Posts

A blood stain at the scene of the Heaven's Gate suicide

‘Appraiser of Doom’ Helps Sell the Most Famous Crime Scenes

Meet the man who helped sell the Heaven’s Gate mansion, Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment building, the Sharon Tate property, and other notorious real estate.

Randall Bell, known as the “Appraiser of Doom” and the “Master of Disaster,” spent years evaluating commercial property in Southern California in the 1980s when the routine started to get dull. That’s when he decided to work on more interesting properties. That decision has lead him to work on some of the most infamous crime scenes in the country, including the mansion where 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide in 1997 to hitch a ride with the alien spacecraft hiding inside the Hale-Bopp comet.

“With Heaven’s Gate, I waited till after they finished taking out the bodies,” Bell recently told Rolling Stone. “But when I went in, I just wanted to barf because it smelled so bad. There had been bodies decomposing for three days, and there was blood all over the place — blood on the carpet and the marble, all throughout the house.”

Over the years Bell and his firm Landmark Research has been called in to appraise a variety of damaged real estate such as Bikini Atoll, where the US tested nuclear weapons in the 1940s and 50s, the World Trade Center, the federal building bombed by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City, Hiroshima, Columbine, Chernobyl, and all manner of natural and man-made disasters.

As far as crime scenes go, Bell has helped determine the value of property carrying the stigma of the country’s most well-known murders. Bell has worked on Sharon Tate’s house where the Manson Family murdered her and her guests in 1969, the JonBenét Ramsey house, the OJ and Nicole Brown Simpson crime scene, the Menendez house, Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment building in Milwaukee, and numerous other lower profile cases.

Bell was even among the first people allowed in the Los Feliz murder mansion 50 years after a doctor murdered his wife there. The group he was with conducted a seance while inside the home.

Los Feliz murder mansion
The Loz Feliz murder mansion

Bell says a crime scene generally sells for 10-25% loss of value.

“The Lizzie Borden house in Rhode Island, that property, they monetized that crime, if you will,” Bell says. “They have bed and breakfasts and you can sleep in the room where Lizzie Borden’s mother was murdered with an ax for hundreds of dollars a night. But as a general rule, those kinds of things don’t happen.”

So how does he determine value?

Bell uses a list of over 400 items in 10 classifications known as the Bell Chart. Items which may devalue a property include zoning changes, terrorism, contamination, landslides, and crime.

“The first rule I got is you gotta be realistic,” Bell says. “Trying to make the value go up is tough. With Neverland, that’s never gonna turn into Graceland because it’s simply too remote. You look for any opportunity, but generally speaking, a crime scene is not gonna become a museum or tourist attraction. What I’m trying to do is mitigate the damage. I’m trying to make the best I can out of a bad situation, recognizing that it’s not gonna be normal or have a normal return. You’re just trying to minimize the losses. We divide everything into 3 categories: cost, use and risk. The costs are the cleanup costs of the blood or the bullet holes or what have you. In one case, Satan worshippers were coming into the house and they started a fire inside the garage in a Satanic ritual, so those all have costs. The second element of use means the house isn’t being normally used, so there’s a way to calculate the loss of use. And the word ‘risk’ is synonymous with stigma, which means there’s a resistance on part of the market to pay full value.”

In the case of Dahmer’s apartment building, however, Bell says the property actually sold for a profit.

Jeffrey Dahmer's apartment building
The empty lot where Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment building once stood in Milwaukee

“When he was arrested, at the same time, coincidentally, there was a group called Campus Circle, and they were trying to buy up all the housing in the area that was crime-ridden where Dahmer lived and create more student housing in Marquette University.”

Bell says the Dahmer building was throwing a wrench in Campus Circle’s plans, so they bought the property. “The owner of the apartment complex knew they were highly motivated and he held out for a premium.”

Today, the building is a vacant lot surrounded by a fence. Sharon Tate’s home and the Heaven’s Gate mansion were also razed. But the locations still draw curious visitors.

The house where Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson Family in 1969
Sharon Tate’s home being torn down in 1994

“I worked on the Sharon Tate property. That property was bulldozed, and I’m telling you, tourists still go by that property to this day,” Bell told Rolling Stone. “So bulldozing doesn’t accomplish anything, really. The Heaven’s Gate mansion was bulldozed completely — the fences, the driveway, every tree — and they rebuilt on it, and people point to the property to this day, and say, ‘That was the Heaven’s Gate mansion.'”

While Bell doesn’t believe in ghosts, he says there was something strange at the Heaven’s Gate estate. While conducting tours with the media, people always said they felt unease in one particular room.

“Everyone identified the same room,” Bell says. “I kept that to myself, but the room everyone was referring to was a room where there were four bodies, two bunk beds with four bodies. There was no blood in the room, there was nothing — you gotta understand, there were 39 bodies in the house, so there were bodies in every single room, so there wasn’t anything special about that particular room, but everyone said that who I took through the house.”

Bodies being removed from the Heaven's Gate estate
Bodies being removed from the Heaven’s Gate estate

For more about Randall Bell’s experiences, how to appraise a crime scene, and how to scare off Satan worshippers read the Rolling Stone interview right here.

