In a number of states, there are laws on the books that make provision for the disclosure of hauntings in the course of home sales.
And then there’s this little oddity: what legal recourse, if any, do homeowners have if their home becomes haunted as a result of the actions of a guest?
I’m still waiting for an answer. . .
Peter Haining (1940-2007) was a British author who specialized in researching and chronicling paranormal events. The last book he completed before his death was an anthology of such: The Mammoth Book of True Hauntings was published posthumously in 2008.
The first section of this final work consists of a chronology of paranormal events, spanning the years 1900-2000, that Haining had collected from various newspapers. In 1980, he found a doozy in the January 6 edition of the Jacksonville Journal of Jacksonville, Florida.
A local couple–Haining gives their names, but I’m going to call them John and Jane–had, says the item, filed suit in local courts against the heirs of a deceased millionaire friend of theirs. The fifty-six-year-old had been visiting with the couple, ending his stay by shooting himself (most likely in a bedroom, although the item doesn’t specify). Thereafter, claimed the suit, the couple was terrorized by lights that flashed on and off without human intervention, water taps in the bathrooms and kitchen that gushed water without being turned on, doors that opened and shut themselves, and–the most frightening phenomenon–hair-raising screams that would wake the couple, dead on midnight.
The couple was asking for fifty thousand dollars for mental distress and physical discomfort related to the haunting.
The dead man’s lawyer, representing his heirs, said (direct quote from Haining, page 78), “I’ve heard of paying guests, but not paying ghosts. Even if it’s true that my dead client haunts the house, he has every right to spook where he pleases.”
Does the First Amendment cover that?
Unfortunately, Haining did not follow up on the case, and I haven’t been able to find any information about its settlement.
So I’m offering my attorney friends a chance to tell me: would you file this case and pursue it, or tell your clients to call a priest, a psychic, a team of paranormal investigators, or all three–because under the law their case was dubious, laughable, or unwinnable?
The chronicler rests. 😉