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March 23, 2023 31 mins

In 1977, Charles Scudder and Joseph Odom left Chicago to build a dream home in rural North Georgia. Five years later, the gay couple were robbed and murdered in their home. The story sparked a media frenzy, revealing widespread paranoia about the Satanic Church and homosexuality. We dig into the case with B.T. Harman, writer and host of the historical crime podcast "Catlick."

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
You're listening to Facing Evil, a production of iHeartRadio and
Tenderfoot TV. The views and opinions expressed in this podcast
are solely those of the individuals participating in the show
and do not represent those of iHeartRadio or Tenderfoot TV.
This podcast contains subject matter which may not be suitable
for everyone. Listener discretion is advised. Hello, everyone, welcome back

to Facing Evil. I'm Rasha Peccarrero and I'm Evet Gentile
and today we're talking about the murders of Charles Scudder
and Joseph Odom, which is also known as the Corpse
would Manner Murders. And you guys, this one really has
it all. Satanism, sex parties, and a creepy mansion in
the woods. It sure does. But it's also about two

people trying to break free from a society that did
not accept them, and they ended up six seating at
least for a little while, until that society came for
them and did them in. Listeners familiar with the Satanic
Panic scare of the nineteen eighties might be familiar with
this case, which took place in the Deep South. No less,

and here is an interesting fact. Bobby Lee Cooked, a
famous lawyer who was involved with the Atlanta child murders
and the case that inspired Midnight in the Garden of
Good and Evil, played a part here. He represented the
sons of one of the murder victims in the estate
dispute that followed the murders, and that was the same

lawyer that inspired the TV show Matlocke that ran in
the nineteen eighties and the nineteen nineties. Anyhow, today we
are incredibly excited to welcome podcaster BT Harmon, who has
also written about this case for Atlanta Magazine. I am
incredibly honored to dig deep into the story of Charles

Scudder and Joseph Odom with BT today. But first our
producer Trevor is going to take us through today's case.
They became not necessarily the classical interpretation of devil worshipers
quote Satanists. They became basically earth worshiping people. Their architectural

style of their home, their patterns for living, the total
dependence on the earth and its source of power, their
total dependence on their own food sources, their total independence
from all embarrassed types of lifestyles. Charles Scudder and Joseph
Odom were a couple who were murdered in their home

in Tryon, Georgia in nineteen eighty two. Charles and Joseph
had moved to Chattooga County, Georgia, from Chicago, where Charles
taught for many years at Loyola University. Charles was a
lover of science, art, drama, and music, and considered himself
extremely counter cultural. He kept a pet monkey, dyed his

hair unusual colors, and heavily identified with the Adams family.
Charles was also publicly a member of the Church of Satan,
and would even drive into town in a jeep that
he had painted with pentagrams. The Church of Satan supported
the notion that anything goes between two consenting adults, and
it was a place where he found acceptance in a

time when mainstream American society didn't accept gay people. In
the late nineteen seventies, Charles and Joseph Odom, then his
live in housekeeper, decided to leave Chicago on a plot
in rural Georgia. They cleared the land, laid the bricks,
and installed a water pumping system for what they would
call Corpse would manor their dream house on forty five acres.

The home included a library with books on the occult
human schools and a pink gargoyle over the front entrance.
There were also stained glass windows that Charles had made himself,
and on the third floor of this building was a
space they called the Pink Room, and that's where the
couple would entertain guests. The walls were decorated with candles, whips, chains,

and even a log book listing guest sexual predilections. And
in nearby Treon, Georgia, rumors surrounded these quote homosexual devil worshippers,
as they were sometimes called, but people would still visit
just to see the place, and Charles would give visitors
homemade wine and let people hunt on their property. One

of those visitors was a troubled teenager named Kenneth Avery Brock. Avery,
as he was known, had had a number of alleged
sexual encounters with Charles Scudder, and he believed that Charles
and Joseph were millionaires. As it turns out this was
not true, but on the night of December twelfth, nineteen
eighty two, Charles and Joseph were throwing a party. Avery

Brock came that night bringing his friend to Tony West. Together,
Avery and Tony hatched a plan to rob their hosts.
In the pink room, Charles served their guest homemade wine
while Joseph stayed in the main house to clean up
after dinner. That's when Avery stepped out and returned with
a rifle, and he pointed it directly at Charles. Then

Avery bound and gagged Charles with a bedsheet. Avery then
went to the main house, where he found Joseph in
the kitchen and shot him four times. He also killed
the couple's two dogs. The killers then dragged Charles into
the house, where they ripped off his gag and asked
him where the money was. Then they shot and killed Charles.

