There are a number of people who think they’d like to spend the night in a haunted house – and if you are one of those people, the state of New York says they’ve got just the place.
A survey found that only about a third of people are really willing to buy a “haunted” house, and real estate agents are largely aware that if there’s some sort of rumor of a haunting, your asking price is going to need to drop.
In the 1970s, Helen and George Ackley moved into a house in Nyack, New York, only to report soon afterward that they had found it “haunted.” They lived there for three decades, all the while being woken by the bed shaking on its own or actual sightings of ghosts wandering the halls.
Everyone in the neighborhood knew of the tales but the family never reported any physical or mental misery related to the haunting – so when they sold the house in the 90s, they did not reveal any of this to the buyers.
They went to court after the buyers tried to back out and the Ackley’s wanted to keep their deposit.
“Plaintiff, to his horror, discovered that the house he had recently contracted to purchase was widely reputed to be possessed by poltergeists, reportedly seen by defendant seller and members of her family on numerous occasions over the last nine years.”
The state of New York ruled that due to the public nature of the haunting, it should have been disclosed to any potential buyers before money changed hands.
“The unusual facts of this case, as disclosed by the record, clearly warrant a grant of equitable relief to the buyer who, as a resident of New York City, cannot be expected to have any familiarity with the folklore of the Village of Nyack.”
They weren’t done, though, and this is where things get a little bit weird – because the ruling declared the house legally haunted.
“Not being a ‘local,’ plaintiff could not readily learn that the home he had contracted to purchase is haunted. Whether the source of the spectral apparitions seen by defendant seller are parapsychic or psychogenic, having reported their presence in both a national publication (Readers’ Digest) and the local press (in 1977 and 1982, respectively), defendant is estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.”
In the rest of the increasingly odd ruling, the court went on to say that people should not be expected to bring a medium or a priest along for inspections, and so a potential haunting is not something that should fall under “buyer beware” in the future.
Most states in the U.S. do not require a person to disclose a haunting, especially if the hauntings are private and you have not spoken to the press about them.
Some states do require hauntings to be reported, as well as “stigmatized” homes if that stigma could affect future resale value. This would include houses that were home to murders, deaths, or typically other criminal activity that is widely known about in the immediate neighborhood (or beyond).