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Neighborhood recollections

My family, the Loughlins, lived a couple of doors down from the Lists. Both of our houses were set back from Hillside Avenue, which provided an unobstructed view of the List house. We were and are still very close with the Devlin family, pretty much spent our childhood free time in the Devlin's front yard. Below are recollections from my two of my brothers:

Bill Loughlin...

  • Before the murders
    • Being invited into the List house by one of the boys
      • The house was very sparsely furnished and strange and the sink in the kitchen had a big pile of unwashed dishes
    • We heard that during the summer of 1971 that Mrs. List was taken from the house in a straight jacket with all the neighbors watching – I did not see this
  • November 1971 – After the murders but before the discovery of the bodies
    • Riding our motorcycles around the List house
      • We wore a path into the grass
      • We wondered where the Lists were and why Mr. List did not chase us off
    • Hanging out in the Devlin’s kitchen at  Thanksgiving with everyone wondering and speculating what was up at Lists – the lights in the Ballroom and house had been left on all night for weeks
      • Someone claimed that Brion Devlin who was home from college said that Mr. List probably went crazy and killed everyone – this probably didn’t happen, but it is what I remember
  • Night the bodies were discovered – but before we knew about it
    • Going to bed and being awoken by sirens that got closer and closer
      • Looking out at the thick NJ fog and wondered if a neighbor had a heart attack
  • Morning after the bodies were discovered
    • Hearing about the bodies on the radio and being in total shock
    • Waiting for the school bus with Nick and Dave at the end of Devlin’s driveway which was just a few feet from Lists
      • Speaking with the lone police officer who had spent the night by himself keeping guard – he was very freaked out
  • Days and weeks following the discovery
    • Keeping a weighted baton under my mattress within easy reach in case Mr. List showed up
    • Half expecting Mr. List to come for the rest of us
  • Years following
    • Every time I would be with my brothers or Devlin’s or other neighbors, we would discuss and wonder and speculate about the whereabouts of Mr. List
    • I had a fear that I would check into a lonely motel in the middle of the night
      • I would enter my address into the register
      • I would look up into the face of the night clerk who would be Mr. List and he would put two and two together
  • America’s Most Wanted Broadcast
    • I was living/working in Phoenix and watched it with my wife who I had just started dating
      • I was incredibly stressed out and glued to the TV
    • I was incredibly shocked and elated when they caught him

From Mark Loughlin...

In 1971 my family lived at 467 Hillside Ave. which is next door to the Devlins and a few houses down from the List house. Our house was of about the same era as Breeze Knoll and there were no houses between our house and the Lists which was a couple hundred yards away. My room looked directly at the List house and at the light in an upstairs window that was always on.


Our house was in Mountainside so we didn't know the List kids well, just sort of passing acquaintances in the neighborhood. However I have some recollections of that time that you may, or may not, find of interest.


The last time I remember seeing Mr. List and John was maybe a month or so before the murders. We were driving on Hillside Ave., probably a Sunday afternoon in October. Mr. List and John were in their front yard planting a tree. The tree was between the house and the street to the right of the front walk. My dad pulled over and had a brief conversation with them. As I remember it, the conversation was pleasant and neighborly and Mr. List (he is always Mr. List in my mind), was sort of chatty. Over the years I've often thought about that moment and now after listening to your podcast it strikes me a very odd that he would go through the effort and the expense of buying and planting a tree with his son if he was already planning to murder everyone.


A few other things while I'm at it. I can fully corroborate Dave Devlin's story about the rock throwing incident as I and a couple of my brothers were with Dave at the time. Also, and you may want to ask Dave D. about this, but I remember the Devlins telling us that Patty had come over at some point that fall and told them that she was having a party and was planning to have a scavenger hunt and asked if she could hide a clue in their mailbox. Did any of her friends ever mention a party?


The New Year's Eve following the events all of our parents were at a neighborhood party and a bunch of the neighborhood kids including Dave Devlin were in our basement playing ping pong. At some point my older brother swears he heard someone come into the house and then all of us swore we heard someone walking around upstairs. I certainly remember hearing footsteps. So, worried that it was Mr. List we called the police and I think we had a zillion police cars there in a matter of moments. The police searched the house and of course found nothing as it was just the vivid imagination of a bunch of boys.

