People are trying to create a mythology around the Olympia Black Houses that simply doesn’t exist. There’s no evidence that Duane Stephen Moore is anything but a typical small business owner (in this case a dentist and a rental owner) who has unique atheistic tastes.
So, that’s my conclusion. Yesterday I put up a map I’d been working on of all the rental houses that Moore owns throughout town. Olympia’s biggest urban legend in recent years has been that there’s something sinister about the houses, that if you mapped them, they’d make a pentagram.
I don’t know what you can see, but there’s no pentagram there for me.
Take away the black paint that seems to touch almost everything (short of the Reef Bar downtown) he owns, Moore seems like a pretty typical entrepreneur. He owns over a dozen rental houses, at least three commercial properties, owns a construction company (to hire sub-contractors to take care of the rentals?) and is an active dentist in Shelton. If the color were blue or yellow (or blue and yellow), I wouldn’t be writing this post.
Also, there’s nothing in the Olympia code to prevent anyone from painting their house black. So, if the city is fining him for having black houses, I’m not sure why.
I didn’t talk directly to Duane (or indirectly) when I was putting this post together. Neither has anyone else that’s written about the black houses either. He’s been referenced a few times in the local paper, but never directly quoted. That gave me the impression that he’s someone that values his privacy.
Also, if I stand by my “regular guy, interesting tastes” position, then I wouldn’t call him, because there’d be nothing really to discuss.
Nik Neburn made the movie I linked to above about the Black Houses. He also made an interesting documentary about the Paul Ingram case. Nik quotes Norman Cohn to make a point about the Ingram case that I think applies to the black houses too:
To understand why the stereotype of Devil-worshiping
sects emerged at all, one must look not at the beliefs or behavior of
heretics […] but into the minds of the orthodox themselves.
While Olympia hipsters are hardly religious fundamentalists, the stories surrounding the black houses do more to cast Olympia overall as a weird and interesting place than to explain anything about Duane Moore or the houses themselves. Because we want Olympia to be a certain way, we make the houses seems weirder than they actually are. And, if it wasn’t the black houses, we’d find something else out there to make up stories about.