Gary Ridgeway, the Green River Killer, is currently serving a life sentence without parole for the murders of 49 women in and around the Seattle-Tacoma region of Washington. Arrested in 2001, Ridgeway was sentenced to 48 consecutive life terms in prison. As reported in his court statements, Ridgeway confessed that he killed so many women that he lost count. His own estimates put the number of victims at 71. Ridgeway is the most prolific serial killer is U.S. history.
After strangling his victims with his bare hands, or using a ligature, he would dump the bodies in wooded areas around the Green River, often returning to have sex with the corpses. Targeting mostly prostitutes, Ridgeway sometimes attempted to console his victims:
"I would talk to her ... and get her mind off of the, sex, anything she was nervous about. And think, you know, she thinks, 'Oh, this guy cares' ... which I didn't. I just want to, uh, get her in the vehicle and eventually kill her."
In a confession on November 5, 2003, Ridgeway revealed that he “killed most of them in my house near Military Road.” The 1,150 square foot, dark green rancher, trimmed in white around the windows and doors, sits close to the road in SeaTac. Built in 1970, the home last sold in 1999 for $112,950.
Interestingly, Washington, like most states, doesn’t require a seller's disclosure if a death occurred inside the home or on the property. Because death is not considered a "material defect" in the home, government real estate disclosure documents do not require its admission to prospective buyers. So, if you're interested in moving to the Seattle area and you've fallen for that little green rancher near Military Road, you’d never know that Ridgeway brutally assaulted and murdered a number of women there.
Until now. Want to know if someone has died in your house? How they met their maker? There’s an app for that.
Two years ago, Roy Condrey launched diedinhouse.com, a database of 4.5 million homes where someone met their ultimate demise. Using obituaries and news reports, Condrey allows users to query his system to determine the morbid, sometimes creepy, history of homes around the country. As he explained to Bloomberg recently, he was fixing a faulty air conditioner at a rental property he owns in South Carolina when the renter explained that she thought the house was haunted. To find out, Condrey went online. “I was looking for a Carfax for homes,” he said. “Instead, I found pages and pages of Google search results asking the question ‘How do I find out if my house is haunted?’ ”
Condrey decided to help. For $11.99, customers can query his website for an address to determine if someone has died at the house. Sometimes, it will report the cause of death as well. According to Condrey, 30,000 paid property searches have been conducted. Clearly, many of us want to know if our house has a ghoulish past. Indeed, many of us believe in ghosts, and don’t want that kind of mojo in our homes.
Earlier this year, Chapman University released their annual Survey of American Fears. In April 2015, 1,541 adults from around the country were asked about their fears and beliefs. The most surprising result? Half of all people believe in the paranormal. To put this in perspective, more people believe in the paranormal than are afraid of terrorist attacks (44.4 percent), bio-warfare (40.9 percent), and economic collapse (39.2 percent).
The most common paranormal belief this year? That places can be haunted by spirits. In addition, more than a quarter of Americans believe that the living and the dead can communicate with one another. The results are below:*
If you’re in the market for a home, or you want to know if someone has met their grisly demise in your current place of residence, or you’re one of the 150 million Americans who believe in the paranormal, you might want to mosey on over to diedinhouse.com.
But for me, I'll choose to remain ignorant. I have no desire to know who died in my house. And maybe this speaks to the larger issue of human knowledge in the 21st century. We possess devices that give us access to information that heretofore was unavailable. Is that always a good thing? Are there occasions when it's better to not know something?
In The Perks of Being A Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky writes, "It's much easier to not know things sometimes." In this case, I agree. Keep your gruesome history.
*11.4 percent of Americans believe that Bigfoot is real. Extrapolated out, that’s over 30 million people. After a bit of digging, I discovered the existence of protest groups that argue for the humane treatment of Bigfoot during Bigfoot “hunts.” Yes. Go back and read that again. Ugh.