Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Selling a haunted house? Maybe you should tell the buyer

Khristina Lorenz bought her first home in September. It’s small, “but, hey, it’s mine.”

The two-bedroom house sits beside a large, old cemetery in a calm Independence neighborhood; traffic on the busy Noland Road humming nearby. Her house is busy, too – but not with traffic.

Khristina bought the house from her boyfriend. He’d told stories that, late at night, doors would rattle like someone was trying to open them. But no one was ever there.

“I didn’t really believe it,” Khristina said. Then she heard the doors shake one night. “He’s right. It was really loud like someone was about to break down the door or something.”

Then the ghostly intrusions started happening when Khristina was home with her children, her boyfriend, or when she was alone.

“My radio will just turn on by itself and my CD will start playing,” she said. “A few times when I have come home after my part-time job in the evening, the radio has been on and the sound isn’t going but the equalizer lights are going crazy.”

Khristina may have bought a haunted house. In some states, there are laws against that. Depending on a state’s definition of “stigmatized property,” the seller has to tell the buyer whether or not their house is infested with termites, or poltergeists.

Stigmatized property simply means something happened on the property that could psychologically affect the buyer. That includes a natural death, murder, suicide, a previous owner had HIV/AIDS, a felony was committed on the property, and, in some states, ghosts.

Jeanne Goolsby, owner of Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast, and her husband Michael bought a Victorian home in Carthage, Mo. The home had a second floor, a basement, a beautiful smoking room, and a resident spirit – Albert.

But they knew about Albert before they bought the house.

“The lady before us kept trying to tell us about the ghost and I told her I did not want to know,” Jeanne said. “(Michael) said he can’t remember it being on any paperwork, but he knew about it from the owner. She told us.”

In California, the seller has to disclose a stigma up to three years from the time it occurred. Texas has no law about it at all. But the 1991 New York appellate court tackled the supernatural in a decision (Stambovsky v. Ackley) that allowed a buyer to cancel a contract when he discovered there was a “poltergeist” in the house.

If you’re buying a house in Missouri, there’s a law about stigmatized property; a law that doesn’t favor the buyer. It specifically states the seller isn’t required to disclose a stigma – which probably includes the walls bleeding.

The walls of Khristina’s house don’t bleed, but her haunting has gotten more and more personal.

“I have heard voices several times,” she said. Her boyfriend never heard voices while he owned the home. ”It sounds like a women’s voice and a small child’s voice. I can never really make out clearly what they are saying but have heard this often. The first few times I thought it was my son, but when I checked on him he was asleep, I heard the voices and he was still snoring.”

So sleep tight, and let the buyer beware.

Copyright 2007 by Jason Offutt

Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or jasonoffutt@hotmail.com. Include your name, address and telephone number. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”

Jason's book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri's Most Spirited Spots,” is coming in May. FREE SHIPPING when you order online at: https://tsup.truman.edu/store/ViewBook.aspx?Book=849. Visit Jason’s Web site, www.jasonoffutt.com, for his other books.

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