Avery and Tony then ransacked the house, but left with
only a handful of coins and a few knickknacks. The
pair were later arrested and both were eventually sentenced to
life in prison. The trial and surrounding coverage of the
murders played on fears that were widespread at the time,
both about Satanism and about homosexuality. A couple years later,

the abandoned Corpsewood Manner was vandalized and burned to the ground. Today,
only ruins remain of the once elegant structure. In rural
North Georgia. And so who were Charles Scudder and Joseph
odom And how does their story reflect the dangers of
living through a period of American history rife with paranoia, homophobia,

and violence. Oh loja everyone, I am so excited to
welcome our guest for today's episode. So joining us to
discuss the murder of Charles Scudder and Joseph odom Or.
As many of you know, this is also called the

Corpsewood Murders is writer BT. Harmon. BT has written at
length about this case for Atlanta Magazine, and he is
also the host of the true crime historical podcast Catholic.
He joins us, now, welcome at Komo my to Facing Evil. BT.

Thank you, it's going to be here. We are so
honored to have you here, and we're just going to
dive right in. My sister and I of course have
done a deep dive. We know who you are, but
we want our listeners to know more about you. So
if you could tell us a little bit about your history,
particularly with true crime, and what brought you to historical

true crime. Yeah, So, I'm forty one years old living Atlanta, Georgia.
I grew up in a small town in Alabama called
Florence and had a corporate job for a while, and
then about six or seven years ago, launched out on
my own to start a new career. So I got
into kind of creative consulting, working with small businesses, and
in the midst of that, decided to launch two podcasts.

So my first podcast was called Blue Baby's Pink. It's
sort of my personal coming out story and very memoir esque.
And then my second podcast was completely different, a total
one eighty We went from very personal story of faith
and sexuality to true crime and history. And so I
launched the podcast called cat Lick in twenty nineteen, and

it covers a very unique span of time in Atlanti's
history between nineteen eleven and nineteen fifteen and four separate
incidences that were playing out. All four really had sort
of an angle of racism, racial terror, and the stories
were just so unbelievably sensational. It was like something out
of Hollywood, and all the newspapers in Atlanta were covering

them simultaneously. And that really that podcast was a result
of about five years of very in depth research, getting
very nitty gritty on the historical details, but I'm really
proud of it and how it turned out. Wow, that's
quite a transition, right to go into true crime. Can
I just ask you a question, how did you come
up with the name catlick? Yeah? So I just love

a good, clever, creative name. And I discovered this word catlic.
It sort of has like an English British route, and
it's kind of a slang word for like imagine like
a mom tells her child, Hey, go go wash up,
and he comes back and he just sort of he
didn't really wash, He just sort of dusted himself off,
and she says, no, that's just a catlic. It's like
a cat licked you, right, you know, you didn't fully wash.

And so to me it was it was sort of
a really great proxy for the way this nation has
handled a lot of race issues, right We've we'd like
to think that we've done a thorough washing, but when
you really get down to it, we really haven't. And
it's just a little catlic and it has the letters
atl right in the middle of the word catlic, which
was you know, I just thought that was really cool.

