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Scary True Stories: The son who didn’t leave

This story is as strange as it is sad.

It was 2016 in Brooklyn, New York.

Josette Buchman’s estranged sister-in-law was in the hospital, so Buchman agreed to drop by the woman’s home and pack a few of her belongings.

Her widowed sister-in-law, Rita Wolfensohn, was legally blind and had lived alone since her adult son Louis moved out 20 years earlier. She was a known hoarder, so Buchman expected to find a mess, and a mess she found.

Along with a nightmare that likely haunts her to this day.

Living with the dead

Wolfensohn’s home. Photo credit: Michael Dalton, New York Post


In a second-floor bedroom filled with trash and smelling of garbage, she found a skeleton lying in bed wearing jeans, socks and a shirt. The body turned out to be her nephew, Louis Wolfensohn, who had never moved out after all.

Though a tactful investigator reportedly compared the case to a “reverse Psycho scene,” it’s not as sinister as it sounds. Louis died of natural causes, and his mother never realized he was still in the house. She truly believed he’d moved out. After the discovery, Rita was moved to an assisted-living facility. Her only other child had died in 2003 (but not in the house).

Police now believe that the pervasive smell of rotting garbage covered any odour of decomposition, and that Rita didn’t know her son Louis was “living” with her for the past 20 years.

But questions remain. If mother and son were close enough to live together, didn’t Rita wonder why he hadn’t called or dropped by for a visit in two decades? Why didn’t anyone report Louis missing, or ask for his new address? Why did Rita assume he’d moved out instead of asking for help finding him?

It all goes to show that you never know what’s going on in other people’s lives. But one thing’s for sure: it’s a really good idea to clean your house now and then. You just never know what you might find.

As odd as it might sound, this isn’t the first case of an elderly person living with a corpse. What would you do if you found a body in your home?

Another scary true story you might find interesting is the tale of a serial killer who kept her victims on ice.

PS: Mask of Ghosts is now on sale and needs reviews. If you’d like a review copy, or have read the book and enjoyed it, let me know if you can help in the comments.

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  1. Avatar

    Been cleaning and searching my house for the last three days now and still can’t find my Birth Certificate. It would seem that I don’t exist!

    • JH

      Oh, you definitely exist, Jim. 😀

      • Avatar

        Good to know JH 🙂

  2. Avatar

    That is strange, sad, and dare I say intriguing. So many questions unanswered.

  3. Avatar

    I feel a little speechless after reading this! HA! I mean… wow. It makes me sad to think that she also must not have had much company or human contact or surely someone would have noticed or had a conversation with her in which she questioned why she hadn’t heard from her son in so long? So many questions!

  4. Avatar

    i love true crime. this sounds suitably creepy

  5. Avatar

    Yikes! I bet they had a contentious relationship and he was goi g to move out because he was done but little did he know he was done. I wonder how she reacted when they told her the news? If people were not speaking with one another, it would be easy to not hear from someone. I am surprised he had no friends. I wonder if the house got razed.

  6. Avatar

    How could she not *smell* the corpse?

    Great, poignant story, though. Thanks for … unearthing it!

  7. Avatar

    Something must have been wrong, mentally, with Rita. Maybe losing her first child – although, apparently, when she lost her only other child in 2003, Louis was already rotting in the bedroom upstairs…

    This is extremely bizarre. How could nobody have noticed the smell when ringing the doorbell, or fixing something in the house… Or, how could nobody have noticed Louis disappeared? Again, more questions than answers. It seems to me you’re doing this on purpose with your scary true stories! 🙂

  8. Avatar

    This is beyond disturbing.

  9. Avatar

    I’ve heard of horders having skeletons of pets, but this is the first time I’ve read about a human skeleton! Wow.


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