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House of Horror: The Brutal Murders at Georgia's Corpsewood Manor

Their dream home in the country soon became a site of unspeakable tragedy. 

Corpsewood Manor: Such a name seems ripped from the pages of a horror novel. Yet Corpsewood Manor is all-too-real, and in December of 1982, this hand built brick mansion in the woods of northern Georgia played host to a brutal double murder.

In 1976, on the occasion of his 50th birthday, Charles Scudder quit his job as a professor of pharmacology at Loyola University in Chicago to move with his two dogs and his long-time partner Joseph Odom to a 40-acre parcel of land the couple had purchased outside Summerville, Georgia. 

Living in a camper, Scudder and Odom built by hand the strange backwoods edifice that would become Corpsewood Manor. Scudder even penned an article for Mother Earth News in 1981, documenting his fresh start in the country. When the couple finished, they had not merely a two-story brick home, but also a number of outbuildings, including a three-story chicken house with a furnished top floor–nicknamed the “Pink Room”–where they entertained guests.

Related: What Lies Within: The Haunting of the Summerwind Mansion 

One of those guests was 17-year-old Kenneth Avery Brock. Like many people in the area, Brock had requested–and received–permission to hunt on the couples’ property, and had enjoyed their hospitality and their homemade wine. Some speculate that Brock may have become sexually involved with the two men, or that he may have attempted to initiate sexual contact only to be rebuffed. Regardless of the nature of their relationship, the beatific lifestyle which the couple enjoyed led Brock to assume that they were quite wealthy, when in fact Scudder and Odom had sunk everything they had into their secluded homestead.

corpsewood manor
  • Joey Odom (left) and Charles Scudder (right)

  • Photo Credit: Find A Grave

In the winter of 1982, Brock moved into the trailer home of Samuel Tony West, and told West about the “queer devil-worshipers” who were, he believed, hoarding a fortune in their isolated estate. The pair hatched a plan to rob the couple and start a new life.

On the night of December 12, 1982, Brock and West set their plan into motion. On the way out to Corpsewood Manor, they picked up a rifle from Brock’s mother, which they said they were going to use to hunt rabbits. They also picked up Joey Wells and his date Teresa Hudgins. On their way out to the secluded house, the quartet huffed a combination of alcohol, paint thinner, and glue known as “toot-a-loo.”

Related: Two Bodies in the Bedroom: The Greystone Mansion Murder Mystery  

Upon their arrival at Corpsewood, everything started out like normal. They were greeted warmly by Scudder, and all of them climbed the 40-foot ladder into the “Pink Room,” where they sat around drinking Scudder and Odom’s homemade wine. Before long, Brock went out to the truck, supposedly to get more “toot-a-loo.” He returned carrying the rifle.

According to later testimony, upon seeing the gun Charles Scudder, probably already a little intoxicated, giggled and said “Bang, bang.” It was a last gasp of joviality before things became terribly grim.

Scudder was held at knife point and ordered to give up his nonexistent fortune. Odom was surprised in the kitchen of the main house and shot four times. Brock also killed the couple’s two mastiffs, who never stirred from their place beside the fire. Bound and gagged, Scudder was led from the Pink Room to the main house, where he was confronted with the body of his companion. His last words were supposedly, “I asked for this,” before West shot him five times in the head.

Related: A Day That Began with Death: The Hoskins Family Murders of 1919 

What he meant by those cryptic final words is just one of the mysteries left behind by the brutal slaying in the woods of northern Georgia. Months before his death, Scudder had painted a self-portrait in which he was portrayed with a gag in his mouth and what look like bullet holes in his head. Did he have some premonition of his own death?

Immediately following the brutal slaying, the two perpetrators fled in Scudder’s jeep, which had white pentacles painted on the doors. The bodies of Scudder and Odom weren’t found until two days later, when a friend came by their secluded house to notify them of the death of another acquaintance in nearby Rome, Georgia.

corpsewood manor
  • Kenneth Avery Brock (left) and Samuel Tony West (right)

  • Photo Credit: Nightmares Before Bedtime / YouTube

Meanwhile, looking for a less-conspicuous getaway vehicle, Brock and West kidnapped Navy lieutenant Kirby Phelps from a rest stop near Boniva, Mississippi with the intention of tying him to a tree and stealing his vehicle. While Brock was unloading the jeep, however, West shot Phelps twice. The two men then split up; Brock voluntarily surrendered to the police in Georgia on December 20, while West did the same in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Christmas Day.

Unfortunately, in the media circus surrounding the murders, Charles Scudder and Joseph Odom became victims once again, this time in the court of public opinion. Being openly gay and also interested in the occult–Scudder had joined the Church of Satan “to see what it was like,” according to a friend–the two were easy targets for the “Satanic Panic” that was sweeping the nation at the time. It didn’t help that, during his confession, West said, “All I can say is they were devils and I killed them, that’s how I feel about it.” CrimeFeed reports that both men were found guilty; Brock received three consecutive life terms, while West was sentenced to death. West's death sentence was later overturned on appeal. Today, both men are behind bars.  

Related: Horror in Wisconsin: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders 

Stories began to circulate about the couple’s unusual homestead (probably helped along by the fact that it had as ominous a name as Corpsewood Manor). Even before a fire destroyed most of the non-brick portions of the buildings, people began to say that the place was haunted. Whether Corpsewood's alleged paranormal activity was due to the brutal murder of its inhabitants or the devil-worshipping that supposedly went on beforehand depends on who you ask.

corpsewood manor
  • What's left of Corpsewood Manor

  • Photo Credit: Marcus O. Bst / Flickr

Even to this day, those who visit the ruins of Corpsewood Manor say that they hear gunshots, the barking of dogs, or even the invisible strains of a golden harp–Scudder’s beloved harp was too large for his murderers to cart it away with the meager handful of possessions they stole before fleeing the scene of their crime. And those who take a brick from the crumbling remains of the buildings are said to be cursed for life. 

So, if you want to travel to the ruins of Corpsewood Manor, you can find directions online, but be wary when you head out–or at least respectful of the tragedy that took place there years ago.

Featured photo: Adventures United / YouTube; Additional photos: Find A Grave; Nightmares Before Bedtime / YouTube; Marcus O. Bst / Flickr  

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Created on 29 Jun 2018
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