(Image: Columbia Pictures)
In 1990, Helen Ackley put her lovely old home in Nyack, New York up for sale. Patrice and Jeffrey Stambovsky bought it. Then they learned something disturbing about the house: it was haunted.
The Stambovskys did not discover this fact by witnessing ghosts themselves. Rather, they learned that the house had a strong local reputation as haunted. In their assessment, this lowered the value of their home. Ms. Ackley should have disclosed this important piece of information, therefore they sued her.
In Stambovsky vs. Ackley, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York ruled that “as a matter of law, the house is haunted.” Ms. Ackley had failed to fulfill a legal requirement to inform the Stambovkys that the house was known to be haunted.
The ruling goes on to describe the problem that Ms. Ackley had created for the Stambovskys:
From the perspective of a person in the position of plaintiff herein, 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. Applying the strict rule of caveat emptor to a contract involving a house possessed by poltergeists conjures up visions of a psychic or medium routinely accompanying the structural engineer and Terminix man on an inspection of every home subject to a contract of sale. It portends that the prudent attorney will establish an escrow account lest the subject of the transaction come back to haunt him and his client — or pray that his malpractice insurance coverage extends to supernatural disasters. In the interest of avoiding such untenable consequences, the notion that a haunting is a condition which can and should be ascertained upon reasonable inspection of the premises is a hobgoblin which should be exorcised from the body of legal precedent and laid quietly to rest.