Submitted For Your Approval: Serial Killers, “Heidnik’s House Of Horrors” b/w “20th Century Cannibal”

gary’s dirt

We asked, and you came through: Over the tubes, we have received both mp3s and photos of the legendary but rarely-seen Serial Killers EP, Heidnik’s House Of Horrors. Released in 1988, this seven-inch is/was the apex of the Philly serial killer/punk rock interface. (And there is much ephemera out there on this topic: Rumors abound that Heidnik often went to punk rock rock shows in early to mid-80s Philadelphia. Check the beard and his scenester cred might even be passable today.) Heidnik’s House Of Horrors was a tribute to all this, and even came with a bag of dirt from Gary’s front lawn (pictured). After the jump, experience the Killers’ killer tunes. Enjoy! And special thanks to the anonymous reader who came through on this one.

  • ChuckMeehan

    Gary Heidnik did attend punk shows, but it was peripheral Heidnik used to hang out at Abes Steaks @ 40th & Market (right around the corner from the Elwyn Institute), where I was putting on punk shows at the time. I wrote an essay about it around 10 years ago for STAIN fanzine, sad to say, its not on line anymore. I had asked every female who went to those shows if Gary had attempted to chat them up, and nobody could remember speaking to him. He was neatly dressed and groomed, and I had thought he may have been some flaky Penn professor.

  • steve anderson

    Hi Chuck,

    Here is your essay.

    Steve

    ______________________________

    GARY WE HARDLY KNEW YE

    Essay by Chuck Meehan

    In 1984 I started promoting punk/h.c. underground shows at a place called Abe’s Steaks on 40th St., 1/2 block south of Market in Philadelphia’s near west side. I had seen an ad in the Univerity of Pennsylvania’s student newspapers classified ad section offering “a room to rent for your party or event”. At the time there was no place for shows in Philly, and Seven Seconds was touring and needed a show in Philly so I hooked it up.

    Abes was a dumpy little diner with a Stalag/Khyber sized room in the back which myself and one of my roomates cleaned out (including a few dozen dead mice), built a three foot high stage, and put on the show with the assumption that it would be a one shot deal where the mild-mannered middle-aged nice Jewish owner Abe would freak out and not want anymore of those type of events to happen. However, despite a large crowd and chaotic (but fun) scene, Abe did not mind in the least and let me rent it out for $75 any Friday or Saturday night I wanted.

    The 40th & Market Sts. area north of the UPenn campus is not one of your most pleasant locales. There’s a liquor store/subway stop combo, the Elwyn Institute (which is a center for mentally incapacitated people), a bar/brothel, and a generally gnarly street hangout scene. The scene at Abe’s was pretty Lynch-esque, there was always loads of these spun out locals who hung out there and it became apparent pretty quickly that Abe was a local slumlord of sorts. Abe owned some ramshackle houses in the vincinity, all of his tenants were (predominantly white) parolees, halfway-house types, or had some kind of diminished mental faculties or emotional problems, or were Vietman vets with disabilities for whom Abes housing would be in close proximity to the VA hospital. Abe’s enterprise was him being in loco parentis to these people, he would rent them rooms, feed them at the diner (the food was bad, nobody other than his tenants patronized the place), give them smokes, and a few bucks spending money and deduct it from their SSI disabilty checks. I could never figure whether he was a scumbag exploiting these people, or a kind hearted social worker type, who kept basically disfunctional people who could not manage money or anything out of institutions or homelessness. I always kept my relationship with him strictly business, I never inquired about the goings on in this little netherworld he created, and he never dicked me around or gagged me or raised my rental fee. Generally, despite the locale, the shows worked out well. There were very few hassles or incidents and the local police seemed to take a hands-off policy. Abe was a strange guy, he was small and mousey looking, certainly not a tough guy or criminal class. I could never understand why he would want to make his living that way, getting up at 6am every day and spending all his time with these sometimes difficult people. So, whenever I had shows there, there were always a lot of his tenants hanging around who we dubbed “Abes Army”. As strange as these people were, they were pretty harmless, and there was little or no hassle between them and the people at the shows. The policy regarding Abes Army was to leave them alone and let Abe deal with them. If the Abes army people were hanging out, as long as they weren’t taking up space or causing trouble, Abe would leave them be. But whenever it was time to admit the crowd, everyone who wasn’t in the band or a guest, etc. paid the admission or did not get in.

