Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Black Houses of Olympia

If you ever happen to be in Olympia Washington, where I grew up, keep your eyes peeled for black houses. There are at least five black houses, some say upwards of ten or twelve and the number may very well have increased. I've never counted. I haven't even seen all of them but you definitely know one when you see one. They're all black, top to bottom, window sills, doors, any porches or railings, all painted black. Some are matte finish, some glossy. They are fairly simple architecturally--usually two stories, peaked roof, with some kind of porch in front and made of wood. I believe there may be one condo. All of the houses are older and a little run down if not a lot. They're honestly spooky, some more than others, but they do have a way of putting a little hint of doom in your day, enough to make you look over your shoulder and expect a crow just by passing one by.

Dennis owns the black houses. He is a dentist and a satanist. He is a satanic dentist named Dennis. Dennis the Satanic Dentist. You can't make this shit up. He is known to be an asshole and a notorious slumlord. He's younger than you'd think, younger than I always picture, probably around forty. I remember hearing about the Black Houses for the first time and immediately thinking of an orthodontist in town to whom all of my friends were sent when it was time for braces. They all condemned him as an evil, sadist, though they wouldn't have known the word at the time. They described all kinds of oral tortures involving gagging plaster and metal aparatus that I was lucky to miss out on, having teeth "with character" as my mom called them, but no major structural problems. This orthodontist's name was Dr. Grim. When I heard about the satanic dentist I thought, "This must be the same guy! How Perfect!" Unfortunately, they are not one in the same, but their mythological statures as distillations of that lurking "darkness out in these old woods", and their penchants for light sadism still causeme to conflate the two and I like to think that at least they might know each other...through the tooth biz or maybe through a Satanic reading group or something.

I say at least five black houses because it is said that if you plot the positions of each black house on a map of Olympia and connect the dots, the houses spell out a pentagram. I've never done this and I'm not sure anyone ever has but it fits in nicely with the rest of their myth.

According to hearsay, as most of this story is and will be, Dennis bought rundown houses in Olympia, mostly sticking to the East Side of town. Does East have some special significance in Satanism? "The Witches of Eastwick". I just googled "satanism and east direction" and turned up some great stuff about how you can map out pentagrams in Washington D.C. too, how fun.
Anyway, Dennis would buy one of these houses cheap and paint it completely black so that he could then drive down the price of real estate in that neighborhood, buy more houses and paint those houses black. What was the real motivation? To acquire as much Olympia real estate as possible? Or something more sinister...to spread his goth vision, to paint IT black, to mirror the presumed blackness of his soul, to make tangible and plain the otherwise unseen forces of evil ? It's kind of a chicken or the egg thing. Maybe he was just a clever businessman who happened to be really into Satan. Hard to say.

Whether it was part of his grand plan for the soul of humanity/Olympia or not, he then rented the houses to young bohemian types, probably because who else would be interested in living in a completely black house and willing to deal with a literally Satanic landlord? The kids that lived in the Black Houses were usually artists, musicans, activists or a combination of these with well developed DIY punk rock aesthetics. They threw great parties.

I did not live in a black house. My house, The Phoenix House, was a flaky beigy-puce house with a giant blackberry vine perpetually sprouting out of either it or the holly bush next to it. Its owned was an elderly man whose name I can't remember though I wrote rent checks to him each month for two and a half years. We never saw him except when he came down from Puyallup to haul his eighty year old body up a 50 ft. ladder to patch the spot in our roof where rain leaked down into one of the upstairs bedrooms. We would always offer to climb up there ourselves but he always refused us. I assume we did not appear like the types that would know how to patch a roof. I remember feeling slightly superior to the denizens of the calibre punk house that the Black Houses occupied. My roommates were older, we vacuumed, we partied but it never seemed to reach the slurring, mud-smeared tutu, drinking out of giant plastic liquor bottles, blotto level that some houses achieved. I also remember feeling inferior to the kids who lived in these houses. They always seemed to be living at a higher intensity than I could muster. I felt pretty rock n' roll but they totally had me beat. They were way more punk rock than me.

The only Black House that I remember ever being in was "The Track House", named for its position near the train tracks. They threw great parties.

