Amityville Horror or Great Deal: What Wins?
July 23, 2013 10:44 AM   Subscribe

How would you feel buying the neighborhood murder house?

My family and I relocated to the Midwest in December and, after a long and painful readjustment, we are finally house hunting in earnest. We found a house this week that is just about perfect. Beautifully redone, great price in a great school district with a beautiful yard. There is just one problem.

A murder/suicide occurred in the house in September. It was the first homicide in the area in eleven years. The event took place in the master bedroom and was apparently quite horrible. Would this influence your decision to put in an offer? Would there be any factors outside of "supernatural" concerns that you would have with such a house?
posted by extraheavymarcellus to Home & Garden (55 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
My only concern is that neighbors might treat my family weirdly, not be willing to come over, not be willing to let their kids play at my house, etc.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:47 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


It wouldn't stop me. But, being just slightly "woo" on occasion, I'd probably smudge the place before moving any of my stuff in.

Every house I've ever owned has been at least 80 years old, so I figure there's a good chance that something pretty horrible happened in each of them, at least once. So I cover my bases by letting the house know that my intentions are honest and I plan to live happily there with my family. Plus I think sage smells nice.
posted by padraigin at 10:48 AM on July 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


Would there be any factors outside of "supernatural" concerns that you would have with such a house?

Diminished resale value. You have no idea how much media attention the case might get in the future or what new details might come to light. It isn't really practical to have the seller indemnify you against diminution in value, so you are bearing all the risk in that situation. What looks like a great deal now could become a net loss and you don't have much at your disposal to hedge against that.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:48 AM on July 23, 2013 [13 favorites]


One of my friends lives in one of these houses, though they rent and don't have any kiddos. It hasn't been a big issue for them, and I don't think it would be something I would give a lot of thought to, though I would try to use it as leverage to bring down the asking price. I live in a 120 year-old house; I'm pretty sure people have died here as well, and I'm not too concerned about ghosts or anything of that sort.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:49 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would be less concerned with supernatural and more concerned with how notable/famous the incident was...if it reaches national news you never know what crazies might show up at your door to see "the" house.

Otherwise, if it was just a local tragic incident, quickly fading from memory? A fresh coat of paint and enjoy your dream home.
posted by ninjakins at 10:49 AM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wouldn't personally care, but the house value may take a permanent hit depending on the beliefs of the local populace and real estate disclosure laws.
posted by benzenedream at 10:49 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


It wouldn't stop me, I don't think, although it may take a while for people to stop referring to it as 'the neighbourhood murder house.'

I wouldn't have supernatural concerns, as such, but personally I'd probably want to do some kind of little ritual so as to 'reclaim' the space for new, happier energy (I'm talking lighting a candle rather than an exorcism). However if you don't have any concerns in that direction then I don't see any practical reason why it should affect you. Statistically, someone has to live in a house where there's been a murder. If its a lovely home and you will be happy there, then why not you?
posted by billiebee at 10:51 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


If it bothers you that much, that is why many religions have clearing/cleaning ceremonies that purify the place. We have hard coded 'ick' feelings and know that it just takes a little song, dance and nice smells to clear it. Maybe some firecrackers if you go in for that.

If you're remotely religious, look into what yours has to offer. Even the Unitarians can probably give you a thoughtful, overly earnest pastiche if you get an eager enough religion-is-a-buffet type congregation.

There is no predicting if the neighbours will act like this is an unholy zone, but murder suicides are depressingly banal in the grand history of human existence.
posted by Phalene at 10:52 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I was a teenager, my family moved into the house behind our local neighborhood's Murder House. It was empty for a few years and then a young couple with a baby moved in. Eventually I ended up babysitting for them. I don't remember being especially nervous about it, especially since my own family was always just a few feet away. I do remember them telling me that they felt that by having a young child in the house they were bringing positive energy to it to balance the bad stuff that had happened there. As far as I know they lived there for years, long after my family had moved away.
posted by MsMolly at 10:55 AM on July 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seems like the worst that could happen is that people might ask if you know what happened in the house. This would fade with time as you added a new happier association to the house.

