Legally-Haunted Victorian Home for Sale ... Again Oct 13, 2019 18:50:42 GMT -5 madeline and mintjulep like this
Post by Graveyardbride on Oct 13, 2019 18:50:42 GMT -5
‘Legally Haunted’ Victorian Home for Sale ... Again
The majestic five-bedroom, five-bath Queen Anne overlooking the Hudson is a true riparian retreat. Built in 1890, many of the three-story home’s original features have been preserved: inlaid hardwood floors, stained glass windows, mantles, arched doorways, coffered ceilings, window seats and a wide wrap-around porch. But through the years, there have been many improvements as well, including, but not limited to, a spa-like master bath featuring a copper soaking-tub, an in-ground pool and a new three-car garage. Situated at the end of a tree-lined, dead-end street in the historic village of Nyack, just 30 miles north of Manhattan, the house could offer a welcome sanctuary of peace and quiet after a day in the bustling city – and it could be yours for only $1.9 million.
But there’s a catch: the house is haunted and in the case of One Laveta Place, it’s more than vague rumors – the house has been declared legally-haunted by a court of law.
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When George and Helen Ackley purchased the waterfront home in 1967, the old dwelling was in a sad state of disrepair from having stood empty for several years. The place was in desperate need of a coat of paint and the gabled roof was off-kilter, but the breathtaking views of the Hudson and what Mrs. Ackley later described as the “diamond necklace of the Tappan Zee Bridge” more than made up for the dilapidated state of the once magnificent Victorian mansion.
George Ackley moved into the Nyack house first, while the remainder of the family packed up and closed their previous home in Maryland. When Helen and the kids arrived, she was surprised to learn her husband had been sleeping with the lights on, something he had never done before, but when she questioned him, he mumbled, “I don’t want to discuss it,” rolled over in the bed and turned his back to her.
Not long thereafter, a plumber confided to Mrs. Ackley that while working in the house before her husband arrived, he heard what sounded like footsteps, although he knew no one else was in the building. Then a group of children playing near One Laveta Place teased the Ackley kids about living in the “haunted house.” Whether this was because old, abandoned homes are often dubbed “haunted” by imaginative youngsters, or if there had been talk of actual ghosts, no one knows. Nevertheless, it didn’t take long for Mr. and Mrs. Ackley and their children – Emily, Cynthia, George, Cara and William – to figure out there was something strange going on in their new abode.
It started with phantom footsteps. slamming doors and swaying light fixtures that were stilled abruptly as if by an “unseen hand.” Even so, Helen claimed she had “nothing but good vibes” about the spectacular Queen Anne on the Hudson.
Then there came the day she was standing on an 8-foot stepladder painting the livingroom ceiling when she experienced a feeling of being watched. She glanced around and there, sitting in midair, was a male spirit she later dubbed “Sir George.” According to Mrs. Ackley, he was “rocking back and forth ... I asked if he approved of what we were doing to the house, if the colors were to his liking. He smiled and he nodded his head.” Later, in recalling her evanescent encounter with the supernatural, she wrote, “No, I wasn’t drinking that day. No, the paint fumes hadn’t got to me ... he seemed happy to be there, and I was proud to meet him.”
Sir George wasn’t the only spook in the rambling old house. During the 23 years she lived in the vintage Nyack home, Mrs. Ackley reported seeing two female spirits in what appeared to be hooped skirts, and a little man in a red coat from the Revolutionary War era. She also claimed that on one occasion, her son came “eyeball-to-eyeball” with the figure of “the Navy lieutenant,” also from the Revolutionary period. (Helen Ackley determined the man’s rank by having her son peruse photos of American Revolutionary military personnel.)
In 1993, after she had vacated the Nyack residence, Mrs. Ackley was contacted by Bill Merrill, a paranormal researcher, and Glenn Johnson, a medium, who claimed they had made contact with the poltergeists at One Laveta Place and believed they were Sir George and Lady Margaret, a couple who had lived in the region during the late 18th century. In 1995, Merrill and Johnson published a book entitled Sir George, The Ghost of Nyack.
Cynthia Ackley remembered that as a child, on many mornings she would be awakened by “something” shaking her bed. There were also apports. (An apport is an object supernaturally transferred from one location to another.) The children would often find trinkets, such as rings, which would later vanish as mysteriously as they had appeared. Many years later, one of the invisible residents gave Cynthia a pair of silver tongs.
During the time Mark Kavanaugh, Cynthia’s husband, lived in the house, he reported hearing a conversation in a vacant room: “The first happened on Christmas Eve,” he later wrote. “I was home alone due to various activities. I was playing Christmas elf in the livingroom putting gifts together. It was totally quiet in the house. After a while I kept hearing a muffled conversation coming from the diningroom around the wall. I would get up and walk over and nobody was there. I felt like I was being watched. I had purposely turned on every light in the surrounding rooms. I was getting nervous. Then my future brother-in-law suddenly pounded on the door making me jump out of my skin, and the talking stopped.”
