Life

Rental Opportunity of the Week: The HH Holmes Murder Hotel, in Camden

Step outside your front door to find me, drunk and wailing, at 4AM.

by Joel Golby
22 April 2020, 3:14pm

Photos via Zoopla

What is it? I think this is someone's kitchen – or what was someone's kitchen, a back-garden extension that the kitchen once lived in – that has somehow been segmented horizontally and then cut off from the rest of the house proper and converted into a sort of tight, labyrinthine little one-bed where the bedroom itself is the exact width of precisely one double bed. It is: architecturally interesting, let's say that.
Where is it? Camden, home to possibly the worst combination of people in all of London: goths, drama students, those weird 50-year-old "interesting character" types who are always really loudly saying in pubs, "THEY SHOULD MAKE A FILM ABOUT ME!", Hampstead-adjacent rich kids, people who walk in the road when they are drunk and then, finally, the cherry on the shit, "35-year-old lads who haven't realised their band is never going to make it".
What is there to do locally? This question has taken on a hollow air of misery since lockdown began, because it doesn't really matter where you are right now – what there is to do locally has changed to "go to Sainsbury’s once a week wearing a load of scarves" and literally nothing else. I've found myself idly fantasising about having incredibly tedious Saturdays to myself once all this is over: me, in Camden, after catching a bus to King's Cross and walking up the canal (a bus! Imagine getting on a bus!) (Imagine walking down a canal path without 15 consecutive joggers trying to run into you because they've never jogged before!) and going past the zoo before emerging, glorious, in Camden, which stinks. Walk over that bridge where the lad making bird noises lives. Buy some incense that, once you get it home and burn it, smells like someone burnt a frozen pizza in an unclean oven. Meander through the market eating some overpriced churros off a greasy paper plate with a plastic fork that somehow loses two tines as soon as you try to spike one soft piece of fried dough. Go to the leather shops and watch foetal little indie lads from small towns who have saved up weeks of their pocket money to do it buy their first leather jacket, carefully combed hair and a chaperone from their mum. Hit the market for some reprint T-shirt that you're unsure is ironic, post-ironic or just unironic. Hit the charity shops and buy an exceedingly bad book. Go the CeX, there is no worse vibe than the Camden CeX. Two quick pints in the intense canal-side Wetherspoons, then one pint in one of those weird upstairs bars above it with the low ceilings, then, as the sun gauzily sets against the sky, head over to the Hawley Arms, for either one exceedingly bad idea drink then home, or so many pints you forget your head is attached to your body and you emerge again, in a slick of your own sweat, cold with no jacket on the 4AM streets of Camden, shouting "hoo!" at the pitch-black sky. Subpar plates of Chinese food from the stalls which you have to eat really quickly outside your Uber before the driver lets you in. Fall asleep with your jeans on. What bliss it would be. What bliss to have an utterly shit day in Camden.
Alright, how much are they asking? £1,400 pcm.

Often think lovingly about H. H. Holmes' Murder Castle and how you would never get away with an engineering feat like that today. Too much health and safety. Too many blabbermouth builders who tell the authorities when you install spikes in a ceiling. Also, simply, in a sprawling-but-crammed city like this, too little space: there is nowhere in London, right now, where you could pull up a hotel-sized construction out of the ground (I mean, who would fund it?) and lure people into its complicated narrow corridors and murder them there, without someone next door making a noise complaint, or a bunch of local residents protesting the sheer idea of building it. No, sadly, murder hotels are a throwback to a bygone era, one we will never see the likes of again.

But then I see complicated little rental opportunities like this one, and I know their spirit is alive: not the fact that this property is used exclusively for murdering, no, but the blueprint of the murder hotel – corridors that taper down to nothing, tiny trap rooms that you can't turn around in, genuine palpable fear at the idea of a door being closed on you – is all on offer here, in Camden:

flat to rent camden

What's weird about this house? How about there's just a room with some shelves in it. That's it, that's the room. There's nothing else you can do in that room, as it is too small for any sort of sitting furniture, like a chair or a sofa, and it's too small for a table or a desk. So there's just some shelves in it. That's your shelf room. One of your leisure rooms is just the "shelf room". The Camden Murder house has taken your fusty old idea of rooms with uses to them – a living room, a dining room, a bathroom – and flipped them entirely on their head. Nah, you don't need them. Here's your shelf room. Deal with it.