I live across the street from a suicide house but it has been turned into a neighborhood beauty spot and the neighbors don't have any lingering judgment against the house.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:56 AM on July 23, 2013


I think you could mitigate this pretty quickly if you moved in and made a show of pleasant new landscaping, etc. Any weird feelings about the house would get buried under the gratitude for somebody buying the house taking it from 'where THAT happened' to new rosebushes and the shed painted and re-shingled (or whatever). One would expect the immediate neighbours to be particularly grateful for the aid to their own property values.
posted by kmennie at 10:56 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't stop me. If the house is otherwise a good deal and functional for your family, I'd be all over it.

I might do a ritual to put any restless spirits to bed, but I do that no matter where I live.

FWIW, apparently there's a ghost in my house, she just likes to play with babies, so she doesn't bother me.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:58 AM on July 23, 2013


Would this influence your decision to put in an offer?

No but it would influence my offer. Significantly lowball it. Whoever owns it (bank, extended family) wants to get rid of it.

You may have to be gentle with your new neighbors at first - they likely knew the people and have associations with it that are painful or sad or creeped out or whatever. Respect what happened and the entire neighborhood will recover more quickly and thoroughly. I'd make some visible changes outside, landscaping or paint the shutters or whatever. Make it new & yours in small ways.
posted by headnsouth at 11:00 AM on July 23, 2013 [15 favorites]


I wouldn't be worried about anything supernatural or whatever, but that is not all there is to the situation. In the back of my mind, and occasionally rising to the surface, would be the thought "Oh yeah, that's where (whatever grisly thing that happened) happened."

Again, it wouldn't worry me in the sense of "Oh no, maybe it will happen again", or anything like that, but I absolutely would not want to live my life constantly on the verge of having extremely unpleasant thoughts about an extremely unpleasant thing that happened in my bedroom, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
posted by Flunkie at 11:02 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


My first concern would be neighbors.

When I was a teenager, we moved to southern California and bought a house. It had some odd decorating in its enormous living room, some bizarre boudoir stuff going on in the master bedroom, and cheesy fake Greek detailing all around the pool in the back. The sellers kicked in a lot to undo the decorating.

About a month after we moved in, the busybody (but very nice) neighbor told my mom how thrilled she was to have us as neighbors, as the prior owners had been making porn in the house and it was some sort of scandal and the house had been empty for a while. It explained a lot of curiosity about us when we moved it, as well as some standoffishness from some neighbors. As well as the hideous gold wallpaper and unexpectedly mirrored surfaces.

Now, porn is not murder-suicide, but gossip is gossip. Once you've moved in and established no connection to the house's history, the gossip will fade away, particularly if you suppress your curiosity when talking to new neighbors. Making pleasant changes to the yard or curtilage is probably a good idea.

My second concern would be my own tendency toward dwelling on the morbid. Both my grandmother and my aunt spent most of their terminal illness in the spare bedroom at my parents' house--my grandmother died there; my aunt died in the hospital. Sometimes, I walk into that room and am overwhelmed with the imagining what everyone went through, during those illnesses. It always takes a second to shake it off, but in the end, it passes. Sometimes it's hard to fall asleep, there, though. Of course, I knew (and loved) my aunt and grandmother--and it's a different sort of memory.

If you think you can shake off momentary "god, what a terrible thing happened in this room" thoughts, then there's no reason not to buy a house that otherwise meets your criteria, just because something unpleasant happened there.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


A friend of mine actually used to live on the same block as the Amityville Horror house.

She told me that all year, but especially around Halloween, people would drive up and down the street looking for the house (which has changed its address and the distinctive windows). The amount of attention it gets from people trying to gawk at it, ring the doorbell, steal handfulls of dirt or whatever would definitely make me think twice about living there. This really depends on how notorious the house is among the community though.
posted by inertia at 11:13 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you all. The neighbors and resale are the biggest concerns at the moment. We would not have to disclose the event if we buy and resell the house. The case got a lot of local attention since crime is so rare in the area and I got the sense talking to the neighbor that he was a bit creeped out by the whole thing.
posted by extraheavymarcellus at 11:17 AM on July 23, 2013


My brother bought the house next door to my Mom's house, where the previous owner killed herself by setting herself on fire in the basement.

