Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

More Haunted Crime Scenes

Ghost For Sale

Despite the popularity of haunted items on auction sites such as eBay, along with the enormous price something like a haunted cane might bring, realtors say that it's difficult to sell a home in which a crime has occurred, particularly if it then gains a reputation for being haunted by the victim. For example, on the site, aolrealestate.com, it was noted that the Chicago home where a federal judge's husband and mother were murdered sold for more than $140,000 less than its listing price. That was more than 15% off its worth, in a hot market.

Accordingly, the National Association of Realtors assists its members with "stigmatized property." In some states, in fact, if a property is alleged to be haunted, the seller must disclose this fact. In 1991 in New York, purchasers were allowed out of the deal when they learned that the property was reputed to have ghosts.

The Simpson House
The Simpson House

In 34 states, any issue that could devalue the property must be disclosed, in particular a crime. Apparently a home in which a murder occurred is the most difficult type of property to sell. That problem would be magnified if several murders took place at different times — as if the property might have a curse or some kind of negative energy associated with it. A home in which someone committed suicide is second on the list of problems for realtors, and a reputedly haunted property is third. The trick is to disclose the unpleasant facts without losing an interested client — no small feat.

The Grave of Nicole Simpson
The Grave of Nicole Simpson

The four-bedroom Brentwood home where Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered is a case in point. When put up for sale in the glamorous area the year after the double homicide, the asking price was $795,000. No one bit, so it sat on the market for over two years. In the meantime, ghost hunters made plans for investigations and rumors arose that the property was haunted. (California is one of the disclosure states.) One claim, posted on the Web, was that sounds of a woman screaming had occurred in the condo before the murder (as if in ghostly anticipation), and afterward, people taking photographs found images that resembled both of the victims, especially in the tree leaves. The home finally sold for $595,000, far below the area's assessed value.

Even so, the home in which JonBenet Ramsey was murdered in Boulder, Colorado in 1996 has actually increased in value through three or four successive sales.

The Ramsey House
The Ramsey House

Yet even when such homes sell for close to asking price, they tend to stay on the market for much longer than other homes. As the incident recedes in people's memory, a sale becomes more viable.

But some people actually see value in such properties. Actor Jack Nicholson, for example, owns the homes where Roman Polanski allegedly raped an underage girl and where Christian Brando shot and killed his sister's boyfriend (not necessarily haunted). He holds onto them because they will rise in value as the scandals recede.

And not everyone will avoid stigmatized properties; some people hope for a home that comes with a ghost. However, they generally prefer a benign spirit said to watch over the place.

Besides houses, there are other types of haunted buildings.

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