If you visit the rented townhouse where I live, and walk through the hallway leading to various bedroom doors, you'll see a small cloth dishmat lying in an apparently random location in the middle of the wall-to-wall beige carpeting.
But it's not random; that dishmat marks the spot where, if anything heavier than a mouse steps on it, the floor makes an annoyingly loud creaking noise guaranteed to awaken anybody sleeping in the nearby bedroom (and, in open-window weather, is even audible to the next-door neighbors living on the opposite side of the firewall).
I say this to remind you that any dwelling larger than a kid's plastic playhouse comes with its own soundtrack that gets steadily louder as the house grows older. Even when nobody's moving around and no water's flowing through faucets, there's still the sounds of foundations settling, boards or doors expanding in hot weather or contracting in cold – or, I suppose, you could blame all the ruckus on ghosts.
Gregory and Sandi Leeson are leaving toward the “ghost” theory to explain the sounds of their 113-year-old Victorian house in Dunmore, Penn. As Philly.com reports:
Between the mysteriously banging doors, the odd noises coming from the basement, and the persistent feeling that someone is standing behind them, homeowners Gregory and Sandi Leeson are thoroughly creeped out by their 113-year-old Victorian.
So when they put the house in northeastern Pennsylvania up for sale last month, they advertised it as "slightly haunted."
Then things got REALLY weird.
Unsurprisingly, their haunted real-estate listing resulted in plenty of calls from ghost-hunters and curiosity-seekers (as opposed to calls from actual potential buyers).
To be fair, though, Gregory Leeson was surely being tongue-in-cheek when he wrote a Zillow listing describing the house as “"Slightly haunted. Nothing serious, though"; alleged symptoms of haunting include seeing an “occasionally ghastly visage” in a mirror — which could be a ghost reference, but could also be a bit of self-deprecating humor.
A cynic might think the Leesons' “haunted” real-estate listing a deliberate attempt to drum up interest in an otherwise uninspiring home for sale, a theory strengthened by noting that Philly.com reports “If [the house] doesn't sell, Leeson said they might consider renting it out - by the night - to folks looking for spooky thrills.”
Yet it's equally possible that the Leesons were prudently protecting themselves from future lawsuits — specifically, from irate buyers who might sue them on the grounds that, “This house is haunted! Why didn't the sellers disclose that?”
Spooky but true
No joke. There have been actual American legal cases where home sellers were successfully sued for not disclosing a house's allegedly paranormal infestation — and I'm not talking about some old Colonial-era witch-hunt laws, either.
In 1991, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division ruled in Stambovsky v. Ackley that defendant Helen Ackley, who not only believed in ghosts but thought poltergeists might be infesting her home in the city of Nyack, should have disclosed this to Jeffrey Stambovsky when the latter bought her house.
And in 2009, a tourist from Taiwan tried suing the Venetian casino on the grounds that “feng shui sabotage” was responsible for his gambling losses.
Given that “feng shui home consultant” is an actual people-make-money-at-it job these days, you have to figure it's only a matter of time before some disgruntled mortgage-holder with buyer's remorse tries suing on the grounds of bad feng shui, too. So maybe home-sellers should disclose any quasi-mystic ghostly concerns they have, alongside more tangible disclosures like “The hot water heater needs replacement” or “sometimes the bathtub leaks.”