In honor of Halloween, you may find the following celebrated legal opinion amusing;
In 1989 Helen Ackley, a widow, put her Victorian waterfron house in Nyack, NY up for sale and found a buyer in Jeffrey Stambovsky and his wife, who made a downpayment and signed a contract with Ackley. Subsequently the young couple learned that the house was haunted. In fact Ackley herself had published an article about it some years before in Reader's Digest and the house had been included in a tour of homes in Nyack in which it was described as haunted.
Stambovsky sued to void the contract and lost under the common law doctrine of caveat emptor "let the buyer beware." He appealed the decision to the New York State Supreme Court where it was dismissed on the grounds that he had no remedy in the state, which in matters of real estate adheres strictly to caveat emptor. He appealed again and won. The five man bench in the Appelate Division of the Supreme Court voted 3-2 in his favor and he recovered his downpayment.
Here is a picture of the house:
Haunted? REALLY?!? By WHAT? Goblins or boojums or an Elvis Presley impersonator on his off-night? PUL-LEASE!!!
What is a bit puzzling is that the owner claimed the ghosts were from the time of the Revolutionary War—before the house was built. But maybe it was built over an old cemetery. That would do it.
As rational as he was, Jeremy Bentham had a notorious fear of ghosts all his life as a result of childhood teasing by servants and could not sleep alone in a dark room. He knew that ghosts were fictions because they never appeared naked, which meant there had to be ghost clothes as well‚ a conclusion he could not reach.
If the market value of the house was lower because of the public perception that it was haunted, and the buyer didn't know of this public perception, maybe the buyer had a point.
Was it haunted enough to lower the market value?
I think that was the judge's point in the opinion. The owner had advertised the ghosts in her magazine article to people with whom she had no contractural obligations and the judge thought she had responsibility to do so also for the prospective buyers, even though she was not obligated under New York law.
Apparently the spirits were friendly and never caused any trouble, but their mere presence showed that the house was not vacant, as a buyer could reasonably expect. The buyer himself did not believe in ghosts, but his wife refused to live in the house. (I suspect she didn't like the kitchen and that was the real reason.)
Update: the house at 1 Laveta Place, Nyack, NY was sold late last year for $1,725,000 and neither the sellers, who occupied it for 15 years, nor the buyers have reported any difficulties. It has 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, and 4,628 sq. ft. Real estate taxes are a hefty $37,000/year. It has been repainted a nice light blue and white.
If the ghosts have a reputation for benignity they're probably good for the market value :)
Except if the haunting is from a shifting foundation or something.
It look much less haunted with the new paint job.
Apparently Mrs. Ackley took the ghosts with her to Florida. See below.
Remember the words of Tom Adair as sung by Sinatra:
Let's take a kayak to Quincy or Nyack,
Let's get away from it all.
What could be more refreshing than a Revolutionary War ghost couple in a Victorian Mansion?
By the way, Mrs. Ackley moved to Florida and said that she was taking the ghosts, Sir George and Lady Margaret, with her. I wonder how they like the warmer climate. Florida is creepy, but not in a ghostly way.
Ghosts can bifurcate afaik.
I love that house. I'd take it. Ghost and all.
Even though I don't believe in ghost!
Well apparently the ghosts have gone South, literally and figuratively, so you would be quite safe.
There's something quite charming about old Victorian houses. The rooms were large and comfortable with lots of windows. There were many of them in Providence when I was teaching at Brown—even a whole street of restored colonial houses. A woman named Antoinette Downing had the brilliant idea of putting a plaque on restored houses telling when and by whom they were built. Very shortly after she started, it became a thing to have one of those plaques and people spent a lot of money for the prestige. A movie company used one street because of its authenticity and ironically the plaques had to be removed temporarily.
This site gives you a look at the interior of the house.