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A Nighttime Visit to LA's Notorious Los Feliz Murder Mansion

On December 7, 1959, sometime between midnight and dawn, Dr. Harold N. Perelson lost his mind. After beating his wife to death with a hammer he attacked his daughter—who survived—and then killed himself by drinking a glass of acid.

by Mike Pearl
Oct 27 2014, 9:00am

Photos by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete

Los Angeles has a few of America's best murder houses. The house where the unsolved murder of Bugsy Siegel took place is still there, as is the lavish and supposedly haunted palace where actor Ramon Novarro was tortured to death (with a silver dildo, they say).

But ask seasoned Angelenos for a seldom-heard deep cut, and they'll take you to the Los Feliz Murder Mansion at 2475 Glendower Place. It holds a special place in their hearts because in addition to the prerequisite—a tragic murder—it also offers a crowd-pleasing combination of creepy location, abandonment, rumors of ghosts, dilapidation, and a shrouding of mystery that neighbors unwittingly maintain to this day.

But this national landmark of sorts might be in danger of being razed sometime in the next few years if no one steps up. Jude Margolis, a former neighbor, told me the place is "just an old empty house that was at one time beautiful, that is now a teardown." By "teardown," she means the place is worthless as a house, and only has value as a piece of empty real estate, and a "Los Feliz Murder Empty Field" wouldn't be as exciting. "When the owner dies, I am sad to say that is probably what will happen," she wrote in an email.

A clipped version of the original Los Angeles Times story

It's not clear why on December 7, 1959, sometime between midnight and dawn, Dr. Harold N. Perelson, a Los Angeles physician, went crazy and attacked his family. Coverage in the Los Angeles Times the following morning said very little about a motive, and its 2009 update only added a little clarity: His daughter had written to a friend that she was worried about her parents' finances, and Dr. Perelson had been brushing up on his Dante, like a movie serial killer. He was perusing Canto 1 of The Divine Comedy on the night of the murder. I looked it up, and the words on that page would have included the following:

So bitter is it, death is little more;
But of the good to treat, which there I found,
Speak will I of the other things I saw there.
I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
So full was I of slumber at the moment
In which I had abandoned the true way.

So there's that.

But having debt and thumbing through the Penguin Classics in the wee hours of the morning doesn't cause most people to do what he did next: Perelson flipped out and went after his wife, Lillian, with a hammer, bludgeoning her to death. Then he turned his attention to his 18-year-old daughter Judye, getting a few hits in, none of which were fatal.

Around that time the horrible screams woke up his tween kids, Debbie and Joel, who came out to see what was going on. Dr. Perelson shouted at them, "Go back to bed! This is a nightmare!" which must have seemed accurate to two kids looking at their wounded, screaming sister and dead mother. The freshly scarred kids fled the house, and—one can only assume—never slept again.

With the house empty, apart from the body of his wife, Dr. Perelson resumed reading Dante, then got thirsty and had a glass of acid, which killed him.

That was the last moment anyone would ever consider the house a home. Since 1959, the property has changed hands a few times, but no one has moved in. The current owner, Rudy Enriquez, inherited the mansion from his parents, who bought it at auction. They used it for storage, a tradition Rudy carries on to this day.

But the consequence of owning an abandoned and dilapidated murder house is that people get curious about whether it's uninhabited because (A) the crime that took place somehow damaged it, or (B) the bleeding walls and moaning ghouls make it uninhabitable. In 2009, the Times reexamined the house and its legend, because neighbors were getting annoyed by the mansion turning into a place for—no joke—goths to have picnics and hookers to bring johns.

According to the Times, a friend of neighbor Sheree Waterson decided to barge in one night, and a black widow sneakily bit her hand, something she didn't notice until she was fleeing from the burglar alarm she had triggered. Afterward, her own burglar alarm kept going off, which she joked was evidence that some of the excess Murder Mansion ghosts had abandoned their stations after she visited, and were now stalking her. To my knowledge, that was the first time a major news publication had implied that the place was haunted.

It was also the first thing I read about the murder mansion. Jude Margolis, the former neighbor I contacted, told me I wasn't alone. "Someone writes a story about it, and then looky-loos start coming around. It's on a cul-de-sac, and it annoys everyone who lives there." That seclusion is both part of the draw and part of what keeps the house a hidden treasure for people like me. "Mr. Enriquez will never speak with you," Margolis added. "The house has been locked and closed forever. I lived next door. There is nothing to tell."

She couldn't have seemed more like a shady character at the beginning of a Scooby-Doo episode if she had tried.

Margolis was absolutely right about one thing: Rudy Enriquez wouldn't speak with me, even after many attempts to reach him by phone and email. According to the Times, he and his family have visited often over the decades, using it exclusively for storage. He told the writer of that piece, in 2009, "I still go there often—I was there last night, in fact. I think now I'll be going more often," adding, "The only spooky thing there is me."

But I couldn't get anyone to confirm that Enriquez does still visit, or that—at 81—he's still alive. I tried the LAPD office in Los Feliz, where officers told me they hadn't heard of any "Los Feliz Murder Mansion." The only people who definitely still visit the place are internet randos.

Since it's a cul-de-sac, the street is silent when you visit after midnight. The mansion itself sits in a place of honor at the end, on top of a hill. The front porch offers a breathtaking view of the city, but it also leaves you feeling exposed, and visible. From there, a raccoon rustling in the shrubs at the bottom of the steep front walkway sounds like either a shambling ghoul, or—equally scary—a neighborhood security goon.

As if it were designed to look like horror-movie set dressing, the place is still full of what appears to be Dr. Perelson's furniture with cloth draped over it. Cowardly daytime visitors have glimpsed the retro furniture, including what's thought to be Perelson's old-timey black-and-white TV. Spots where the wood is rotting and peeling are especially visible when you point a flashlight at them, but since the place would have at least been spot-cleaned before it was sold to the Enriquez family, what looks like bloodstains is probably just my imagination.

There's a charge in the air that comes from knowing the murder mansion's history, and that's the experience people no doubt refer to as being "possessed" there, or feeling a "presence." That charge is especially acute because this is California, where recorded history is short, and buildings haven't changed hands dozens of times. In other states—and especially other countries—having someone die in a house probably isn't such a big deal.

Some of the windows have just the right kind of screen to keep you from seeing in, and it makes them look like they're covered with some kind of eerie silk drapery. Behind that you can make out some tantalizing outlines, but nothing identifiable. Rudy Enriquez's jumbled odds and ends just on the other side of the windows amplify the sense that you can almost sort of make out what's in there, but you can never quite be certain.

In addition to being creepy, the place is just trashed. The window frames are starting to come apart, and couldn't possibly seal shut anymore. In 2009, Enriquez had to be summoned by the city to make repairs because parts of the exterior walls were peeling off. The roof must leak when it rains.

I asked the Los Feliz Improvement Association whether it was true that there was no one looking out for it as a piece of Los Angeles history, but the only answer I got was that they "were not aware" of any effort to tear it down.

It's no mystery why people who find it interesting come and visit in spite of the neighbors' wishes: They have to see it before it's gone.

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