On Monday, an Airbnb user named Frederick Joseph tweeted out his experience with his Labor Day weekend rental—namely, that it was filled with “seemingly Satanic items and stuff for witchcraft rituals” such as a small replica of the Church of Satan’s statue of Baphomet, a pheasant skin, a photo of a topless woman, a windup toy of a woman having sex with a dog-like creature, a metal sculpture of a skeletal dragon, a colorful decorative sign saying “CAUTION: DOG” in Greek, and a photo of Senator Bernie Sanders.
Joseph said that while he was chiefly concerned that his younger brother, a child, was present, he and other guests were no less disturbed by what they found. Other users jumped in to point out that other fixtures in this Airbnb, such as an outdoor bathtub, could have been used in human sacrifice (uhh, like, to drain blood, or something?). Chilling stuff, really, and strong evidence of an imminent daemonic threat rather than an slightly unusual taste in decor. Joseph tweeted that after he fled the premises, Airbnb had declined to issue a refund.
Incidentally, Gizmodo staff reporter Tom McKay (me) had a similarly eerie experience with the occult this weekend, at what was either an Airbnb or his own apartment (possibly an amnesia hex is at play here). The parallels are many and shocking. Tom’s account follows below:
I just woke up after sleeping for eight hours and the house I live at ended up having seemingly satanic items and stuff for witchcraft rituals.
I had to leave because I was frightened. But @Airbnb won’t refund me. (THREAD)
I rented this house to do Gizmodo blogging and not spend time with Satan. It seemed like a nice place, pretty basic layout from the listing.
But as we drove up we noticed there were no other houses in the area just rundown shacks and no phone signal.
When I walked up to my house I noticed many skulls on the inside of my house, so I went inside to check it out.
When I walked I went to my bedroom and found more animal skulls and ritualistic floor markings and then I went through my house to find much more.
As I walked through the rooms I found a bunch of imagery, voodoo skulls, books, random innocuous stuff from thrift stores etc for rituals and what looked like devil worship. I was terrified, as would be anyone else present.
I called @Airbnb and told them I couldn’t stay there and explained the situation.
I was told that I couldn’t receive a refund, as this was not an Airbnb but my own house that I decorated. They told me there were just a few small art pieces that I could remove myself. This was a lie, it was the whole damn house not a few things.
There was also an ominous cage of some sort on the back patio.
Needless to say, I left because I am not dealing with something that was:
1. Originally advertised to me as a series of empty rooms
2. Looks like a scene from Revenge of the Nerds
3. Made the entire family (me) feel unsafe
4. WHILE I WAS THERE A BLACK CAT CROSSED MY PATH!!!
All of that is to say, this isn’t how I should be treated. I use my apartment frequently and there are many reasons in this situation which should warrant a refund from Airbnb. Especially my safety and mental/emotional health.
In a statement to Gizmodo, an Airbnb spokesperson said that Joseph had now been issued a refund and that their policies prohibit sexually graphic items from being openly displayed in a listed rental.
“[Joseph] was fully refunded this morning, and we apologize for the delay in providing support,” the spokersperson told Gizmodo. “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 listing in question had all five star reviews prior to Joseph’s experience.)
The Church of Satan tweeted at Joseph, “The photos in this thread depict thrift store curiosities & hot topic kitsch, not evidence of satanic rituals. Sounds like you have an over active imagination and can’t tell the difference between supernatural horror movies and reality.”
Due to the number of sexually explicit, Satanic, or otherwise tasteless items which show a limited understanding of home furnishing, I remain hopeful Airbnb will refund me last month’s rent.