It wasn’t my first haunted house, but it’s the one that haunts me.
I first heard about the murder house when my friend Kendra’s friend Wendy moved into it. She’d been working with the homeowner, Violet, who took her in for extremely cheap rent when she was hard up. Within a year or so Wendy moved out and Kendra moved in, which was when I first visited the house and heard its full story.
Back in the day, say the 1980s, the home had been owned by a dirtball I’ll call George. He was a pedophile, a pornographer, a maker of dangerous drugs, and (eventually) a murderer. He liked to dress up in a Nazi uniform and have his boytoy wheel him around the neighborhood in a wheelchair. He usually had a teenage boy or two living with him; the one I know about I’ll call Nick. Nick was around 15 when he came to live with George and he started taking over and expanding George’s drug and porn operations. Under Nick’s reign, the house was used to grow pot, sell heroin, make meth, film porn, and stage elaborate SM play parties. And possibly to worship Satan. There were showerheads installed in the living room, which was completely tiled in yellow with a black pentagram and a central drain. The room that would later become mine was completely covered in black felt and housed a six-foot, neon-lit, reclining crucifix. There were cameras in every room (including the showers) set up on closed-circuit TV, and peepholes for spying. The basement was outfitted as a full SM dungeon. Anyway, when Nick was in his late teens or early twenties, George tried to replace him with a younger boy; Nick caused trouble; George chained him to a chair in the basement and set him on fire. Nick broke free and ran through the basement into the garage and outside, but died in the street outside the house. Ughhh.
George went to prison and the house went to his most recent lover. That guy and HIS new lover both died of AIDS, one of them inside the house. The house was foreclosed on. Needless to say it wasn’t a hot property, though large and full of...potential. So it sat empty for years, inhabited by squatters (human and animal), until Violet bought it in 1995. (Among other dubious treasures, she found a quarter pound of heroin in a couch. I know that’s only four ounces, but still. A quarter pound of heroin!) Since then she remodeled it kind of haphazardly, mostly whenever her current girlfriend pushed her to fix something. So when I first saw it, it was a bizarre mix of pestilence and luxury.
Kendra was living in the enclosed porch, where ivy was growing in from outside, the wind blew in through 1” gaps in the walls, and only a curtain separated her from the passage of people going in and out of the house. ($200 a month in late-1990s San Francisco. Need I say more?) An unspeakably ghastly mural called “Cabin Fever” was the first thing you’d see as you entered the foyer: Lifesize figures in tuxes and formal dress with hideous, clenched, gnashing teeth…I was surprised to find out that it was painted AFTER Violet bought the house. (Kendra and I would later cover it up with furniture and plants, we hated it so much.) The living room was gorgeous – stunning views of the city, lovely hardwood floors. The main bathroom had super-posh fittings and a sink that looked like an asymmetric egg, but the window was plastic sheeting and duct tape. The deck seemed fine until you looked to your right and saw the gaping burned holes and realized you needed to get the hell off it before you fell through into the basement. That kind of thing.
I came to live there when I broke up with my boyfriend and needed to move out of his apartment. My heart rebelled against paying $1200 for a studio or $800 to live with strangers; Violet said I could take the empty room for $500 and no deposit. Side perks were living with Kendra, a ten-minute commute to work, a garden, ample basement storage for my stuff, a beautiful big kitchen…I was stoked, and if anything, pleased with the gory history of the house, as it made for great conversation.
But you cannot fight the vibes of a house, and this house had BAD VIBES. (As Violet’s friend Rachel put it: “Maybe it’s that awful mural, or the creepy intergenerational dyke-power sculpture in the hallway, but this place gives me the cold shivers.”) Malevolent feng shui, if you will. Kendra seemed to be doing all right there; it’s only now that she has moved that she tells me how oppressive it was for her. I would like to tell you that I witnessed a lot of paranormal activity. I did frequently tell people about paranormal activity I witnessed, but always qualified it by saying I was smoking a lot of pot at that time. Overall the problems of the house manifested as nasty interpersonal conflicts: Violet vs. Dina, me vs. Dina and Kendra vs. Dina.
I will not go into detail about the horrendous bad roommate behavior that ensued over the next two years. Suffice it to say that no one was innocent, but that stories about Dina (in particular) and Violet have entertained and enraged my friends since I moved in. A few short anecdotes, just to give you the flavor of the household: Dina constantly took bags of mixed garbage and unwanted items into the basement, mingling them with my stuff (obsessively organized in plastic tubs, of course). I regularly moved her bags back to her fetid piles of crap. One day she confronted me and Kendra: “Is one of you moving around my stuff in the basement? Cause nothing is ever where I put it.” Kendra promptly answered, “Dina, the last time I touched anything of yours was when I opened a box and found a bloody tampon in it.” A ha ha aha ahah ahah aha ha hah aha. You might think that topic wouldn’t come up again, but it remained an issue until I left. Here’s one on Violet - constant messages on our answering machine (which only Kendra and I ever listened to): “Violet Norman, your rental car is a week overdue…Violet Norman, this is Avis, we need to hear from you about your overdue rental car…Violet Norman, this is Avis, your rental car is three weeks overdue…Violet Norman, this is your last chance to take care of this matter without litigation…” I transcribed these messages and gave them to Violet one day as she was leaving the house with her girlfriend Mikey.
Violet’s response: “Oh, those assholes.”
Mikey: “But Violet, what happened to the car?”
Violet: “I lent it to Rachel. She’ll return it when she’s done with it.”
Mikey: “But don’t you think you should at least call Avis?”
Violet: “Oh no, if it was really important they’d serve me the documents in person.”
A HA AH HAH AHAHH! I love to remember this little incident when I’m like a day late paying a phone bill or something and feel I’m destroying my credit history and/or life. OK, one last story: One fine day I took it upon myself to excavate a massive pile of construction rubble, garbage, broken household items, soiled clothing and the like which was rotting and collecting cat urine in the basement. At the bottom of the pile, sitting on the kiln that had been used to cook drugs, I found a pristine and unopened feng shui gift set. Good Stuff!
Anyway, tensions rose over the course of the two years I was there, until around April of 2005 I realized I viciously hated Dina’s guts and would be happy to see her dead. (Not a normal emotion for me. I frequently hate humanity, but when it comes to individual humans I’m a real hippie.) Around May I started having pleasantly CSI-flavored fantasies of getting away scot-free with murdering her, and in June I moved out, never to see her again. Violet asked Dina and Kendra to move out at the same time, and scheduled a major remodel; I heard from Kendra that Dina failed to move her stuff out by the deadline and that the remodelers threw it in the dumpster. For those of you asking the question: The only subsequent murders in the house occurred when Violet’s crazy co-worker (1) dumped Kendra’s oak-barrel fishpond in the gutter, killing all her goldfish. But folks! Do not move in to murder houses! At least not the ones inhabited by crazy people.
Names were changed. Otherwise, these are the facts, ma’am. Read more about the house at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/gate/archive/2002/01/29/carollloyd.DTL
(1) One last anecdote about this particular crazy: She once got so mad at her husband for calling her “wifey” (at a huge party celebrating his university tenure) that she got up on the banquet table, pulled down her underwear and urinated all over the table. Yesssss!