The tracks began in the log yards of the port, ran past the glass piles, through downtown, through the overgrown yard of The Track House, through a tunnel burrowed under Capital Blvd, then along the edge of Capital lake past the old brewery and on into Tumwater. I walked through this tunnel with Clair and Julia one Summer during a bizarre convergence of Lakefair (the annual town fair w/parade, rides, food, and Lakefair princesses populated by a lot of people who didn't spend time in downtown Olympia) and Yo-Yo A Go-Go (an indie rock music festival full of greasy-haired, stripe T-shirt, Black high water pants w/ white belt wearing, sallow-faced artsy types.) We walked our sixteen-year-old bodies in the sunny Lakefair end of the tunnel and out the still sunny end nearer Yo-Yo A Go-Go where a drug deal was taking place. I remember hitting the midpoint of the tunnel, the darkest spot, where no direct light could reach from either end, where we could no longer pick out the glint of bottles and cans along the sides of the tracks. Someone could very easily have been crouching in the musty dark on either side and we wouldn't have been able to distinguish their figures from the tunnel walls. We found out later from our concerned parents, to whom we had for some reason related our adventure, that a man had been bludgeoned to death in the same tunnel a few years previous. Newspaper articles confirm this fact and add to it that he was an Asian man in his 30's and it was a hammer. We should not have been in that tunnel.

Apparently, Dennis lived in his own Black House. Someone had been inside and reported seeing an iron maiden setup in one corner of the gothic styled living room as decoration. Maybe it was Emmett who told me. Emmett was a friend of mine from high school. He was a friend of my friend Ally who I had met in Drivers Ed and who took Clair and I to our first Transgender Film Festival at Evergreen. Emmett gave me my first Bikini Kill CD in the cafeteria at lunch one afternoon and pretty soon I started seeing Ally and Emmett who went to Olympia high school and their friends Gabe, Sam, Mona and Allison who went to the high school across town pretty regularly. Later, when we had moved out of parents houses and into houses with names like "Phoenix House", "ABC House"and "Red House", Emmett lived in one of the Black Houses. He is probably the source of most of my information about them. According to Emmett, Dennis was such a terrible landlord that at one point, the residents of all of the Black Houses banned together and began holding organized meetings to what? I don’t know what they would have discussed. What to DO about Dennis? How to confront him? How to report him to the authorities? I’m not sure what their complaints were, but they must have been significant.

However, it is important to know that this is a very typical and common occurrence in Olympia: the holding of meetings to discuss possible actions against such and such power that be. I detect cynicism in here. I did feel a bit cynical about these kinds of activist gatherings at the time. People of a certain community, to which I loosely belonged (many factions within and not all in agreement) 18-35ish, creative, food co-op shopping, food not bombs patrons and organizers, politically conscious, punk-inspired etc. etc.—that ilk, were big into organizing and often it was awesome and sometimes it was misdirected. When people were on, great things happened: indie record labels, independent film festivals, Yo-Yo A Go-Go, Ladyfest, Homo A Go-Go, letterpress printing, ecstatic life affirming rock shows etc. etc. but also, Olympia was kind of idyllic in a lot of ways in its liberal bubble and small with small town problems and sometimes people wanted to get up-in-arms about something, anything, and we would blow things out of proportion because the proportions of the town were small and events needed to fit to size.

For instance, my ex-boyfriend Keith was once approached by an acquaintance and food co-op employee and told “I could kick you out of here for wearing that,” when he came in to buy his organic carrots and Veggie Bootie wearing a thrift store Harley Davidson T-shirt whose bald eagle was depicted holding an American flag in one claw and a confederate flag in the other. The confederate flag was the issue. Somehow this detail became enough of a political priority for this woman to approach Keith and make him feel like never coming back.

Were the meetings of the black house residents inspired by this same tendency? Maybe. Were they right to be dissatisfied with the care of their landlord and to take action? Certainly. Were the meetings productive, resulting in change? I’m not sure. What I do know is that somehow Dennis found out about the meetings and sent spies.

