NEW YORK (MainStreet) Who doesn't love a haunted house? They've got great character, breathtaking architecture often laid down in defiance of both God and man and generally full of good stories. Not to mention, with the right poltergeist around you'll never have to worry about houseguests wearing out their welcome. There's little chance Aunt Agatha will stay on past the holidays once the spooky drapes start screaming.
There's one other issue that the stories rarely deal with, though. Ghosts are great for house hunters. No one ever writes the story about a plucky Century 21 agent trying to save his commission from the restless dead, but a haunting creates the perfect conditions to move a house: a highly motivated seller and no obvious defects. Frankly, it's a little surprising they're not flying off the shelves more often.
Or, at least, so you'd think. It seems that in the long run history, tradition and architecture still tend to win out, keeping the prices on haunted houses relatively high. That doesn't mean they're necessarily out of the reach of the common man, however. Here's what it would cost to move in to a few of these famous haunted houses:
#1. The Legally Haunted House
As far as I'm aware, One Laveta Place in Nyack, New York is America's only house haunted by court order. Legal recognition of an afterlife delighted law firms everywhere, which immediately began drafting their policies for after-death billables.
This home in Nyack was the subject of a famous ruling back in 1991, when a New York court undid its sale after the buyers claimed the house was haunted. The catch was that the previous owners knew all about the ghosts. In fact, they'd spent years advertising their haunted house to anyone who would listen, right up until it was time to sell. Then they clammed up.
Whatever the truth about ghosts, the court held, a buyer has the right to know about potentially harmful reputations to his new home. "Having reported [the ghosts'] presence in both a national publication (Readers' Digest) and the local press (in 1977 and 1982, respectively)," the ruling said, "defendant is [now not allowed] to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted."
There you have it. Forget the rubber masks, ancient Indian burial grounds and sets of spooky twins. Up in Nyack, they have a legally haunted house.
Price: Beautiful houses by the Hudson river don't come cheap, and this one is no exception. In 1990 One Laveta Place sold for $650,000, the equivalent of $1,163,122 today according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator.
#2. The LaLaurie House
Quick, what are the first three things every renter should check before they sign for an apartment? If you answered water pressure, windows and neighborhood then congratulations, you're probably leasing a perfectly normal apartment.
If your first thoughts leapt to undiscovered graves and vengeful spirits, then you may have rented an apartment at the old LaLaurie house.
This New Orleans mansion is colloquially named after the 19th Century Madame Delphine LaLaurie, notorious in local history for the torture and murder of many slaves, even burying some of her victims on the grounds. Since her death, the house has had rumors of constant hauntings by the slaves that Delphine LaLaurie tortured and killed. Spirits have been seen in the kitchen, stairways and attic, and people hear screams sometimes coming from inside.
LaLaurie herself has even been rumored back in the house, drawn back despite finally dying in Paris.
Price: After buying the house from actor Nicholas Cage, the Regions Financial Corporation took ownership of the property at 1140 Royal Street in New Orleans. Current rumor is that the corporation plans to turn the building into a series of high-end apartments. Estimated price to rent the house outright for a month? $3,000.
#3. Wilson Hall, Ohio University
It's quickly apparent why.
While most schools have a haunted dormitory or at least a ghost story tucked away somewhere (my personal alma mater, the Universiy of Michigan has an entire graveyard alongside campus), Wilson Hall brings that extra Something Special. Especially in Room 428, which is known for bodiless voices, "objects flying off of shelves and smashing into walls, doors opening and closing, and sightings of the ghost of a student who once lived in the room," according to the Athens, Ohio visitors bureau.
How bad is it? Bad enough that the university itself has locked Room 428 altogether and refuses to allow anyone in, although without necessarily taking a stance on what it sealed inside. I'm just glad not to be in Room 427.
Price: If you can get admission to the university, a prerequisite for staying in one of their dormitories, tuition and housing will cost about $13,000 a semester. As an added bonus, your plans to stay in the possessed room should make for a great personal essay!
#4. The Amityville Horror
As we all know, this was a house before it was a movie. And it was a mortuary before it was a house. Wait, that's a different film...
The Amityville Horror, an infamous novel and many movies about the haunting of a family, is based on a real house in the town of Amityville, New York. Over the course of the book, author Jay Anson describes the experiences of the Lutz family as they were haunted by increasingly powerful, violent ghosts. Noises rattled the walls at night, unseen forces would grip the family members and bit by bit the Lutz children began to adopt the habit of the murdered family who had lived in their house previously.
At least, according to the novel. Today the house still stands on Ocean Avenue, and the most recent owners swear that there's nothing the least bit haunted about their home. Hopefully they're right; a lifetime of therapy probably isn't worth another book deal.
Price: Although not listed for sale today, the last time the Amityville house sold it went up for a solid $1.15 million. For that price, you might be entitled to a ghost or two!
#5. The Chelsea Hotel
While not technically a house, the Chelsea certainly meets all the qualifications for being haunted.
A rather famous New York City landmark, the Chelsea is generally associated with the city's bohemian lifestyle. Celebrities such as Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan have stayed there over the years, and many other guests have simply never left.
Among others, the Chelsea has a particularly famous specter simply named Mary. This woman is said to have hung herself after her husband died on the Titanic, and ever since, she has appeared in hotel mirrors. Periodically guests will find a long-haired woman gazing over their shoulder in a hallway or bathroom mirror, only to turn around and find nobody there.
p>Price: Sadly, a room at the Chelsea can't be had right now at any price. Sold several times over the last few years, the hotel is currently closed for renovations. Hopefully it will reopen soon, as the ghosts may well be getting lonely.
#6. Franklin Castle
Ohio just can't catch a break.
Franklin Castle in Cleveland starts out imposing enough, with its rough, Gothic exterior, gargoyles and corner tower. It only gets worse from there. Visitors to the castle have described numerous bizarre, unexplainable phenomenon, including doors opening and closing behind them, objects moving around and lights flicking on and off on their own.
From the outside, many people have claimed to see a mysterious woman in black, who stands staring out a tower window not far from where the original owner, Hannes Tiedman, killed his mistress. The sound of children crying supposedly echoes through the hallways as well, whether or not anyone is actually there, reminding visitors that four of the home's original children died within its walls.
Often called the most haunted house in Ohio, Franklin Castle has changed hands many times over the last several years but remains a house for anyone brave enough to share their home with the Woman in Black.
Price: Recently sold, this piece of property isn't yet back on the market. Still, haunt hunters should keep their eyes open. Sellers for Franklin Castle tend to crop up fast and motivated. In 2011, an artist bought the castle for $260,000.
--Written for MainStreet by Eric Reed, a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the subjects of career and travel. You can read more of his work at his website www.wanderinglawyer.com.