If you watch a lot of scary movies, it may seem like everyone who buys a new house is in danger of moving into someplace haunted—and who knows, they just might be! After all, a 2019 analysis by realty website Zillow found that only four states had laws on the books regarding the disclosure of reported paranormal activity on the premises. Only a few more than that—nine states in all—had laws surrounding the disclosure of a death in the house.
This is partly to protect sellers from the risks of disclosing property facts that could cause “stigma” or “psychological impact.” In this case, that describes any detail about the home’s past that is not considered germane to the quality or safety of the structure itself, yet might nevertheless predispose potential buyers against it. Those pesky poltergeists, for example, or the fact that the home was the site of a suicide or a gruesome slaying.
Some realtors nonetheless take it upon themselves to inform a potential buyer, even if state law doesn’t require it of them. The code of ethics of the National Association of Realtors doesn’t address the issue directly, but it does suggest that realtors are obliged to look out for the best interests of their clients. “We interpret that as if we know, you should know,” Mark Ryan, a real estate broker with Remax, told news site Dayton 24/7 Now in 2019.
For the most part, however, these laws (or lack thereof) protect sellers, not buyers. If a buyer really wants to know the history of their potential new dream home, they often have to take it upon themselves, doing some internet sleuthing into their future address or simply asking the neighbors. There’s even a whole website dedicated to just that. For a fee, DiedInHouse.com claims to do a background check and report any deaths, suicides, and even hauntings in a house’s history to concerned buyers.
Of course, some homeowners might be happier not knowing what happened in the place before they bought it. Even for those who don’t consider themselves superstitious, it may be hard to look at your new kitchen the same way if you know that it was the scene of a grisly murder, granite countertops be damned.
Here are a few real-life stories of buyers and renters learning that they are living in the same space where someone else lost their life.
“You Left Someone Behind”
“I saw a ghost in my mom’s house in 2004,” Reddit user U-94 reported, “really bad experience. Anyway, a couple of years ago my mom saw a woman taking pictures of the house from the street. She asked her what she was doing and the lady replied that her family used to live there.”
When the poster’s mother joked that they “left someone behind” when they moved out, “the lady was like ‘Oh that’s probably Uncle so-and-so.’” With a name to go on, the poster did some online sleuthing, eventually finding out that the uncle in question had died in the house in 1998. That didn’t help as much as the poster might have wanted, though. “Having a name, identity to target the ghost doesn’t really ease my anxiety when I visit my mom over the holidays.”
An Arizona Murder Spree
According to reporting from the Daily Independent in Peoria, Arizona, an unidentified couple moved from the United Kingdom to the Phoenix suburb of Fountain Hills. At the time, they had no idea that their home was the site of a double homicide, part of a six-death murder spree that had shaken the community in 2018.
The couple said that they only found out about the murders from their neighbor. However, they decided to stay and stick it out, calling the neighborhood “very friendly.” They stated further, “After fully understanding the events that occurred we have accepted that it was not a random event and as the perpetrator is dead we feel safe that our home is not a target and we are happy living here.”
Not Necessarily the Best Way to Find Out
“I found out after our offer was accepted that there has been a death in the house we are buying,” Reddit user gem__fish posted, asking if anyone else had ever bought a home where there had been a death. “We got the keys yesterday and the previous owners left a ouija board behind and it really rubbed me the wrong way.”
Though the previous owners may have just had a dark sense of humor, many of the commenters agreed that it was a creepy move, and overall a bigger concern than the undisclosed death in the house.
“Pretty Messed Up”
Accounts of people who discovered that their homes were the scene of violence or death range from the prosaic to the incredible—or simply the difficult-to-credit. “Not me, but close friend of mine,” commented Reddit user Mortimer452. “Apparently, the previous owner committed suicide by hanging himself from the eave on the peak of the roof, right in front of his girlfriend, who was tied up in a chair in front of a picture window and forced to watch it happen. Neighbor is the one who cut him down from the roof before the school bus came through to pick up kids. Pretty messed up.”
As commentator TwistyTurret pointed out in the same thread, “This sounds suspiciously like the makings of an urban legend.” Speaking of urban legends, “Apparently a suspected witch had a farmhouse on the land where my apartment now stands,” Reddit user harlynnannette claimed. “That might explain the old woman standing over people’s beds at night.”
Not Everyone Minds
“The house I spent most of my childhood in was one that a woman died in,” Redditor Typick said. “It really had no bearing on what a good house it was.” The comment was posted in a thread asking users if they would buy a house where someone had died. Many pointed out that people dying peacefully in their homes was once a common occurrence, and that more homes than we realize probably had a former occupant perish in them.
“When I was little I slept on the bed that my great grandpa died on in the room that he and my great grandma died in,” user myrddinwylltemrys replied. “Death doesn’t bother me.”
Featured photo: Dan Meyers / Unsplash