A light tour of Echo Park’s dark past

The Bat Man Murder House where Dolly Oesterreich hid her lover Otto Sanhuber in the attic until one night he shot her husband Fred./PHOTO BY Kim Cooper

The Bat Man Murder House | Kim Cooper


Fun fact: If you go to a little parklet by Riverside Drive, you can see where The Hillside Stranglers dumped some of their victims. That, in fact, is one of the first stops on the Echo Park Book of the Dead Tour, which is rolling through Echo Park on Saturday, April 23.

The Esotouric tour bus will revisit long-ago murders, frauds, kidnappings and miscellany: the apartment building where Edward Hickman kept his kidnapping victim in 1927; Sister Aimee Semple McPherson’s parsonage down by the lake; and the house where Walburga Oesterreich kept her lover hidden in the attic from 1913 to 1922.

Let’s just say none of those stories ended well.

Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, the creators of Esotouric, have been leading crime tours since 2005 – growing out of Cooper’s blog about crime in the 1940s. But they didn’t start an Echo Park outing until about a year ago, waiting for the renovation of Echo Park Lake to be completed.

“We’ve been wanting to do it forever,” Cooper said.

Then, too, it takes awhile to write a historical crime tour – poring over hundreds of newspaper articles and driving around looking for some of these forgotten places.

And sometimes, the right story isn’t what you’d expect.

“In 1914, the park had turned into a lover’s lane, with people canoodling in the bushes,” Cooper said. So the police assigned an officer named Charles Luethke to patrol the area and enforce some post-Edwardian decorum.

The officer kept reporting all was quiet, but complaints kept coming in from the neighbors. Finally, a senior officer stopped by the park where, of course, he found Officer Luethke canoodling as well – with a girl known to history only as Lulu.

“It’s not all blood and guts,” Cooper said.

To learn more, visit Esotouric’s web page, or click on the Echo Park Book of the Dead Tour.

Barry Lank grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, then went away for a seriously long time. He has worked in TV and radio, and currently helps produce The Final Edition Radio Hour.

Pinney House at 1355 Carroll Avenue, where wealthy newlywed Louise Pinney Castle was beaten on the porch by her roughneck husband David in 1906./PHOTO BY Kim Cooper

Pinney House on Carroll Avenue | Kim Cooper

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  1. “Fun fact”????
    I gre up here in LA and remember the Hillside Strangler. I don’t remember any “fun” facts about any of it. I think a better choice of words could be used to share a fact about where a murderer dumped dead women.

    • Silly people, ways interested in the macabre…
      Having lived in Echo Park for several years I can offer a much more, shall we say, current tour of brutal homicide locations.

    • I agree that is a totally unacceptable! those poor girls were abducted and tortured and the city was in terror

  2. Not sure where on Riverside drive you’re talking about. Trying to remember if one of the Hillside Stranglers’ (there were two of them, cousins) victims was left at a freeway entrance there.

    But the one that was at Echo Park was across the street from Clifford Street Elementary school at Clifford and Allesandro.

    Most of the victims were prostitutes walking the streets of Hollywood, and in the end, it turned out the killers were from Glendale. So, bodies were left mostly between Hollywood and Glendale, although one was found up in the Angeles Forest — that one had been a customer at one of the killer’s (Angelo Buono) auto reupholstery shop in Glendale.

    • Ignorance, is what it is…
      The Hillside Stranglers, went as far as getting a 12 year old. I really don’t think it is fair to talk about any of the deceased. Show I little compassion for the families, who have lost their loved ones. I’ve witnessed one of the bodies, that was thrown on the empty lot on the hillside of North Alvarado, when I was a kid. I was spending the night at a friend house on Lakeshore, and seen the girls body. The lot is for sale, and it’s still empty. I get chills every time I pass threw there ….
      Bless her soul,

    • I remember when that body was found. A friend of mine on Lemoyne told me it was in the ravine off Larga, which was drivable then. Glad to see esotouric on the eastsider; their tours are somewhat grand guignol but very infomative.

    • The body was dumped up the hill on Cerro Gordo. I walked to school by the spot. Another body was dumped in Elysian Park

  3. I don’t remember being terrified by any serial killer as much as the Hillside Strangler. Those were truly terrifying times and the victims seemed so random. Turns out one of the maniacs was a security guard and posed as a cop to lure his victims.. At a time before cell phones, you were on your own if you got into trouble. We didn’t go out much while they were on the loose.

  4. I certainly wasn’t comfortable about the Hillside Strangler killings. But they didn’t terrify me (except when one sketch was put out as the possible killer, and the damn sketch looked exactly like me! Rell1 But it wasn’t me. They actually found that guy, and fortunately for him, he had an alibi. And then friends at work told me they had almost turned me in). Yes, after they were caught, we learned about how horribly they tortured the victims. It was very serious sadism.

    The only one who ever scared me was the Nightstalker — and he had a serious connection to Echo Park too, his fence was in Angelino Heights so he was in EP all the time for that. Here it was 110 degrees, really, and you didn’t dare leave a window even a crack open because he would come in. And it went on for several months, and was spread all over, not so narrowly oriented as the Hillside Strangler.

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