger” that the Black Dahlia victim, Elizabeth Short, was actually tortured, murdered and dissected by his father inside of the Sowden House, in January 1947.
This is all only alleged, of course, because the Elizabeth Short case has never officially been solved and there have been many suspects over the years. At least 50 individuals have even confessed to the gruesome murder! So we may never know for sure, but there is a lot of compelling evidence against Dr. George Hodel – who died in 1991.
His son, Steve, claims that his father could have been responsible for a slew of other unsolved murders of young women over a 20 year period.
In November of 2012, Steve Hodel arranged for a cadaver dog to search the Sowden House property and the canine honed in on windows to the basement. The dog was there as part of the filming of a Ghost Hunters episode.
It certainly gives one chills just looking at these listing photos…
The home last sold in 2011 for $3.85 million, according to Curbed.com.
The fact that it is once again for sale so soon after having been sold, leads me to believe that the creep factor of this house is even more tangible than what we can see in the photos.
Who has a silver-plated toilet?
It is reported that the home even contains a “secret room” where the Hodel children were forbidden from going.
There are many, many perplexing things about this house.
But it’s not so bad when the sun is shining…
…if you don’t mind the massive, angry chomping jaws coming at you.
Sources and further reading:
Sowden house official website: http://sowdenhouse.com/history.html
Wikipedia site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Sowden_House
The real estate listings: http://www.estately.com/listings/info/5121-franklin-avenue–1
Further reading about the Black Dahlia murder case: