Can Haunted Houses be Sued for being Too Scary?

Can Haunted Houses be Sued for being Too Scary?


Haunted houses have become scarier over the years. The primary reason for that is the constantly changing and growing demand of the target market. Old school thrills and surprises don’t scare enough people any more. It is fair to infer that the traditional haunted house business is pretty much a nonstarter as not enough people are interested in exploring the conventional thrills. This has led to a new crop of haunted houses that take to the extremes. They have redefined what it means to scare people.


Traditionally, haunted houses have used darkness and special lights, minimal or no visibility, sound effects, quaint pathways and décor, actors or performers with harmless props to scare the patrons. There was an unwritten code that no haunted house will physically touch or abuse the patrons. Anyone walking into a haunted house knew that they would be completely safe, no matter how scary the place is. Not many people complained about these conventional haunted houses. However, with the advent of extreme haunted houses, there are more side effects now and people are suing such businesses.


In one instance, forty four year old Scott Griffin went to explore the Haunted Trail with his friends over Halloween. San Diego’s Haunted Trail is a popular activity among residents and tourists. The facility is operated by Haunted Hotel Inc. Griffin endured all the over the top scares through the trail and emerged victorious at the end, having encountered nothing too unsettling. But at the end of the trail, which is when they had thought the amusement was over, an actor came charging towards Griffin with a chainsaw. Griffin tried to run but fell. The actor was clearly gestured to stop and Griffin even asked the actor to do so as he tried to get away. Griffin hurt both his wrists after he fell down and it took him several weeks to recover.


Scott Griffin filed a lawsuit and claimed an undisclosed amount in damages. His case was dismissed by the court. The attorney representing Haunted Hotel Inc. successfully argued that Griffin knew he was going to be treated with some scary acts and there is a clear warning on the tickets. If Griffin had paid for the ticket and chosen voluntarily to explore the trail, then the consequences of the adventure would be his to bear and not the responsibility of the establishment.


Haunted houses are supposed to be scary and if people are afraid of the thrills or the potential consequences then they should just stay away. However, just as Griffin’s lawyer tried to argue and failed, how much is enough and when it is taking the whole haunted house adventure too far to risk the safety of the customers. For instance, in a separate incident reported by one Amy Milligan against McKamey Manor, she described how the haunted house physically tortured her and she has been left emotionally scarred forever. She even had injuries caused during her experience at McKamey manor, also in San Diego. Here again, McKamey Manor clearly advertises itself as an extreme haunted house experience and gets customers to sign waivers, which automatically reduces or eliminates the chances of winning a lawsuit.

A Look at Stambovsky v. Ackley

In selling a house, the seller has a number of responsibilities that they must consider. For example, they will certainly need to tell the perspective buyer if there any faults with the home. Inspections and other practices can reveal a great deal, regardless of what the seller chooses to reveal, but it is still a responsibility of that seller to offer full disclosure.

  • Does this include telling a potential buyer if a home is haunted?
  • The answer is going to surprise you. To appreciate the answer in full, you are going to want to look closely at cases such as Stambovsky v. Ackley.
  • What Is the Ghostbusters Ruling?


Whether or not there is existence beyond death is not for this article to decide. We can’t tell you if the paranormal is for real. However, we can tell you that ghost and haunted house culture in our society is profound. For example, even if you are an unshakable atheist, absolutely convinced that we only get one trip around the game of life, you still have to consider the potential paranormal beliefs of others. If you are going to sell someone a house, and you know that the house has a history of being “haunted”, if only in terms of the perceptions of others, then it is your responsibility to disclose that to a potential seller.

All of this sounds ridiculous, but it is not without legitimate legal precedent. Furthermore, you will also find that the law tends to favor haunted houses against plaintiffs in lawsuits, provided it can be proven that the individual was injured through their understanding of what the haunted house would entail.

A lot of this stuff can be traced back to a ruling that has since become known as the Ghostbusters Ruling. Also known as Stambovsky v. Ackley, the Ghostbusters Ruling essentially made it clear that if an individual had established in some form or fashion that their home was haunted, they would be required to tell a potential buyer about that later on. The law, basically states that if your house is considered to be legally haunted (Helen Ackley had reported her home to both Reader’s Digest and the local paper), then you have a responsibility to tell a potential buyer. In this case, the buyer was Jeffrey Stambovsky.

When Stambovsky discovered the home was haunted, he did two things.