At this point I have run through of my personal stock of black house lore. Lets now refer to my friend Sam. As I said, I've known Sam since highschool. Sam is poet now, mixing in the same poetic milieu that I often do and I consider him a very reliable source.

Okay first, Sam says his name was Dwayne. Dwayne the Satanic Dentist. I can’t tell which is better: Dennis or Dwayne. Sam also confirms that Dwayne would buy houses and paint them black but adds the detail that he would “paint them at night without warning and often dripped paint all over people’s gardens.”

Weird, granted, but I want to know whether he dripped black paint on people’s gardens on purpose, like painting the roses black, “We’re painting the roses black!” or whether it was just a product of painting at night. Also, whose gardens were these? How cavalier was this guy?

The next piece of information Sam gives us compliments Emmett’s story about the black house resident meetings. According to Sam, Dwayne "sent a pig’s head in a bag to the porches of all his properties in the middle of the night.” Pigs heads.

I want to know how this was done. Did he have them delivered by a service? Did he hire people to deliver them? Does Dwayne have minions? I have so many questions.

That's all I know. That's all I've heard. If anyone is feeling up to it, if anyone has the good old fashioned DIY chutzpah to do it, I would like to recommend that someone take on the task of becoming a Black House historian. I'm thinking oral histories, photography, data collection and investigative journalism. I would help you write the grant.

For more information on The Black Houses of Olympia, I recommend googling “black houses Olympia” or “the dark dentist”. There is a Myspace group for people who have lived in the Black Houses. For my part, I will try to collect more information and pledge to share it with you here.

20 comments:

Steve Orth said...

are you kidding me? This is awesome.

云依恩HFH謝鄭JTR安 said...
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智宜宜 said...
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C-Boldt said...

Black is the new white - architecturally speaking.

And you have that other soccer playing Boldt from Missouri totally beat.

Ridiculous Human Things said...

Chris! Do you know of any examples of this new black trend? I'd love to see them. Are the buildings all black or more often with dominant black elements? What kinds of materials? So curious.

Yeah, I've been quietly competing with the other Lindsey Boldt for the #1 spot on the Google search for years. I can't imagine what she thinks of this Lindsey Boldt.

C-Boldt said...

If you do an image search for "black architecture house" you get what I am thinking of. Black also goes well underneath screens, grates, slats, vegetation, and other in-vogue skins.

April_C_S said...

Um, his name is Duane, not Dennis. And no, the houses are not positioned in the form of a pentagram.

Ridiculous Human Things said...

Just found out from friend Ian that one of my friends from elementary school married Duane the Satanic Denist and now has children with him. I flipped out while driving Ian and Steve to the Safeway in Olympia when Ian told me. I feel bad calling him Duane the Satanic Dentist now. Duane, nice to meet you. I'm Lindsey. Be good to Chloe, she's always been a really special lady. (Eeek.)

Alyssa said...

BTW, the idea of there only being five black houses on the eastside is asinine, if you have ever walked the neighborhoods of the eastside you would see more than just five, our landlords name isn't dennis and he isn't the dark dentist. hes just a business man. he owns several properties downtown. and over 15 properties on the eastside. His name is Duane, and he isn't that much of a slum lord since you can pretty much do what ever you want to do in the house unless there is a certain part of the house that was specifically made for one house.

Duane maybe 'weird' and what not but most people that live in his black houses are a little strange, but we don't worship Satan! The people who do live in the houses can range from anything to a normie, punk, artist, junkie, activist, greener, and the list goes on. so stop creating all these stupid ideas of what the black houses are... leave them alone. They're just houses painted black.

sleddogssg said...

I currently live in a "black house" with the dentidt as a landlord. I've never met him but the property manager tells me that he is just a real individual who has a unique outlook on things. I live in the house on north Sleater Kinney that he refers to as the country house. When it comes down to it, I think he's just a capitalist like every other landlord. But he isn't too much of a tight ass and he expects his tenants not to be a tight ass with him.

Unknown said...

