I do not know when I subscribed to a newsletter from a legal site called LegalZoom. Normally I send such newsletters to the trashbin but the subject of this mail caught my attention.
That being: As a home seller, are you obligated to disclose paranormal activity?
This is what LegalZoom advices.
In New York, a buyer sued the seller and the seller’s realtor for failure to disclose the house’s ghostly reputation. The seller even wrote about her bumps in the night with spirits for the local paper and Readers’Digest…….Although the court did not rule nondisclosure of the house’s reputation as fraudulent, it did allow the buyer out of his contract and the return of his down payment.
……According to a study by two business professors at Wright University, the supernatural stigma associated with houses where murder or suicide have occurred can take 50% longer to sell, and at an average of 2.4 percent less than comparable homes. Yet, a California appraiser, who specializes indiminution in value issues, says that a well publicized murder generally lowers selling price 15 to 35 percent.
…………..Sellers should disclose grisly facts about the house, so they will not be “haunted” later. Even if not required by state law, in order to soothe the spirits of prospective buyers and avoid lawsuits, the seller should be upfront about their home’s paranormal guests or ghoulish histories.
Hmm. Now the piece above obviously relates to the United States. The story I am going to tell you is about a house in India. In an old area of Kolkata.
My uncle used to stay there. Still does as a matter of fact. I had noticed several times that the imposing, ancient three-storeyed building that stood in an adjacent lot to my uncle’s was quite a bit different from the surrounding houses. Simply because in an area with an extremely high population density, the three storied building was surprisingly empty. No lights came on in the evening, no sounds emanated from it and there it stood, a sole sombre somewhat eerie presence out-of-place in a well-populated, bustling community.
Such houses are not rare in Kolkata—often these are houses caught in a property dispute between brothers, wasting away under a court order for decades. What usually happens to these places is that they get encroached upon, the local CPM goondas breaking through the ground floor windows and converting it into a ‘club house’—-an euphemism for a den of iniquity. Therein also this house was unique—-not even the local ruffians had appropriated it for their law-abiding, leftist activities.
So I asked my uncle the story behind this. My uncle, who is a very pragmatic and definitely not the yarn-spinner-type told me the history of that place (this story has been corroborated by other people in my uncle’s family). About 50 years ago when my uncle was a teenager, the house was owned by a middle-aged man, a recluse who never socialized with the neighbours, kept to himself and was reputed to have a murderous temper. In his house lived only one other person, a widow Bramhin cook.
She was rather strange too. She also almost never came out except sometimes, she would open the second floor window and try talking to my uncle’s mother. Always whispering, never quite making sense, the widow Bramhin cook would speak of unspeakable horrors going on in the house and how she will one day be killed. My uncle’s mother was rather distraught but desisted from interfering because the old man had a very nasty reputation. Plus she never quite understood why if she was really so afraid of her life did not the Bramhin lady just leave. She and the others in the locality were convinced: the Bramhin lady was not quite right up-there.
Then one day right after Durga Pujo and before Kali Pujo, my uncle’s mother was in the yard (uthon as Bengalis call it) when the second floor window opened again. The Bramhin lady was again whispering but this time my uncle’s mother was really startled. According to her, she had never seen such naked terror in anyone’s eyes. The lady kept whispering ” He will kill me tonight. I am positive.” My uncle’s mother asked my uncle’s father if they should do anything about it and he brushed it off—-why get involved in the affairs of those crazy people who lived next door.
And then it happened. At around late evening, my uncle and the whole locality rushed out of their houses—responding to anguished death-screams. What he saw he said he would never forget. The Bramhin lady had come running out of the door, her whole body on fire, her screams echoing through the night. She died within seconds.
The police came, asked some questions, put the official verdict as ‘suicide’—-not surprising that the death of a poor widow was not worth spending too much time upon especially since a gentleman was in question.
Tongues had started wagging of course and soon the gentleman just locked up the house and vanished. And so the house stayed for many years. Some over-imaginative people heard screams in the night or people moving about—but then again, they were over-imaginative. But the fact remained that noone came to stay there and it acquired quite a ‘reputation’.
Cut to the early 80s. One day, a newly married couple turn up to rent the first floor of the house. The whispers were that the couple had possibly eloped (since living without in-laws still raised eyebrows in the early 80s) and thus, hard of cash, had jumped at the idea of renting a place available for far below the market rate. My uncle used to talk to them frequently and his impression of them was that they were a very nice couple, a stark contrast to the people who used to live in that place many years ago.
The 80s were the days (and nights) of regular load-shedding or powercuts in Bengal. One night, during one such bout of load-shedding my uncle was in the living room when he heard blood curdling screams coming from the neighbouring house.
Rushing out, he saw something that was an almost an action replay of something that happened many many years ago.
The young wife was running out through the door, her sari and hair on fire, screaming for her life. By the time my uncles could douse the flames, she was dead.
Evidently, her husband had left in the evening to buy something leaving his wife alone. Since it was load shedding, she had lit candles and her synthetic sari had caught a draft , touched an open flame and then as synthetic saris are wont to do, adhered to her body as it started burning.
The only small problem in this story: there was no breeze that night.
Terror gripped the locality. The word was out—nobody, not even the encroachers, would come within an arm’s length of the house. Unlike in US, in India it is the neighbours who inform prospective buyers and renters: so no need for litigation. The owners of the property did a 48 hour continuous bhajan to ‘exorcise’ the place but noone was buying.
Ultimately, the house had to be totally destroyed and modern flats constructed before it could be sold again. No further incidents have been reported.
It was this article on LegalZoom which reminded me of this story and I just had to share it with my readers.
Please note, I have intentionally not mentioned any specifics of the locality. That is because I do not want to adversely affect the investments of those who have bought flats on that lot just because of two unfortunate events that happened at the same place. Better let sleeping dogs lie.
After all, as rational scientific beings, we all know that haunted houses and curses do not exist.