The Los Feliz Murder House, a landmark for L.A.-based true-crime aficionados, is in escrow yet again! For those who don’t follow such things, the property is one of the city’s most notorious homicide sites, ranking up there with Nicole Brown Simpson’s Brentwood condo and the patch of grass in Leimert Park where the Black Dahlia’s dismembered body was found. Vice deemed the stately residence the “crown jewel of Southern California murder lore,” and that’s not hyperbole. Copious articles have been written about the Spanish Revival estate, it was a regular stop on the Dearly Departed Tour until neighbors got irritated with the constant attention and it is a popular pilgrimage for those obsessed with all things macabre. I first learned of the infamous dwelling, the murder-suicide that took place there, and the incredibly strange state the house remained in for the next sixty years from a friend late one night in 2011. I was so intrigued, I ran right out to see it in person bright and early the next morning! Perched atop a steep hill, the three-story home seems to loom over the road like a real-life haunted house, almost as if architect Harry E. Weiner could foresee its bloody future when he designed it in 1925.
Situated on a quiet, leafy cul-de-sac in the exclusive Los Feliz Hills neighborhood, the sprawling residence might seem an unexpected place for a grizzly near-familicide to occur. But that is exactly what happened in the early morning hours of December 6th, 1959, when Dr. Harold Perelson, a successful cardiologist and USC School of Medicine professor, picked up a ball-peen hammer and set about on a murderous spree. The doctor first took the tool to his wife’s head, killing her with one blow at approximately 4:30 a.m. while she slept in the master suite. He then ventured into the room of his eldest daughter, Judye, and struck her in the head with the same hammer. The blow wasn’t fatal, though, and instead awakened the 18-year-old, who began screaming. The noise in turn woke the Perelsons’ youngest child, Debbie (11), causing her to run to Judye’s room to investigate the wails. In the confusion, Judye managed to escape from her father and the house and raced to the home of a neighbor, Marshall Ross, who called the police.