Can you see this?

Photo:  Reader's Digest, 1977.

I picked a movie theme for myself again this year.  Whereas last year was werewolves, this year I chose ghosts.  And though most of my posts won't relate to that, I did want to tell you a little about this nerdy ghosty thing.

If I name dropped a court case called Stambovsky v. Ackley you'd say "Snooooore.  If I wanted to watch Law & Order I'd... watch Law & Order." 

But what if I called the same case "The Ghostbusters Case?" 
You might perk up and say "Hm?  What's that now?  Was this on Law & Order?"

So come on along and I'll tell you a little tale of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir... but Mrs. Muir was actually Mrs. Ackley... and Mrs. Ackley got sued by Mr. Stambovsky... who wasn't a ghost...
Aw, just read on...


The year was 1977, and Reader's Digest came out with their May issue which contained a story by Helen Ackley called "Our Haunted House on the Hudson."  The tale told of Mrs. Ackley and her family's run-ins with three ghosts that lived in her Hudson Valley, New York home along the Hudson river.  (I've scanned my old water-stained copy of the article at the bottom of the post.)

The ghosts were peaceful, doing helpful and slightly mischievous things like shaking the bed every morning when it was time to wake up; and leaving gifts of coins and baby rings that would disappear later.  
Fast-forward to 1989-90. 
Mrs. Ackley wants to sell her house and move to Florida or Texas because the taxes are lower. 
She puts the house up for sale but, and here's where the crux of the case is, never mentions to the buyer of her house that it's haunted.

No "Oh by the way, the house is haunted."
Or "Be sure to tell the ghost what time you want to wake up."
Or "Hey listen, the walls don't bleed or anything but you may get random gifts of coins and baby rings that'll disappear.  From who?  Oh the ghosts in the house.  Gotta run!"

Enter Mr. Stambovsky.
The Stambovskys from NYC put a deposit down on the house and then, as they're getting ready to close the deal, find out from a handy-man or some such local that they're buying the 'haunted house.'

Zoom to court!

The Stambovskys beef is that they weren't informed that the house was haunted and should be allowed to legally back out of the deal and recoup their deposit.

The Ackley camp said that New York state has a caveat emptor (Latin: "let the buyer beware") policy and it's not their problem that the Stambovskys didn't do their research.

Though originally the Stambovskys lost, they appealed and the case went to the New York Supreme Court. 

This is where it gets interesting.

The NY State Supreme Court says that although the buyer SHOULD beware, there isn't much that can be done to discern that a house is haunted.  Back then, there was no "Googling" an address to see if a bunch of articles came up on the house being haunted. 

I'm getting ahead of myself.  I should back up and clarify for a moment:  A judge for the New York State Supreme Court said that a house, Mrs. Ackley's house, was legally haunted.

Actually Judge Rubin said: "... having reported their presence in both a national publication and the local press, defendant is estopped to deny their existence, and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted." 

This is completely awesome because a Judge said a house is LEGALLY haunted. 
That's a matter of public record. 
That's out there. 

To break it down a little further:  the judge said what he said because he wanted to get past it and get to the real issue of the case and that was that Mrs. Ackley didn't give up all the info. 

He's basically saying, "Look let's just agree that the house is haunted because the real problem here is something else."

Ghostbusters 2 The Scoleri brothers.

Again to break it down into layman's terms:  the Judge basically said 'Sure the buyer should beware, but when someone goes to buy a house, is he/she supposed to bring a plumber, architect, Terminix guy and a freakin' psychic to make sure the house is ok?  That's ridiculous.' 

But that's not where the fun stops. 

Judges... well judges get punchy. 
Think about it... they're sitting up there... listening to people talk all day... ARGUE all day.  Every once in a while they get to bang a gavel.  Not a heck of a lot of fun. 
So this judge, when writing up his decision, went a little kooky:

"(A) very practical problem arises with respect to the discovery of a paranormal phenomenon: 'Who you gonna call?' as a title song to the movie Ghostbusters asks"
Album cover, Ray Parkerk Jr.'s "Chartbusters."

So let's do a quick awesome tally:  On record, mind you, is a Judge referencing the movie Ghostbusters, Ray Park Jr.'s theme song, and decreeing that a house is legally haunted.

Bottom line:  The Stambovskys got their deposit back and didn't have to buy the house. 
The Ackleys sold the house to someone else and moved after all.  In fact, the house has sold a few times, most recently in 2021.  You can take a little digital tour of the inside thanks to Zillow HERE.

Sir George, The Ghost of Nyack book cover.

Well that's all fine and dandy for the human beings but what about the ghosts?

Well according to THIS link Helen was contacted by some paranormal researchers in Oregon who claimed to be able to contact the ghosts remotely. 

Long story short: the ghosts weren't having fun and moved on.  You can read up on the long-distance ghost-talking thing that took place in a book called "Sir George, The Ghost of Nyack" which you can buy HERE."  Written by those involved with the whole long-distance ghost talking-thing.

The end...? 

Just for fun, I thought I'd pop on the ol' Google Street View to see if I could see the house. 
Sure enough, there it is, still standing and looking magnificent, right along the Hudson River.  The clearest look at the house is from the Winter of 2013 (below).

Haunted House, Nyack, NY.  Photo:  Google Street View.

Interesting pieces of trivia:  the house is directly across the Hudson river from Sleepy Hollow, NY where we all know the ghost of the Headless Horseman roams.  

The bigger picture, and something to be learned from this case is this:  If you live in what's called in a "stigmatized property," and you're going to sell that property, AND, you live in a state with a duty to disclose such things... you'd better be upfront with what happened.  Not all houses are The Amityville Horror house with a longtime legend and film pedigree that everyone knows.  You can read an interesting little write-up on "stigmatized properties" and whether or not the state you're selling in has a duty to disclose HERE.

If you watched American Horror Story's 1st season you may remember the moment in the pilot that the real estate agent gave "full disclosure" and told the couple that there had been a few murders there.  She didn't say HOW MANY murders and totally disturbing things that had happened there, mind you... ("Oh by the way, there's a crazy gimp ghost in the house...").

So all this legal turmoil aside I ask you this dear readers: 

If you were buying a house would you WANT to know it was haunted BEFORE you bought it?  

Or would you consider that a bonus?

Maybe it depends on the ghost?  Sure we'd all want Casper, but what if we were stuck with The Shining ghosts?

Be careful what you wish for.  

You just...


Get it.

1 comment:

  1. Now that is quite a story! The haunted part was probably way less of a problem then those lawsuits!