The ongoing mystery of Portland’s Hell House

The so-called Hell House, 7734 SE 36th in Portland (April 2013, KOIN 6 News)
The so-called Hell House, 7734 SE 36th in Portland (April 2013, KOIN 6 News)

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The quiet of an inner Southeast Portland neighborhood was shattered in late summer 1989 when a 34-year-old mother shot her two daughters, then turned the gun on herself.

Martha Browning Bryant, seen here in an undated file photo, was the second of four women victimized by serial rapist Cesar Barone in the 1990s (KOIN 6 News)
Martha Browning Bryant, seen here in an undated file photo, was the second of four women victimized by serial rapist Cesar Barone in the 1990s. (KOIN 6 News)

In 1992, a midwife named Martha Browning Bryant was found shot in the head and her Volkswagen riddled with bullets. She was the second of four women victimized by serial rapist Cesar Barone.

Both events happened at the same house: 7734 SE 36th. The Hell House.

Serial rapist Cesar Barone in an undated file photo (KOIN 6 News)
Serial rapist Cesar Barone in an undated file photo (KOIN 6 News)

The houses in this neighborhood were built in the 1920s and 1930s when they built houses differently. Over the years — and especially in the past 20 years — this particular house changed owners many times.

But real estate expert Ron Hackenberg said it’s not required for the owners to tell a potential buyer about its history.

“If something happens in the house that’s not a material defect, you’re not required to disclose anything that happens in the house,” he told KOIN 6 News. “Murder, death, suicide — you’re not required to disclose that.”

The address lends to the spooky nature of the house — flip the numbers 7734 over and it spells hell.

In 1989, Emily Aulicino lived a few blocks away. “I remember hearing (about the murders) in the neighborhood and we knew it was nearby, but I never came to the house or by the house,” she said. “It was always a little spooky that here this happened and here the address does spell hell, so it was very intriguing.”

The Hell House.

Neighbors watched as “for sale” signs appeared, disappeared and re-appeared over the years. It’s unclear if the buyers knew its dark history.

Real estate expert Ron Hackenburg stands in front of the so-called Hell House in Southeast Portland (April 2013, KOIN 6 News)
Real estate expert Ron Hackenburg stands in front of the so-called Hell House in Southeast Portland (April 2013, KOIN 6 News)

“I tell them what you should probably do is go talk to the neighbors, because you want to know what’s going on in this neighborhood anyway,” Hackenberg said. “They’ll know everything there is to know about that house.”

Aulicino said no one stayed very long. “And we were always surprised if they did stay any length of time.”

The house is once again empty, and has been for months. There are no numbers on the house. The last owner said he took them down on purpose.

“Maybe the word has gotten around,” Aulicino said.

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