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Then you have the hallway, which doubles as your living room, in that it has the sofa in it. I'm a sofa evangelist, personally, and I make no bones about that: I deeply feel the sofa is one of the most important focal points of the house, deserves to be in a room separate to a bed, and is (as a piece of furniture) as essential. In a house you need somewhere to sleep, and shit, and prepare food. But you also need somewhere to sit back and be comfortable. That is a deep human need. Anyway, here we crammed a sofa under some stairs in a hallway so narrow you can't feasibly put a TV opposite it. Deal with it.

flat to rent camden

The garden exists, but all the furniture in it has been stolen from the smoking area outside a doomed town centre main parade restaurant that opens for half a year with much fanfare before closing again and re-opening, almost immediately, as another restaurant. The town you came from had one of these because every town has one: the restaurant that is always a restaurant, just re-skinned, again and again and again, constantly under new management, constantly pumping out new cuisines, the walls constantly tacky with fresh new layers of doomed paint. For a while, the one in our town was called "Wok 2000". For a while it was my favourite restaurant in the world. Anyway, the shiny outside tables from Wok 2000 have somehow found their way down to Camden, to a completely un-arranged garden. Deal with it.

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Your bedroom is the exact width of your bed, we have to talk about that. Thing is, when a bed fills a bedroom in certain situations – say, on a boat – it's actually the height of luxury. But here it feels undesigned, uncomfortable, and that if you drop your phone down the side of it that entirely normal domestic occurrence suddenly becomes the primary antagony of your day. I never knew how much I treasured "having a bit of space either side of my bed", but seeing this – a mattress expanding across a room like an open and depthless plain – I can't help but feel claustrophobic. The sides of your bed shouldn't, by default, be "two walls". Your headboard should not be "a door that cannot possibly lead to anywhere". But it is here, anyway. Deal with it.

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Your wardrobe is not a wardrobe, it’s a "bit". I like the term "bit" because every house has a "bit" – an alcove or half-cupboard or door opening to nowhere. If you leave something in the bit and you need to tell someone else in the house where you left it, you say "the bit", and you both intrinsically know what it means. Anyway, the "bit" here is something on the floor that looks like the base of a shower cubicle and something along the wall that looks like the side of a cupboard and then, across the top, a curtain rod repurposed from a window much larger than the bit this is obscuring and, over the top of it all, an ugly curtain. I have to assume that, inside this, there's a rail and some storage for clothes. There is no other possible solution to this puzzle. We have to assume this shitty mess is some idiot's idea of a wardrobe. Otherwise I would only be able to gather that, if I pull that wardrobe to, there's a nude man strapped to a chair with jumper cables in there, muffling through a gag, his bones poking out of his yellowing skin, the smell of stale dying sweat in the air, and I have to pre-emptively call the police about it. Anyway, here's your bit. Deal with it.

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Kitchen's just a normal shit kitchen: microwave, hob but no oven, and for some reason the space where a washing machine would go is just empty, hollow, nothing but the unfinished plaster of the wall poking through behind it. Always wonder, when I see a space for a washing machine, what has happened to lead to that happening: there was a washing machine there, once. Was the hole there and a previous tenant bought a washing machine to fill it? And then, in search of personal justice, moved the washing machine they'd bought when they vacated the flat? And the landlord would just assume the in-moving tenant would bring their own washing machine with them? I don't think I know a single person who actually owns their washing machine. That's like owning a shower, or an oven, or a sink. And yet the hole is there. Waiting for a washing machine to fill it. Deal with it.

It's not that this flat is bad, exactly, it's just complicated and strange and the space is being used oddly, and a vast percentage of the flat – maybe 30, 40 percent – is taken up by stairs and a useless hallway, with a weird space heater-style radiator in it and an anarchically positioned sofa, and clashing wood colours and wardrobes that aren't wardrobes and doors that lead nowhere and beds with no edges and gardens with no shapes and kitchens with no washing machines. This place isn’t bad, exactly, no, but it has an energy coursing through it and out of it that I don't trust: bad things happen here, items fall off shelves with no provocation here, screams happen here, blood drips on the floor here in great, heavy, coin-sized drops. And when you leave the place – haunted, naked, adrenalin pulsing through your veins in the deep middle of the night, the ghosts that move around you finally corporeal enough to jump you out of bed – all you have on your doorstep is Camden, and me, in the jeans I'm about to sleep in, yelling and eating bad food off a paper plate. You will not find peace in this place. Deal with it.

@joelgolby

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