The best show to come out of quarantine since Tiger King is Murder House Flip, a new series from Quibi that offers the true-crime-meets-home-improvement mashup you didn’t know you needed. It follows a format familiar to HGTV’s Fixer Upper, but with a spooky twist: All the houses being remodeled have a dark past. Like, bodies-buried-in-the-backyard kind of dark. Literally.
The show’s designers, Mikel Welch and Joelle Uzyel, operate as a Chip and Joanna Gaines-esque duo (except they’re not married) to renovate disturbing digs where infamous killings have taken place, like the brutal 1988 murder of Jaws: The Revenge child actor Judith Barsi.
ELLE.com spoke to Uzyel, a Beverly Hills-based interior designer, about working in these spaces—and what it’s like to have the occasional run-in with a ghost.
So…how does one get into flipping murder houses exactly?
When I first told my family, they thought it was a joke. But my goal is to give each home a second chance and to not let the history of these gruesome murders leave a footprint on the current homeowners.
How do you approach renovation?
It’s almost like providing homeowners with a blank canvas to have their story told in a new space. On one hand, we want to give the home a second chance. On the other hand, it’s really important to be respectful to the victims and their families. Once we figure that out, the biggest challenge is: How can we flip this design and create a new space that the homeowners will love? My favorite moment during renovation is always the reveal. For the viewer, it’s just a show, but for these homeowners, it’s their sanctuary. Seeing their reaction is so fulfilling.
In one episode, you renovate the home of 10-year-old child actor Judith Barsi, who was killed by her father, József Barsi, in 1988.
That murder really affected the current homeowners. They were reliving the murder on a daily basis. They felt her “presence” around them and heard unknown sounds following them. Not only did they want us to redesign their home, but they needed us to help them cleanse the home [of her spirit] as well.
It’s definitely emotional when [you’re working where] an actual murder took place. Like, someone died in this particular spot! I always think to myself, “What happens if the family of a victim watches this show?”
Do you believe in ghosts?
After working on this show, I definitely believe in energy. Walking into the room [where a murder has taken place], I could feel this unexplained static. Why does one particular room feel different from other rooms in the house? I prefer not to believe in ghosts. The thought of having spirits watching me all the time creeps me out. Like, are they watching me all the time? Or do they fly away while I’m taking a shower? Or do we make scheduled meetings for them to come and visit us? I can’t handle those thoughts.
Is it true that some homeowners you worked with didn’t initially know they lived in a murder house?
Shockingly, if a murder took place more than three years ago, the broker doesn’t need to disclose it during escrow. Some of these homeowners found out a murder took place from their neighbor. Like, “Hi, welcome to the neighborhood! By the way, I can’t believe you bought the home where so and so was murdered!” I really sympathized with them. That’s got to be a horrible feeling.
Would you live in a renovated murder house?
I personally wouldn’t be able to live in a murder house. I get scared way too easily. But some people either don’t mind or the price is too good to give up on the opportunity. What surprised me the most was how normal these homeowners were. One would think it takes a certain character to buy a murder house. But I’ve learned that’s not the case.