Dr. Charles Lee Scudder was a student at Loyola University under Dr. Alexander Karczmar. After graduation, he became the associate director for the Loyola University of Chicago Institute for Mind, Drugs, and Behavior and worked as an associate professor. Years later, one of Scudder’s teachers described his former student, friend, and colleague as being quite eccentric. Dr. Scudder kept a pet monkey and would dye his hair odd colors. He believed in the unity of the universe and published the results of his experiments on that subject. He bought a mansion on West Adams Street in Chicago and filled it with baroque furniture he purchased from the Balaban and Katz theatres. He was also an accomplished harp player and had been invited to play with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. In the early 1950s, he married Bourtai Bunting, the daughter of British modernist poet Basil Bunting and Marion Culver. They later separated after having four sons; Saul Scudder, Gideon Scudder, Fenris S. Scudder, and Ahab Scudder. According to Dr. Karczmar, Scudder believed in the unity of the universe and published the results of his experiments on that subject.
By the 1970s, Dr. Scudder’s children from his previous marriage were adults. He and Joseph Odom, his long-time housekeeper, friend, and companion continued to live in the old mansion in Chicago. Although, the pair envisioned living an off-the-grid lifestyle. Dr. Scudder was tired of the university politics, the daily hustle of the big city, and unruly medical students. After months of searching, Dr. Scudder and Odom purchased a 40-acre plot of land in the hills of Chattooga County, Georgia. The property was only accessible by an old logging road. There was no running water, phone, or electricity available. They had a well dug to pump water and used lanterns and candles for light at night. In December of 1976, on his 50th birthday, Dr. Scudder quit his job as a pharmacology professor at Loyola University. When they arrived that winter in Georgia, they saw the bare, hauntingly beautiful trees around them and named their new home: Corpsewood Manor.
Accompanied by their two English mastiffs, Scudder and Odom lived in a camper while they built their dream home using only hand tools. A total of 45,000 bricks were laid by hand during the construction of Corpsewood Manor, three layers thick with a two-inch wide air space between the layers for insulation. The couple lived a simple life in their two-story home; a wood-burning stove provided heat, a chemical toilet served as an outhouse, and they grew their food. Behind the house, they had a small vineyard for making homemade wine.
By the end of the first summer, they were able to move into the first floor, which contained the kitchen, dining room, and living room. The next year, they put on a roof over the two upstairs bedrooms, which were reached by a circular stairwell illuminated by stained glass. Besides the two-story house, the couple built several outbuildings, including a three-story chicken coop. The first floor of the coop was for poultry and food storage. The second floor was for canned goods and the couple’s pornography collection. The third floor was nicknamed the “Pink Room,” and was where the couple would entertain guests.
Local hunters would often come along and ask for permission to use their land, this is how the couple met Avery Brock. The lifestyle they enjoyed led Avery Brock to speculate Dr. Scudder and Joseph Odom were millionaires, when in fact they had spent most of their life savings on building their secluded homestead. Brock told his friend, 30-year-old Tony West, a story about “queer devil-worshipers” who, he believed, were hiding a fortune in their home. On the night of December 12, 1982, Brock and West decided to put their plan to rob the couple into motion. They picked up West’s nephew, Joey Wells, and his friend Teresa Hudgins and the four headed to Corpsewood Manor. When they arrived, Scudder greeted them and everyone climbed a 40-foot extension ladder into the third floor of the chicken house. The group of four along with Dr. Scudder drank homemade wine and sniffed toot-a-loo (a mixture of varnish, paint thinner, and other things in a plastic bag). Dr. Scudder did not partake in the huffing but did share with the others his homemade wine.
After several hours of partying, Brock stepped out to his car and retrieved a .22 caliber Remington Speedmaster. He walked back to the house and shot Odom four times. Brock shot the two mastiffs next, which were still laying next to the stove. They tied up Dr. Scudder and demanded money. Wells and Hudgins attempted to flee, but after the car would not start, they were forced to return to the house. Brock and West ransacked the house but were unable to find anything worth any value. West shot Dr. Scudder in the head at point-blank range and the group fled the scene. The duo attempted to steal Dr. Scudder’s harp, but it would not fit in the vehicle.