The last thing, and I assume Dave shared this with you as well, but Dave's brother Nick took a lot of very dramatic photos of the house when it was aflame. Nick was probably 16 so put this next comment down as youthful imagination but I remember he said he could smell kerosene in the air. We were not home at the time so I cannot corroborate Nick's comment - but you could ask him yourself. Ask Dave for his number.

The List murders has remained seared in my memory ever since and it remains a point of common identification amongst everyone I know or have met over the years with any connection to the area.

rebecca, [email protected] and 7 other users have reacted to this post.
rebecca[email protected]msochakathymalizzy717[email protected]trishonceuponatimemamatried

Thanks so much for that engaging recollection. I grew up in Union County, and I was 8 when the killings happened. I can vividly remember feeling confused and afraid, although I am certain my confusion and fear were not in any way equatable to your own. So many people commented on the lights being on 24/7 and noticed them slowly burning out one by one. That had to have been eerie. Did people just assume that the lights were left on to discourage burglars? Sometimes people leave lights on when they go away even now, but the practice was much more common years ago. The story of Mr. List planting a tree with John, Jr. is interesting. Maybe he did it to leave something lasting that he and his son had done together? It's a possibility.

I was struck by the fact that Mr. List allowed Patty to have a Halloween party, just a week or so before the murders. Do you know if this was highly unusual? It sounds as if you are younger than Patty, but do you know if she was allowed to have parties any other time? The podcast implies that Mr. List allowed it out of guilt since he was planning the murders.

Do you have any theories on the fire? From what I remember, its cause was never determined. I can't see Mr. List doing it. He was gone, and he wasn't foolish enough to come back just to burn down that house. Besides, he said in his letter that he left the heat high enough so that the pipes wouldn't freeze since the bank shouldn't lose its investment in the mortgage. If he felt that way and bothered to state it in such an intimate letter, I don't see him just deciding to torch the place later on. The last episode of the podcast comes out tomorrow, and I heard on the preview that they plan to discuss what happened to the house. I was just wondering what you thought, although I realize your family was not home when it happened. The smell of kerosene points to arson, sure, but it doesn't point to a suspect. I think it's more likely that it was the act of someone who was tired of the spectacle and traffic that comes with such an infamous destination. Even though I was too young for it, I can imagine teenagers coming to the house on dares, looking into the windows, maybe even trying to break in. In fact, it's possible someone was inside and started the fire accidentally (maybe from candles?) Maybe someone in the neighborhood realized that the property values would plummet after the murders, and so they just decided to end the circus. Please understand, that I am merely speculating and obviously not accusing anyone.

Thank you again for sharing such an interesting perspective. I will never forget this case, either. It has always given me an eerie feeling. Like you, I never stopped following the case and was very, very happy and relieved when Mr. List was finally caught.


I grew up on Highland Avenue, about a half mile from the List house. I was in 7th grade at the time. I didn't know any of the List kids, although my siblings knew a couple of them mildly. The podcast mentions a lot about how the town was scared and terrified. At least in my circle, that was not the case - more of a fascination with the bizarre notoriety that the case had bought to Westfield. I look back now, and realize how both horrified and sad we should have been - but it was a different era, where a lot of feelings were kept suppressed. In addition, it's been 50 years, so memory does not always serve well, but I don't recall any acknowledgement of the murders in school (I went to Roosevelt, the same school as Fred) - no moments of silence, no classroom discussions, etc. Obviously today, the reaction would have been much different and healthier including grief counseling, etc.

Thanks for your memories. I was a young teen when these murders happened. The case has always stuck with me because the kids that were killed were close to my age.

Listening to the recollections of the kids who knew the List children, all I can think about is the life long effects of trauma. The neighborhood folks have vivid memories of this event because they were all traumatized by what occurred. Understandably.

John List was a horrible POS and I’m glad they finally caught up with him.

I lived about a mile and a half away. Though it seems awful to me now my friends and i would ride our bikes to Hillside and sit on the curb across the street just watching the coming and going of police. I recall a white sawhorse or similar blocking the List driveway. One of the police officers guarding the driveway gave me a dollar to go to Dukes Subs to get him coffee and a sub.

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