The topic of haunting is a contentious one. Many people don’t even believe the paranormal exists, looking for rational explanations for the irrational things they may see. Maybe the house is crooked, causing doors to slam. Maybe there’s a gas leak that causes hallucinations. Maybe there’s some kind of settling in the house that could sound like voices. After all, old houses are known for quirks like that. But what happens when a haunting is so severe, the courts get involved in the paranormals. Today, we’re exploring the haunting history of the only home in America that is legally recognized as haunted. Let’s look at the Ackleys home in Nyack, New York, also known as the LaVeta House or more famously as “The Ghostbuster House,” and the monumental court case that sealed its reputation as a hotspot for the paranormal.
You may be familiar with the Amityville house when someone mentions haunted homes in New York State, ironically the infamous home sits only 56 miles from the subject of today’s story. Nyack, NY is located only 6 miles from another famous location, Sleepy Hollow. Perhaps it’s the proximity that made this haunted home a sensation when the story broke about it’s haunting nature.
Built in 1880, the home is a shining example of Victorian architecture, complete with a stunning tower and the distinct look of a Queen Anne home with a wrap-around porch and fenced-in pool in the backyard. The home sat abandoned for a stretch during the 1960s and local children reported seeing faces in the windows during its period of no occupancy. In 1967, the Ackleys purchased the home with the intention of restoring it to its former glory. Helen and George Ackley were looking for a commuter home that would give them access to the city, and their own slice of peace in Nyack. They had four children to raise, after all. It was these children who would originally bring the haunting occurrences to their parent’s attention.
The Ackleys claimed at least three spirits lived in their picturesque home with them, including an elegant couple they called Sir George and Lady Margaret, upper class socialites who lived near the home in the 18th century. Helen even asserted she’d seen their full-bodied apparitions in the home, complete with 18th century period clothing. She said she never felt threatened by their appearance, despite the eerie feeling of the home. The Ackleys embraced their haunted home and called their visitors their ghostly roommates. They continued to hear phantom footsteps and voices throughout the home,
The ghosts appeared to have a soft spot for the young residents in the home, frequently leaving little trinkets and gifts for them in their rooms and throughout the home. They ranged from colorful broaches to silver sugar tongs, usually without an explanation for where they’d come from. One of the young girls, Cynthia, used to be awakened by her bed shaking violently in the mornings. On one occasion, Cynthia loudly proclaimed to the spirits that she didn’t have school the next day and would like to sleep in. There was no disturbance the next morning and Cynthia got her wish.
The stories of the paranormal in this home are numerous, but what made it famous didn’t occur until the 1990s, after nearly 30 years of living with their ghostly housemates, the Ackleys decided to sell their beloved home and put it on the market. It was just too big for a family with grown children out of the house, and the aging Helen Ackley wanted to downsize. Reportedly, she asked if they could take their ghostly friends with her in her move.
When the home was sold, however, the ghosts remained in the home and introduced themselves quickly to the new owners, the Stambovskys. It’s unclear whether they were told of the haunting before they moved into the home, with Helen Ackley claiming they required the real estate company to disclose this information in the selling process, but the Stambovskys claimed they were not informed of the colorful quirks of the local ghosts. Jeffrey Stambovsky asserted that he found out about the haunted reputation through the local grapevine when a neighbor said to him “You know you bought a haunted house, right?”
Despite the allegations of both the real estate company and Helen Ackley disclosing this information to the new owners, they found that the value of their home was much lower because of its reputation. Very quickly after moving into the home, the Stambovskys cried fraudulent misrepresentation of the nature of the haunting, and quickly filed legal proceedings against the Ackleys and Ellis Real Estate. While the case was initially dismissed, Stambovsky appealed to the NY Supreme Court. Considering previous articles about the haunting of the home, the justices said “having reported [the ghosts’] presence in both a national publication… and the local press… defendant is estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted.”
Thus began the reputation of the only home in America legally declared haunted. With evidence of the home’s infamy in the area and publications about its haunting, the court ruled that the disclosure of the haunting was not sufficient, and ruled in favor of the Stambovskys. They were able to get their deposit back and the case was known from then on as “The Ghostbuster Case.” Today, it is still taught and analyzed in law schools across the country. Today, the home is known as the only legally recognized haunting in legal history, and its reputation remains to this day.
While it’s had many different owners in the years since the ruling, the home still remains a charming story and interesting location in the small town of Nyack, NY. Nearly 50 people contacted the Ellis Real Estate Agency inquiring about the home after the ruling was handed down. Apparently some people like the excitement of potentially buying a home that comes complete with its own cast of friendly ghosts. The ghostbuster’s home was sold most recently in 2016, with no reports of the haunting continuing to plague the new owners. Perhaps it’s a peaceful place after all, despite its legal position as a haunted house.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.