So to me, it was just it was it was
the right name. Yeah, I couldn't agree more. How clever
is that on every level? You know, let's just jump
right into it. Can you tell us when you first
heard about the Corpse would Murders. Yeah, so it was
actually in the midst of producing Catlic. I was releasing
weekly episodes and I got an Instagram message from a
fan who was listening to catlic and he said, hey,

your next podcast would be about the corpse would Manner Murders.
And I ever heard of that before, so of course,
did what we all do. I googled it and boy,
that was a whole rabbit hole and I probably spent
I don't know, two or three hours just learning about
that case. And it took place, you know, maybe forty
maybe sixty miles north of where I live here in Atlanta,
happened in the seventies and eighties, And so once I

discovered that that was on my radar and I thought, boy,
this is a this is a fascinating story on a
lot of levels. I want to know so much more,
bt so much more, like I mean, especially not having
heard about it and then hearing about it from a fan.
Do you know that area? And did it surprise you
that this type of thing or horrific murder would happen

in that rural area in Georgia. Yeah, so the learn
that took place. It's a county called Chattooga County. Like
I said, it's about an hour hour and a half
drive north of Atlanta. Of course, I'm in Atlanta for
over a decade now. Love the city, progressive, global, big airport,
a lot of just great arts and culture scene. Yeah, diversity,

it's great. But you know, like a lot of states,
once you get you know, a ways outside of the
big city, things get very rural very quickly. And I listen,
I grew up in a small town. I love small
town USA. I think it's fantastic, and my heart is
still there in some ways. But yeah, Chattuga County. The
city is called Tryon, which is where these gentlemen lived. Yeah,
extremely rural. And when I went there, you know because

again the whole story took place in the late seventies,
so this was we just had the fortieth anniversary of
the murders, right, And so when I went there, I
was I was just shocked at how rural it still was, right,
I mean forty years later, right, right, And so I
think I can't imagine what this area was like, you know,
forty years ago, because even today, I mean it's you know,

a beautiful area, but just impossibly different from Atlanta in
so many ways. I would love to know what you
personally thought, especially on your journey and going to try
on and just seeing it for yourself. Did you feel
like vibes, was it haunted? What were your first instincts

and feelings when you were there. Yeah, So one of
the days I was there was the middle of the summer.
It literally was one hundred and one hundred three degrees
that day, so just one of these sweltering southern hot
days that you know, Groke up in Alabama very familiar with.
But yeah, visiting that area obviously, I wanted to get
a feel for what's it like now. And it was
really interesting. You know. I had lunch at one of
the few little cafes in town, and my waitress was

maybe in her twenties, and I just said, you know, hey,
have you ever heard of the Corpsewood Manner murders? And
her eyes, you know, they got real big, and she said, oh, yeah,
that's over, that's over on Devil Worshippers Mountain, And you know,
all of high school. Our friends would go up there,
and one of my friends she stole a brick, and
you know, if you still a brick from the ruins,
you're cursed. And you're sure enough her parents were in
a car wreck. So yeah, there was that kind of energy.

And she told me, she's like, if you go up there,
bring a baseball bat. And so, you know, it's just
it's small town. It's folklore. At this point, those stories are,
you know, etched in the minds of everyone in that county.
And so I got in my car and I drove
up Mountain View Road. I mean, up this winding gravel road.
All the houses have sort of these big, sort of
impending fences and gates, and you know, rebel flags are

flying and don't tread on me flags, and so, I
mean it did have sort of this ominousness about it.
And I got up there and it was remarkably creepy.
I mean, I feel like that so cliche to say,
and obviously there's a psychology thing going on there in
my head, but but yeah, it just had this it
sort of had a heaviness about it. And the site

is now privately owned and you technically aren't supposed to
go there, but lots of people still go up there
and trapes around the property and go through the ruins.
The house is collapsed. It was burned shortly after the
whole incident happened. Arson has set fire to it, so
it is just a very haunted ruins. Now it's bricks.
There's the old arch, one of the main arches from
the gazebo that was there, overgrown with vines and so

it's just dense woods. But yeah, it definitely has that
energy to it. Do you think that Charles was, you know,

into Satanic stuff or do you think he was just
an atheist and just you know, he and Joseph were
just living their lives doing you know, the things that
they enjoyed doing. What do you think about that? Because
it's like we create, you know, we create stuff in
our head right of what we think people are doing,
but are they actually doing that stuff? Yeah? So this

is where I again, I am not an expert on
the Church of Satan. I grew up my dad was
a Southern Baptist pastor, so you know, I don't have
expertise here, but based off my research me either yeah, right,
not like we either. When the Church of Satan started,
It wasn't they weren't committing duplicitous acts and you know,
sacrificing animals. It's almost like a troll job, right, It's

