Dr. Charles Scudder was a professor of pharmacology at Loyola University in Chicago and the assistant director of the Institute for the Study of Mind, Drugs, and Behavior, where he performed government-funded experiments using psychoactive drugs. He resided with his younger partner, Joey Odom, in a Chicago mansion house full of Renaissance-era antiques, that Scudder referred to both as a mausoleum and a tomb.
In 1976, Scudder had tired of academic politics and city life. He craved the ability to throw himself into a simpler and yet more hedonistic lifestyle, and the privacy to do so. He resigned from his job on his 50th birthday, and after receiving a small inheritance that left him with a monthly stipend, he sold off or gave away most of his possessions and purchased a large plot of land deep in the remote woods of Georgia. He and Odom and their two giant Mastiff dogs, Beelzebub and Arsinath, relocated and basically camped while clearing the land and building, by hand out of 45,000 bricks, what Scudder referred to as their “castle in the country.” The process took about two years to complete.
In 1981, Scudder wrote an article for Mother Earth News in which he described the only thing he’d still enjoyed about his city life was the rats who drank from the pool in his garden. He referred to the move as a “magical metamorphosis” akin to “crawling out of an old, outworn skin.” When Scudder and Odom arrived on their land, they were greeted by a rotting, dead horse, so they named the trail that led to their manor Dead Horse Road. Similarly, the manor itself was dubbed Corpsewood after the stark, bare trees that covered the property. In his article, Scudder rhapsodized about sitting in the courtyard and listening “to the tree frogs and whippoorwills, while bats fly and the clouds drift across the full moon.”
The interior of their castle was bedecked with human skulls, occult symbols and artifacts, gaycentric literature and paintings, and contained a small drawer where the 12,000 doses of LSD Scudder had pocketed from his job resided. According to Petulla, Scudder didn’t use drugs himself, and had stated they can cause “you to run your mouth about your personal life,” but he would share them at parties and probably made some money selling them to local bikers.
They put up signage, perhaps in tribute to the Addams family, that read “Beware of the Thing,” posted a large pink gargoyle at their front entrance, and their gothic dream land was complete.To be clear, Scudder and Odom were “Satanists” of the Anton LaVeyan tradition, which, it’s important to understand, means they didn’t actually believe in Satan or a Devil as an entity or deity, but merely as a symbol of self-reliance, independence, and individuality. As confirmed by Church of Satan High Priest Peter Gilmore, Scudder was in fact a “card-carrying” member of the Church of Satan, according to Petulla.
A talented artist, Scudder crafted this stained-glass window for the Manor, depicting Baphomet, a sigil used by the Church of Satan.
The so-called “devil worshippers” were hospitable, welcoming strangers into their home and sharing their homemade wine and even their beds with their guests. They had built a small structure separate from their home, called the “Chicken House,” which actually did house poultry on the lower level, and stored canned food and their porn collection on the middle floor. Upstairs was the “Pink Room,” which was reserved for playtime with the ex-cons, models, and teenagers Scudder would correspond with and invite to the property for sex parties. It contained mattresses, BDSM implements, more porn, and a guest book in which the sexual preferences and photos of their guests were collected.
Occasionally, locals would partake of their sexual hospitality as well, including a small-time teenage criminal named Kenneth Avery Brock, who had met the pair while hunting on their land. According to Petulla, Brock accepted an invitation to party in the Chicken House, where Scudder’s potent wine was free-flowing. Inhibitions fell, and Scudder performed oral sex on Brock. Petulla writes, “While he would later express embarrassment and anger over the encounter, it did not keep the teen from returning for more visits and more sexual encounters.” He even started bringing his roommate, Tony West, with him to Corpsewood. West had a troubled history of murder and mental illness, and was known as a “bad seed.”
West was happy to put any discomfort with the queer couple aside to partake in a free buzz, although when Scudder “had homosexuality with Avery,” and then tried the same on West, he says, “I told him I didn’t believe in it, and I wasn’t brought up that way, and I left.”
West’s obvious disapproval may have affected Brock who, after a few conversations with his roommate, decided that he’d been taken advantage of. The roommates began to conspire to rob the isolated men at Corpsewood, having decided that they must be wealthy. They of course hadn’t realized that part of the point of Corpsewood was to live a spartan existence, without even electricity, and certainly no cash on hand.
In 1983 the Rome News-Tribune covered the testimony of two teens who were basically along for the ride, Joey Lavon Wells and Theresa Lynn Hudgins. They described how Scudder and Odom shared their homemade wine with the foursome and allowed them to partake of huffing the mixture of varnish and paint thinner and other chemicals they’d brought along, although not partaking themselves.
At some point during this drug- and alcohol-fueled hangout, Brock got a rifle he’d brought along from the car, went into the main house, and shot Odom and the two dogs. He then forced Scudder into the house, where he was faced with the carnage, and Brock and West threatened and tormented him in an attempt to find the money they believed was in the house.
When no money was forthcoming, the two men eventually shot Scudder five times in the head, one bullet right in between his eyes, and made off with some silver and jewelry and a Jeep.
Brock and West were eventually captured after an attempt to flee to Mexico, during which they killed another victim, Kirby Phelps, and stole his car. West was found guilty of two counts of murder and sentenced to death. Brock received three consecutive life terms.
This 1983 article states that the Chattooga County authorities “labelled Scudder and Odom as homosexual devil worshippers.” Ironically, considering the attention given to the lifestyle of the victims and their religious beliefs, the two killers actually identified as Christian and had in fact just attended a Bible study only two days before their crimes.
Another compelling and eerie part of this story is the matter of Scudder’s self-portrait, above. The story goes that Odom had a vision, and after he shared it with his partner, Scudder was inspired to paint the image. The painting shows Scudder with a gag in his mouth and five bullet holes in his forehead. A friend of the couple is said to have claimed that Scudder had told her, about the painting: “That’s how I’m going to die.”
To learn more about this case, watch the “Welcome to the Devil House” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Dead Silent on ID GO now!
Main image: The Corpsewood Manor Murders in North Georgia cover art