Ghostbuster Ruling: I ‘aint ‘fraid of no…lawsuit?

Helen Ackley moved into 1 La Veta Place, a large 18 room Victorian on a dead-end street in 1960, at which time she says the house was most definitely haunted. It had been built around 1900 and had been used as both a single residence and a boarding house. Ackley fell in love with the structure, even though it required a major renovation, and she and her family quickly made 1 La Veta Place home. Every old home should get the opportunity to once again host a family, to have its halls filled with the laughter of children and the everyday monotony that we call life, but the Ackley’s home was filled with even more. It wasn’t long before Helen began to report to the neighbors that the house was haunted. She described phantom footsteps, beds shaking, slamming doors, and voices clearly heard in unoccupied rooms. Supposedly, the spirits were that of Sir George and Lady Margaret (no last names, kinda like Prince I guess,) a Revolutionary War-era couple, though Helen’s son would also report coming face to face with another spirit in a military uniform within the walls of their home. A psychic stated, “that the spectral couple had died in England in the 1750s which makes their presence in Nyack, New York, somewhat confusing.” (Ranker) The other ghost seen by Helen’s son was not mentioned by the psychic. The psychic did say there was a Sir George from England who married a woman named Lady Margaret, but they died almost 200 years later (in 1750) than the psychic stated and also in England. Not sure why their spirits traveled all the way to NY to haunt a random Victorian house. All in all, the Ackley’s coexisted with their extended ghostly family and life went on as normal. The ghosts would even leave she and her family little gifts. Helen wrote to Reader’s Digest regarding her haunted abode. The piece was published in the May 1977 issue of the magazine. The Ackley’s, particularly Helen herself, wasn’t quiet about their house being haunted. They pretty much told anyone who would listen.

All of this information might seem a little blasé, but the ensuing court battle over the sale of the above location is very interesting.


Legally Haunted

Your house is a little haunted. Not terribly so. Perhaps you hear the occasional voice or see the odd personal artifact levitate out of the corner of your eye. Clearly, the spirit you’re living with is harmless as it hasn’t tried to harm you or your family. You’ve just been living with the odd occurrences, the bumps in the night and voices calling out from darkened rooms since you purchased the house a few years ago. It’s really no big deal for you and your family and you’ve come to find the activity of the mischievous ghostly residents to be endearing and sometimes even humorous. Now, you play along. So do your kids, asking the ghosts to move specific objects and even purchasing a Ouija Board in an effort to make that communication even easier. You’ve mentioned the activity to your neighbors and find out that there was a mass murder in your living room. Before you know it, your house is a stop on a murder tour and a ghost walk. The local paper does a story on your house that winds up on the front page.

One day, you receive your property assessment in the mail and are stunned to see that you could actually make a killing if you sold your home. You’d get a return of almost twice what you paid and the idea is too good to pass up. You call your real estate agent and they list the house, leaving the haunting out of your conversation. You find a buyer in a matter of weeks who puts down a hefty down payment and you move into a new house (sadly, without the ghostly friends you’ve made), moving blissfully along in the ebb and flow of everyday life. That is, until your phone rings and you find out your sale isn’t going through. The buyer is threatening to take you to court! Apparently, you failed to disclose the ghosts and the new occupants don’t appreciate having breakfast with the dead. The flickering lights, voices, and handprints in the steam on the shower door make them uneasy. They want out.


A similar situation happened to Jeffrey Stambovsky in 1990 when he attempted to purchase a home in Nyack, NY, close to Sleepy Hollow.

From Atlas Obscura, “Helen and George Ackley, who lived in the home for more than 20 years, reported that they had seen a ghost in the house on at least one occasion and that they would be awoken every morning by a shaking bed, but otherwise lived in peace with whatever spirits resided in their home. When they decided to move and sold the house in 1990, they didn’t bother to tell the new buyers about the ghost problem.”

If your house is haunted, are you legally obligated to disclose this information to potential buyers? In some states, AZ, for example, your real estate agent doesn’t need to disclose any violent death or suicide on the property, but they ARE obligated to tell you if the house you’re about to purchase is haunted.

“With $32,500 in escrow, Jeffrey and Patrice Stambovsky backed out of the contract when they learned that the house was haunted. When the Ackley’s refused to refund the deposit, the Stambovskys sued, leading to what would come to be known as the “Ghostbusters” ruling. The New York Appellate court ruled that, because a routine home inspection would never uncover it, sellers must disclose that a house is haunted to potential buyers.” Atlas Obscura

On Ellis Sotheby’s International Realty homepage, I did see mention that the seller (Ackley) did ask the real estate agent to disclose the haunted history of the property and the agent did give this information to the buyers. The buyers joked that they would just “call in the Ghostbusters.” The film had just hit theaters at the time. It was a little while later that the Stambovsky’s had a change of heart and backed out of the sale. The New York Supreme court ruled in 1991 that 1 LaVeta Place is officially a haunted house and, whenever the property is sold the seller must let the buyer know that the location is legally, without a shadow of a doubt, haunted.

Haunted Happenings

The Ackley’s claimed to have experienced/witnessed several paranormal phenomena while living in the home. There have been two confirmed deaths in the home. Helen’s husband passed away in the home (his name was George, not to be confused with Sir George) as did a young dinner guest who suddenly suffered a brain aneurysm. According to many sources I came across, Helen herself perpetrated the rumors of the house being haunted and the home was never actually haunted at all.

Cynthia (one of Helen and George’s children,) reported that her bed would shake each morning to wake her for school. One evening before the start of spring break, Cynthia told the spirit that she wanted to sleep in the next day as it was spring break and she didn’t have school. The bed did not shake the following morning.

Helen’s sons would often be given coins by the spirits and would find them throughout the house.

Cynthia received a pair of silver sugar tongs from the spirits.


To Buy or Not to Buy

What’s the market for a haunted house? I feel as if homes that are reported as haunted don’t stay on the market for too terribly long as long as they’re in decent shape, but with the rise of the sale of haunted literally everything on eBay and the conversion of many locations into haunted attractions, I can’t imagine it would be difficult to sell your haunted house. Who might buy a house with a dark past (or even a supposed dark past?) Again, those looking to make a quick buck might snap up a haunted house that’s in a decent location and open it for tours. Otherwise, Halloweenies, though people who decorate their cubicles at work for Halloween before August has even peeked its head out, would be ideal buyers.

Alejandro Rojas, a Writer, blogger, video and podcast host had this to say about haunted houses and their selling potential.

“If you are looking to sell your haunted house, you could turn this into a marketing opportunity. In a recent story in Realtor Magazine, a real estate agent in Omaha, Nebraska did just that. In his listing description, instead of focusing on the great backyard or the newly renovated kitchen, he focused on the house’s haunted reputation.

Unfortunately, the owners took the house off of the market before it sold. They claimed the haunting had turned violent, so they had to get out quick and decided to turn the house into a rental. However, the real estate agent says his marketing strategy created a lot of interest.”


As someone who has lived with other creatures that go bump in the night (ghosts included,) I can honestly say that I’d absolutely buy a house with a haunted past. How about you?


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