    One of these people who hung out there was a strange looking guy with a beard and a fringed buckskin jacket. He looked a little different from the rest of the Army, in that he was basically better groomed and his clothes fit and were clean. Nobody paid him much mind, he would sit at the counter drinking coffee, staring ahead, and never attempted to communicate with myself or anyone else. He looked to me like he was some kind of genius physics weirdo type. I never talked to him but thought that he maybe had something to do with Penn, like he was a flakey professor or something. And he even looked mild compared to the other Abes Army members, so again, I figured he was some anonymous loner type, and paid him no mind. There was one time said fellow showed up at Abes after the door was opened and Flag of Democracy’s Jim McMonagle, who was helping at the door that night, refused him admittance. He put up a meek “I’m just want some coffee,” and tried to go past Jim, who caught him and again asked him to pay or leave. When the guy wouldn’t pay and was still trying to get admittance, Jim ended up ushering him out the door with a few light shoves. He wasn’t heavy handed or overly physical, just kind of shooed him out of the way so that he could keep the line moving. He left the vicinity without protest or hassle, and we didn’t make anything of it, and whenever he did show up, he would either pay if the door was opened or be there when we arrived to set up the show and sit on his stool, drinking coffee, and staring straight ahead for hours.

    One day I came home from work and had turned on the local TV news and saw said fellow being led through City Hall in custody of police, and immediately recognized him. Shocked, I listened to the narrative where the reporter was describing how this guy named Gary Heidnik had imprisoned women in his basement, tortured and murdered them and had mentioned that he would pick up these women from the 40th & Walnut St. McDonalds (two blocks away from Abes). I freaked the hell out not knowing whether the women were girls who went to shows at Abes or not, and I started calling everyone I knew to see if any of the victims were people from the shows. I could never live with the thought that some girl was tortured and killed because she went to a show I put on, and I was in a near panic state. It was later ascertained that he picked up his victims from the Elwyn Institute, and that he lived a section across town. Although I was as horrified as anyone once I heard all the details (hell, more horrified being that it was hitting a bit too close to home and I used to see the guy). I was at least a bit relieved that it wasn’t one of the girls at the shows, although you don’t ever want that fate to befall anyone. I asked some girls I knew who went to Abes if he had ever attempted to talk to them, chat them up, etc. and they all said no. So, considering how he chose his victims I guess Heidnik was sinister and evil, as opposed to being insane, and yes, ol’ McManiac can truthfully brag that he threw the infamous Gary Heidnik out of a show.

    Heidnik wasn’t the only infamous Philadelphia area crime figure to hang at Abes. There was one show where a large woman with 5 o’clock shadow hair, clad in army cammo clothing and combat boots showed up. Of course it was my job to keep an eye on unfamiliar patrons especially ones who looked whacked out. She stomped around in an agitated state the whole show, easily the scariest butch woman I have ever seen, but she didn’t bother anyone. I later recognized her as Sylvia Seegrist, the mentally ill (or gender identity disordered sez me) woman who took an assault rifle and went on a shooting rampage inside a suburban Philadelphia shopping mall. I pretty much kept quiet about these figures for a long time, I didn’t want to have it get to authorities and have them questioning me or worse, having me appear in court to describe their mental conditions. Of course, I never brought up these infamous patrons to Abe, and shows there continued for a few years under a variety of promoters until finally Abe closed shop when one of his employees sunk a steak knife into the chest of someone who was complaining about the food.

    One funny addendum is that the bearded Stinking Lizaveta guitarist, Yanni, who usually elicits comments about his beard referring to Rasputin, Castro, and Charles Manson, moved to Philly years after the Heidnik incident, and at first wondered why people would point at him in the local supermarket and say “Heidnik.” The SL rehearsal space is located right around the corner from Abes and directly behind the Elwyn Institute. I wonder if Elwyn employees/security look at the most affable and kindly Yanni and get the willies.

  • emski66

    I have the original 45 r.p.m. of “Heidnik’s House of Horrors.”
    It is virgin (never been played.) It is on red vinyl.
    It has the little packet of dirt. I bought when it first came out because it even has the original pink free pass ticket to the Chestnut Cabaret to see The Serial Killers, Orifice, More Fiends and Deadspot.
    Anyone interested in purchasing this?

  • emski66

    Oh yes, sorry. The little packet of dirt supposedly came from Heidniks front yard at the house where he killed and tortured the women he seduced.