In regards to selling real estate, by law, the current owner is required to disclose any possible discrepancies with the property they intend to sell. This could range from a number of things depending upon the state, from insect infestations to whether the home for sale had ever had a murder in it.
Lately, it would seem, there have been strange property listings making their rounds on the internet, including one rental home listing that included the cryptic disclosure, “Don’t bother asking” about the occupant upstairs. Several online sleuths later uncovered that the mysterious figure inhabiting the upstairs of the home had been a down on his luck artist, but that didn’t stop many people online from speculating about ghosts and other things that go bump in the night.
While in this instance the occupant turned out not to be a ghost, in 1990, one homeowner found themselves in legal hot water for not revealing to their buyer that the house they were purchasing came with a few roommates.
Helen and George Ackley purchased a home in Nyack, New York sometime in the late 1960s. The sprawling three-story Victorian manor located on the Hudson River was somewhat of a dream home for the Ackleys when they moved in. It wasn’t until several months later that the Ackley’s realized that there was something a little off about the rundown old mansion.
According to a story published in Reader’s Digest in 1977, Mrs. Ackley would regularly be awoken to her bed being violently shaken when it was time to get her children off to school. Mrs. Ackley would have to remind the entity during the summer months and spring break that the children did not have school and the entity that inhabited the home would let her be.
Other phenomena described in the home was the leaving of gifts. Small rings and coins would be left for the children and Mrs. Ackley, herself, by the spirits they believed to be haunting their house. While the apparitions did not seem malicious, according to the Ackleys, hearing conversations from beyond the grave and the odd happenings in the home were enough to leave them slightly on edge.
After the Ackley’s went public with their story – both to Reader’s Digest and in several local newspaper articles – the home became somewhat of a local legend. New York, having a rich historical background, is considered to be one of the most haunted states in the country. This local lore later gave birth to ghost tours of various haunted locations within the area, including the Ackley’s Victorian Manor.
In 1989, after living in the home for nearly 40 years, the Ackleys decided to sell the house. Unfortunately, their realtor did not reveal to their buyer that the home was considered to be a haunted landmark.
In one of the strangest cases in US history, the supreme court of New York ruled in Stambovsky v. Ackley that by going public multiple times with information on the home being haunted, the Ackleys could not legally claim that the home wasn’t haunted and they were bound by law to reveal that information to any potential buyers.
The so-called “Ghostbusters Ruling” did not determine whether or not the home was haunted, rather, it assumed this based on the homeowners’ own public claims that it came with ghostly inhabitants. It was officially ruled that the relator was legally obligated to disclose the home’s reputation. Due to New York property laws at the time, the buyer was not eligible to receive compensation for damages but they were awarded their initial deposit on the home.
Today, the Ackley home is touted as the only “legally haunted” house within the US. While this exactly true, the case continues to be one of the most interesting rulings in property law.