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These brave souls love haunted houses and live in them.

A writer traveled across the country in search of ghosts. Surprisingly they were easy to find.

Homebuyers will overlook anything if they are passionate about home. Garish colors? We can paint them over. Tiny kitchen? That back wall will be blown out. Ghosts? Why not ghosts?

A 2018 poll by realtor.com revealed that a third of potential buyers would not hesitate to buy a haunted home if it was affordable, located in a desirable area, and had enough amenities. 18% said that a ghost was all they need. It’s ours!

Although lawyers may refer to haunted homes as “psychologically affected” or “stigmatized,” many people simply call them “home”. I traveled across the country to find people who consider ghosts to be part of their families. They were not difficult to find, surprising!

It’s not that I believe in ghosts. How then do I explain this strange event that has been haunting my mind for the past few months?

I was enjoying dinner with my wife, Carolyn, and her old friend, Mary, at a charming, century-old, Victorian home-turned-restaurant in historic Lewes, Delaware. We sat down at a table with four seats. As we were about to dig into our entrees, the bottle of wine we ordered began to slide across the table towards the empty chair.

The bottle continued to drift off the edge as we watched, with our forks resting halfway between our plates. Instead of falling, the bottle rose over the back of the empty chair and then fell gently to the ground with a dull thud, rather than a crash. We sat there, frozen forks in our hands, mouths open, eyes darting backward, and feet were still frozen.

Our stunning state was still intact when our server ran from across the room. She replaced the bottle on her table and she murmured, almost to herself: “It’s a ghost.”

It turned out that someone…or something… has been playing otherworldly pranks at the establishment for many years. Although it took some time for the staff and the owner to agree to share the property with the unseen entity, it was eventually reached. This seemed strange to me. However, as I began my search for haunted houses, I was amazed at how many people shared that same attitude.

Friendly ghosts

Thunder is rolling in the distance as a sprinkle falls from low-hanging clouds. As I wait for John Cooksey, his ghostly house, the atmosphere is perfect.

Hot Springs’ human history dates back to three millennia. Hot Springs Mountain is located behind the bathhouses. The 142-degree water attracts visitors from all walks of life, including the early Native Americans and the 1930s gangsters. Ghost stories about the town’s past hotels, violent speakeasies, and shady prostitutes are common.

Cooksey pulls up to his car, which is well stocked with tools from his many trades including videographer, local broadcaster, and real estate agent.

He tells me, “Actually I have two haunted homes,” as he heads out of downtown to the hills. “My wife, I live in one and we rent the other out, right next to it.”

It’s not difficult to reach there. They are not Victorian Addams Family mansions in the Addams Family-style, and they don’t have scary, eye-like windows like the Amityville Horror house. These are just two low-rise brick homes, with struggling lawns and trash bins at the front.

As we enter the couple’s kitchen through a side door, Cooksey informs Annie, “This is Bill.” Annie nods as if she has been told that a man is here to discuss the plumbing.

She asks, “Did he tell you about the smoke?” “That was…interesting.”

I heard of the mysterious late-night footsteps and occasional glowing eyes in the darkness, but not the smoke while riding here. Cooksey enters the laundry room through an archway.

He tells me that one night he smelled like cigar smoke. “We followed the smell around the house until we found it coming from here. The smell vanished as soon as we entered this room. Didn’t dissipate, as you’d expect. It was just gone.

Cooksey refers to his unseen borderers as “friendly ghosts”. “They do something every once in a while to remind us that we’re still here.”

It’s one thing to live happily with an otherworldly being, but it’s quite another to rent out a haunted home to someone else.

Next door, we find a house that looks a lot like the Cooksey home. This house is rented out to a couple temporarily, often to tourists. Cooksey paused on the porch, confesses that he does not tell potential renters about the strangely moving objects, odd noises, and flickering lights.

He says, “They often come over to tell me about them.” “A blind woman once stayed here. She said to me one morning out of nowhere, “Tell me about these spirits in this house.” They’re there, I can feel them.”

We enter. A dark wooden staircase leads to the upstairs room from the front door. We crawl our way up to the second floor. There are only a few beds here and a window at one end.

Cooksey abruptly tells me, “I’m going back downstairs.” “Why not hang here for a while?” “Come down when you are ready.” And then, he’s gone.

I sit there in silence trying to determine if the feeling of uneasiness that I feel is caused by an unseen presence or the creep-inducing power and suggestion. I make a decision, and I’m ready. I run down the dark stairs to get back to the grey outdoors.

OCD

It is certainly strange, but not unheard of when Leslie Grunewald suddenly and seemingly without reason turns on her kitchen faucet. She says, “That’s Greg washing his hands again.”

Grunewald’s old friend Greg was Doug. Greg was a friend of Grunewald and her husband, Doug. He died suddenly at age 60. He died suddenly two months before the big day. In a bedroom in this house in Livermore in California, he died.

Grunewald purchased the house from Greg’s estate in 2016 She says that even though Grunewald and her husband renovated the house completely, Greg has never left. “I don’t believe he was ready for it. He seems to be holding onto.”

