The House of Horrors – that’s how the federal prosecutors in Whitey Bulger’s racketeering trial described the little home at 799 E. Third Street in South Boston.
“That’s where the bodies was buried,” Stevie “the Rifleman” Flemmi explained on the witness stand back in 2013. “In the cellar.”
It was a “handyman’s special” all right – if you were as handy with a pair of pliers as Flemmi was.
It was a “fixer-upper,” if that meant digging up the unfinished basement floor and sifting through the dirt for tiny human bones before the landlord put the property up for sale – a little tip most real-estate agents never think to pass on to their clients.
So now the House of Horrors – “the Haunty,” as Whitey Bulger called it – is back on the market for $3.5 million, which seems way overpriced.
One problem: it’s in a residential neighborhood. It’s not zoned for light manufacturing, even though Whitey was running a murder assembly line out of there in the 1980’s. Back then it was owned by a brother of Pat Nee, who was employed at the factory, as a gravedigger.
Whitey never testified at his own trial, so it was left to other witnesses to describe the attractions of 799 E. Third Street.
“Well,” said Flemmi, “it was convenient, for one thing.”
“Kind of a risky business,” Whitey’s lawyer asked him, “to bury a body in somebody else’s house, isn’t it?”
“I would say so,” Flemmi agreed.
“Did you discuss with Mr. Bulger burying the bodies at the time?”
“I thought it wasn’t a good idea at all,” Stevie said, and he would know about such matters, having taken part in 50-60 murders over the decades, as he testified last summer.
“We had access to the side door,” Flemmi explained. “You could have driven the car two feet from the door. There was no anyone could have seen what was going on. You could have done it at night. You could have taken the body and buried it anywhere.”
That was Stevie’s expert analysis. He made this reasoned pitch to Whitey.
“What did he say?” the lawyer asked.
“That’s where we put ‘em, right in the cellar.”
As CEO of the factory, Whitey executed the… orders, not to mention, the people. He was a jack of all trades at 799 E. Third Street. One 26-year-old woman, he strangled with his bare hands. Another guy, he attempted to choke with a rope, but it was too thick, so he asked the victim if he wanted a bullet to the head.
“Yes, please,” the victim said, or so two witnesses testified.
Another time, Whitey shot a guy as he was walking down the stairs to the cemetery, er, cellar. The problem with that hit was, Flemmi was walking ahead of the guy down the stairs.
“Unbeknownst to me,” Stevie testified testily, “I was in the line of fire, and when he shot him, the bullet could have went through him and hit me.”
“Were you angry about that?” the lawyer asked.
“I was. I asked him, I said, ‘You know, you could have shot me.’”
“What did he say?”
made some asinine statement. I don’t remember what it was.”
On an assembly line, everyone has his own assigned duties. After Whitey did the deed, he would go upstairs and lie down.
“I don’t know,” Stevie speculated, “maybe he was mentally, physically exhausted. Maybe he got a high on it or something and he was exhausted. That’s my interpretation.”
Thanks for your diagnosis, Dr. Flemmi. As Whitey napped, Flemmi handled his own tasks. First he would strip the clothes off the bodies. He hated it in when one of the murdered women was wearing a tight-fitting sweater – especially if it was his own girlfriend who was also his stepdaughter.
Then Flemmi would pry open the corpses’ mouths and pull out their teeth. That was why Whitey sometimes called Stevie “Dr. Mengele” – after the Nazi fiend who experimented on human bodies.
In the early days at 799 E. Third, Dr. Mengele relied on a pair of regular hardware-store pliers. But pliers get rusty, besides which, as the crew began murdering women, it was difficult to get the pliers into their smaller mouths.
Whitey’s girlfriend was a dental hygienist, so he had her order a state-of-the-art tooth extractor from her boss’s catalogue. It was the holiday season, so Whitey wrapped the new tool in festive paper and presented it to Dr. Mengele.
“Merry Christmas, pal,” Whitey said.
After the bodies were thrown in the basement hole, another ghoulish specialist would arrive at 799 E. Third Street. Phil Costa was one of Stevie’s guys, and he brought the lime to pour on top of the corpses, to speed up decomposition of their flesh.
But then the house was sold – for $120,000. Whitey and Stevie were too cheap to buy it – bad call in this real-estate market – so they decided to dig up the bodies. Stevie got some body bags from an undertaker, and they drove the “very badly” decomposed remains to Hallett Street in Dorchester on Halloween night 1985.
Stevie and Whitey were reinterring them on a vacant lot, as Weeks stood guard with a rifle, when a kid drove up and got out of his car to take a leak. Everyone dropped to the ground. The kid staggered back to his car and drove off. Whitey jumped up, ran to Weeks and began yelling at him.
“He was upset,” Weeks testified. “He told me I should have shot him, we had plenty of room in the hole.”
You know what they say: It’s the little things that make a house a home.