Honestly, there were people who remembered the horrific event, but only for a couple of years.
posted by xingcat at 11:20 AM on July 23, 2013


Here is a link from an FPP yesterday, about a 1983 murder case. For whatever reason (lots of photographers without much to do?), the story includes a photo of the house as it is today. This may be a bigger issue with unsolved or ongoing cases, but if there's any kind of notoriety, you can be in your house 30 years, and one photo in the local media makes it the Murder House all over again.
posted by sageleaf at 11:21 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the neighbours will forget it eventually, because after a while it won't be the "murder house", it'll be "extraheavymarcellus' house".
posted by billiebee at 11:21 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


billiebee,

Actually, I kind of like extraheavymarcellus' House of Murder. It has a nice ring to it. Sounds like a Rob Zombie movie.
posted by extraheavymarcellus at 11:24 AM on July 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


Paint or renovate so it looks different from the outside, then put a nicely carved plaque over the door that says "Murder House", and always, always have the best display at Halloween.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:25 AM on July 23, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'm very much a protective-of-my-space person so for me home absolutely 100% has to be a safe place (I get weirdly upset if my landlord enters without asking well in advance, for instance, because it feels like a violation of my very strict privacy.) So will people popping by to gawk, or neighbors gossiping, or news crews swinging by whenever the case gets a tiny detail added to it make you feel like your space is being invaded? If not, then you should be fine. If you're like me and you only allow very close friends over because your space is your cave, your hidey-hole, your den, maybe you want to reconsider.

Additionally, I might also ask about what you do for a living and your levels of stress. I don't think I would have any psychological trouble with what happened in the house, unless I was already stressed about things like that. So, for instance, I'm a volunteer medic. I wouldn't buy a house that I knew someone had bled out in, because there's a small possibility that I'll deal with that during a really stressful work day, and the last thing I want to do is be reminded of it when I get home. So if you're a nurse, or a mortician, or a hospice-worker, or emergency services, or a police officer, or something else where you might get really overwhelmed by death in your professional life, you might want to consider a house without the history, where you'd be able to 'escape' all those thoughts. If, on the other hand, you work in a cubicle and the probability of you dealing with a corpse in your working day approaches zero, you might just be able to brush it off and move on. (The thing about how frequently you will think, "God, what a terrible thing happened in this room," is bang-on.)

In the end, it's up to you and I don't think there's a "right" answer. It's just about what you're cool with.
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:26 AM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to be honest, I probably wouldn't do it. It's like Flunkie said, not for anything supernatural but my imagination would run away with me and in that room I would always be imagining the details of what happened. "Is my bed where her bed was, am I lying in the exact same spot?" "What did he look like when he was standing in that doorway?"

I'm pretty sure I would work myself into a state where I would always be seeing him appearing out of the corner of my eye, like the end of The Grudge where the dead guy who killed his family reappears and begins to re-enact what he did that day, starting with simply walking slowly down the stairs in an ominous way. The movie doesn't say who he is but you know right away...

I mean I think it's partly why sites of atrocities are preserved, because you can go and stand there and look around and realize that you are seeing what all those people saw when they died, you are in the environment that they were in. It makes it more real.

I think I would probably only take the house if I got a good enough deal that I could tear down the master bedroom and rebuild it somewhere else. I might even directly say that when negotiating, "You know, we are going to need to tear down that room."

Also... completely forgetting about anything supernatural, but it's easy to get that exact same sense of dread and fear about a place even if you don't believe in the supernatural AND you haven't yet found out what happened there. I think we can sometimes subconsciously pick up little signs about a place. Like if a place is in disuse compared to its neighbors... or if it looks the same but people act subtly different when they walk by. I think our brains can pick up on those things without us realizing it and it can make us very uneasy.

One thing I would say is if you're leaning towards "not a big deal" and someone else in your family is leaning towards "this creeps me out," I think it's best not to try to push or convince them. Living in a place like that could be very stressful for people who were bothered by it. It would be best if everyone was totally cool with it.
posted by cairdeas at 11:27 AM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would probably have the same concerns you have, but they would be outweighed
by getting a cheap house, frankly.

