Who Ya Gonna Call?18 Oct, 20222 Mins
Does the law believe in ghosts?
In 1803, Francis Smith shot bricklayer Thomas Milwood dead. Francis pleaded guilty to manslaughter, not murder because he saw Thomas in his all-white work uniform and was convinced he’d shot a ghost.
The jury agreed, but an unconvinced judge forced a decision of either murder or acquittal. He was found guilty and sentenced to death, but public sympathy led to a Royal Pardon. The case made it clear though that English law doesn’t believe in ghosts.
What about haunted houses?
It’s less clear. In the UK if you are selling your home and you have information that might adversely affect the property value or the new owner’s enjoyment of it, you are legally obliged to disclose it.
So, if you believe your house is haunted but you don’t mention it and your neighbours get a fright and sue, there may be a case. This has yet to arise in UK courts, so it’s unclear what the ruling would be.
In the US though, there are some laws against ghosts running amok in homes.
Many states operate on a “buyer beware” basis. But in New York, sellers must explicitly inform buyers of all defects, including intangible ones like hauntings because it could negatively affect the value.
In California if a death occurs in a home you have to declare it for 3 years after it happened.
Written by Jason Connolly