For those who are interested in the morbid and the macabre, they will know that every city has it’s very own dark tourism hotspots. “The City of Angels” is no exception. The largest city in California, Los Angeles is well-known for its Mediterranean climate, Hollywood entertainment industry, surfers paradise beaches, and some of the most gruesome murders in US history.
Dark tourism creates a sense of excitement as if you are experiencing the forbidden. These following murder houses all attract hundreds of thrill-seekers every year and they also come with their own sinister backstories.
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10 “The Wonderland Gang” Murder
On July 1st, 1981, one of the most brutal slayings in Los Angeles history became known as “The Wonderland Murders”. John Curtis Holmes was a superstar in the world of hardcore pornography due to his physical abnormality. It was not long before Holmes fell into a downward spiral of addiction.
Holmes’ close associate Ronald “Ron” Launius was appointed leader of “The Wonderland Gang”. When a deal between the gang and drug kingpin Eddie Nash went wrong; Holmes’ associates robbed Nash of drugs, jewelry, and $1.2 million in cash. Later, Nash discovered that Holmes was involved in the robbery and it is strongly believed he sent his henchman, Greg Diles, to settle the score.
According to witnesses, Diles entered the apartment at 8763 Wonderland Avenue in the Laurel Canyon, approx. 3 am and beat to death Joy Miller, Billy DeVerell, and Barbara Richardson with a pipe as they slept on the couch. Diles then forced Holmes to beat Launius to death with the pipe until his head exploded. Susan Launisis was also brutally beaten in her bed but she miraculously survived, albeit with life-changing injuries.
Despite the witnesses’ testimonies; Holmes, Nash, and Diles were never charged with the murders. Holmes died from complications caused by AIDS in March 1988.
9 Los Feliz Murder Mansion
On the night of December 6th, 1959, at 2475 Glendower Place in the affluent area of Los Feliz, one of Los Angeles’ creepiest mysteries took place. At approx. 4.30 am, cardiologist Dr. Harold Perelson struck his wife Lillian in the head with a ball-peen hammer as she laid in bed. Lillian died of asphyxiation from swallowing her own blood. Dr. Perelson then struck his 16-year-old daughter Judye with the same hammer which woke her screaming.
The neighbors heard Judye scream “Don’t kill me” before she managed to run out of the house and call for help. Judye’s younger sister 11-year-old Debby was still in the house and when she awoke, her father told said, “Go back to bed. This is a nightmare.” Then he took a fatal overdose. Nobody could understand why such a talented doctor, who adored his wife and children, would wake in the middle of the night and bludgeon them in their sleep.
For 60 years, the Los Feliz mansion stood untouched. A painter who worked on the property told CBS, “Basically, it’s like a crime scene frozen in time.” He described the family’s Christmas tree with presents wrapped underneath had been there since the murders took place.
8 Murders of José and Kitty Menendez
On August 20, 1989, José and Kitty Menendez were enjoying a quiet night at their Beverly Hills Mansion on North Elm Drive when their sons committed the “Crime of the Century”. During the evening, 21-year-old Lyle and 18-year-old Erik, entered the living room and opened fire with a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun.
José was shot in the back of the head and Kitty was shot in the leg while trying to run from the room. She was then shot in the face leaving her unrecognizable. The Menendez brothers then shot both their parents in the kneecaps to stage the crime scene as a Mafia hit.
From the night of the murders and up to their arrests, the brothers bought a Rolex watch, a Porsche Carrera, hired a professional tennis coach, and went on vacation in the Caribbean. It is believed that they spent somewhere around $700,000 in 100 days. According to their own defense, the Menendez brothers had suffered years of sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of their mega-rich parents, so they agreed to defend themselves in a fatal way.
A jury found them both guilty and they were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
7 The Unsolved Murder of Bugsy Siegel
Notorious mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was well-known for being the man behind the development of the Las Vegas Strip and he had a net worth equal to $100 million today. Along the way, he certainly made a lot of powerful enemies including Paul John “Frankie” Carbo a Mafia soldier in the Lucchese crime family, who operated as a gunman with Murder, Inc.
Siegel spent many years developing his dream house in Holmby Hills for his wife and children. The mansion reportedly had several secret panels, a secret corridor behind a bookcase, and hidden trapdoors. Also at the 1.84-acre property, there was a 60-foot swimming pool and a championship tennis court.
However, on the night of June 20th, 1947, Siegel was at the home of his girlfriend, Virginia Hill, at 810 North Linden Drive, Beverley Hills, although she had already left for Paris. He was also joined by his long-time friend and associate Allen Smiley. Suddenly, shots from an M-1 carbine were fired through the front window killing Siegel immediately and badly injuring Smiley. The murder has never been solved.
6 Murder of Lana Clarkson
Record producer and songwriter Phil Spector has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry including The Beatles, The Ronettes, and Ike & Tina Turner.
On February 3rd, 2003, Spector met 40-year-old actress Lana Clarkson at the House of Blues on the Sunset Strip. He invited her to his house at 1700 Grand View Drive, Alhambra. Hours later, Clarkson’s body was found slumped in a chair, the bottom of her mouth blown off, her broken teeth scattered across the carpet, and a 36 Colt revolver under her left leg. Spector told his driver: “I think I’ve killed somebody.”
