Halloween came early for one family who claims they were driven from their Airbnb rental home by symbols of witchcraft and satanism.
New York City author Frederick Joseph detailed the short-lived rental experience in a Tuesday Twitter thread. He paid $1,150 for two nights at the two-bedroom home for himself, his fiancée, his 21-year-old cousin and his 8-year-old brother. But the family encountered “seemingly satanic items and stuff for witchcraft rituals” when they arrived, Joseph tweeted.
The owner had listed the Spring Glen, N.Y. rental as a two-bedroom getaway with a “Scandinavian vibe,” but Joseph says the decor was unexpected.
“I went inside the home alone to check it out and I noticed there were no blinds on any of the windows,” he tells Yahoo Life. “You could see into the home from any angle.”
Joseph said he ventured into the basement only because its staircase greeted him at the front door. There, he discovered “animal skulls and ritualistic floor markings” along with shattered glass. The markings, he said, led to a door that opened to a bathtub outside that was surrounded by unlit candles.
When we walked up to the house we noticed an animal skull hanging on the outside of the house, so I went inside to check it out.— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) September 7, 2020
When I walked I went to the basement and found more animal skulls and ritualistic floor markings and then I went up to the rooms to find much more.
As we walked through the two rooms we found a bunch of imagery, candles, books, etc for rituals and what looked like devil worship. My brother was terrified, as were we.— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) September 7, 2020
We called @Airbnb and told them we couldn’t stay there and explained the situation. pic.twitter.com/7kIl9ptitt
We were told that we couldn’t receive a refund and they spoke to the owner who said there were just a few small art pieces that they could come remove. This was a lie, it was the whole damn house not a few things.— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) September 7, 2020
A BAPHOMET HIDDEN BEHIND A DEAD BIRD IN A BAG pic.twitter.com/VLaRsStIq7
Once upstairs, Joseph found photos, candles and books seemingly dedicated to rituals. The collection, he says, “looked like devil worship” along with demon-like trinkets and a clear bag containing what looked like a headless taxidermy bird.
“At this point, we said f**k this, we are out of here,” Joseph tells Yahoo Life. During multiple correspondences with Airbnb, it was conveyed to Joseph that the owner offered to remove any items that made his family uncomfortable. However, Joseph declined.
“Needless to say, we left because we are Black and not dealing with something that was: 1. advertised completely different 2. Looks like a scene from [the horror film] Hereditary 3. Made the entire family feel unsafe,” he tweeted.
“Black people have been through certain traumas, both historically and currently, [involving situations] that might generate less apprehension for white people,” Joseph tells Yahoo Life. “Black people have to be on guard ... because situations can turn deadly. If something appears abnormal, we are the least likely group to say, ‘Everything will turn out OK.’”
As a regular customer, Joseph says he is disappointed in Airbnb’s customer service.
“All of that to say, this isn’t how guests should be treated,” he tweeted. “I use @Airbnb frequently and there are many reasons in this situation which should warrant a refund. Especially our safety and mental/emotional health.”
There was also a bridge from the woods behind the house to the back patio.— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) September 7, 2020
Needless to say, we left because we are Black and not dealing with something that was:
1. advertised completely different
2. Looks like a scene from Hereditary
3. Made the entire family feel unsafe
All of that to say, this isn’t how guests should be treated. I use @Airbnb frequently and there are many reasons in this situation which should warrant a refund. Especially our safety and mental/emotional health.— Frederick Joseph (@FredTJoseph) September 7, 2020
Joseph’s thread spooked much of Twitter, who called the vibe “creepy” and urged Airbnb to remove the listing entirely. But some likened Joseph’s stance to “religious bigotry.” As one commented, “This is like booking a hotel and then demanding a refund because you are superstitious and the building has a 13th floor.”
The Church of Satin (a group of atheists who on their website, distance themselves from “devil-worshippers” along with other descriptors) objected to Joseph’s discomfort.
“The photos in this thread depict thrift store curiosities & Hot Topic kitsch, not evidence of satanic rituals,” the organization tweeted. “Sounds like you have an overactive imagination and can’t tell the difference between supernatural horror movies and reality.”
A spokesperson from Airbnb tells Yahoo Life, "Frederick was fully refunded this morning, and we apologize for the delay in providing support. Our policy prohibits sexually explicit images within our listings, and we are currently working with the host to help ensure he is in compliance." The Airbnb host did not immediately respond to Yahoo Life’s request for comment.
On Airbnb, the home is described by guests as “the perfect retreat,” “clean, cute and comfortable” and “a home away from home.”
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