California / Personal Encounters

A Forgotten Brothel and Speak-Easy

Back in the hills of Santa Susana/Simi Valley sits an old house built between the years 1910 to 1912. Research is still ongoing to find out who the original builder was.

In 2012 I became friends with this remarkable woman named Marie Keuterickx, also known by her artist name of “Malia,” which, according to her own account, she was “Christened” with by the Tongan people of the island of Futuna.

Marie had been a photographer, sculptor and artist before poor health took away her abilities to continue. She was also the owner of this fantastic old house located off of Black Canyon.

We came to meet through a mutual friend, who had been visiting with Marie and told her about my investigations into the paranormal. Marie requested that I be brought to her home for an afternoon chat.

Although Marie owned the house build in 1910/12, she did not live in it. Instead, she lived in the second smaller house on the property that was built in 1930. The old house was in a dilapidated state and was unfit for occupancy, but even if it had been in perfect condition she would not have lived in it.

Marie shared with me how she and her husband George had lived in the old house for a short period of time, but she hated it! Why? Because she feared the male ghost who wandered around inside its walls, especially in the lower floor. She had actually seen him many times and she found his dark, brooding presence to be intimidating. Sometime after the death of Marie’s father-in-law she and her husband moved into the other house with George’s mother.

Something bothered Marie though. Her husband George seemed to be drawn back to the old house, using the lower-level room as his artist studio, and at times she felt that his moods would become “odd” after being in their for long periods of time. She believed that it was that dark spirit causing this. After moving into the smaller house she rarely went inside the older one, in order to avoid the ghost, yet there were times when walking to her own small shed studio she swore she would catch glimpses of him watching her from an upstairs window of the old house, which overlooked her studio.

The question is, who haunted the house? According to Marie, who had heard the stories from “old timers” living in the area when she first moved there as a young bride in the 1960’s, the house at one time in its early history had developed an unsavory reputation as a brothel, speak-easy and hangout for gangsters from Los Angeles. It was even rumored that hidden somewhere inside the walls on the lower floor were old documents and possibly ill-gotten gains. Marie was also told the story of a man fatally shot to death and his body “disappeared” inside an old well somewhere on the property. One odd thing I noticed about the lower floor room was the fact that the stair entrance leading to the upper floor was blocked off. Marie explained that this lower level is where the gangsters and bootleggers met and ran their speak-easy, while upstairs was the brothel, which had to be accessed by the outdoor tiled stairs. Apparently it was a popular place for some of Hollywood’s biggest names as well.

One interesting note is that when Marie’s in-laws first purchased the property they were cleaning out the basement of the smaller, 1930 house, and found an old moonshine still. It was still there when I visited Marie, and she allowed me to go down and have a look, so I can verify the truth of this.

Another interesting note… from the back windows of the house you can see the property where the cult of May Otis Blackburn had their place of worship on Crown Hill.

Marie’s in-laws were Jean Baptiste and Therese Leopoldine (Arys) Keuterickx. Jean was a well known artist from Belgium and I had the pleasure of viewing many of his original pieces hanging on the walls of Marie’s house.

A few years ago a new owner purchased the old house and did some fantastic renovation work inside and out. You can see the difference between the “then” and “now” photos here… 922 Riess Road

Biographical info:

Marie was born Helen Marie Bogdanyi in 1940 in Burlington County, New Jersey. Her parents were William Bogdanyi and Helen Kelly. Her siblings were David and Edward. In 1950 her family moved from Bordentown, NJ to North Hollywood, CA. Marie attended and graduated from Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, and then went on to study at Chouinard Art Institute. She then worked as an Artist/Art Restorer at Lane and Company in Van Nuys, California. On 2 July 1960 Marie married George F. . Sadly, my friend Marie’s health deteriorated to the extent where she had to move to an assisted living home, where she died on January 31st, 2014.

Before Marie was moved to the Emeritus Assisted Living facility in Chatsworth she had a group of caregivers who came to her home every day and night, and I know that she greatly loved and appreciated these dedicated women who made her life easier and brighter.

Here are Marie’s own words regarding her career as an artist…

At the age of three I told my mother that I knew I was going to be an artist!

And so my story begins, with my first art award for a water color painting I did in Junior High School art class. Very proudly my mother and I went to see my award winning work on display at a local art gallery, and found my painting to be hung up side down!!

While in High School, I won my second art award in a competition with all the local southern California schools. I was awarded a gold key pendant, and had my work hung at a downtown Los Angeles art gallery for a month.
Through all of my years I had never thought to worry about what I would do when I grew up. I am an artist and I have always been an artist. I went on to study at the renowned Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. My art career included art restoration and related services for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and Los Angeles’s highest dignitaries along with prominent museums.

Now I await the opening of a Museum on the island of Futuna in the South Pacific, which will display some of the paintings I did inspired by my many visits to, and the people of, the French colony of Wallis and Futuna . The museum will also display many artifacts that I collected over the years documenting the art and culture of the many islands in the South Pacific. Along with the artifacts, I also collected a name while on the Islands, a name which I have used as my artist name ever since. I sign all my work with the Islands interpretation of my birth name, Marie, but the artist in me is named Malia .

My painting career has ended in recent years due to the affects of an over ten year battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

She truly was a beautiful spirit, and I am forever honored that she shared her old house and its fascinating history with me.

Below are photos of Marie and some of her paintings.

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