Rent Jeffrey Dahmer’s Childhood Home for the Republican National Convention

Looking for a place to stay in Ohio during the Republican National Convention? Rent the childhood home of Jeffrey Dahmer, where he murdered his first victim.
Jeffrey Dahmer murdered his first victim in this Ohio home

Ohio leaders are hoping the upcoming Republican National Convention will spotlight Northeast Ohio’s rich history. What better way to do that than with the beautiful Akron home where serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer grew up?

This beautiful and unique mid-century modern home in a picturesque setting features 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, and (assuming it hasn’t been walled up) a crawl space where Dahmer dismembered his first victim before disposing of the remains in the woods behind the house.

The house has been on the market since 2014. While PETA joked about turning it into a vegan restaurant, and there were rumors of a Dahmer bed and breakfast, it seems no one has coughed up the money yet. So the current owner of the property has decided to rent it out during the RNC.

I feel a sudden, growing interest in politics….

From the listing:

Mid-century modern home with a true park-like setting. Smoking and animals okay. This is Jeffrey Dahmer’s childhood home. Close to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Montrose shopping. Easy access to I-77 highway.

Before Jeffrey Dahmer was the ghoulish Milwaukee cannibal in apartment 215, he was living in this house with his parents in Akron, OH. In the summer of 1978 his parents were getting a divorce. His father was staying at a local motel, and his mother moved with his younger brother to Chippewa Falls, WI. Then 18-year-old Jeffrey was living in the house by himself.

Just three weeks after high school graduation, Dahmer picked up hitchhiker Steven Hicks. They returned to the Dahmer home to drink beer. When Hicks decided he wanted to leave, Jeffrey bludgeoned him from behind with a ten pound dumbbell and then strangled him to death.

He dismembered the body in the crawl space the next day and buried the remains in the backyard. A few weeks later he dug them back up to remove the flesh, which he dissolved in acid and flushed down the toilet. He then crushed the bones with a sledgehammer.

Police search for remains at Jeffrey Dahmer's childhood home
Police search for remains on the property after Dahmer’s arrest in 1991.

How’s that for rich history?

Did Jeffrey Dahmer Murder Adam Walsh?

In his new book Frustrated Witness, author Willis Morgan details evidence which he believes is proof that Wisconsin serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer murdered Adam Walsh.
Did Jeffrey Dahmer murder Adam Walsh in 1981?

Adam Walsh, the 6-year-old son of America’s Most Wanted host John Walsh, was abducted from the toy aisle of a Sears in Hollywood, Florida on July 27, 1981. His severed head was found weeks later.

Convicted serial killer Ottis Toole, who was known for confessing to murders he did not commit, confessed to the murder of Adam Walsh in 1983. Due to a botched investigation, Toole died in prison before police closed the case and named him the killer.

But in July of 1981 Wisconsin cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer was living in nearby Miami Beach.

Recent: Rent Jeffrey Dahmer’s Childhood Home for $8,000

Willis Morgan, former press-room supervisor of the Miami Herald, was also at Sears that day, and witnessed a young blonde man disappear into the toy aisle. When news of Walsh’s abduction hit the news, Morgan knew exactly who was responsible. He went to police with his description of the man, but they didn’t take him seriously.

When Dahmer was arrested in Milwaukee in 1991, Morgan immediately recognized him from that day. It turns out several other Florida parents also found familiarity in the mugshot…as that man had attempted to nab their children, as well.

Ever since, Morgan has been digging through court records and interviewing witnesses to prove the truth that he believes police have ignored. He details these findings in his new book Frustrated Wittness: The True Story of the ADAM WALSH Case and Police Misconduct.

From the description:

When six-year-old Adam Walsh was abducted from the Hollywood Mall on July 27, 1981, and his severed head found at the Florida Turnpike, no one could have guessed that it would take police almost thirty years to find the culprit or that even then they had still got it all so wrong. Willis Morgan was an eye witness at the mall the day Adam was taken, but rather than feel relief when the Hollywood Police Department finally convicted serial killer Ottis Toole in 2008, he felt sick and frustrated. Frustrated that a young child was snatched from right in front of him. Frustrated that evidence, leads and witness testimony were lost. Frustrated that eyewitness testimony of Jeffrey Dahmer being at the Hollywood Mall the same day was disregarded. Frustrated because there was a compelling wall of evidence that it was Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee Cannibal, who killed Adam, and not Toole. And most of all frustrated because no justice has yet been served for Adam Walsh. In his book “Frustrated Witness”, Morgan details his unnerving encounter with serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer in the mall, the other eyewitness accounts of that fateful day and major flaws in the police investigation. “This is the account of Adam Walsh’s abduction and my attempts stretching across decades to find justice for him,” Morgan writes. “As much as this book is a case for Jeffrey Dahmer being Adam’s murderer, it is equally a study of how the Hollywood Police Department (HPD) conducted the homicide investigation.” Morgan has left no stone unturned in his quest for the truth and “Frustrated Witness” includes an incredible array of evidence he gathered, piece by painstaking piece, to prove Dahmer committed the murder of Adam Walsh. This includes crime scenes he uncovered, police investigative reports he researched, an analysis of suspect composites and even the sordid details of Dahmer’s murky past before he came to be known as America’s most notorious serial killer who dismembered, ate or kept parts of his victims. “Frustrated Witness” not only implicates Dahmer but presents the facts to the court of public opinion, in the hope that it ultimately brings about justice for Adam Walsh.

Get the book right here.