like for people who are atheists, this is a great
way to kind of troll people of faith. So, um
Stroll Scudder was a he was a counterculture guy. I
mean he I think I read at one point he
had pink hair. I believe I read and you have
to factory me. I think he had a pet monkey
at one time. So yeah, that's it. And so I

kind of viewed his involvement with the Church of Satan's
like it was just another way to kind of be different.
And you know, but he did the symbology. He definitely
loved you know, when he built the Big Manner, there
were statues of Bafomet, and there were stained glass windows
with pentagrams, and of course there was this towering pink
gargoyle over the main doorway. And so I've seen the photo. Yeah, yeah, right,

So you know, they definitely I mean, he was a
card carrying member. They literally have found his name on
roles at the Church of the membership role at the
Church of Satan. So what level he was involved, we
don't know, but we don't Again, there's no record of
him doing anything criminal around his Church of Satan involvement.
You know, when you think about Charles and Joseph like

doing this so many years ago and the times that
we live in now, right, it's crazy to go and
do that, But back then, they had to have such
tremendous courage, like just to go out in the middle
of nowhere and build their dream home and do the
things that they did. Right now, I mean, don't you

find that fascinating and interesting that they were definitely I
would say ahead of their time back then. I think
courageous is an appropriate word. I think there was also
an element of desperation. Right, You've got these two men.
They're living in the suburbs of Chicago or all intensive purposes,
they're closeted. You know, this was a time where it
was still very scary to be gay, even in an

urban area like Chicago. You know, we had the AIDS
epidemic was just around the corner, you know, it kind
of began early eighties, and so you know, it really
shows the level to which these men were willing to
go to kind of escape that closeted life, and there,
you know, there's a narrative You're beyond just the sexuality piece.
There's a narrative of just sort of being fed up

with the trappings of modernity as it were, right like
I think they were also just Scudder had been working
at Loyola. He wrote extensively about the increased paperwork, and
the students were less respectful, and his colleagues were kind
of jerks to him, and so there's an element of
that of just wanting to escape from the stress of
modern life and get back to the land. So there's

kind of that component. There's a lot of different narratives
in this story. There's a sexuality angle, there's a satanic
panic situation, which is a whole other angle that was
happening and we were right in the throes of that
in the late seventies. And then there's sort of this
get back to the land angle as well. Do we
think all the rumors when all that came out, especially

when they were investigating the murders, you know, obviously their
style was on trial as opposed to the murderers being
on trial. Do you think it was all surrounding homophobia
and paranoia took a couple days after the murders, but
when the Atlanta media picked up this story, uh, one
of the phrases that kept coming up in their headlines

or homosexual devil worshippers. Right, what's the weight of that phrase.
I mean, it's you know, if you're a journalist, that's
fantastic clickbait as much as clickbait could have could have
existed sensations finest m that's it, right, And so so
that that that became part of the narrative very early,
and that was a significant piece. You have two men

who were both sexual and religious minorities in a extremely rural,
very uh you know, very conservative small town, and so
that that was a big part of it. I'll tell
you an interesting and interesting anecdote from this story in
the newspaper clippings. The sheriff, who was the primary sort
of investigator once once the murders happened, I believe even

one of his court testimonies, the discussion of motive came up,
and he said, this is someone who was keenly aware
of what was happening. He attributed fifty percent of the
motive of the murders was robbery, because the money they
thought they had. Okay, yep. He chalked up the other
fifty percent to the fact that they were gay and
that they were quote unquote devil worshippers. And when that

came up with one of the suspects, I think it
was Avery Brock, he said, basically, we gave those devil worshippers,
you know what they had coming. That's a paraphrase. And
so there was a hate crime element to this beyond
just the robbery. And I think that was you know, again,
it's this dehumanization thing. When we judge people so severely,
we dehumanized them, then doing violence to them is no

longer that big of a deal because they had it coming, right,
never thought about it that way, Yeah, I mean from
their perspective, I've never thought about that. Yeah. It's just
so interesting because you know, like Russia was saying about
our great grandfather who had all these wild parties, you know,
in the Franklin House. Here in Los Angeles, the same
thing goes for you know, Charles and Joseph they were

