Crap, I new I shouldn’t have agreed to this…

Man’s ‘Bad Dream House’ brings peace, gives purpose


Sep 18, 2004 : 7:56 pm ET

CARRBORO — John Allore calls his old home the “Bad Dream House,” but in a strange way the house that gave him nightmares also gave him a new purpose in life.

Although he works in Durham as the city’s treasury manager and lives in Carrboro with his family, Allore is a well-known victim’s advocate in Canada. He speaks to groups there about his experiences with the Bad Dream House and how it served as a catalyst for him to return to Canada and investigate the 1978 disappearance and death of his sister, Theresa, in Quebec.

Allore also will be on a panel at the Unicorn Bereavement Center in Hillsborough next month during a workshop for professionals who work with people who have lost someone to homicide.

A tall, congenial man, with a sometimes wicked sense of humor, Allore enjoys his other life in Canada, where he’s known as a feisty advocate who isn’t afraid to take on the police establishment. In the Chapel Hill area, people are more likely to know him as the managing director and an actor with the Deep Dish Theater company at University Mall.

Allore, who was raised in Quebec, married a Chapel Hill woman and after moving around the country for a number of years, they returned to the area and bought the house west of Carrboro in April of 2000. As Allore wrote in his blog,, it was a creepy house when he and his wife first went to look at it. Yet the house that made them fear every sound and wake from deep sleep with their hearts pounding, eventually would change Allore’s life, and in a way bring him peace.

When they first saw it, the walls were covered with drawings of fantasized nude women, and all types of weapons hung on the walls. The floor was covered with old pizza boxes, cigarette packs and butts and crushed soft drink cans. There were knife marks in the floor, in the walls and on the doors inside the house, and when they went to look at the house before they bought it, they discovered someone was sleeping there. They found out later that someone was Andrew Douglas Dalzell.

On Sept. 10, Dalzell was charged with the second-degree murder of Deborah Leigh Key, who was last seen in downtown Carrboro on the morning of Dec. 1, 1997.

But back in 2000, when Allore and his wife were looking for a fixer-upper to buy, they didn’t know that “the lump” they saw sleeping during their afternoon visit to the house was the prime suspect in the disappearance and death of woman.

They bought the house in a neighborhood off Hatch Road, and began cleaning it and fixing it up.

A call from the police

Four weeks after they moved in, the Carrboro police called and asked if they could come out to the house to look for a dead body.

“There are times when you realize life is trying to tell you something,” Allore wrote in his blog. “This was one of those times.”

Allore and his family allowed police to look around the house, and two weeks later the cops brought a cadaver dog to search the grounds. “Joining them for the proceedings were various patrol officers, the county sheriff’s department, a big fat agent from the State Bureau of Investigation, a team of forensic technicians and the gang from Pee Wee’s Septic Tank Service,” Allore wrote in his blog.

The dog searched the grounds, and Pee Wee and the gang sucked everything out of the septic tank but they didn’t find any evidence in the tank. Then suddenly the dog began to scratch in the dirt in the crawl space under the house.

Officers dug in the dirt, and it soon became obvious nothing had been buried there, but they suspected that maybe a body had been there before being moved.

The officers, the forensic team, the dog and the gang from Pee Wee’s left. But that was the beginning of nightmares for Allore and his family. “I dreamed about rotting corpses all the time,” he wrote in the blog. “I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

Allore couldn’t stop thinking about Deborah Key, either. “I became very obsessed with Deborah Key and her murder,” he said. “I was the last one to really figure out what was going on. It was my wife who suggested, ‘Don’t you think you should be doing something with your kin rather than somebody you don’t even know?'”

The irony is that Allore became obsessed with Key when the real mystery in his life was what happened to his own sister, Theresa, who went missing from her college in Quebec on Nov. 3, 1978. Her body was found face down in a cold creek near the school on April 13, 1979.

The police then, Allore said, did little to investigate the circumstances of her disappearance or her death. They told Allore’s family that she probably died from a drug overdose. Allore was 14 years old at the time.

Once Allore’s wife suggested he should direct his energies to finding out about his own sister, Allore contacted an old high school friend, Patricia Pearson, who had become an accomplished crime writer. Allore simply wanted to find out what the police knew about his sister’s disappearance and death. He was surprised to discover there wasn’t much to find out.

Five months of investigation

The police in the area had done a miserable job of investigation, and no one seemed to care very much that a 19-year-old woman had been missing and later found dead.

Allore and Pearson went to work, even though the police didn’t cooperate with them or initially allow them to have access to the case file.

It took them five months of investigation, but Allore and Pearson came to believe that Theresa had been killed by a serial killer. They discovered that two other young women had been missing and later found dead in the same general area of Quebec within a 19-month period. They also came up with the names of two possible suspects.

At the conclusion of their investigation, Pearson wrote a long article that appeared in August 2002 in The National Post, Canada’s national newspaper. The article gave a detailed description of their search for what really happened to Theresa.

Finally in November 2002, the police in Quebec announced they would launch a full investigation into the death of Theresa Allore. No charges have been filed against anyone in the case.

Her brother, however, has turned his battle to victim’s rights and the rights of their families. He heard about a symposium sponsored by the Canadian Department of Justice called “Moving Forward, Lessons Learned from the Victims of Crime.”

The forum was to be held on Nov. 3, 2003, the 25th anniversary of his sister’s death. “I had to get in on that,” he said.

But when he called up to ask if he could participate, he was told it was not open to victims.

That just didn’t sit right with Allore, so he and another man whose daughter had been murdered in Canada went to the conference anyway and staged a protest outside, which received media attention.

“From that I made the inner circle of victim advocates in Canada,” he said.

Last June, Allore spoke at a conference sponsored by Police Victim Services of British Columbia and made a presentation called, “25 Good Things Revealed Probing the Death of My Sister.”

In December, he’ll return to Vancouver and present at the Canadian Association for Victim Assistance, a group and conference he helped organize. This time, real victims will have a voice, Allore said.

Families of victims want answers, support and help from professionals trained to deal with their unique problems, he explained. In many cases, that support is provided by volunteers who may be sympathetic but just don’t have the proper training.

Allore would like to see to see a system in which professionals are accredited to provide services for victims and their families. “We can empower those people at that level or victims will continue to be bottom feeders in the legal justice system,” Allore said. “They already don’t have a voice in the justice system. We should give them the tools to find answers.”

As he revisited the death of his own sister in recent years, he found that he needed a little help. Carrboro Police Chief Carolyn Hutchison recommended he visit the Unicorn Bereavement Center in Hillsborough.

He did, and got to know Linda Jordan, manager of the center. Now he’s agreed to speak at an Oct. 18 workshop there called, “The Worst has Happened; What Now? Working with clients who have lost someone to homicide.”

The workshop is designed to provide clinicians with understanding and insight for working with people who are not only experiencing grief but also the trauma associated with murder.

Now when Allore looks back at the scary house he once owned west of Carrboro, he sees it in a different light. “That whole episode did me a great service,” he said.

For more information about Allore’s work, go to his Web site and read his blogs at:

Folks… enough already… The title, “Bad Dream House” was intended to be funny. It’s a joke? The Simpsons first Treehouse of Horror was called Bad Dream House? Git-it?

oh nevermind…


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