17 Oct

The Case of the Real (and Legally) Haunted House

Everyone knows that neglecting home improvements can diminish a property’s value. But what if it’s the work of the spirit world that’s causing you selling problems?

The Ackley Family

Nestled next to the Hudson River is a large Victorian house, known as 1 LaVeta Place. In 1990 this home in Nyack, New York was the centre of a one-of-a-kind case, now widely known as the Ghostbusters Ruling.

The couple Helen and George Ackley had lived in this house since the 1960s – but they were not alone! They claimed that family members would be woken up by shaking beds, moved by unseen hands. Mrs. Ackley described in an interview that she had once asked a ghost for approval when painting the living room, for which she received an approving nod – and it’s not every day you get interior design advice from a phantom! Despite the supernatural goings-on, the Ackleys lived in peace with their ghostly tenants, and didn’t think it necessary to mention them when it came time to sell the home.

The Ghostbusters Ruling

Fast forward to 1990, and Jeffrey Stambovsky had placed a large down payment of over $32,000 dollars on the house, unaware of the local stories of the ‘haunted house on the Hudson’. But these spooky stories didn’t stay secret for long and soon reached the ears of Mr. Stambovsky, who decided to back out of the contract. The only issue was – he wanted his deposit back which the Ackleys refused to refund.

Left with no alternative, Stambovsky took the matter to court, leading to a case that would go down in estate law history. Stambovsky claimed that the real, or apparent, presence of spirits would affect his ability to resell the property in the future. He demanded that the contract be repealed, that his deposit be refunded and that damages be paid to himself due to these facts being left unmentioned during negotiations.

Stambovsky’s case was initially dismissed. However, he appealed against the decision and in 1991 the New York court ruled that the house was legally haunted, and that the sellers must, by law, reveal the presence of the otherworldly residents to all future buyers. The haunted state of the property was ‘proved’ by the multiple statements from the owners themselves through past articles and interviews. Ultimately, the judge’s ruling was one of compromise and Stambovsky got half of his deposit back.

The Stambovsky vs. Ackley case is certainly a unique one, but it still managed to give 1 LaVeta Place an impressive title of the first ever legally haunted house in America. So, if your For Sale home has things going bump in the night, you may find yourself needing the services of a paranormal investigator as well as an estate agent.

Whilst our team cannot provide exorcisms or seances, here at Hitchcock & King we are able to offer a wide range of building and decorating equipment to customers across the London area and beyond. With over 40 years’ experience as timber merchants and suppliers of building materials, we have helped both domestic and commercial clients find the resources they need to get their projects off the ground. Give your local branch a call to find out more.