The Skinwalker Ranch in the Uintah basin is now owned by billionaire Robert Bigelow and has now become a paranormal testing facility because of its history as a haunted dwelling. Not much is known about the Ranch thanks to the successful sanitizing of the story on many talk shows.However, when Ground Zero first got the news from then Deseret News Reporter Zack Van Eyk about the ranch the story sounded as if it were ripped out of the Poltergeist movies.
Terry Sherman and his wife actually took over the house after it had been vacant for months. The previous owners had passed away. They wanted a quiet place where they could get away from it all. They had no idea what they were in for. The problems began with simple UFO and Orb sightings at the ranch, the appearance of very large upright walking wolves and both Terry and his wife Gwen also saw what appeared to be giant bald dark men with huge muscular builds on the ranch.
It was later that they realized that the cattle on their ranch were being torn apart by these huge black predators.
Then came the poltergeist activity, the violent activity in the home. There was also a report from Investigator Ryan Layton that the thing that convinced them that they should leave the home is that one night both Terry and Gwen awoke to find that they were both sleeping in blood drenched sheets.
When I am faced with the idea of talking about haunted houses there is often a tendency to go straight for the sensational angle of playing, Electronic Voice Phenomenon trying to snap pictures or video. This of course is all part of the showmanship and many people need to see or hear it to believe it. The best thing is experiencing it.
There have been a lot of people that I have talked to over the years about how their houses are haunted and while they say they don’t mind their restless haint, they most certainly wish that they were made aware of the ghost prior to buying, and of course the sordid details of why the ghost is there in the first place.
Most real estate laws require sellers to disclose “material facts” such as structural concerns, the age and condition of the roof and shingles, leaks in the foundation and walls, existing mold and mildew, and total square footage. Material facts can also include other items that affect the house’s value such as the amount of property taxes, details about individuals who claim to have an interest in the house, or overlaps on adjacent properties.
Items not considered material facts include personal information about a seller, such as pending foreclosure or divorce, illnesses of the seller, and the seller’s reasons for moving. What if the seller’s reason for moving involves the paranormal?
In my old neighborhood there was a house that was haunted by the ghost of a little girl. The girl’s face would sometimes appear in the window and the couple who lived there also claimed that there were times when the little girl would make the bed and even clean the house.
While this seems to be atypical even for a ghost they wanted to rent their home but the tenants would not remain. They would complain about knocking and broken items. The ghost apparently liked the original owners but detested the others who would come in.
For some time the place was rented out to a practicing witch. She was not a traditional witch and the entire house was decorated with all sorts of religious iconography, including artifacts and icons used in Santeria rituals and a room that was changed without permission into a mediation room covered in pages from the bible and other apocryphal texts.
Needless to say the house was becoming a breeding ground for paranormal hijinks and soon the original owner’s husband an eye doctor came to me and said that he was going to sell the house because he was getting a divorce. He needed the house exorcised of all restless spirits.
It was a task that wasn’t all that easy and from what I understand the ghosts never left the home and whenever I would see the new owner he would ask me questions about some the things that went on there.
I had to disclose that while I was unaware of any satanic activity, the home was pretty much clean. He then disclosed to me that it was never disclosed to him that a young girl had hanged herself in the upstairs room on a pipe in the closet. The girl had found a very pretty night gown brushed her hair and put on makeup. She then took a blanket that she always slept with tied it around the pipe and hanged there for days before her mother found her.
This type of story is all too typical. There are many realtors that overlook a traumatic event in a home because in reality deaths happen in homes every day. It is nothing out of the ordinary to hear of deaths that happen in homes. However if there seems to be some sort of traumatic event wouldn’t it be a courtesy to be informed in case there are paranormal activities that seem to be manifesting because of the event?
Must a seller disclose whether their property is haunted? Or if a horrible crime, murder, or suicide occurred on the property?
According to information provided by Legal Zoom, the Association of Realtors of California addressed the issue of death disclosure requirements. Civil Code ¤1710.2 states death on a property need not be disclosed if it occurred more than three years prior to the sale. The statute does require disclosure of a death more than three years old if the buyer asks. Many brokerage firms have supplemental disclosure forms that specifically inquire about death.
To avoid liability, it is recommended the seller disclose a death if it occurred within the last three years and let the buyer decide. Some states have even gone further requiring home sellers to disclose “stigmas” attached to a property, which can include proximity to homeless shelters and if it was the scene of a violent crime.
In a famous 1991 New York case, a buyer sued the seller and the seller’s Realtor for failure to disclose the house’s ghostly reputation. Prior to putting the house up for sale, the seller wrote about her bumps in the night for the local paper and Readers’ Digest, but the buyers were unaware of the home’s reputation. Although the court did not rule nondisclosure of the house’s reputation as fraudulent, it did allow the buyer to back out of his contract and get his down payment back.
According to a study by two business professors at Wright University, 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. A California appraiser who specializes in diminution in value issues says that a well-publicized murder generally lowers selling price 15 to 35 percent.
In South Carolina paranormal activity, does not have to be disclosed by a seller, but it must be revealed if the buyer asks. If this is something that is of concern then perhaps it may be something to ask when buying a home or even renting one.
There are some who will say that the whole idea is silly and superstitious. They firmly believe that there is nothing supernatural to worry about and that the thought of disclosure is a waste of time. Whether or not ghosts exist, the laws in some states may hold home sellers responsible for disclosing rumors of haunting, and it’s important for sellers to be aware of those requirements.
There is also the old axiom “buyer beware” because while there are “material artifacts” that may ruin the experiences at home, the spiritual feeling and cognitive resonance is very important.