Brock and West stole Charles Scudder’s black Jeep and fled westward. They stopped at an I-20 rest stop outside of Vicksburg, Mississippi where they took a car from Navy Lieutenant Kirby Phelps and murdered him during the process. On December 16, a neighbor discovered bullet holes in the door of Corpsewood Manor and called the sheriff. On that same day, Teresa Hudgins came forward to the police. According to the sheriff, she was held captive by Joey Wells at his mother’s house before escaping.
A nationwide search quickly ensued. Teresa Hudgins and Joey Wells cooperated with the police and were never charged with any crime. Avery Brock returned to Georgia and turned himself in on December 20, 1982. West did the same in Chattanooga, Tennessee on Christmas Eve. Both of the men received a sentence of life in prison. Avery Brock is currently serving his sentence in Georgia State Prison while Tony West is presently at Augusta State Medical Prison. They both have been denied parole multiple times and remain in prison today.
While investigating the murders, law enforcement officials discovered two human skulls, three vials allegedly filled with LSD-25, a small occult library, numerous occult tools, a large general academic and literature library, and homosexual pornography, according to news reports at the time. Also, found in the house was a painting of Scudder gagged with blood dripping from five bullet wounds, which Scudder had painted months earlier. The Chattooga County sheriff labeled the couple as “devil worshippers.” The sheriff had previously tried to bring charges against the couple for their odd behavior but was unable to do so because of freedom of religion.
Their neighbor, Raymond Williams, told reporters that Dr. Charles Scudder had joined the Church of Satan, but wasn’t an active participant. He said that Charles said he was an atheist and joined the church to see what it was all about. Williams, like many others in Chattooga County, was not aware that the philosophy of the Church of Satan is in fact atheistic and its members do not worship any supernatural being. Dr. Scudder’s membership in the Church of Satan has since been confirmed by Magus Peter H. Gilmore and Magistra Blanche Barton, both of the Church of Satan. In fact, the founder of the Church of Satan, Anton Szandor LaVey had been in communication with Dr. Scudder. It is rumored he had visited Corpsewood Manor, but the Church of Satan has not been able to find absolute proof of a visit and doubts that it occurred. LaVey viewed the murders as evidence that there were still areas of the United States where eccentrics were still attacked for holding beliefs outside of the norm. A few weeks before his murder, Dr. Scudder had received a birthday card from San Francisco from the Church of Satan that wished him a happy 56th birthday. At a different time, after going through some of the Church of Satan archives, Magus Gilmore has stated that documented evidence of Dr. Scudder’s involvement in the Church is not documented currently. Friends of Dr. Scudder have stressed that his being openly gay in a time period when discrimination and worse was prevalent would have made the Church of Satan’s policy of anything goes between consenting adults very attractive.
During the trial of West and Brock, Dr. Scudder was accused of spiking the wine with LSD in order to try to have oral sex with them. When tested by police, the bottle of wine did not have any trace of LSD. West tried to use the defense of involuntary intoxication. The defense attorney went as far as to say on the matter of the supposed drugging, “He had a motive because he was homosexual.” The jury ignored this prejudicial line of reasoning. West himself had confessed to a GBI agent that he and Brock had planned the murders and robbery a few days before the killings. West also told the GBI agent that Brock wanted to kill Scudder because Scudder had once engaged in oral sex with the 17-year-old. During the trial, Dr. Karczmar was contacted for an interview. In the interview, Karczmar attested that Scudder was not a drug abuser or a devil worshipper and that he was dependable. He also said, that to his knowledge, Scudder never did any research on LSD and that he had seemed like the type of person who disapproved of drug use.
There was a small private funeral service held at Corpsewood Manor for Dr. Charles Scudder and Joseph Odom. Odom’s ashes were scattered in the rose garden near Corpsewood Manor. Dr. Scudder’s ashes were taken back to Wisconsin by his sister and buried in the family plot on April 25, 1983. By 1986, Dr. Scudder’s gold-encrusted harp and a bronze statue of Mephistopheles from Corpsewood had fallen into the hands of famed defense attorney Bobby Lee Cook. Cook had been hired by Dr. Scudder’s four sons to represent their claim to the estate. Joseph Odom’s sister also claimed the estate, since Dr. Scudder’s will left everything to him. The property was purchased soon after the murders. Stories began to circulate about the couple’s unusual homestead even before a fire destroyed most of the non-brick portions of the buildings, people said the property was haunted. Visitors have reported hearing the sound of gunshots, dogs barking, or the sound of a harp playing. The remote property is privately owned and still used for hunting.
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