having you know, these sex parties and people coming in
and out of the house. I mean, do you think
that these guys were like wanting to take advantage of
them in some way, you know, because one of the
guys was having relations with Charles. So do you think
it was definitely premeditated. Yeah, we definitely know it was

very premeditated. The two purps, Brock and West, these were
not smart people. Their backgrounds were very shady, you know,
petty crime from an early age. One of the gentlemen
actually murdered someone when he was a child. I think
it was a relative or something, and so he was
his brother. Yeah, yeah, that's right, right, and so that
was part of this. So it was definitely premeditated. Again,

it was a crime of opportunity in their in their minds,
they just assumed, well, these these guys have a big house.
There must be money hidden in this house somewhere. So,
you know, just not not the smartest guys on the block.
But that definitely was That was the initial motive which
got the ball rolling. This is just such a crazy story,
you know when you think about it. Do they know

who actually burned down the house? They don't know. They're
probably like burn it, burn it to the ground. Whatever
happened here, and all of the folklore that I'm sure
has followed in the years after this horrific murder. It
makes me so sad to see that this something like

this would happen again. I know it was in the
nineteen eighties. We've come a long way yet, We've got
so far to go. But do you think initially, of course,
that their murders were, like you said, dismissed because these
perps dehumanize them because they thought that they were X, Y,

Z all these horrible things. Do we think that it
was truly just because they were gay, or do you
think it had the Satanic thing too, or all of
the above. Yeah, I think it was the perfect storm.
I mean, even now, if if someone is a self
availed homosexual and they are part of the Church of Satan,

that that person would be shrouded in great taboo, right yeah,
And so back then, of course, it was probably tenfold
the level of misunderstanding that existed culturally or on what
it meant to be gay. I mean, it was just
barely in the American conscience at that point, and and
and as it existed in that conscience, it was fully taboo,

fully disgusting, fully inappropriate here in the South, fully worthy
of being damned to hell. You know, I mean, that's
the kind of theology that exists in the South certainly
then and it still does today, and so so yeah,
I do think that that colored the way that people
thought about this case. Yeah, back then, it was probably

kind of easy to dismiss this as an issue of
just as well, that's what they you know, that's what
they had coming. And there were there were quotes in
several newspapers where they did any man on the street
interviews with folks around Atlanta, and several people said that,
which was certainly reflective of the times. So what do

you think about the sentences that the two men got.
Do you feel that it was a fair sentence? Yeah?
I think so. I mean, the two gentlemen are still
in jail to this day. They were just young, barely
teenagers at the time, and they're becoming old men in jail,
and so, you know, the justice system prevailed and they

were you know, quickly apprehended within days of the crime,
and they're still serving time for it. Yeah, I'd have
to agree with you on that. It's like, it seems
like this is the time that our you know, our
system actually worked. As long as we've been doing this,
it's rare that that has happened, especially in you know,
I can definitely say that I believe this was a

partial hate crime. Yes, it was probably, like you said,
the perfect storm BT. But I would love to know
on a personal note for you, especially you know, being
from Alabama and living in Georgia and being a for
all intents and purposes, a happily gay married man, how

do you relate, if at all, to Charles and Joseph.
How has this case impacted you in your life? So
I spent the first thirty ish years of my life
deep in the closet, grew up again in a very
very conservative Christian family, and the only thing I knew

to survive through my childhood, teens and twenties was to
just be closeted. And you know, my coping mechanism at
that time was work. Once I graduated college, I became
a workaholic. And so I can't say that I perfectly
identify with how those two men felt, but I bet
there is a lot of overlap. The feeling of soul
crushing shame, the feeling of not being worthy, the feeling

of the crippling fear of imagining what life would be
like if those who knew this dark secret about you,
you know, what they would do or how they would
judge you. So yeah, I get it, and I understand
why they would want to run from that life that
they had in Chicago and just get away and build