On another occasion, he insisted an apparition entered the bedroom and actually sat down on the bed. “It was a clear dark night,” Kavanaugh recalled. “Cyn had already fallen asleep and I was drifting. Then I heard the bedroom door creak and the floorboards squeak. My back was to the edge of the bed. Suddenly the edge of the bed by my mid-section depressed down and I felt something lean against me. I went literally stone stiff! I was speechless and could hardly move. I was able to twist my neck around enough to see a womanly figure in a soft dress through the moonlight from the bay windows. I felt like she was looking straight at me. After about minute, the presence got up and walked back out of the room. I finally relaxed enough to shake my wife out of sound sleep, acting like a toddler who just had a nightmare.”
Most people would have been terrified by such activity, but Helen Ackley insisted her family had a “peaceful coexistence with the spirits” who, in later years, often left gifts for her grandchildren “in the form of baby rings.” She was proud of her ghosts and loved talking about them, going so far as to write an article entitled “My Haunted House on the Hudson,” which was published in the May 1977 issue of Reader’s Digest.
Less than a year after the Ackley ghosts went national, George Ackley died at the age of 53. Helen never considered selling up and moving to a smaller residence and continued living with her children, and later grandchildren, and the ghosts in her lovely old Queen Anne at the end of the street.
A neighbor who lived a few doors up from One Laveta Place in the mid-1980s was aware of the stories, but unconvinced. But skepticism didn’t deter Helen Ackley, who never passed up an opportunity to boast about her haunted house. Like any urban legend, the story became more sensational with each telling. Then something happened that gave even the skeptics pause: A healthy and relatively young dinner guest at the Ackley home dropped dead of an aneurysm. Although some reminded the more enthusiastic talebearers anyone could drop dead anytime, anywhere, the fact remained the man hadn’t dropped dead “anywhere,” he dropped dead in the ghost-ridden house on the Hudson.
By the late 1980s, Mrs. Ackley finally decided the rambling 18-room mansion was too much for her and put the house on the market. It was close to Halloween 1989 when Jeffrey M. Stambovsky, a Wall Street bond trader, and his wife, Patrice, first saw the splendid old dwelling on the riverbank set in a landscape of gold, orange and scarlet, and decided it was just what they wanted. Stambovsky wasted no time writing a $32,500 check as a down payment and he and his wife immediately commenced making plans to renovate the property. It was a crisp fall day when they were at the house discussing improvements with contractors that a local architect informed them they had just purchased the local haunted house. And it wasn’t just an unsubstantiated tale about some obscure ghost encountered by someone in the distant past, there were at least three active spirits in residence and One Laveta Place was known far and wide as the “Haunted House on the Hudson.”
Stambvosky wasn’t amused and though he insisted he didn’t believe in ghosts himself, he wasn’t willing to take any chances and asked for the return of his money, claiming his wife was nervous, they had a 20-month old son and he [Stambvosky] was worried his family would be frightened when he was out of town. “My feeling is that Mrs. Ackley is a very neat old lady who likes to spin tales,” the disgruntled buyer explained. “But if my wife is influenced enough by that stuff to feel uncomfortable, that’s a good enough reason not to sink our life savings into the place. We were the victims of ectoplasmic fraud. And, who knows,” he added, “maybe once I lived there, I would find there were ghosts, after all.”
In their lawsuit, Mr. and Mrs. Stambovsky denied they were concerned about ghosts, making it clear they weren’t superstitious. Instead, they argued, a house reputed to be filled with restless spirits wouldn’t top the list of most house-hunters and this would adversely impact the home’s resale value. Because Mrs. Ackley was well aware the house was haunted, but failed to disclose such, the pair felt they shouldn’t have to forfeit their $32,500.
Mrs. Ackley refused to return the couple’s money, insisting a deal was a deal, and much to her delight, the court dismissed the action. But her joy was short-lived for Stambovsky appealed the decision and in a 3-2 opinion, the New York Appellate Court ruled in the prospective buyer’s favor. Justice Israel Rubin, representing the majority, wrote:
“The unusual facts of this case, as disclosed by the record, clearly warrant a grant of equitable relief to the buyer who, as a resident of New York City, cannot be expected to have any familiarity with the folklore of the Village of Nyack. Not being a ‘local,’ plaintiff could not readily learn that the home he had contracted to purchase is haunted. Whether the source of the spectral apparitions seen by defendant seller are parapsychic or psychogenic, having reported their presence in both a national publication (Reader’s Digest) and the local press (in 1977 and 1982, respectively), defendant is estopped to deny their existence and, as a matter of law, the house is haunted. ... In 1989, the house was included in a five-home walking tour of Nyack and described in a November 27th newspaper article as ‘a riverfront Victorian (with ghost).’ The impact of the reputation thus created goes to the very essence of the bargain between the parties, greatly impairing both the value of the property and its potential for resale. ...”
