Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Neighborhood

So much fun.

The stench of death hung heavy along South 11th Street in 1905. The smell had grown so bad that neighbors had gone to the local police district to complain. They claimed that a crazed man and woman were guarding a dead body inside a row house near Washington Avenue. They had been barring the door for weeks and, judging by the smell, the corpse had entered a state of advanced decay. There were flies covering the shutters of a rear bedroom of the building.

But they also recounted unbelievable details. Strange rituals went on inside and the residents of the home, which they had for years referred to as “House of Mystery,” worshipped a woman who they said could grant eternal life.

A dead body was still a dead body. A patrolman summoned a doctor from the city coroner’s office to investigate. The two men had little way of knowing that they were about to bring an end to a saga that had begun nearly 50 years earlier. A story of a secret society that had once enticed the city’s wealthy and powerful. A story of miraculous visions, grave robbing, con artistry, and court battles. They had no sense of the shock and horror they would soon feel, nor that the same feeling would soon grip the entire city.