a castle in the woods to try to find peace.
You know, at the end of the day, that's what
hell everyone's looking for. We're looking for a way to
exist and just live our lives. And I think that's
what they were doing. And so I'm really thankful that
that's not my story. And listen, I'm a very optimistic person.
And as you said earlier, when it comes to LGBT rights,
we've got a long way to go. But I will

be the first to say I love where we are now.
And the life that my husband and I have been
able to build here in Atlanta is just beautiful. It's
it is unbelievably mundane, right. I mean, we have two cats,
we have a garden in the summer, and we watch
Netflix at night. And the fact that we're able to

do that like unbothered for the most part, and we
have neighbors that are so incredibly supportive and love us.
It's amazing, and so I to me That's another subnarrative
of this story is people don't have to necessarily move
to the woods anymore to escape the shame of the closet.
You know, in some areas, you know they probably want to,

but thankfully there are refuges where people can build really
beautiful lives for themselves. You know what we do here
on facing you, well, we always look for the light
in the darkness. And I know it's hard to find
the light in some cases, especially one as gruesome as this.
But just in this short time that we've had with you,

I know that you are a bright, shining light of optimism.
Can you give our listeners and Yvettnay a little light
in the dark. What do you see in this case
that doesn't make it so dark for us? Yeah? I
think two things come to mind. I mean, we referenced

it earlier. But the justice system in this case worked yes,
yes and again. And when you read some of the
reports from the from law enforcement, you know, they went
out of their way to say in their investigation, to
be clear, we don't care that these men were gay
or were devil worshippers. We are here to serve justice beautiful,

and so that was inspiring. And these are small town
police officers in rural North Georgia in the nineteen eighties,
and they were they were pushing through to say justice matters,
and we're going to find justice for these two men,
despite what anyone thinks about them. And I found that
really beautiful and inspiring. The second thing I would say is,
you know, it's a lesson for today, but again, look

how far we've come. Yes, the fact that we have
progressed so far and LGBTQ rights and people like me
are able to build wonderfully beautiful, mundane lives is really remarkable,
and so I think we all should step back and
let that provide a little hope, because it's really really
beautiful hope. Yes, that's the light, open healing, that is,

that's what it's all about. We completely, one hundred percent
enjoyed speaking with you today. Bt. I love how you're
so Southern and you love it and you just radiate
in it, you know, in all that you are. So
you know, what we can all wish for for ourselves
and for others is just happiness at the end of

the day. Just happiness. That's it. That's really simple. It's
really simple. Well, thank you so much BT for joining
us on facing evil, and we look forward to chatting
with you again real soon. Cheers. This week's message of
hope and healing goes out to the pioneers, people like

Charles Scutter and Joseph Odom who, finding no acceptance in
the real world, built a world all of their own,
and they built a space where they could be who
they were in a time when it was hard to
find acceptance in the wider world, and they were happy,
at least for a little while. Pioneers like these make

new spaces and in doing so, pave the way for others.
In an interview with Mother Earth magazine about building Corpse
Would Manner, Charles Scudder wrote, people often fantasize about trying
out different lifestyles, but few actually change the way they live.
They just don't know that. All it takes is to

realize a fan see is a small amount of money,
a bit of luck, and a whole lot of courage.
In this moment, we honor that courage. Onward and upward.
Imoa emua. Well, that's our show for today. We'd love

to hear what you thought about today's discussion and if
there's a case you'd like for us to cover, find
us on social media or email us at Facing Evil
Pod at tenderfoot dot tv. And one small request if
you haven't already, please find us on iTunes and give
us a good rating and a good review. If you
like what we do, your support is always cherished. Until

next time a loja. Facing Evil is a production of
iHeartRadio and tenderfoot TV. The show is hosted by Russia

Peccarero and a Vetchantile. Matt Frederick and Alex Williams our
executive producers on behalf of iHeartRadio, with producers Trevor Young
and Jesse Funk, Donald Albright and Payne Lindsay our executive
producers on behalf of Tenderfoot TV, alongside producer Tracy Kaplan.
Our researcher is Carolyn Talmidge. Original music by Makeup and

Vanity Set. Find us on social media or email us
at Facing Evil pot at tenderfoot dot tv. For more
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