Spector claimed Clarkson had taken her own life with the gun. Evidence against Spector was that Clarkson had given no indication that she was suicidal and that people rarely kill themselves at the home of a stranger. Law professor Jean Rosenbluth told The Guardian, “If this were not Phil Spector, with a lot of money to spend, a trial like this would never have gone on for so long. Cases don’t usually go to trial when there is this much evidence against the defendant.”
In 2007, the judge declared a mistrial because of a hung jury. Then in 2008 during a retrial, the jury returned a guilty verdict. He was sentenced to 19 years to life in the California state prison system and will be eligible for parole in 2024.
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5 Murder of William Desmond Taylor
One of the biggest mysteries in Hollywood history is who murdered William Desmond Taylor. Lieutenant Tom Ziegler was told this was a “natural death” but when he arrived at the house on South Alvarado Street, he noticed Taylor had a bullet wound in his back.
There were many suspects. Representatives from Paramount Studios, who employed Taylor, seized all the letters at his house. It is suspected that the studio wanted to cover something up – but what exactly?
There was also teenage silent film star Mary Miles Minter whose mother, Charlotte Shelby, hated the relationship between her daughter and the director. Shelby had previously threatened to kill another director who was close to her daughter. After Taylor’s murder, Shelby’s alibi witness received a suspicious amount of money.
It was also revealed that Minter had previously tried to shoot herself with the same type of gun that was used to murder Taylor. Later, in her biography, Minter had admitted that both she and her mother were at Taylor’s house on the night of the murder. Still, to this day, the murder has never been solved.
4 Murders of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman
On June 12th, 1994, the bodies of Nicole Brown and Ronald Goldman were discovered shortly after midnight at 875 South Bundy Drive in Brentwood.
An autopsy revealed Brown had been stabbed several times in the neck and had a gash across her throat so severe, she was nearly decapitated. The defensive wounds on Goldman led investigators to believe he died trying to save Brown from her attacker. A single bloody glove was also found at the property.
Brown’s ex-husband O.J. Simpson was arrested on suspicion of double homicide. Investigators discovered blood on a white Ford Bronco at his home address. They also discovered a women’s shelter had received a panic call from Brown four days prior to her murder. Brown said she was afraid of what Simpson might do to her as she refused to reconcile their marriage. She had also reported a missing set of house keys which were later found on Simpson when he was arrested.
The People of the State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson lasted 18 months and dubbed by the media as “The Trial of the Century”, but O.J. was later acquitted.
3 Murder of Susan Berman
Susan Berman was an author and daughter of Davie Berman – a mobster who took the place of Bugsy Siegel at Las Vegas’ Flamingo Hotel following his murder. Berman herself was only 12-years-old when her father died under mysterious circumstances during an operation and a year later, her mother committed suicide. She suspected foul play in both of their deaths. Gradually, she received a total of $4.3 million from the Mafia due to her father’s business interests.
In 1967, whilst studying at UCLA, she first met real estate heir Robert Durst. On December 23rd, 2000, Berman was murdered execution-style with a 9mm handgun at her home on Benedict Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills. In 2015, Durst was arrested for Berman’s murder and it was also believed he had killed his first wife, Kathleen, who went missing in New York in 1982.
It was discovered that New York State Police had re-opened an investigation into Kathleen’s disappearance and as Berman was Durst’s closest confidant, she was due to be interviewed in connection with the case. She was killed just weeks after the re-opened investigation was made public. Durst is currently in Los Angeles County Jail awaiting trial.
2 The Hillside Strangler Murders
Serial killers Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi, who were also cousins, had abducted and murdered 10 victims – all young women ranging in ages from 12 to 28 – between October 1977 to February 1978. The case became known in the media as “The Hillside Strangler” case because investigators initially believed there was just one killer committing these crimes.
Many of the victims were taken to Buono’s seedy lair at 703 E. Colorado St, Glendale. This was both home and business for Buono as he used the property was also his auto upholstery shop.
The bodies of the victims were then dumped on the hillsides around the Glendale area. Deputy Attorney General Roger W. Boren wrote in the Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, “One could draw a circle around Glendale using the intersection of Glendale Avenue and Colorado Street as its center, and within that circle roughly locate all of the sites where the victims’ bodies were discovered.”
1 The Manson Family Murders
On August 8th, 1969, cult leader Charles Manson sent four members of the “Manson Family” to the home of actress Sharon Tate who was just two weeks away from giving birth. His instructions were “Leave something witchy.” Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel climbed the gates at 10050 Cielo Drive, Beverly Hills, and cut the telephone wires.
They murdered Tate and her unborn child; 18-year-old Steven Parent; celebrity hairstylist Jay Sebring; screenwriter Wojciech Frykowski and Frykowski’s girlfriend Abigail Folger. The following night, Manson ordered them to kill again. Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were murdered at their home on Waverly Drive in Los Angeles.
Five months before the brutal slayings, Manson had visited Tate’s house. Manson was a failed rock musician and looking for record producer Terry Melcher. However, Melcher’s mother, singer Doris Day, had already convinced her son to move out of the property earlier that year, as she had a bad feeling about the place.
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