Would you buy a house that was the scene of a grisly murder? Truth is, you might never come to know your home's dark history, since only about half of the states in the U.S. have formal seller disclosure laws. That means agents don't have to fill you in on a property's past unless you ask outright. Why? Well, selling houses is hard enough these days. But don't worry. TOH has your back with another list of what the National Board of Realtors calls "stigmatized properties."
Meantime, if you're in the market for a new home and you'd rather not live where someone once died, do your homework. Make sure you explore the neighborhood and chat with locals-and ask your agent about the house's history, especially if the property is particularly grand with a suspiciously low price tag. (Amityville 101, people!) --Tabitha Sukhai, thisoldhouse.com
MORE: See ALL of TOH's American Murder Houses II
This home on the corner of Beachcomber Lane and Sea Lark Road in Houston is where Andrea Yates drowned her children-6-month-old Mary, 2-year-old Luke, 3-year-old Paul, 5-year-old John, and 7-year-old Noah-in the bathtub in 2001. In a trial that would shed light on postpartum depression, Yates was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, a judgment that was later overturned. In her second trial, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has since been committed to a minimum-security mental hospital.
The three-bedroom, 1620-square-foot property has since been renovated and currently serves as a rental property. Neighbors report that, for a time, the Spanish-style home was quite an attraction, but interest has waned in recent years.
This Jacobean-style estate was built in 1905 by Minnesota captain of industry Chester Congdon. And it was the opulent scene of a double murder in 1977. Congon's daughter Elisabeth eventually inherited the place and grew old there, in the company of her adopted daughter, Marjorie Mannering Congdon, and nurse, Velma Pietila. It was Marjorie, eager for her inheritance, who conspired with her second husband, Roger Caldwell, to smother the elder Congdon to death as she slept. When the nurse tried to stop the crime in progress, she was also killed.
Caldwell was convicted for the murders, but his sentence was overturned on appeal. Before he could be retried, he confessed to the killings and committed suicide in 1988. Marjorie Congdon was acquitted on all counts and went on to live a life of crime, including charges for bigamy, arson, the alleged murder of her third husband, and more recently in 2005, theft, computer tampering, and forgery. The house is now open to the public for tours, on which you walk through the landing and bedrooms where the murders took place.
Trick-or-Treat Murder House
Los Angeles, California
The 1957 murder of hair stylist Peter Fabiano was like something out of a Hollywood movie. Fabiano's estranged wife, Betty, convinced her alleged lover, Joan Rabel, to arrange a Halloween hit on her husband after Betty lodged bitter complaints of abuse at his hand. Rabel recruited Goldyne Pizer to pull the trigger. On Halloween night, Pizer donned a mask, rang Peter Fabiano's doorbell on Community Street, and shot him in the chest just as he answered. Rabel and Pizer were both charged with second-degree murder in 1958. Betty Fabiano was never charged and went on to live a full life in Riverside County until she died in 1999. The 7,650-square-foot L.A. home on Community Street still stands, and last sold in 1980 for just $112,000.