All screencaps via the St. Louis ABC News Affiliate where the story originally broke.
A woman in suburban St. Louis recently got fucked over by her landlady. Shortly after moving into the house at 1001 Ford Dr. in Ferguson, Missouri, she watched a true crime documentary. There on her TV was her new home, formerly the home of the notorious (but never technically convicted, because he committed suicide) serial killer, Maury Travis. The murders had all happened right underneath the spot where she was sitting. Surprisingly, the story got even more fucked up when Missouri's tenant laws came into play.
Travis tortured and strangled between 12 and 20 prostitutes in the late 1990s and early 2000s. He committed all of the murders, and the torture sessions that preceded them, in the basement of what was at the time his house. The house's new resident, Catrina McGhaw, who learned all of this information in one big dose, told the news that she found this development to be "not OK".
Travis was especially famous in Missouri, and is noteworthy to this day for being one of the first killers ever caught almost entirely through internet sleuthing. Apparently enthralled by media coverage of his crimes, he emailed a printout of an internet map to a journalist with an "X" drawn on it where a missing prostitute's skeleton could be found. This being 2002, he had left himself completely open to an IP trace. The TOR anonymity network would be released a few months later, and could have saved Travis a lot of trouble.
Since McGhaw got the news after a few months of living in the murder house, she had to go back and retroactively re-process every memory she had created there. Every breakfast was breakfast in a murder house. Watching a movie on the basement TV meant watching a movie in a former torture chamber.
She says at one point a two-year-old relative was down in the former torture chamber playing games, and as she neared the pole that, as McGhaw would later learn, Travis had used to tie up his victims, the little girl started crying. McGhaw believed some unseen menace had creeped her out. You might roll your eyes at this part because it's turning into a ghost story, but give her the benefit of the doubt. She was very understandably scared, and wanted to move.
McGhaw called her landlady to complain and announce her intention to move out. The landlady turned out to be none other than Maury Travis' mother! Mrs. Travis didn't turn homicidal or anything, but she did pull an almost admirably alpha move on McGhaw: she informed her she was under a lease, and had to stay.
Murder Mum was completely right, legally speaking. Much in the same way that there's no rule that says a dog can't play basketball, there's nothing in Missouri tenant law that says you have to inform a tenant that they're moving into a murder house. Chris Nagus of ABC News in St. Louis argues that you still should. I argue that all parties involved are showing a lack of imagination.
You see, a similar thing happened in New Orleans late last year, but the murder was still unsolved, and the owner of the house was the husband of the victim, and still appeared to be a suspect. But the major difference was that the guy renting the place out was trying to put it on Airbnb, and rent it out to vacationers, instead of leasing it. He would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for some meddling bloggers, who posted about it and eventually got the site to take down the ad.
But we all have friends and loved ones who enjoy trivialising murder victims and reading all the horrifying details. They're called "true crime fans" and they have their own section in every book store. People like this (I'm including myself) will go out of their way to stay in a murder house.
Take as an example The Villisca Murder House in Villisca, Iowa, where the grizzly axe murder of an entire family and two guests took place. It's also where, according to the website, you're welcome to stay overnight for the low low price of "$428 (£250) for 1 to 6 people, $74.90 (£44) each additional person. $200 (£117) non refundable deposit to be paid when you book a date, this deposit goes towards full amount due." For reference, the same $428 a night will also get you a room in the Ritz Carlton and a decent bottle of champagne.
Granted, the Villisca Murders happened 100 years ago, but what difference does it make? If the murders happened yesterday, I suppose it would be too fresh. The murders happened 100 years ago, though, and that's a fun vacation spot people will pay a premium for! Somewhere in the middle there's a line.
The Missouri Housing authority, apparently considers the Travis murders to be on the overly recent side of that line, because they've just given McGhaw special dispensation to break her lease. McGhaw can move out at the end of this month.
In the meantime, though, the house has developed a legend overnight. Not only is it a murder house, but it now has ghost stories attached to it. If the example of Slender Man is to be believed, this legend will spread. This house is about to be a hot ticket item. It's not creepy and gothic like the Villisca house, but it has a certain rustic charm. I'd spend the night there.
Mike Pearl is our night editor. Follow him on Twitter.