Thought Catalog
March 2, 2017

The Most Sinister Crime You’ve Never Heard Of: The Gatsby Killings Of 1947

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What is the issue?

I will never understand why Instagram will remove the photo or profile of a #bodystagramer because they post a picture of half their ass, but won’t take down profiles which celebrate the work of infamous serial killers. What I also will never understand, is my inability to not click on these violent Instagram profiles whenever I accidently stumble on one, lying in my bed at 1 AM, trying to bore myself to sleep.

A few months back I ended up not boring myself, but falling into a cold pit of fear when I scrolled through the endless Instagram images related to notorious crimes in my hometown of LA.

I skimmed through the usual suspects – The Black Dahlia, The Night Stalker, The Freeway Killer, The Manson Family, Sharon Tate – I already knew everything there was to know. No need to waste time on them. I was just about to leave the profile, but then a picture of something I was familiar with caught my eye…my grandma’s house.

Tucked up into the highest folds of the Los Feliz hills in what was the fanciest part of LA back in the 20s, my grandma’s house was the subject of much old Hollywood lore, but most of the family never believed it. There was talk the house used to belong to a glamorous movie star from the 40s. One of those actresses with an old-school name like Gladys or Mabel, who someone’s grandpa would probably rave about.

There had never been tales or rumors about anything sinister being tied to the house though. Seeing the image of my grandma’s pale yellow house with the pointed roof and immaculate front yard lined with rose bushes on a profile celebrating murders was a true shock in the middle of the night.

I read through the copy next to the photo of my grandma’s house with my breath held.

This house at 3918 North Luker Street is the site of of the mysterious LA Gatsby Killings of 1947.

Due to a court case won by the current owner and inhabitant, the records of the case and the location were sealed for 60 years and were opened just a month ago to reveal the address and the full details of the case.

I dove into researching the LA Gatsby Killings of 1947. Here is just about word-for-word what I found on a blog.

The LA Gatsby Killings of ‘47 have long been shrouded in mystery, but the 60 year ribbon being taken off the case has finally shed some light on the rampant rumors which have swirled around the murders that took place, and the house which still rests at 3918 North Luker.

The case file confirms that a large party took place on October 31,1947. In the morning, the owner of the house, and heir to a manufacturing fortune, Abigail Hanover, (my grandma) called the police to report that she woke up to find the dead bodies of four partygoers in the bar room of the mansion.

The officers who arrived said they found four bodies which had passed away in the night and fallen to the floor. An investigation later revealed that the four – three men and one woman – had been poisoned. The exact source of poisoning was never determined.

Abigail’s story was that it was a very large party, around 50 people, that went well into the night and she retired upstairs to her bedroom around 1 in the morning while a mix of about 10 people, whom she did not know well (including the four victims), were wrapping up. Drunk and tired, Abigail said they could finish their drinks before they went, so long as they locked the door on their way out. She woke the next morning to find the dead bodies and called the police.

This was the outlaw days of the 40s when people thought there was no way a rich, white woman could have killed four people. The police reportedly didn’t even question Abigail and only did a light investigation into the crime. The three male victims were confirmed to be involved in the heroin trade and the female victim, Jessica Lucas, had been arrested multiple times on prostitution charges. Abigail admitted getting drunk and letting the party swell with far too many unsavory characters she didn’t really know and told the officers she was embarrassed about the whole thing and really just wanted it to go away.

However, an LA Times reporter conducted his own investigation and discovered from neighbors and the few acquaintances he tracked down that Abigail Hanover was an immensely private woman who never had parties, who was only seen a few times. The reporter also discovered that Abigail only had one living, documented family member, a brother who lived in New York, whom she had not seen in more than 10 years.

Abigail went after The Times once the first story was written about the case and won a court decision which barred the publication from further investigation because she had been cleared by the police. This stopped The Times from being able to publically report any further information about the case, but it did not stop the reporter from investigating privately.

What the reporter learned privately over the next 10 years would end up deepening the mystery and eventually earn it the “Gatsby Murders” moniker.

The reporter was able to document his findings in a long out-of-print zine called Crime Noir Vault. The articles are not available online, but can be found in the media archives at the LA library.

After Abigail’s brother passed away, his children took Abigail to court to try and get her half of the family inheritance, because they believed her to be an imposter. They believed the Abigail who was living in 3918 North Luker was actually Jessica Lucas, the prostitute who supposedly died from poisoning at the party and that Jessica had poisoned Abigail.

The family revealed that Abigail was a closeted homosexual. Her sexuality was actually the main reason she distanced herself from all family and most friends. Her deeply religious brother told the children the reason he cut himself off from her was that he discovered she regularly used the services of prostitutes. They believed Jessica Lucas was one of those prostitutes and that Jessica hatched a plan to swap identities with Abigail so she could assume her identity, home and fortune. The two women had a striking resemblance and the children believed Jessica relied on the incompetence of law enforcement and forensics of the time to allow her to pull it off. The children argued Jessica poisoned the real Abigail along with a few male flunkies to tie the crime to the drug trade so the cops would be more inclined to write it off.

And it worked. Abigail (Jessica) won her court case against the family. She kept her money and mansion.

Abigail (Jessica) married shortly after the murders and had a son (my dad) and daughter. She reportedly still lives in the house to this day alone as her husband passed away in the 70s and she never remarried.

My mind was blown in a way I never thought it could be. My grandma was an imposter? And a murderer?

I didn’t even know how to absorb the news. I thought about calling my parents and asking if they had ever heard anything about it. Thought they could maybe offer some reassurance, but decided against it. I didn’t want to blow up their worlds until I could get a little more concrete information. The whole thing could have been Internet bullshit.

I actually had the perfect chance to do so coming up in the morning. The next day was my weekly day of serving as my grandma’s nurse, at her house, at 3918 North Luker.

92 years-old and barely able to move, my grandma required 24-hour assistance, seven days a week. Being the superstar grandchild that I was, I offered to handle the task of caring for my grandma one day a week to give her usual caregivers a break and to bond with her. Well…and she gave me $500 every time that I did it.

All I usually did was eat three meals with my grandma, read the newspaper and paperback novels during the day, watch the news and some game shows at night and put her to bed. Once my grandma was in bed, I watched shows on my tablet and texted with friends until I went to sleep in the guest room and left early the next morning.