Saunders, Real Estate, Hamptons

Hamptons Life

Oct 29, 2009 11:24 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

East End haunts are scarce but still there

Oct 29, 2009 11:24 AM

Each year, when the icy winds of autumn blow and the leaves wither and die, the East End is a changed place. A gray cast descends and summer’s greenery and brightness give way to gnarled branches and gunmetal-colored skies.

The region is home to more than three centuries of historic structures and spooky ambience, but at first glance, it appears nearly devoid of spirits. While similar communities celebrate their ghosts, the haunted Hamptons is a subject often discussed without specifics or only quietly among trusted friends.

“It’s here, it’s just that nobody wants to admit it,” Richard Barons, executive director of the East Hampton Historical Society acknowledged recently. He said it’s hard to believe that haunted places exist all over Long Island, but almost none of them are in Southampton or East Hampton, two of the most historic and venerable towns.

Mr. Barons said the unique local real estate market is his only explanation. “I never could figure out another reason for having so few spirits and so few stories about spirits,” he said. The historian said high property values and people’s desire to protect their assets is the root of the problem, but those costs also encourage short-term purchases as some climb the housing ladder and others flip properties for profit.

Stories of apparitions, shadow men and disembodied voices may add to the character of a home, but the creepy stories could also be a deal-breaker for more superstitious buyers. The more often a house is on the market, the less likely its spirits will be revealed, Mr. Barons explained.

John Viteritti, a real estate broker, consultant and teacher at Long Island University, reported that New York State has actually upheld one buyer’s right to know that their potential residence was haunted.

In the controversial 1991 case of Stambovsky v. Ackley in Nyack, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court ruled that homeowner Helen Ackley had to return a $32,500 down payment on an agreed upon $650,000 price to buyer Jeffrey Stambovsky because she had not revealed that her house was host to several poltergeists.

The opinion for the 3 to 2 decision noted that Ms. Ackley had promoted her home as haunted in the past and even related her ghost stories to a local newspaper and Reader’s Digest magazine. The majority explained that the doctrine of caveat emptor, “let the buyer beware,” did not come into play because Mr. Stambovsky could not find physical evidence of the spirits, nor would it be reasonable for him to inquire about them. The court ruled it was Ms. Ackley’s responsibility to disclose the information because it was solely in her possession and could affect the value of the home in a very real way.

That 1991 decision is the most current on the subject, but no one knows if all sellers are required to disclose their resident spirits, Mr. Viteritti said, adding, “That’s what makes it interesting.” He noted that Ms. Ackley had profited from her ghosts, which made her situation unique.

During his years as an active broker, Mr. Viteritti said he was made aware of several haunted properties in Southampton, but the houses were never an issue for brokers. If he did have a reputed haunted house, he said it would be a sensitive situation that would warrant discussion.

Though he was not aware of a specific haunting that has been kept quiet locally, Mr. Barons has worked with historical societies in similar old towns where he heard many more ghost stories. “I’ve just assumed there are houses that must have ghosts in them,” he said of East End residences. “The whole maritime thing and ghosts is so big. You’d expect every house in Sag Harbor is haunted.”

A mere handful of East End ghost stories are in the public eye, but local realtors and property owners confirm that many more remain hidden.

One Sag Harbor broker, who chose to remain anonymous, said she was showing a house in the village when an unseen force nearly pushed her down the stairs. Fortunately, the broker said she grabbed the banister and avoided catastrophe, but that experience was enough for her.

“I didn’t go back in that house for years,” she said.

She acknowledged that ghost stories are often suppressed on the South Fork. “People are afraid,” she said, explaining that brokers and sellers fear hurting their bottom line or they simply fear ridicule.

“We have many homes in Sag Harbor that have reported entities,” Ernest Schade, a former owner of a 200-year-old building and brokerage firm on Main Street said, noting that a range of paranormal phenomena occurred there over two decades. Among other things, Mr. Schade gathered reports of a floating black phantom, footsteps of unknown origin, uneasy feelings and a ghostly face peering out the window.

Mr. Schade said he believes that the ghost is a friendly and protective spirit that once compelled a tenant to return home just as a fire began to take hold. “I have every reason to feel it’s haunted,” he said of the building, which now houses the Rebecca Cooper and Winter Tree galleries.

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Let's Call Ghost Hunters - Yeah Baby! If they find anything, then we can always call Ghostbusters!!
By LovedHerTown (132), southampton on Oct 29, 09 4:19 PM
...or they can always call us! We're here to help! Great Story! :)
By islandghost.com (1), Holtsville on Oct 30, 09 4:55 PM
Excellent story!
By evpguy (1), Farmingville on Oct 30, 09 6:16 PM
BOO !!!
By AndersEn (174), Southampton on Oct 31, 09 3:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
The old Corwith Pharmacy building on the corner of main street and jobs lane in Southampton has a woman in an old fashioned long dress, according to someone who's worked there. She saw her in the basement.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Nov 2, 09 9:49 AM
the southampton movie theater is haunted also...one of the old ticket-rippers murph still hangs around there..but i have a feeling he is not the only one..
By LilOnes21 (23), hampton bays on Nov 2, 09 1:43 PM
John Ducks was haunted. I met the ghost of "George" when I worked there as a teenager. Legend had it he would make appearances from time to time. It was not uncommon for the waitresses to spot him at the end of the bar when they were closing up for the night.
By Uncle Fester (61), Southampton on Nov 2, 09 8:24 PM
Thanks for all the stories, folks! Keep 'em coming...
By Oliver Peterson (19), Southampton Press on Nov 3, 09 10:25 PM

By pegee (14), Southampton on Nov 4, 09 1:00 AM
I lived in a haunted house. At first, I brushed off the noises to the wind & the fact that old houses creak. But then a floorboard, which only made noise when stepped on, creaked, and then a chair that creaked only when sat in creaked on its own, so I started wondering. There would be pockets of cold air & unexplained "shadows." I never got a creepy feeling - it just felt like someone was watching over me. After doing a little history, I did discover someone died in the house, so I started ...more
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on Nov 5, 09 9:21 AM
The Halsey House, now a museum on South Main Street, was supposed to be haunted by the woman who was murdered there by some indians who came down from Connetticut to stir up trouble down here during colonial times. My mother summered in it several times, but never saw anything unusual even though she deliberately went looking for the ghost at night. Her friends thought her brave to stay in the house.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Nov 5, 09 11:11 PM
Mr. Barons said the story about the Indians and the murder may not be true. If I recall, he said it was one of those stories that may have a basis in fact, but it's been misconstrued over time.
By Oliver Peterson (19), Southampton Press on Nov 11, 09 9:43 PM