Skele­tons in the closet. Who you gonna call?

How­ever scep­ti­cal you may be about things that go bump in the night, re­search shows they can add up to a ma­jor headache when it comes to sell­ing a prop­erty

The Irish Times - Thursday - Property - - Front Page -

It’s the time of year when sub­scribers to the su­per­nat­u­ral be­lieve that the veil di­vid­ing our world from that of the spirit do­main is at its thinnest. But what hap­pens when the su­per­nat­u­ral moves in?

What­ever you may be­lieve, Re­al­, a ma­jor player in on­line real es­tate and whose par­ent com­pany Move Inc was pur­chased by News Corp for ¤950mil­lion in 2014, took the para­nor­mal se­ri­ously enough to pro­duce a re­cent pa­per en­ti­tled Haunted House Real Es­tate Survey.

The re­search found 30per cent of peo­ple sur­veyed would live in a haunted house and 28 per cent of re­spon­dents be­lieved they al­ready have – cit­ing ex­pe­ri­ences such as in­ex­pli­ca­ble noises, mov­ing ob­jects and macabre feel­ings within rooms.

In a land­mark 1991 Stam­bovsky v Ack­ley case in New York, Stam­bovsky – the buyer – sued the seller and agent, for not dis­clos­ing a prop­erty was haunted (and had been re­ported as such in na­tional me­dia), cit­ing it re­duced the value of the prop­erty. In an appeal, Stam­bovsky won the case which is of­ten re­ferred to as the Ghost­busters Rul­ing.

Cal­i­for­nia has even en­shrined it in leg­is­la­tion that prop­erty sell­ers must dis­close if a prop­erty is ‘stig­ma­tised’, ie, if it has been the site of a death or mur­der within the past three years. Un­sur­pris­ingly re­search has found that a prop­erty with a che­quered past can be dif­fi­cult to sell and carry up to a 20per cent price drop.

‘‘ While search­ing for the ideal room, he [pho­tog­ra­pher Tim Walker] re­marked he wouldn’t use the blue room as he didn’t want to dis­turb the old lady in the rocking chair

Lo­cal knowl­edge

There is no such rul­ing in Ire­land, al­though IPAV pres­i­dent Brian Dempsey of DNG says, “If you are asked the ques­tion and know the an­swer you must give it,” adding that “with such a large pur­chase as a house it’s a good idea to get lo­cal knowl­edge too, so ask neigh­bours or the lo­cal shop and pub – but do use a bias fil­ter.”

Dempsey re­calls an event at a Ge­or­gian house in Wick­low which left him with a chill he would never for­get: “I was with two prospec­tive buy­ers who had come to view the va­cant prop­erty. While view­ing, we came back around to find two doors which had pre­vi­ously been closed were sud­denly wedged open with door stop­pers. The three of us stood there aghast – there were no doubts in any of our minds that those doors had been closed, and it will stay with me for the rest of my life”.

David Byrne of Lis­ney re­calls how 20 years ago while clos­ing up a prop­erty af­ter an open view­ing, a woman re­marked on how there was an old gen­tle­man up­stairs. “I said ‘I thought ev­ery­one was gone’ and I would get the gen­tle­man, and tell him the view­ings were over. But the woman clar­i­fied she was a clair­voy­ant, and not only was there a man up­stairs but also an old woman in the sit­ting room be­low, and both were spir­its. I thought no more of it un­til a while later when a neigh­bour told me the sad tale of the cou­ple who had lived in that house­pre­vi­ously; they had not spo­ken in years, lived on dif­fer­ent floors and both died in the prop­erty. It sent a chill through me as it com­pletely echoed the clair­voy­ant’s ry.”

The Cope fam­ily has called Shankill Cas­tle in Co Kilkenny home since the 1990s, and Ge­of­frey Cope was fully aware of the leg­ends of haunt­ings as­so­ci­ated with the prop­erty when buy­ing.

Shankill Cas­tle is said to be haunted in­ter­nally by the ghost of Peter Ayl­ward since around 1708, and from the early part of the nine­teenth cen­tury the front lawn has been oc­cu­pied by a priest who was shot by the then owner .

Daugh­ter Sy­bil Cope re­calls grow­ing up at Shankill: “It was fine be­cause it was what I was used to, but friends re­fused to stay over. We used to get a lot of re­quests from para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors and we al­lowed four in over the years to record sto- the an­tics of the ghosts. To be hon­est I was a bit scep­ti­cal un­til we had pho­tog­ra­pher Tim Walker here to shoot a cover for Vogue magazine. While search­ing for the ideal room, he re­marked he wouldn’t use the blue room as he didn’t want to dis­turb the old lady in the rocking chair. I was taken aback as he de­scribed my grand­mother who had died the pre­vi­ous year.”

