Ghost

3BR, 2BA, 1

Realtors, homeowners wonder how to handle a house that may come with an otherworldly feature

October 26, 2008|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,Special to The Baltimore Sun

This time of year, it's not too unusual to have a ghost in your house. It's probably made of porcelain or paper, and next month it will get stored away along with the fake spider webs, the pumpkin-shaped candleholders and other Halloween trappings - not to be seen again until next October rolls around.

But some ghosts are not so manageable.

Generally, home buyers are preoccupied with things like school districts, closet space and room size; ghosts are not typically on the list of concerns, and many don't believe they exist in the first place. But plenty of people have purchased homes only to find out upon moving in that someone or something is already there - and has no plans to leave.

Take the case of Melanie Carter, who moved into a newly built Germantown townhouse nine years ago and slowly realized something was amiss.

The home's intercom system would turn itself on and off. She'd hear loud pops coming from her stereo speakers. Her son's toys would turn on by themselves. At first she tried to explain away these occurrences as electrical problems. But over time, the oddities increased.

She would repeatedly hear a hysterical-sounding woman in her hallway, moving toward her son's room, which would wake him up and make him cry. Her rocking chair would rock on its own. Just recently she felt a person caressing her arm while she was trying to fall asleep. She says her neighbors have also seen ghostlike figures in their homes.

"I can't afford to move," Carter says. "Right now I'm just trying to live the best I can."

There are two cemeteries on either side of her development, and after moving in, local residents told her that at one time the entire area was a cemetery, though she's not sure if that's true. Carter called in some paranormal investigators who told her she had numerous ghosts. One investigator told Carter that she heard a man say, "I've been here since 1871 and I'm not going anywhere."

Carter feels that if she could prove there are still bodies buried on the property, she might be able to take legal action. But she can't afford to hire an excavator and she's not up to the task of grabbing a shovel and digging up her yard in search of corpses. Carter also questions whether an attorney would believe her and take the case; in any event, she can't afford to hire one.

There is no law that explicitly requires sellers in Maryland to disclose that a property might be haunted. In fact, state law leans the other way. One statute specifically states that a seller is not required to tell potential buyers that a death - even a murder - occurred in a home.

"The issue of ghosts has absolutely never come up in my practice," says Herbert Burgunder III, a real estate attorney in Baltimore's Mount Washington neighborhood. "But it raises an interesting question."

Disclosure laws in Maryland changed in 2005 to become more strict, he says. In the past, a seller could sell a home "as is" and not be required to disclose any defects. But now, even sellers who are making no claims to a home's condition must sign a disclosure form that lists the property's "latent defects."

This was intended to protect buyers from unknowingly buying a house that, say, always floods during a storm - because the inspection might be held on a clear day when the defect would not be evident. But Burgunder says there's a chance someone could try to apply the rule to paranormal activity.

"I think it depends on some particular facts or circumstances, but I'd say it's highly unlikely," Burgunder says. "You'd have to prove, one, that the seller knew there was a ghost and didn't disclose it. Two, you'd have to prove that it was in fact a latent defect, and three, that it did threaten the health and safety of the purchasers. I think it'd be a very difficult case to prove."

With little to no legal recourse and an economy that makes selling a house challenging, those who might have paranormal roommates are left to pursue other options. Some decide to just live with it. Others have the house blessed, or demand that the ghost leave. If these things don't work, some people call an expert - a cleanser.

Nancy L. Fox is one such expert. She is an "intuitive psychic" and one of her services - in addition to astrology, dream interpretation and meditation - is ridding homes of spirits. She won't discuss in detail her methods for fear of novices trying them and making things worse. But basically, Fox says, she calls on devas, which she describes as "angelic equivalents to earth beings," to help spirits move on. Fox, who lives near Linthicum, charges about $300 for her cleansing services, which take several hours.

"It creates a portal for these beings to leave and to go back to source, to God," she says. "And to go so completely that they can't return."

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