Stambovsky v. Ackley Details

Upon learning that the house was considered to be haunted, Stambovsky made two gestures. The first gesture involved filing an action to basically call the whole thing off. The second thing he did was sue for the damages that were incurred through what he perceived to be fraudulent representation through Ackley and her real estate company.


The New York Supreme Court dismissed his action. Stambovsky opted to appeal. This was heard in the New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division. The majority opinion would wind up siding with Stambovsky. This opinion essentially stated that if haunted claims on a house had been in one or more national publications, then the seller could not fail to disclose that information later on. You can’t sell a house that you know is haunted, without disclosing the information. However, you can sell a house that you don’t think is haunted. If a potential buyer asks, you are under no directive to provide a concrete answer. Interestingly enough, the dissenting opinion insisted on strictly utilizing caveat emptor, the principle that the duty is on the buyer to discover any issues associated with any purchase.

Other Legal Considerations Regarding Haunted Houses

The aftermath of the case mentioned above has proven to be absolutely fascinating. The ruling continues to be upheld, and it has become a staple of textbooks, classrooms, and elsewhere.

The bottom line when selling a home, full disclosure remains vital.

A Look at Famous Haunted Houses

Fancy yourself a fan of the paranormal? Then you probably already have a good idea of the most haunted houses. However, do you really know them all? As you are quickly going to discover, the number and range of haunted houses across the globe is absolutely staggering. Taken as a whole, the number of haunted houses in North America alone is something that is bound to impress you.

5 Famous Haunted Houses

Some places are more paranormal than others. To that end, there are several ghost-centric spots that you should keep in mind. At the same time, it’s not a bad idea by any means to brush up on some of the spookiest homes and buildings in the United States. These are places with numerous sightings, troubling backstories, or a grim combination of the two.


Let’s get started with 5 famous haunted houses that are definitely worth your time:

1. The Chelsea Hotel: Located in New York City, the hotel garnered a reputation early on for drawing writers and other artists. Visitors in the present will tell you that it’s possible to catch a glimpse of Dylan Thomas or Eugene O’Neil.

2. Woodburn Mansion: The spirit of the builder is just one of the ghosts you can find at this mansion, which has been the home of the Governor for the past several decades.

3. Winchester Mystery House: This massive Victorian mansion, located in California,  offers one-hundred-and-sixty rooms. It also offers secret pathways, and numerous other links to the hidden world.

4. The Amityville House: The house that spawned a film franchise, this is a home that saw six individuals from the DeFeo murdered by one of their own. If that means anything to you, then you are not going to be surprised by how much paranormal trouble the house has experienced through the years.

5. Ferry Plantation House: Most haunted houses feature only one or two spirits, or perhaps three. This Virginia Beach location is pretty amazing then, considering the fact that some eleven spirits are believed to be existing there.

Where are the Most Ghosts?

When it comes to spots with the most ghosts, you really can’t go wrong with a long look at Gettysburg. While you will need to join or book a tour to see all of them, there are several that you are also free to visit on your own during certain specified hours. Sachs Covered Bridge, which can be found along Water Works Road, is seen by many as the most haunted area in all of Gettysburg. However, in order to enjoy this experience for yourself at night, you will need to be part of a tour.

Hoffman Mansion is another example of something you are only going to be able to see while on a tour. Nonetheless, anyone who has experienced Hoffman Mansion for themselves is going to tell you that this is well worth doing. The Grove is another along those lines. You can find it behind Warrior Stadium.


777 Baltimore Street is home to the Children’s Orphanage. It is also the address that the Ghostly Images group would call home. It was shut down when it was discovered that the owner had been chaining children to the walls, it has one of the darkest ghost stories in all of Gettysburg.

Finally, if you want to check out a battlefield that is seriously haunted, take some time to visit the Devil’s Den. This destination is widely considered to be one of the scariest battlefields you are ever going to come across. When it comes to the name of the ghost you are going to meet, there is really no way to say who is going to come along!

Visit A Haunted House Today

By no means are the suggestions above comprehensive. You are going to discover that Gettysburg alone has a number of additional sights to behold. You will also find several more haunted houses, mansions, and other locations throughout the United States.

If you want a few more suggestions you can try out, look into the Jennie Wade House, the area surrounding the Doubleday Inn, and the Tillie Pierce House Inn. There are even more examples of haunted houses that you can discover all across the planet. Why not consider a haunted house road trip?