The mainland of Great Britain is a relatively small island. There probably isn't an inch of ground in this land that hasn't had somebody either die or be killed on it. So from my point of view, if I'm going to regard a place as "haunted" whether supernaturally, metaphorically, or practically, the air must be so thick with ghosts everywhere I go that I'll never get clean of them. This is also somewhat true of individual British houses, which are built to stand for a very long time.

Admittedly this is different from knowing that the last people to live in this specific place, that looked like this when they lived there, ended their lives in a specific and terrible way. I do think that even I would be motivated to do some serious remodelling because of that, inside and especially out, so as to distance myself from the house's visual associations to the public. Quite likely the cost of remodelling would outweigh any savings I made. It would probably bump up the resale value though, so there's that.
posted by tel3path at 11:32 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I listened to a podcast (I think it was This American Life? Or Planet Money?) that was interviewing a guy who cleans up after grisly murders and suicides and the like, and he mentioned all the laws relating to the cleanup, because blood/brains+house=mess. While it's probably not an issue, I'd make sure that if this was a messy death scene, it was cleaned properly, so that you don't get weird blood mold or what-have-you down the road.
posted by jenlovesponies at 11:34 AM on July 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


And on reading your update, I hope you won't take seriously any suggestions about calling it Murder House or camping it up in any way. It's one thing to overfocus on it, but trivializing horrific events is not nice.
posted by tel3path at 11:35 AM on July 23, 2013 [18 favorites]


You could take a "World According to Garp" approach to the issue. What are the odds of another grisly crime happening there now? You are now indemnified from grisliness, it's all the other houses that you need to worry about (protection from small aircraft not guaranteed in this house, of course).
posted by pickypicky at 11:45 AM on July 23, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wouldn't do it because you never know what might happen in your future. For example, my cousin violently commited suicide. If, at the time, I lived in a house where someone else had committed suicide, I probably would have to move because it would remind me of my cousin all the time.
posted by desjardins at 11:50 AM on July 23, 2013


My husband moved into this house at the age of 10. Murder/suicide master bedroom with teen daughter in the next room. When they looked at the house the bloody carpets were on the front lawn and bullet holes still in the walls. They bought it immediately (great deal trying to unload it right away). I don't think it had a lot of media attention, but this was in the 70's when news was more localized.

I think because the parents didn't think much of it, the kids didn't either. I, however, was kind of creeped out the first few times I was in their house alone, then I got used to it. They never had any neighbor issues or friend coming over issues. As for the resale value, they still live there! Only weird thing is that sometimes the light in only the master bedroom comes on by itself, and 30 years later they found a holster and box of bullets hidden under boards in the attic!
posted by maxg94 at 11:50 AM on July 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am an atheist who has never had any kind of supernatural experience. I don't think I could bring myself to buy such a house if I knew about it. Mostly because I love horror movies and would probably creep myself out too much under those circumstances.

My sister bought a murder-suicide house and has lived there happily for at least 15 years and raised her son there. However, I've only been there once or twice and the subject has never come up.
posted by Occula at 12:11 PM on July 23, 2013


Please keep in mind that in addition to resale issues, if the murder was one for the record books/truecrime writers/bloggers/groupies, you may well get "pilgrims" to your house. A college friend of mine had to tolerate this where she was renting, including knocks on the door from the genuinely curious to the hardcore creeper, plus strangers always driving more slowly by, taking pictures of the outside of the home, trespassing in the front and/or back yards. The pilgrims really scared her, no matter the security system, and she never knew when some weirdo would be by... when family is over for Christmas, when she was alone, when she was in the shower... for as long as she lived there.
posted by juniperesque at 12:14 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think you should buy it and make some cosmetic changes immediately, like others have suggested. Look, SOMEONE will buy this place and you'll probably regret passing on the deal if you don't. As for the neighbors... right now, they have an empty house with yawning black windows where a murder happened. Once you move in, it will take on a new context, and they'll probably be happy to see The House Where The Unspeakable Occurred become just another house.

(Not to be a dick, but regular old murder-suicides happen ALL THE TIME. I wouldn't worry about pilgrims.) (I also wouldn't worry about psychic trauma. I work blocks from the World Trade Center. I occasionally think about 9/11 and get a bit sad but it doesn't negatively impact my life at all.)

