In 1991, the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held the case Stambovsky v. Ackley, where it was determined that a house publicly marked as ‘haunted’ can bring down the value of that house, and the current homeowner must inform any subsequent purchasers of the house’s haunted state. Before you go wondering about how a court can legally rule on such an ambiguous topic, there is a lot of history behind this specific case.
Helen Ackley was the original owner of the house involved in the case, and she claimed that both she and her family had interacted with numerous ghosts in the house. Between 1977 and 1989, Helen’s stories of poltergeist activity were published three different times in her local newspaper and Reader’s Digest. Naturally, the stories grabbed the attention of countless individuals and the house’s haunted fame grew.
Supposedly, the ghastly residents of Helen’s house interacted with her family on a daily basis. Helen even claimed that a specific ghost woke her up every morning by shaking her arm, and if Helen did not want to wake up early in the morning, she had to inform the ghost before she went to sleep. The ghosts also gave Helen’s grandchildren small “gifts,” which disappeared later.
When Helen Ackley went to sell the house, neither Helen nor her Realtor informed the buyer, Jeffrey Stambovsky, about the house’s ghastly occupants, and Stambovsky was unaware himself. Stambovsky signed a contract to purchase the house, made a $32,500 down payment, and agreed to purchase the house for a total of $650,000. Unfortunately, the purchase did not go as planned.
Stambovsky soon learned about the haunted stories surrounding his potential home purchase and he immediately filed a legal action to cancel the contract. Along with demanding damages for fraudulent misrepresentation, Stambovsky refused to attend the closing of the house’s sale, thus forfeiting his original down payment of $32,500. Stambovsky appealed and the case was brought to the attention of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court decided, regardless of whether the house was actually haunted or not, since it was publicly reported as being haunted, the house was to be legally marked as such and the overall value was greatly affected.
So, if you have a ghastly resident wandering the halls of your house, think twice before you start informing your local papers of its existence, especially if you hope to sell the house soon.