Grunewald scrolls on her smartphone for over a minute until she finds the video that she is looking for. This is a shot of Grunewald’s kitchen sink taken from across her room. The faucet is running. It stops. I gasp at the unforced eerieness of the clip.

Grunewald says, “I don’t know when the water will start running so I can’t get the beginning part.” There are also videos of lights flickering in mysterious ways, but running water is what has convinced her Greg is still here. She says he suffered from OCD. He used to wash his hands constantly.

“It almost seems as if he decides to just walk across the kitchen and rinse them all again like he did when he lived.”

Grunewald felt Greg’s presence even when she bought the house. She says she could sense his presence. “But that made it even read more tempting to purchase the house. It’s a blessing that he is still here. It makes me feel very fortunate to know that he is willing to share his home. He shouldn’t leave.

Buyer Beware

Cindi Hagley was the real estate agent in Pleasanton who handled Greg’s purchase. She estimates that two to three of the 100 houses Hagley sells annually will contain spirit entities.

Hagley, who has been a local agent for around 15 years, says that “the very first house I sold” was haunted. It was quite crazy. I was told by the sellers about strange happenings in the house. I was unsure what to do.

A veteran agent was consulted by her. She recalls that a veteran agent at the office told her that as long as there was no public knowledge of the spiritual presence, it was okay to not tell anyone. However, if the neighbors knew about it it could impact the property’s value and should be reported.

“The owners claimed they had never told anyone so I felt at home. Then, at my first open house, a neighbor came by and said, “Finally, I get the inside of this haunted home!”

Hagley states that she will now disclose the existence of spirit squatters in a home to potential buyers, but only after they are ready to sign the contract to buy the property. She says, “They’ve already been through a bidding procedure and are emotionally invested.” They won’t walk away from the spirit.

According to realtor.com, 54% of those who believe their house is haunted have known this before buying it. Look no further than the 19th-century house in Rhode Island, which inspired the horror film The Conjuring. It was recently put up for sale at $1.2 million.

You may be surprised to know that there are laws in many states regarding the information sellers need to disclose about haunted houses. A seller is allowed to keep the details secret in most states, except when buyers ask for specific information about spirits. California and Alaska require sellers to disclose whether anyone has died while living on the property within the last three years.

There’s also the 1991 New York State case Stambovsky. The sellers failed to disclose their resident ghost buyer even though they had previously disclosed it to just about everyone, including Reader’s Digest. The judge ordered that the sellers return the money. The judge stated that “the house was haunted” as a matter of law.

“Occupied By Spirits”

I leave Cindi Hagley’s Pleasanton office, turn east onto the U.S. 50 and travel 130 miles to Placerville, an old California mining town. Because of the Gold Rush reputation, it has earned, Hangtown was once called the town. This is because claim jumpers were often executed there. A blue-jeaned dummy hangs from the end of a shorter rope above the Hangman’s Tree saloon.

I will be staying the night in this haunted bed & breakfast.

Robyn Rawers, the owner of The Seasons Bed and Breakfast, says that it is not haunted. “I prefer to call this house ‘occupied by spirits’. It’s always been an extremely positive force.”

Rowers have been in many different forms. Rowers have been in many different incarnations.

Rowers states, “I don’t tell my guests anything about spirits.” They tell me. They hear voices. They want to know why the lights continue turning on and off. The fan turns on and off by itself. An electrician came to inspect the fan and found nothing. Now I can just smile and sit.

A team of paranormal investigators and paranormal investigators took over the area with spirit-detecting equipment a few years ago, making The Season’s local news. Their verdict? It was haunted.

“The ex-owners told me that we have the spirits of three sisters who used to live here: Margaret, Mary, and Catherine. Buck used to be outside the basement door, skinning animals.

Guests aren’t always happy to share their quarters. One couple claimed that they saw a shadowy figure at their feet as they lay awake one night.

Rowers recall, “They were afraid.” Rowers recall, “They didn’t even stay for breakfast, they just left.”

Good luck if you get a ghost to call your company.

She says that a man who came to read the meters ran away and refused not to return. He claimed he was at the back of the house when “Something went through him!” Some entity entered from the front and exited from the back. He said, “Oh, that’s Buck!”

Unfortunately, there are no ghostly visitors to The Seasons. Buck and the sisters are not at fault. No voices. There is not even a flickering glow.

There are many explanations for supernatural activity in scientific literature, such as electromagnetic fields, hallucinogenic mold, carbon monoxide poisoning, and the power of suggestion. Many paranormal researchers believe ghostly events do not have external causes. They are manifestations of psychic powers.

For me, I don’t think I’m ready to echo the words of the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. “I believe in spooks!” “I do, I do and I do!” I can’t deny the flickering lights…or the running water…or, particularly, the sliding bottle.

Robyn Rawers’ attitude is very admirable. She sipped coffee with me while we watched the misty rainwater flow through the lush garden behind The Seasons.

She said that “Maybe” was a better way to put it. “There are some things we’re just not supposed to comprehend.”

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