Happy Halloween! Although I've never seen a ghost, I have had a ghost-like experience. Today seems like a good day to share it with you.
A STIGMATIZED PROPERTY
The ad said: Three bedrooms, two baths, brick ranch on level lot, with a garage and fenced backyard. Move-in ready. Priced to sell.
We pulled into the driveway, looked at each other and smiled. The house was everything we were looking for--and at a bargain price. My husband climbed out of the car and followed our agent around the outside perimeter to check the structure while I went inside to inspect the living area.
I stepped through the front door and was immediately struck by two things. The beautiful hardwood floors made a striking first impression. The atmosphere of the room, however, felt oppressive. Although it was a hot day, a chill swept through me.
As I toured the house, my unease grew. The master bedroom had a great view of the backyard, but something about the room made me apprehensive. I backed out and crossed the hall to the guest room. It was smaller and cozy, but the tension in my shoulders and the chill in my bones remained.
The bright, cheerful space of the third bedroom drew me in with its colorful artwork. The neutral tones of the rest of the house were at odds with this room. This room was unique. It had obviously been a nursery, and it was adorable. As I stood there admiring the hand-painted pictures, I thought I heard the muffled mew of a cat, or maybe it was a wounded animal. It almost sounded like a baby's cry. I cocked my head to listen and heard it again. I opened the closet and found it empty. It sounded like it was in the room with me, but maybe it was coming from under the house. Something to check out before we left.
As I stood there, a vague sense of sadness enveloped me. I wasn't sure why I suddenly felt so despondent, but the feeling grew stronger with each passing moment. I had the strangest thought that if I stayed in that room another minute, I'd lose myself completely to the feeling.
I felt lightheaded, nauseous, and cold, but at the same time, my skin felt as if it was on fire. I stumbled from the room, hurried down the hall to the kitchen and stopped at the sink to splash water on my face. I stood, and the excess ran down my face and onto my blouse. The voices of my husband and our agent drifted through the closed kitchen door as they entered the attached garage. He sounded upbeat. I could tell he liked the house by the tone of his voice. I smiled and pushed my ominous feelings aside, silently chiding myself for being silly. I decided I must be coming down with the flu or a nasty bug or something.
I turned around with my back pressed against the sink and waited for them to enter the kitchen via the closed door to the garage. As I stood there, I studied the opposite wall. Something about the color of the wall looked odd. It was darker than the rest of the room. The paint looked as if an amateur had attacked it with a stiff brush to glob on a thick layer of color instead of the smooth, professional finish of the other rooms.
I walked over to the wall and reached out to touch it. When my fingertips made contact with the surface, a sharp pain stabbed the center of my chest. I gasped for breath and leaned forward with my hands on my knees as my husband and the agent entered the room.
"Are you okay?" My husband rushed to my side and grabbed my arm to steady me.
The pain was gone, I straightened and looked up at him. The sadness I had felt earlier hit me again with an emptiness so intense it brought tears to my eyes. I blinked them away, nodded, and turned to stare at our agent. The woman stared back at me, her forehead furrowed with concern.
I'm not sure how I knew, but at that moment I was certain there was something about the house she hadn't told us. Something sinister. It was a beautiful property, but something was very wrong. I could feel it.
"What's the story about this house?" I blurted out. "Where are the previous owners? Why is the price so far below market value?"
She lowered her eyes from my accusing stare and looked everywhere except at me. Her gaze still averted, she finally spoke.
"Tennessee sellers aren't required to disclose a property's history," she said. "Disclosure requirements are for property conditions or defects only. It isn't necessary to volunteer information about stigmatized properties. But--"
"What do you mean by "stigmatized" property," I interrupted. I had never heard the term.
She took a deep breath and said, "You know. Things such as murders, suicides, hauntings, and the like, but since you specifically asked I'll tell you what I've heard."
"Go on," I said. The woman was beginning to get on my last nerve.
"Well," the agent said, "the house may be, uh, slightly haunted."
"Slightly haunted?" I laughed. The sound was more of a derisive smirk than an expression of amusement. "You're joking!"
She shrugged, shook her head, and then proceeded to tell us about the young father who shot his girlfriend while she was holding their baby. It had happened in the kitchen. Mother and child were killed instantly with one bullet. The father turned the gun on himself. All three bodies were found lying in front of the blood-splattered wall where we stood.
Attempts to rent the house resulted in complaints about strange crying sounds in one of the bedrooms or loud firecrackers going off at odd times or cold spots that were impossible to heat. The owner (grandmother of the father), unable to deal with the tragedy and ongoing reports of unusual happenings, walked away and left the property to be repossessed by the bank.
Our agent called it a Stigmatized Property. I still refer to it as The Murder House. Call me superstitious if you must, but we passed on the bargain dream home that day. I've heard the house is currently on its fifth owner since the tragedy.
What would you have done? Would you have purchased the house?