Lessons From My Own Stigmatized Property

A journalist recounts the ghostly occurrences in a haunted house he bought in 2008 — and he says he's not concerned about it hurting his resale value.

A banker friend of mine once told me I was crazy for sharing the hauntings in my house publicly, that it would destroy the value of our home and make it unsellable in the future. As a journalist and author, I had recently written about the unexplainable encounters my wife, Diane, and I have had in our home. I had been traveling and speaking frequently on the topic, and I’m pretty popular at local book signings. Fortunately, based on the reactions of all the people I’ve spoken to about this, I’ve found no reason to share my friend’s concerns.

Looking back on it, I can see how our dream house might have been the stuff of some people’s nightmares. But the house contained nearly all its original elements — woodwork, trim, floors, locks, and hardware — which is a rarity and a real draw for us. Diane and I heard rumors that the 180-year-old, run-down home was haunted when we bought it in 2008. We didn’t care; we laughed it off at the time as superstitious nonsense.

At the closing, we asked the agent and seller, who had grown up in the house, about the rumors. The agent seemed surprised and said she hadn’t heard anything. The seller, who had rented out the house for the last couple of decades, seemed less shocked but said he had not had any personal experiences.

One afternoon, soon after the closing, John, a man who had rented the house for nearly 24 years, stopped by, and he asked the question frankly: “Do you know the house is haunted?” He told us about numerous experiences he encountered, including hearing someone running on the top floor, from bedroom to bedroom, and it always ended with a door slamming shut. After he left, I joked with my wife: “So that explains all the half-empty booze bottles we’ve been finding hidden around the house.”

Don Allison replaces the floor of the master bedroom, a hotspot in the home for reported paranormal activity, including footsteps and apparitions of a young girl in historical garb.

For a couple of weeks, I enjoyed a good laugh at John’s expense. Then one evening, I was working in the living room after dark, and I was running a generator outside to power a work light and my circular saw. I heard what sounded like light, running footsteps upstairs going from room to room. And then I heard the door close.

I grabbed a flashlight and headed upstairs. The door to the north bedroom, which I distinctly heard slam shut, remained open. Nothing seemed to have been disturbed, not even the dust on the floor. As I flashed my light into the middle bedroom and looked at the rotted floor, I realized no person could have been in there without crashing through to the living room below.

Shaking my head, I tried to come up with a rational explanation. I wanted to think a raccoon was in the house, but I knew those were not raccoon footsteps I heard. No scratching or nails or scurrying feet — no, these were the firm, quick steps of a small woman or a child.

As I worked on repairing the home that winter, I would hear the footsteps every couple of weeks. Then my tools and other items would go missing, turning up in very odd places or not at all. Once, returning to the house to retrieve Diane’s purse, I heard a young woman’s voice whispering in my ear, “Be sure the door’s locked.”

We looked into research and found that the happenings in our home are similar to paranormal occurrences reported throughout history and across the world. We found out the history on our own home: It used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War, and four soldiers had grown up there, two of whom died in the conflict.

We had been serious skeptics, but now we are convinced that paranormal events are real. I realize now the property we purchased could be described as stigmatized. Laws vary from state to state as to whether real estate agents must disclose reported hauntings, but it’s a good rule of thumb to do so regardless. In our case, we did not believe the rumors, so disclosure would not have been a deterrent.

Don Allison restores the exterior of his home. Unexplained sounds, such as the ringing of a hammer striking stone, have been heard in the area, and people have reported being touched when no one is there.

Either way, our purchase turned out to be a great choice. We do not find the paranormal events to be frightening; we consider them intriguing. The vibe of the house is very warm and welcoming, and this historic house is very much our home. We look to make this our retirement estate, and to live here as long as we are physically able.

It inspired my latest book, which addresses my paranormal experiences both at home and in my travels to the Civil War battlefield of Gettysburg, Pa. The reaction to I Met a Ghost at Gettysburg: A Journalist’s Journey Into the Paranormal has been better than I could have hoped — my most popular work to date. My background as a 35-year veteran award-winning daily newspaper writer and editor has opened many doors of acceptance for the topic.

In my various travels, speeches, and dealings, I find time and time again that people are fascinated with the paranormal, and many actually want to own a haunted house — unless there’s a malevolence left behind after a notorious, violent crime such as murder. Judging on my experience, I’d tell real estate professionals to be open in sharing details of hauntings with prospective buyers. Even if we’d had upfront proof of our home’s haunted reputation before buying it, we still would have gone through with the transaction. You may find a haunting actually helps sell your listing.