Legally Haunted: The Ghost of Nyack
At first glance, the tale of the alleged haunting of a three level Victorian home at the end of a dead end street in Nyack, New York was not that unusual as far as a ‘usual’ haunting goes.
Strange noises and phantom voices, apparitions appearing near bedsides and objects moving around, seemingly of their own accord.
Most haunted houses however, are not featured in a widely circulated publication like Reader’s Digest, which this one was, but that is not this house’s claim to paranormal fame.
This house has been declared legally haunted by a New York State Supreme Court!
The story begins in the late 1960’s when George and Helen Ackley bought the house at 1 LaVeta Place for themselves and their children.
As they moved in, the neighborhood children told the Ackley’s that the house was haunted, but it may have had more to do with the Victorian House’s state of disrepair at the time more then any real paranormal activity.
Soon enough however, the Ackley’s would find out that there was indeed another prescience in the house.
Helen and George’s daughter, Cynthia, said that the ghost would shake her bed to get her up in the morning. The ghost got so good at it’s daily duties that Cynthia had to tell it to stop waking her up so early during Spring break, which it promptly did.
Other incidents involved what the Ackley children called “baby rings,” which their mother explained must be gifts from the resident ghosts. These rings would later vanish, never to be seen again.
The rings were not the only gifts the spirit seemed to pass out as the Ackley’s son got coins while Cynthia once got a silver sugar tong.
Helen also reported the ghost watching her while she was painting a room in the house, and claimed that it appeared the ghosts seemed to enjoy the renovations to the old dilapidated property.
A couple of interesting tales besides the above are told at this link, where Cynthia’s second husband shares a couple stories of his own about the property.
The first recollection, where he was nervous and heard whispered conversations in the next room before someone knocking on the door made him jump seemss like it could be his imagination working overtime but the second story is much more interesting:
“It was a clear dark night, Cyn had already fallen asleep and I was drifting.
Then I heard the bedroom door creak, and the floor boards 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.”
At one time during the Ackley’s ownership of 1 LaVeta Place, the Ackleys decided that they wanted to share their ghost story with the rest of the world and told the story to Reader’s Digest.
The article, entitled: Our Haunted House on the Hudson, was published in the May 1977 issue and among other things Mrs. Ackley would claim the house was haunted by a “cheerful, apple-cheeked man,” who resembled Santa Claus.
Additionally, the house was written up in the local papers three times between 1977 and 1989, and had been part of the route on a couple of Halloween ‘haunted house tours’ in Nyack.
In a 1982 newspaper article, George Ackley described one of the ghosts that resided with him in his home:
“[The ghost was] dressed in Revolutionary period clothing, perhaps frozen in a time warp, waiting for someone or some reason to move on.”
Caveat Emptor & The Supreme Court:
By 1989, rising taxes and a desire to escape to a warmer climate had Helen Ackley thinking about selling the house, but the market was not doing well at the time.
Eventually, Helen made a deal with Jeffrey and Patrice Stambovsky, a couple from New York City who had no idea of the house’s prior paranormal history. They put $32,000 down on the purchase price of $650,000.
Shortly after, the Stambovsky’s learned that the house was haunted and Jeffery’s pregnant wife wanted no part of such a property so the Stambovsky’s attempted to back out of their contract with Helen Ackley and a lawsuit ensued.
The legal battle would go on for a few years before reaching the New York Supreme Court, who had to decide between the age old saying of ‘buyer beware’ and the fact that much like a leaky roof or mice, you might want to be informed if your new dream home is infested with the souls of the dead.
Unlike a vermin issue or repairable damage, who do you call to inspect for ghosts?
The Supreme Court would eventually find in favor of the Stambovsky’s, especially in light of how freely the Ackley’s had disclosed the ghostly goings on in the house in the past, including to several printed publications.
Unable to resist the unique nature of the subject matter at hand however, the justices had a few puns and jokes thrown into the text of the decision for good measure, including quotes from the ghost in Hamlet and a reference to the theme song from the 1984 film ‘Ghostbusters’ by Ray Parker Jr.
However, the most interesting part of the case is in the ruling where the house is declared to be haunted in the eyes of the law, although the other part of the text below also addresses the strange nature of the ‘issue’ with the house at 1 La Veta Place:
“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 (Readers’ 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.
More to the point, however, no divination is required to conclude that it is defendant’s promotional efforts in publicizing her close encounters with these spirits which fostered the home’s reputation in the community.
In 1989, the house was included in 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. “
Certainly this is one of the more interesting cases in all of ghost lore, if for no other reason that it got so much attention and press. The case itself, while not referred to much for future rulings, is routinely discussed and dissected in many law schools.