Sex, Satanists, and Slaughter: The Murders at Corpsewood Manor

Charles Scudder was a highly intelligent young man, interested in almost everything. Scudder studied drama, music and art, but ultimately he chose to pursue science as a career. He studied at the University of Wisconsin and Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, where he obtained degrees in zoology, languages and chemistry and his PhD in pharmacology. 

Following his graduation, he became an associate professor of pharmacology at Loyola University of Chicago and the assistant director of the Institute for the Study of Mind, Drugs, and Behavior, where he performed government-funded experiments using psychoactive drugs. 

In 1959, he met Joseph Odom, twelve years younger than Scudder, who everyone knew as Joey. He served as cook and housekeeper to Dr. Scudder and his four sons, and lived with them in their aging mansion located on Adams Street on Chicago’s West Side. Dr. Scudder had filled the mansion with Renaissance-era antiques and baroque furniture he had obtained from the Balaban and Katz Chicago Theatre when they were liquidating furniture.

By 1976, Dr. Scudder had grown tired of career and the helpless feeling of watching his neighborhood disintegrate into an “urban ghetto”. His sons had grown up and left home in pursuit of their own desires, and he was still reeling from the sudden loss of his son, Ahab. On his 50th birthday, he decided to resign from his position at the university, and to try living “off-the-grid”, purchasing 40 acres of land in a rural part of North Georgia. 

Scudder and Odom arrived at their property during an ice storm, with their two Mastiff dogs, Beelzebub and Arsinath, a small camper, and whatever they could fit into their Jeep. There, they were greeted by the corpse of a dead horse, so they named the trail that led to their manor Dead Horse Road. Similarly, the brick castle-like home they would eventually build there would become known as Corpsewood Manor, named after stark, bare trees with covered the property. For the next two years, they would clear the land and construct, by hand out of 45,000 bricks, what Scudder referred to as their “castle in the country”. 

The interior of their castle was decorated in gaycentric literature and paintings, human skulls, occult symbols and artifacts, including a stained-glass window adorned with the deity, Baphomet. It should be mentioned that Scudder and Odom were Satanists of the Anton LeVeyan tradition and official members of the Church of Satan. It meant that they didn’t actually believe in Satan or the Devil as a deity, but more of a symbol of self-resilience, individuality and independence. 

Apart from the manor, they had built a small structure called the “Chicken Coop” where chickens were housed on the lowest level, and canned food and their porn collection were stored on the second floor. The upper floor was painted with some donated pink paint and was known as the “Pink Room” where the couple hosted guests, containing mattresses, more pornography material, whips, chains, and a logbook listing guests’ sexual preferences. 

Hunters would often come along to ask for permission to use the land, to partake in some of the couple’s homemade wine, or just out of curiosity. This is how they came into contact with Avery Brock and Tony West.

Brock accepted an invitation to the Chicken Coop to partake in some wine when Scutter ended up performing oral sex on him. Brock would revisit the house several times afterwards, inviting his friend Tony West on one occasion. While West did enjoy free wine and drugs, he was strongly objected to any homosexual activity, and would later convince Brock that he had been taken advantage of. Thinking Scudder and Odom were sitting on a huge fortune, Brock and West hatched a plan to rob the couple.

On the evening of December 12, 1982, Brock and West rode up to Corpsewood along with Joey Lavon Wells and Theresa Lynn Hudgins, two teens who were unaware of the plan and were just along for the ride. According to the teens’ later testimonies, the four of them went up into the Pink Room, drinking wine and huffing toot-a-loo, a mixture of varnish and paint thinner and other chemicals. 

At some point, Brock went down to the car to get more toot-a-loo. Instead, he retrieved a rifle he had brought along, walked into the main house, and shot Odom and their two dogs. Brock and West forced Scudder into the house, threatening and tormenting him in an attempt to find the money they believed to be in the house. 

After realizing that there was in fact no riches in the houses, they shot Scudder five times in the head, and fled in the couples’ Jeep along with whatever valuables they could find. 

The two initially planned on fleeing to Mexico, stopping at a Mississippi where West killed Kirby Phelps, and stole his car. Once arriving in Texas, the two parted ways where Brock returned to Georgia to surrender to authorities. West would later surrender to police as well after returning to his hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

As the trial went underway, Scudder and Odom were labeled as “homosexual devil-worshipers”. Three vials of LSD were found in Scudder’s desk and defense attorneys attempted to prove that Brock and West were drugged via the wine, and were insane at the time of the murders, yet no trace of hallucinogenic drugs were found in the wine. 

Avery Brock was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to three consecutive life terms. He is currently serving his sentence in Georgia State Prison. Tony West was convicted of double homicide and sentenced to death by the electric chair. The death sentence was later repealed and he is currently serving his life sentence at the Augusta State Medical Prison.

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