I was on a drive for drivers ed today and my instructor took me to most of the black houses.....on one of them there is red trim around the whole house and is supposedly not paint. I guess the people who lived in the black houses believe that you can give up goats for satin and they killed goats to use their blood to paint their trim of their house. I also learned that dennis has shaved his teeth so that he has fangs. There is another black house that has bones hanging as decorations....weather there animal bones....Im not sure. I would love to learn more about these mysterious homes.

Unknown said...

I was on a drive for drivers ed today and my instructor took me to most of the black houses.....on one of them there is red trim around the whole house and is supposedly not paint. I guess the people who lived in the black houses believe that you can give up goats for satin and they killed goats to use their blood to paint their trim of their house. I also learned that dennis has shaved his teeth so that he has fangs. There is another black house that has bones hanging as decorations....weather there animal bones....Im not sure. I would love to learn more about these mysterious homes.

domesticanarchist said...

ha. I went to a few parties at the track house, years and years ago. when I first heard "track house" my brain went in an entirely different direction, and then that direction ended up being not completely inaccurate at a few parties. ...I just want this guy to be my dentist. oh yeah, AND I had Dr. Grim as my orthodontist when I was a kid. small world.

Casper said...

BHAHAHAAHA, I live in a black house, I go to work full time, go to school part time and I don't worship satan, I am quiet and enjoy the fact that I can paint my room the color I want it. The bones on the black house were made by Damion who ended up dying a year or so ago so we dont take them down. overall its a fun place to live if you can handle different types of people. Im not a punk or any of those awful people. Im a well kept jewish girl that occasionally enjoys cleaning up and doing handy work which is always fun. The reason their painted black is because of the property value. as for my satanic dentist landlord. he doesnt bother us, and in fact he honestly doesnt even care whos there as long as rents paid. and I would love to meet this fellow except for the fact I herd hes a bit of a dick.

Casper said...

BHAHAHAAHA, I live in a black house, I go to work full time, go to school part time and I don't worship satan, I am quiet and enjoy the fact that I can paint my room the color I want it. The bones on the black house were made by Damion who ended up dying a year or so ago so we dont take them down. overall its a fun place to live if you can handle different types of people. Im not a punk or any of those awful people. Im a well kept jewish girl that occasionally enjoys cleaning up and doing handy work which is always fun. The reason their painted black is because of the property value. as for my satanic dentist landlord. he doesnt bother us, and in fact he honestly doesnt even care whos there as long as rents paid. and I would love to meet this fellow except for the fact I herd hes a bit of a dick.

Maxine said...

In my day there was a rumor that Dwayne had been at a dentist convention where they used cow skulls for their similarity to human teeth. At the end of the convention he asked to keep the cow skulls and in the dead of the night dropped one on the porch of each black house.

Long live Olympia folklore!

Mary R said...

Yup, Duane Moore owns at least most of these black houses, either directly in his name or in the name of his company, Manium. You can get the info on his real estate holdings through the Thurston county assessor's office. I was interested to see if they could make a pentagram, so I logged all the addresses they gave me for his properties in Google Maps. No dice, no matter how you try to arrange them. Someday soon I'm going to do a tour to see which of these properties are indeed Black Houses.

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=202054035334023643168.0004dd559c382484fb600&msa=0

Terry Adams said...

The "Country House" on NE Sleater Kinney RD is one of Duane Moore's Black Houses. It is always occupied by scary lowlife drug users. The current renter is a devil worshipper who just tried to kill his wife through a murder suicide attempt by crashing his car in front of their black house with her in it. The police took him away and the wife has escaped to a safe house. The house is all black completely run down and over grown with weeds & vines. Duane Moore is a practicing Dentist in Shelton and owns a really scary bar in Oly on 4th & Jefferson. It too is all black and has a huge statue of the devil and a sacrificial table inside.

Adam Hale said...

You all are forgetting about his Throne of Teeth and very stylish chopped up vehicles.

Boycott Wayne!

Bryan Rock said...

duane has always been nice to me. the property value thing probably holds the most weight as far as why... i haven't lived in oly since 2004, but there were more than 5 then... i remember the slayer mural house especially since it was in the lease that you couldn't fuck with it. evidently he has a kid with an old friend of mine these days... who happens to be everything that is good, mostly... good for him...