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
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
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
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
"What's the story about this house?" I
blurted out. "Where are the previous owners? Why is the price so far below
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
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