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Haunted Houses - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
captainsblog
captainsblog
Haunted Houses
Coming soon to a real estate broker near you: "JUST LISTED: a 1,336 square foot two-bedroom, one-bath ranch on a quiet street. A bargain to die for!"

Okay, maybe the realtor won't be THAT tacky. But they're going to have to come up with some novel way of marketing a home, barely ten doors from this door, where the longtime homeowners both died in the house in a tragic, end-of-life, murder-suicide.

I posted when the word got out a few months ago, when we saw cops, then reporters, hanging around the place.  The couple had lived there for years in, seemingly, absolute "quiet." Nobody knew (or at least nobody was admitting) the who's or why's of the situation.  I never saw their names in print; no obituary ever crossed my eyes; and despite passing that house at least once a day since late September, I never saw any evidence of anyone mourning their deaths or moving on with the sale of the seemingly pristine home....

Until two days ago.

That's when both Eleanor and I faced the usual bottlenecks on our ways to work as the Grim Reapers of antique stores and other looky-loos lined both sides of their Quiet Street for the estate sale.  It had started Friday morning and was already quite the traffic jam by the time I headed out for a 9:30 appointment; a day later, heading to the gym before 9, the line of early birds was already impatiently decamped outside the Quiet Front Door.  By late Saturday, the house had retreated back into Quiet Anonymity, although I expect the unclaimed pickings will go out to the curb sometime on Boxing Day, and be picked over by the truly ghoulish among us before the town comes to clear it all away on the morning of the 27th. And then, no doubt, a FOR SALE sign will go up, as professionals somehow try to clear away the evidence, and (just as hard) the bad juju of what happened there.

It's not necessarily fatal. We bought our last Rochester house from an estate, fully believing that Gertrude had died at home (if not as violently); we joke to this day that she liked us so much, she moved here with us, slamming cabinet doors and unlocking locks just to get our attention from time to time.  Local real estate law, as well as lore, will likely require these sellers (be they distant relatives or, perhaps, the county public administrator- there was some question about whether H. and A. actually had any heirs) to disclose what happened on the property back in September. It perhaps makes it more likely to turn into a Flip This House kind of short-term rental, as several in this neighborhood have become in recent years.

I resisted the temptation to look around when the doors were open. We did that deal once before- not in our eventual final Rochester home, but with one adjacent to it. It was a 19th century farmhouse, from the era when our Evans Farm subdivision actually was a farm, and the house fronted on one of the few through roads of early Brighton, New York.  When we first became aware of it, it had acquired a Miss Havisham quality of both condition and mystery. We later learned that it was tied up in a contested estate, where two aged sisters were the sole heirs, hated each other, and thus couldn't agree on whether to sell.  Eventually, the dispute was resolved either by settlement or attrition, and the house on Edgewood Avenue was put on the market.  We stopped at an open house, out of morbid curiosity rather than intention to buy, and saw the ghosts of lives of a much older time.  The rooms, all a rabbit warren along a seemingly endless stairwell, none accessible except through the trail through the entire house. Coal-fired furnace and stove.  Plenty of evidence of livestock having been in the place, rather than on the grounds, for many years.  Wallpaper likely older than any of our own (long-dead) grandparents.  Before we moved, it did sell, and got updated into at least the late 20th century, so there is hope for the much newer home, same age as ours, ten doors away.

It will just be interesting to watch how, and if, the process goes from here.

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Comments
symian From: symian Date: December 23rd, 2013 06:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh my! *chuckles*

People often have told me this or that place is haunted and when, and if I had reason to, go into the place I usually hear/see/feel nothing. Once in a great while I'll hear noises or something will fall or you see something out of the corner of the eye, mostly because of heightened sensitivity from forewarned to be wary.

I know that if you have 4 or more people in a house where there have been no more than 2 people for many years the extra weight causes the floorboards to react differently, often causing something to fall off the wall or creak or other. It happens all the time - especially after someone dies and you have tons of people in a house. So creaking and odd things like something falling doesn't bother me or freak me out. When I see things in my sight though, that does make me wonder a bit.

That's when I freak the other people out by saying in a loud voice to the air "Hey! Knock it off or I will get rather testy."

To date it has always worked. ;)

puppy_ciao From: puppy_ciao Date: December 23rd, 2013 11:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Wait, does the law really require the seller to disclose if there was a death in the home? Does it have to be while they owned the house I wonder.... (Our house's tragic death happened two owners ago and we only found out from a drunk weird neighbor a month after moving in...)
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: December 23rd, 2013 01:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
Standard lawyer answer: It depends.

"New York State is a non-disclosure state," said Michael Moberg, a real estate attorney in Uniondale. "It means there is no onus on a real estate broker or a homeowner to disclose anything such as a crime or stigma."

New York does have a disclosure form that asks a seller to reveal to the buyer such things as age and condition of the house, past major repairs and environmental concerns. Nowhere does it address whether the house has harbored a heinous crime, a suicide, a string of mysterious illnesses or whether a ferocious dog lives next door.

