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The Legally Haunted House & The Ghostbuster Ruling

This circa-1890 Victorian style home looks nothing short of idyllic. Perched right on the Hudson River in Nyack, New York, this dwelling hides a very bizarre secret. The abode has five bedrooms, three bathrooms and three poltergeists. Yes, this picturesque home is haunted and has even been legally declared haunted in a court case – the first of its kind, in fact.

‬‪For over 20 years, Helen and George Ackley and their children called this eerie house “home.” In 1977, Helen went to the Reader’s Digest to relay some odd occurrences they had experienced over the years. ‬

The first time Helen knew there was a hidden entity sharing her home was back the late 60s. She was on top of a ladder painting her living room ceiling when she glanced towards the fireplace and saw a man. The elusive figure had white hair and was wearing a colonial-style suit and a white shirt with puffy cuffs. “He was rocking back and forth but there wasn’t a chair. I told him I hoped he liked what we’re doing to the house and I hoped he liked the color. He smiled at me and nodded. I took that to mean that he was glad,” she recalled.1

“I feel comforted by their presence. I feel protected. You’ve got to enjoy a house like this,” said Helen. She said that over the years, the family saw three separate apparitions, all of whom were dressed in Revolutionary-period clothing. None of the paranormal experiences inside the home could be considered terrifying. The poltergeists were friendly and even generous.

On several occasions, including one daughter’s wedding and a granddaughter’s christening, the kind-natured spirits left little gifts of silver or gold rings on the bedside tables. “They left gifts. My two older granddaughters received rings. We had scoured the area shopping for baby rings, and we couldn’t find anything. Then we found a baby ring on the table in one bedroom. It fit perfectly. The same thing happened with the second child,” said Helen.2

In addition to the gifts, the ghostly guests would shake Helen’s children’s beds to get them up in time for school each morning. During the school breaks, they announced the night before that there was no school the following day and then the ghosts would allow them to sleep in.

‬When the taxes became too much, Helen was forced to sell the unique home, much to her dismay. She didn’t mention the haunting to her buyer, Jeffrey M. Stambovsky, who had agreed to purchase it for $650,000. He put down a $32,500 deposit. However, he soon discovered that the house was supposedly haunted after a local architect said to him: “Oh, you’re buying the haunted house…”3 Jeffrey took Helen to court in an attempt to get their deposit back.

The New York appellate court declared that the house was haunted “as a matter of law.” Ultimately, Jeffrey settled for half of his deposit back and left the haunted mansion for good. Helen had no problem selling her house afterwards.

The case became known as the “Ghostbusters Ruling,” and was later taught in U.S. law school classes. It even forced the Connecticut State Legislature to enact a law requiring owners to tell potential buyers if ghosts were present in the home before selling it. Some states have a long list of stigmas that must be reported to potential buyers. They range from murders and suicide to sex crimes and drug activity.

The new owners never reported any paranormal activity after they moved in but there’s probably a reason for that: During the lawsuit against Helen, she announced that when she moved from the haunted home along the Hudson River, she would be taking the ghosts with her!‬

Footnotes:

  1. The Record, 25 March, 1990 – “Ghosts with River View”
  2. San Francisco Chronicle, 29 March, 1990 – “Judge Not Spooked by Buyers’ Claim”
  3. The Orlando Sentinel, 20 July, 1991 – “Unreal Estate Court Says House is Haunted”

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