And on reading your update, I hope you won't take seriously any suggestions about calling it Murder House or camping it up in any way. It's one thing to overfocus on it, but trivializing horrific events is not nice.

Yeah- bear in mind that while you didn't know the people who died, your neighbors did. They wouldn't appreciate you calling it Murder House. I wouldn't even do it in private, just in case I slipped up.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:19 PM on July 23, 2013


I live in a house that had a husband-and-wife murder-suicide in the 1970s.

We didn't know about it until the day we moved in ten years ago, when one of the neighbors made a point of coming over to tell us about it. Apparently it was big news on the street at the time (I've since found newspaper articles), and some of the older residents have told me about the couple and how nice the wife was.

It doesn't bother me at all, although the house did feel a bit creepy for a while when I was home alone. I got the feeling someone was watching me when I was in bed, but I did an informal dusting ceremony and talked out loud to whoever was there, and the creepy feeling went away.

The wife was shot in the living room, and the husband shot himself in our bedroom, but unless you count a couple of odd stains in the wood, I doubt there's any trace remaining. It's a long time ago, and besides, I now know of at least two people who died (illness and old age) in that house since then. Every house of a certain age has had a dead person in it at some point.

Because this was essentially a domestic dispute, we don't get "murder tourists" -- although I'd be wary of calling your home The Murder House online or writing about it in any way that it could be easily identified, just in case you hear from any family members you might upset, or looky-loos who want to come by and be gorehounds about it.
posted by vickyverky at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2013


I'm clearly in the minority here, but I would not ever buy such a house. I'd be fine with a regular old person/illness sort of death, but an accidental death, murder, or situation where someone was dead for a long time/eaten by pets before the body was discovered would leave me forever uneasy in that space. Part of what keeps me from freaking out about such things is the knowledge that such events are rare and I can do things to minimize the risk of them happening to me. Being able to point to a spot in my own bedroom where someone was suffered like that would make it way too real and possible for my own comfort.

I would also not be able to stop myself from thinking things like, "hmm, those folks dying their horrible death here saved me X dollars," and then feeling so weird and guilty about those X dollars that I would be unable to spend them on anything other than charity.
posted by apparently at 1:53 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


How old are your kids? Are they old enough for you to ask their opinion? Because you might not be creeped out by this too badly, but they could potentially be very disturbed by it. And if they're not old enough now to really gauge their opinions, they will find out about once they're older and might be very frightened by it. Just something to consider.
posted by imalaowai at 2:04 PM on July 23, 2013


I grew up in the neighborhood murder house. Some extremely disturbing and horrible events occurred in my childhood house decades prior.

I think if you like the house and can envision a happy life there, then use the past events as a bargaining chip and use it as further motivation to make the place awesome. Have a housewarming and invite the neighbors. Show them there is nothing wrong and nothing to fear.

The only thing I ever dealt with was weird people showing up asking about the place growing up at which my Dad swiftly escorted them off the premises.
posted by floweredfish at 2:28 PM on July 23, 2013


I would do a spiritual cleansing of the house with smudge to keep away ghosties, and get a security system to keep away hooligans. But I would buy it for sure.


I used to live in an apartment that I absolutely loved. I found out there'd been a suicide there after being there for about six months. Nothing creepy about the place.

If you've ever lived someplace old or highly populated, you've probably lived in a place where someone died, maybe horribly.


My only concerns would be 1) if every family who lived there suffered some terrible demise
Or 2) the person who did the killing might want to come back and kill me.


Otherwise, hey, life grows from death. It's all good.
posted by windykites at 2:30 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would totally buy the house assuming I was intending to stay there a long time (so the news is likely to have died down). Awesome! Cheaper house!
posted by jeather at 2:31 PM on July 23, 2013


For myself, I would never buy a house like that - like a couple of earlier posters, it's not that I believe in the supernatural, it's that I could find myself indulging in morbid thoughts when something in the house reminded me.