...New York State has a Stigmatized Property Law. It requires that, if a prospective buyer specifically asks about latent house stigmas, the real estate broker is obligated to ask the buyer to put the question in writing to be submitted to the seller. The seller has the option to answer or not, but a refusal should be a signal to the prospective buyer that further investigation is warranted.


As is, you know, unusual amounts of pea soup stains surrounding the room where the little girl's bed used to be....
puppy_ciao From: puppy_ciao Date: December 23rd, 2013 06:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ha! Well I did make our realtor ask the selling agent if the house has a ghost but she just seemed uncomfortable and I laughed. LITTLE DID I KNOW! We ended up having a Seneca spiritual healer come in and bless it but he said he didn't feel any bad vibes to begin with.

Pablo jokes that when Adam is scared of monsters/ghosts someday, I will be the worst parent ever to deal with that situation, haha. I'll hide with him!
ellettra From: ellettra Date: December 23rd, 2013 11:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I lived in a house where someone had been murdered. Slept in the very bedroom as a matter of fact. In spite of even MY fantastical imagination, nothing ever seemed "off" about it. It was kind of gross - they laid carpet over the hardwood because they'd never been able to get the blood out of the wood, but otherwise you'd pretty much never know if you didn't know.

That's not to say that I don't think houses hold energy, because I definitely do think that. And maybe if the house I lived in had more a "romantic" vibe to it, it might have been different. But a 50s ranch? Not so haunty.

(Note to self: write spooktacular ghost story asap)
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: December 23rd, 2013 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
One thing about this weekend's estate sale got me a lit-tle nervous. Most of them are run through very cachet-y estate liquidators, most of them older women known among the bridge and garden club sets by just their first names- Edna Mae, Louise and such. This one had very generic signs with no liquidator named. Cynical Me got to wondering whether some crook might've seen the murder-suicide story and moved in on the merch.

Eleanor debunked that tonight- she'd seen cars at the house in the intervening weeks that were there over the weekend. But I checked in my own way, through Surrogates Court, to be sure there was an open estate for which this would be an appropriate disposition of assets.

There was, and it is. I looked at the wills- no heirs closer than second cousins, all of them in Germany. And the will gives half of their substantial assets to the Salvation Army and the other half to the SPCA.

Given how they died, it provides the closest thing to a happy ending you can find:)
ellettra From: ellettra Date: December 24th, 2013 12:57 am (UTC) (Link)
That's sure true. It's an incredibly sad story... am I thinking of the right one? Both significantly older people with deteriorating health? I feel like that kind of situation should be called something other than "murder-suicide," don't you? I mean, even though that's literally what happened, there's so much more nuance to it. It's more like death with dignity, or similar. Although I suppose being shot isn't terribly dignified. Still though, murder-suicide sounds so spectacular and has such heavy innuendo associated with it, when in reality it was a very old man who could not go on and who could not bear to be without his very old wife. (If I'm thinking of the right story.)

captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: December 24th, 2013 01:00 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup, that's the one. So much better to see their wealth going to animals and homeless rather than some biological stasis facility calling itself "Elderberry Estates" or somesuch. I have left specific instructions to be run over by a bus before I ever get that far.
ellettra From: ellettra Date: December 24th, 2013 04:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
For sure...!
warriorsavant From: warriorsavant Date: December 25th, 2013 04:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
At one point the geniuses here wanted to pass a regulation about realtors having to let potential customers know if the property was being sold (ever been owned?) by an unsavory character, e.g. mobster. (No sure about 'someone who once lived there died.') Was pointed out that real estate agents don't actually keep lists of known racketeers, and would be leaving themselves open to a libel suit if they listed such info anyhow.
captainsblog From: captainsblog Date: December 25th, 2013 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
We had a famed Mafioso- head of one of the Five Families- who lived near the house I grew up in- a much nicer subdivision on the other side of my junior high school. Years later, my sister told me about how the small, private hospital she worked at used to be Joey's "home away from home," especially when the families got to tussling with each other. There was nothing medically wrong with him; they just wanted to keep it that way.

Donna now lives one exit down I-86 from Apalachin, New York- site of the famed 1950s FBI bust. That house has gone through any number of hands- black palms?- since then, and it tends to be auctioned rather than sold on account of the legacy.

Edited at 2013-12-25 04:32 pm (UTC)
warriorsavant From: warriorsavant Date: December 25th, 2013 09:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
In the movie about it, they make it look like the FBI figured out what was going on. In fact, as noted in the article you cited, it was a NYS Trooper. I already knew that b/c his son told me; the son had taken up the "family business" (State Trooper) and was also in the Army Reserve, which is where I knew him.
greenquotebook From: greenquotebook Date: December 28th, 2013 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Is it possible that the deaths were of the Arthur and Cynthia Koestler type and not the deranged husband kills wife in a fit of rage type?

The woman who owned this house before Steven bought it killed herself. It was disclosed to him as per SC law and all it meant to him was that he could get a good deal on a nice piece of property. You might be pleasantly surprised by who buys the house. :)
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