Cope has re­cently made the cas­tle’s ghosts work for their keep through their Scarefest event – where vis­i­tors can take spine-tin­gling tours through the cas­tle. See shankill­cas­

While there are a num­ber of com­mer­cial prop­er­ties in Ire­land cap­i­tal­is­ing on leg­ends of haunt­ings, the cur­rent own­ers of 112 Ocean Av­enue in Long Is- land, New York say they are haunted by the liv­ing.

Ami­tyville hor­ror

Their home was the site of the Ami­tyville hor­ror, where Ron­ald DeFeo butchered his fam­ily, and the Lutz fam­ily, who sub­se­quently pur­chased the house only lasted 28 days there – cit­ing the hor­rors of para­nor­mal ac­tiv­ity. The macabre tale was re­counted in the film of the same name, and the own­ers say the house has be­come some­thing of a pil­grim­age site for oc­cult-hooked vis­i­tors.

Not long ago it was cus­tom­ary in Ire­land to host a Catholic mass when a fam­ily or cou­ple moved into a prop­erty – to bless the house, but in re­cent years there has been a noted in­crease in de­mand for ex­or­cisms.

In 2011, the Catholic Church warned that a surge in Satanism, fa­cil­i­tated by the in­ter­net, has led to a sharp rise in the de­mand for ex­or­cism, and a six-day con­fer­ence on the sub­ject took place at the Regina Apos­tolo­rum Pon­tif­i­cal Univer­sity in Rome, Italy.

The Vat­i­can has been run­ning cour­ses on the ex­pul­sion of evil spir­its since 2004, and in 2013 the of­fi­cial ex­or­cist for the dio­cese of Rome; Fr Gabriele Ar­moth claimed that Emer­i­tus Pope Bene­dict XVI, “had done a lot for ex­or­cists” in­clud­ing host­ing a spe­cial au­di­ence for ex­or­cists dur­ing his ten­ure. Bene­dict shocked the world when he re­signed the same year – be­ing the first pope to do so in 600 years. There are three Catholic ex­or­cists in Ire­land who are called upon to ban­ish malev­o­lent spir­its, most no­tably Fr Pat Collins.

Rev Wil­liam Len­drum, a re­tired Church of Ire­land ex­or­cist, doc­u­mented his 30-year ca­reer flush­ing out evils spir­its from fam­ily homes in his book Con­fronting the Para­nor­mal – A Chris­tian Per­spec­tive. He de­scribes ex­or­cism “like a fire in your house that you have to put out”, and claims to have worked ex­ten­sively with pol­ter­geist ac­tiv­ity.

In 2015, the BBC re­ported on an ex­or­cism car­ried out on a house in Belfast by Rev Len­drum. Res­i­dent Tony Hamer­ton says he was plagued for 15 years by a dark cold pres­ence in the house, said to be con­nected with a tragic death in the prop­erty. Af­ter Rev Len­drum set the spirit free, Hamer­ton re­marked that it felt “like a mor- bid cloak was lifted off me”.

In China, Hun­gry Ghost Month, which is the sev­enth month of the Chi­nese lu­nar cal­en­dar, has sim­i­lar cul­tural tra­di­tions to Hal­loween. Su­per­sti­tions there have been found to have real life reper­cus­sions on prop­erty prices. A study con­ducted over a 10 year pe­riod by the Na­tional Univer­sity of Sin­ga­pore found that buy­ing a house dur­ing the month – which su­per­sti­tion dic­tates will be haunted for­ever – has re­alised dis­counts of up to 10per cent on house prices for savvy non-be­liev­ers.

How­ever scep­ti­cal you might be about skele­tons in the closet, things that go bump in the night and ghosts, they can add up to a ma­jor headache when it comes to sell­ing a prop­erty.


Above: Shankill Cas­tle is said to be oc­cu­pied in­ter­nally by the ghost of Peter Ayl­ward since around 1708; Far left: the own­ers of the Ami­tyville hor­ror house are still haunted by the story of Ge­orge and Kathy Lutz, the pre­vi­ous res­i­dents of 112 Ocean Av­enue; Left: The Gates to the Un­der­world open in the Chungyuan festival dur­ing Hun­gry Ghost Month.

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