You mentioned your family - you and your partner may have very robust ideas about this kind of thing, but to a sensitive or fragile teen this could become a focus of depressing thoughts, especially if they're hearing exaggerated stories about the whole thing from their friends at school. (And if it was the first homicide in 11 years, and only last September, I think it will be the subject of discussion in the area for a long time to come).
posted by Azara at 3:00 PM on July 23, 2013


My current house was very cheap because of it's condition and the situation of the people that had been living there. No deaths, at least of the people variety, but lots of really sad stuff related to drugs and drug sales. The women also seemed to have a puppy mill and gardening for the first year was quite tramatic at times with the number of corpses of dogs I dug up. I found mason jars with dead pups in them.

I knew about some of it before I moved but not the extent of it. The biggest issue I found was the neighbors who had spent years dealing with what was going on here. Lots of dramatic fights and violence where the cops would be called. The house and property made people wary because of it's history. It took a couple of years for people to warm up to us and for about six months I had to put up with some pretty creepy people coming to my door looking for the previous inhabitants.

It didn't help that the house is very old and with what was going on got a creepy reputation.

As I found out more about what had gone on here it ended up weighing on my mind quite a bit. I ended up doing a personal cleansing ritual which was a psychological ritual for me rather then me really believing that a house could hold bad energy or something like that. I needed to do something to mark the previous tenants leaving in both physical and mental ways.

Now everything is fine. My house now, according to what people have told me is looked on as quaint and cool. It's on a main road and people remark that it's now one of their favorite old houses to drive by.

Bad things happen in places. The bad doesn't have to stick with places.
posted by Jalliah at 3:03 PM on July 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes, these things happen everywhere but the difference here is that it is a known fact.

I agree with those expressing concern for the reactions of your potential children (assuming you may have some as you mentioned the quality of the school district). If you keep it from them, they may very well learn about it from somewhere else, and that is bad. If you tell them, they are children or [future] teenagers and therefore not completely rational adults and may dwell (no pun intended) on it. You will need to consider at what age it is appropriate to have the discussion on "some people murder other people/commit suicide?"

Also, real estate laws on disclosure may change or you may feel in the future that although it is not required, that you should disclose it.

As a skeptic on supernatural issues, I would have once gone right ahead but with a family would now be hesitant.
posted by Morrigan at 3:29 PM on July 23, 2013


I haven't read every answer, but skimmed most. I did not notice this concern:

"Grisly" likely = blood and gore everywhere. I would consider it a potential source of contagion.

I have a serious health issue but I also believe strongly that mental health has a substantial medical component. For example, historically, before antibiotics, syphillis was dreaded in part because it eventually made you nuts (antibiotics were invented and lots of people were cured of syphillis and subsequently released from asylums). We mostly don't really understand what makes people crazy. I would worry both that it might make me ill and might additionally make me ill in some way that would lead to similar ugliness in my own life occurring because of mental health impacts.

It wouldn't be an automatic dealbreaker for me, but I would certainly do things like rip out carpets that had been bled on, not just have them cleaned (though I would rip out carpets anyway, so not necessarily a real big deal -- I want all wood and tile floors). I would want to inspect the house and see if I thought the scene of the murder either had been adequately sanitized or could be. I don't know what criteria I would use, but that would be my thinking.
posted by Michele in California at 4:37 PM on July 23, 2013


My husband committed suicide at our place of residence and I lived there while I was trying to sell for financial reasons. In the case of the weirdness of it all, I didn't have any qualms about it and certainly didn't feel that the house had any bad energy or anything. A couple with 2 kids bought the place and have made some nice changes to make it theirs.

I suppose that unless there is some fame factor, as others have said, I'd go for it. I mean, if you're not worried, at least it makes an interesting story.
posted by Youremyworld at 5:35 PM on July 23, 2013


I would walk through the house without the realtor, and sit in the room(s) where the deaths happened, and see if I felt anything. Not because I believe in spirits, but because I'd want to be sure any childhood superstitions weren't going to make it feel creepy. And doing a smudging/ moving in ritual is always a good idea - marking important life events is a good thing.
posted by theora55 at 6:45 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's funny that no one has mentioned this. I wouldn't be worried necessarily about hauntings or spirits. But I would think about the fact that to lead up to a murder/suicide, someone (or more than one person) had probably been deeply, deeply unhappy for a long time and living in that space. If it was me, i would definitely do some kind of cleansing ritual.
posted by gt2 at 8:09 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


My concern would be for your child(ren). Depending on the personality of your child, the murder-suicide may be upsetting for them. Other kids may tell them the house is haunted or that there was a murderer living there. If you have children, I can imagine this would be very difficult to shake off. If you have tots, perhaps it's not an issue, but it might be by the time they are old enough to be playing with neighbours.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:24 PM on July 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't buy it because I'd constantly be freaking myself out whenever I was there alone. That's just me.

