No two house-hunters are ever the same. Some want an open plan living area, others require something more compartmentalised. Some are looking for small flats right in the centre of things, others want a country pile stretching as far as the eye can see. Some people will even spend hours or even days with estate agency personnel making sure their new property isn’t haunted. Yes, haunted.
This may seem strange to many, but for some it’s a real concern. Before pouring scorn on those who have such fears that their house is haunted, however, just take a cursory glance back through the annuls of time, as this could provide a somewhat different view…
It was a dark and stormy night at Property Personnel when a-knocking came at the window. Ok, maybe it didn’t quite happen like that but it sets the tone. A news story had caught our eye involving a complaint to the Property Ombudsman service claiming that a prospective buyer should have had their deposit returned as neither the agent nor vendor declared that it was haunted.
In this case, the Ombudsman ruled against the claim, leaving the superstitious buyer out in the cold.
Then, with our interest suitably piqued, we asked on Twitter whether anyone knew of any similar cases had been reported in the past. Surely enough, barrister and vice-chair of the Housing Law Practitioners Association Justin Bates came forward with some examples.
Among them was the case of McKee v Hackney, which took place in 1969.
McGee alleged that his house was haunted after bearing witness to poltergeist phenomena and appearances by phantoms on numerous occasions. Not only that, raps and taps were heard at all times of day or night, along with countless strange noises.
Eventually, this ghostly figure made itself known to McGee when a woman wearing white emerged from a wardrobe when the house was full. Everyone at the time was certain that they’d seen the apparition and all attested to the same disquieting, hollow, socket-like eyes.
Where the property itself was concerned, McGee alleged that the apparition damaged furnishings and even set fires inside. This was backed up by members of the Ghost Club, who went along to witness the phenomena first-hand.
As a result of the apparition, McGee lobbied the council for a rent reduction. They obliged and his fee dropped from £6 a week to just five shillings. The landlord, unsurprisingly, took issue with the reduction and took the issue to court, eventually winning the case and getting his £6 figure restored.
That wasn’t the end of the issue, however, as McGee escalated the issue to the high courts. There, Lord Chief Justice Lord Parker came down on McGee’s side and the reduction was reinstated.
“There is no doubt that the tenant and his family – and indeed a number of interested people who went to observe the phenomena – were fully convinced that this was a haunted house and there were ghosts that manifested themselves from time to time,” Lord Parker said at the time.
So unlike the more recent Ombudsman case, that of McGee v Hackney came down in favour of the tenant. Now, however, it would be impossible to verify the veracity of McGee’s claims as the house – 69 Spencer Grove – has since been demolished.
A ruse to secure cheap rent or a genuine tale of a family driven almost to the brink by a ghost? We’ll leave that decision to you.
Sleep tight, and don’t have nightmares.