In January 2021, after nearly a year living under relative COVID isolation, an anonymous Instagram account with the name @HouseOfEffie began posting screenshots of DMs the actor Armie Hammer had sent to a number of women detailing rape and cannibalism fantasies.
The viral messages prompted a number of his recent exes to come forward, including Courtney Vucekovich, an entrepreneur who’d accused him of emotional abuse, and Paige Lorenze, a college student who alleged that he branded her and spoke of removing and eating one of her ribs. Eventually, the owner of the Instagram account, Effie, materialized at a press conference where she emotionally described being raped by Hammer for four hours, prompting an LAPD investigation. She was only 20 at the time. (Hammer has denied the allegations.)
That such disturbing claims had surfaced about Hammer, a seemingly clean-cut, attractive, uninteresting Hollywood star from an aristocratic family—he is named after his great-grandfather, the late oil tycoon Armand Hammer—took many by surprise. But not his Aunt Casey.
“I wasn’t shocked when the allegations came forward,” Casey Hammer tells The Daily Beast. “Based on my experiences in my family, I suffered from abuse. It was just a way of life. You don’t wake up one day and become a monster—it’s learned behavior. Once [the allegations] started unfolding, I was like, here we go, another Hammer man and something that’s being said about them.”
It was the media’s coverage of the allegations against The Social Network and Call Me by Your Name star that left her taken aback.
“The focus seemed to be about Armie being ‘a cannibal’ or what was going to happen to his career or ‘cancel culture,’ but it’s like, wait a minute—let’s shift the light onto the victims,” she says. “What about the people that are scarred for life because of all that happened?”
That is exactly what Casey hopes to do with House of Hammer, a new three-part docuseries premiering Sept. 2 on Discovery+. While the show opens with the allegations against Armie and includes sit-down interviews with a number of his alleged victims, it soon pulls back to reveal a family tree filled with vice and crime.
“As shocking as what he’s doing right now, there’s a generational pattern that’s been in play for a very long time and that no one took notice of,” explains Casey. “It just didn’t start there—it goes way back.”
Casey is the daughter of Julian Hammer, the only son of Armand Hammer. Hammer accumulated his vast wealth—rumored to be around $800 million—in U.S. oil production, and was CEO and owner of Occidental Petroleum, a company that did extensive business with his former home country, the Soviet Union. She is Armand’s granddaughter and Armie’s aunt, and holds the distinction of being one of few women in the family.
“All my life, I was told I was a mistake,” Casey tells me. “I was supposed to be a boy, and my name would have a boy’s spelling regardless.”
In House of Hammer, Casey recalls witnessing a plethora of underage mistresses and drugs in her family, as well as a heavy dose of violence—much of it from her father, Julian, who seemed to enjoy torturing those around him with guns.
“As a little girl, holding a phone book and being shot at, most people are horrified by that. But to me, it was a normal thing that happened in my family,” says Casey.
She also, in her self-published 2015 memoir Surviving My Birthright, accused her father of sexually abusing her as a child—as well as harming others in the Hammer family.
“It was all I knew,” says Casey of her upbringing. “Back then you didn’t have social media, so you just thought this was the way normal rich, famous, wealthy people acted in Los Angeles. Behind closed doors, it was a free-for-all. Once you walked outside, my grandfather controlled the narrative. As long as you didn’t embarrass him, were camera-ready, and acted a certain way, you were fine. If you did anything to mess up, you were threatened with punishments and being disowned.”
In 1955, Julian Hammer was accused of ringing in his 26th birthday by killing a friend with a shotgun. Julian had apparently owed the man a $400 gambling debt and suspected that he was making advances on his wife. “The front-page headlines read ‘Millionaire’s Son Kills GI,’” reported Vanity Fair. “Armand had a friend deliver $50,000 in cash to a lawyer in Los Angeles. Julian claimed self-defense, and charges were dismissed.”
“My father got away with murder pretty much, and my grandfather made it go away,” maintains Casey. “As a child, you witness all this bad behavior—people get bought off, doors are opened by the name ‘Hammer’—and it was quite exhilarating and terrifying. You saw presidents, royalty, and Hollywood all want to be a part of this secret society, in a sense.”
Casey was 30 when her powerful grandfather died. (She is now 62.) At that time, she says she was left with no choice but to give up her career in interior design in order to “babysit” her unhinged father “so he didn’t blow his brains out.”
According to Casey, her father was in such a drug-induced haze of cocaine and meth that he regularly suffered delusions and would take them out on her.
“I let him hold a .357 Magnum to my temple every hour and make me open my eyes to see if I was possessed by aliens, and if I was, he was going to shoot me,” she remembers. “I chose to put myself in that situation for weeks as an adult. People focus on the physical and sexual abuse, but mental abuse can go a lot farther in terms of the brainwashing and the controlling.”
She pauses. “I’m here to shine a light on accountability. In my family, it was powerful, wealthy, generational bad behavior that went unaccounted for, and now it’s time for it to stop. When #MeToo started, it showed you about the workplace. There needs to be a #MeToo for the home.”
Last year, Vanity Fair published a sprawling exposé on the Hammer family’s long, ugly history of misdeeds. The piece revealed that Casey was estranged from her family, had about $100 to her name, and was working as a kitchen designer at a Home Depot in San Diego, surviving on Progresso soup and bologna sandwiches.
“I couldn’t watch Succession because I was getting triggered, and I’m here to tell you that I’m the real-life Succession—and I’m still standing,” she says. “I’m not Hollywood’s version. I wasn’t written or scripted. And the Hammer family is a million times worse than Succession.”
She says she was inspired to make House of Hammer not only to tell her story but also to shine a light on all the “bright, intelligent women” who’ve been swallowed up by the Hammer men—including those who say they were harmed by her famous nephew.
“The beauty of it is talking about consent. A lot of people don’t understand what that really means,” she says. “We’re not here to judge your behaviors or preferences, but if you’re involved in something and it gets to a point where it doesn’t feel good or it’s not comfortable and you want to stop, the minute you say ‘no’ it should stop—and if it doesn’t, that’s when it becomes criminal.”
While Casey does hope that Armie can “heal and take charge of” his life, she’s more concerned with helping his alleged victims—people “who’ve been left in the path and need the help, because they might not have the money or the right counseling.”
“To see how brave they are to come forward, to me, was so empowering, because it’s scary nowadays on social media,” she says. “Hopefully, this helps others come forward and say ‘no’ to being abused.”