Rubin was on a roll: “From the perspective of a person in the position of plaintiff herein,” he continued, “a very practical problem arises with respect to the discovery of a paranormal phenomenon: ‘Who you gonna’ call?’ as a title song to the movie Ghostbusters asks. Applying the strict rule of caveat emptor to a contract involving a house possessed by poltergeists conjures up visions of a psychic or medium routinely accompanying the structural engineer and Terminix man on an inspection of every home subject to a contract of sale. It portends that the prudent attorney will establish an escrow account lest the subject of the transaction come back to haunt him and his client – or pray that his malpractice insurance coverage extends to supernatural disasters. In the interest of avoiding such untenable consequences, the notion that a haunting is a condition which can and should be ascertained upon reasonable inspection of the premises is a hobgoblin which should be exorcized from the body of legal precedent and laid quietly to rest.”
So Stambovsky got part of his money back and found another house in the village – one that didn’t have a ghost.
After One Laveta Place was purchased by another buyer, Helen Ackley abandoned cold New York for sunny Florida.
In early October of 2003, a friend of Mrs. Ackley’s who had heard all Helen’s ghost stories was out on the river with her daughter and granddaughters enjoying a leisurely cruise. As they passed the old Ackley house, she was thinking there was nothing more glorious than fall’s pallet of warm, rich colors, when she caught sight of a lady on the side porch steps and spontaneously waved, before remembering Helen no longer lived there. She looked toward her daughter with the intention of mentioning her old friend, changed her mind, and when she looked toward the house again, the woman was gone. The following day, she learned Helen Ackley had died the previous month (September 17, 2003), in Jacksonville, Florida.
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Adam Brooks, film director, screenwriter and actor, purchased the haunted house in the early 90s and lived in the remarkable old home in the quiet, peaceful village until November 2012.
It was on another glorious October day that Richard Ellis of Sotheby’s was preparing to show the property. He walked through the resplendent old Queen Anne dwelling turning on the lights as he made his way to the third-floor tower room. The doorbell rang just as he was switching on the last light on the top floor, when the bulb mysteriously shattered and started a fire, which quickly spread and ignited a nearby shade before he managed to extinguish the blaze. Later, he admitted thinking – though fleetingly – that one of the ghosts must be upset about the house changing hands again. Of course, he dismissed the notion, but several years later admitted he had never before seen a lightbulb literally burst and it was odd that it happened at the precise moment the prospective buyers rang the doorbell.
The next owner, singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson, purchased the home in November 2012 for $1,725,000 and told friends she found the house enchanting, not creepy. “I absolutely adored living at One LaVeta,” she gushed. “It’s a magical home. It’s a memorable home. It’s a home where people gather, it draws you in and comforts you. And the view is unbeatable.” Nonetheless, just a little more than two years later, she placed the magical home she absolutely adored on the market.
According to Nancy Blaker Weber of Wright Bros. Real Estate, Ms. Michaelson was “very wrapped up in Brooklyn and Nashville” and there just wasn’t “enough time for this house.” Ever the saleswoman, she quickly added, “It’s truly my favorite all-time house in Nyack. It has the best of both worlds – it’s off the beaten path, but close to town.”
In January 2016, Jewish rapper Matisyahu paid $1,770,000 for the mansion on the Hudson and in 2018, had it painted a pale blue – at one time, the house was a hideous dark shade of coral. Now, less than four years after he moved in, the house is for sale again at an asking price of $1,900,000.
So is the legally-haunted house really haunted? Those who don’t believe in ghosts scoff at the idea, but many aren’t surprised the Nyack home is occupied by the long-dead. After all, the village lies on the banks of the Hudson River directly across from Tarrytown, the setting of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In fact, several authors and paranormal investigators claim Rockland County, where Nyack is located, is the most-haunted county in New York. And whom did the woman see on the porch in October 2003? Has Helen Ackley joined Sir George and the other spirits at One LaVeta Place? If so, they likely welcomed her home with open arms.
Additional photos here.
Sources: Christina Poletto, The New York Post, September 19, 2019; Alexandra Deabler, Fox News, September 19, 2019; Trulia; Jessica Awad, The Odyssey, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, March 12, 2018; Richard Ellis, Ellis Sotheby's International Realty, October 31, 2016; Jon Campbell, The Village Voice, October 20, 2015; Bill Cary, LowerHudson, September 2, 2015; Robin M. Strom-Mackey, Delaware Paranormal Research Group, August 2, 2015; Emily Sachar, New York News Day, 1991; Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254 (N.Y. App. Div. 1991); Helen Herdman Ackley, "Our Haunted House on the Hudson," Reader's Digest, May 1977; and anonymous sources.