Walden Drive in Beverly Hills is full of the high-end houses that are expected in this part of Southern California. The architecture styles are as distinct as they are grand. But one home, located right near the cross street, stands out from all of them: The Spadena Witch’s House.
With its shuttered windows, overgrown trees and fake crows staring at pedestrians from the branches, it’s like something out of a fable.
The style is "kind of fantasy storybook,” said real estate agent Michael Libow. Libow has owned the Witch’s House for 19 years and has lived in it for most of that time.
While it all looks old and decrepit, Libow says that everything has been carefully crafted to preserve the aura of the house. He consulted everyone from landscape architects and Hollywood production designers to achieve his vision for the house.
“It was purposeful to make it look organic to its setting. Even the stucco kind of rolls out into the dirt,” Libow said. “As I like to say, it’s like a tornado picked it up and moved it here.”
The Witch’s House was originally built in the 1920’s for the Willat Studios in Culver City. A few years later, it was moved to its current spot in Beverly Hills.
“It was constructed as a set office,” Libow said. “The home was never a great home.”
Still, someone did eventually move in: The Spadena family, who gave the house its official name. It remained in their care until the 1960’s when the Green family moved in.
The first two owners turned the Witch’s House into a popular destination on Halloween. They’d fill the moat that cuts through the front lawn with dry ice and greet trick-or-treaters with music from Disneyland’s The Haunted Mansion.
Libow says his house continues to draw crowds every year, especially on October 31st.
“It attracts about 4,000 to 5,000 kids and their families in four hours on each Halloween night,” Libow said. “It's an international site so people come all the time to take photos of it and you know the bottom line is it makes people smile.”
While Libow resists the costume part of the holiday, he’s really taken by the macabre spirit of Halloween. This is evident for anyone who steps inside the Witch’s House.
The Witch motif touches every corner of the home. There’s an artful warp to the doorways and hallways with tiles exploding into a mosaic that’s off-putting and welcoming at the same time. With the multitude of imperfections in the geometry of the home, it’s easy to mistake it for one that’s been around for centuries
“Most of what you see is new material made to look 300 or so years old,” Libow said. “It is really difficult to achieve that. It's really simple to build a modern box and to make it look pretty and shiny. It's really difficult to create a 300-year-old cottage which is new.”
But Libow made sure that the creepy vibes of his home wouldn’t come at the expense of its welcoming spirit. “I didn't want the home to be terribly Gothic inside,” Libow said.
“It is the Witch’s House so somebody could think creepy but, to me, it's very warm and inviting inside.”
While Libow has no interest in extending that invitation for the public to step outside, he’s happy to welcome people to view the outside every Halloween.
“Halloween is my national holiday,” Libow said. “It’s the big day for the house. There are young kids who are totally freaked by it and they're really scared of it. But for the most part, when they see the home, they smile.”