A light tour of Echo Park’s dark past

The Bat Man Murder House | Kim Cooper

BY BARRY LANK

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 on Carroll Avenue | Kim Cooper

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