Plus, creepers, resale, freaked out neighbors...all of which would make me give it a pass.
posted by 26.2 at 9:28 PM on July 23, 2013


I'm sort of perplexed by the modern woo surrounding death, murder, and the like. When I was growing up, there was a murder up the street, and the city ended up demolishing the house after receiving it in tax foreclosure. It seemed unusual. Then there were places like the Brown's Chicken murders in Illinois and the mass shooting in San Ysidro where the restaurant was demolished so as to leave no worrisome memories. Well, those were fast food boxes, nothing special. But I'd object if a solid, historic building were demolished for the same reason, and I know plenty of buildings where there are creepy events in the distant past that didn't seem to result in the building getting razed. People seemed to be able to live with such things, at least up until my childhood and teens. Nowadays we have people who put up little death shrines where somebody slammed into a tree, which seems very weird to my experience, and I wouldn't be happy if it were my tree.

Personally, I have a mild UU-ish spiritual side, but I'm mostly agnostic, and don't really believe in fate or that sort of thing, so it's ... what happens.

I would buy the house, I would do something to change its appearance, I would brighten it up, plant very nice perennials, hold welcoming summer teas, and generally try to give the house its next life, so to speak.
posted by dhartung at 1:55 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


As a journalist, the one good thing about a murder-suicide is that from a media perspective after it's over, it's over. Barring any unusual circumstances like the couple was famous, the hubbub might last a couple days but it's highly unlikely to be a long term story. The person who committed the murder killed themselves, so there's no trial and no one looking for a place to do a television shot a year and a half from now if there were a suspect and a trial. These tend to be open and shut cases.
posted by bubonicpeg at 5:03 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't underestimate the looky-Lou factor. A friend of mine moved into a house in a smaller town where a grisly murder occurred (they are renting it from the victims' family) and she CONSTANTLY has people doing the slow drive-by and stare routine. Consider if that's something that will annoy or amuse you when weighing your decision.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:17 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would lowball my offer, and then take the money I had saved and completely renovate the area where it happened. Making sure walls got moved, floor was replaced, etc. There, "room" where it happened no longer exists, presto!
posted by timepiece at 7:20 AM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it makes a difference how big a town this is too. The murder house I used to babysit in was in a big city, so after a few years I don't think anyone except a few nearby neighbors even remembered anything had happened there. Currently I'm in a smallish college town, and the neighborhood I live in also has a house where a murder happened. It came up on the neighborhood Facebook group recently when someone was talking about doing a local "ghost tour" for Halloween. The neighbors were very protective of the house, current owners, and former owners and discouraged discussion of it. So, while what happened in a house may be remembered for longer in a small town, it seems like people are also pretty protective of other people's feelings. The neighborhood gossips may talk about it amongst themselves, but will really frown upon nosy outsiders.
posted by MsMolly at 7:22 AM on July 24, 2013


Also note even if you don't have to disclose this in a future sale, it doesn't prevent future house buyers from googling the address and finding the news reports. If it's a small town and the local paper / crime blotter isn't on the internet, it's unlikely to come up in a few years without a intensive search.
posted by benzenedream at 12:05 PM on July 24, 2013


BTW, your assumptions about disclosure should be validated by your attorney. The sellers disclosure form has 2 relevant questions. The first is the obvious one that asks if anyone died there in the past 3 years. The more tricky one is the one that asks if there anything that is not specifically addressed on the form which materially effects the value of the home.

In the way you commented, you think that disclosure might impact resale. That falls into that second more vague question. You need someone to advise you who's well versed in the real estate case law in your area. (I did a quick look and there were some decisions against a non-disclosing seller.)

If big part of your decision is that you can sell without disclosure, then you really should talk to a real estate attorney. Non-disclosure (of all types) is the cause plenty real estate litigation.
posted by 26.2 at 12:12 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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