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Halloween is just around the corner with ghosts, goblins and spooky spirits banging around in the dark of night. The appraisal profession affords us the opportunity to run into many scary circumstances and surroundings. Here are a couple of eerie memories from our archives to mark the holiday, and we invite you to share your own scary stories with us using the comments section at the bottom.


Casper the Friendly Ghost

For any appraisers who’ve worked inner cities, you all know there is no telling what you may run into during an inspection. As a trainee, we always inspected the roughest areas early in the morning. On this day, we rolled up to the two family and observed it to be in very nice shape, freshly painted with a well-manicured postage stamp lot and a nice 4 ft. chain link fence enclosing the yard. As we walked through the fence, the gate clanged shut behind us and my boss approached the front door of the owner’s unit. He rang the bell and as he did we saw a flash of white ruffle the drapes of the tall double pane window next to the large oak door. Within seconds we heard the deadbolt flip open and the door handle start to turn. My boss pulled open the screen door to greet the owner as the heavy oak door opened. As happens in big cities, the door only came open about six inches, I was standing behind my partner and saw he was being greeted by a small elderly woman checking on us before she would let us into the entry way any further. He explained we were from the bank to appraise the house and she commented she was expecting us. I observed that she seemed to be leaning out of the door trying to fill the six inch opening she had created as she spoke to us. As she talked she began to be pushed out toward us as through she was struggling against someone pushing on her back forcing her out of the door almost into my boss’s arms. With no warning she burst through the door toward us and we heard the blood cuddling roar of the largest dog we had ever seen. It was all teeth and white fur pushing the frail woman out of the house and charging toward the two of us perceived intruders. Without a thought, I instinctively turned and ran down the short path to the fence gate. Unfortunately, my boss had got tangled up as the woman fell into his arms before he too could turn and start running toward safety outside the fence. As I exited the fence and made it to the street, the gate clanged shut behind me trapping my boss in the yard as the dog, now identified by the old woman screaming his name as “Casper”, was in hot pursuit. My partner hit the fence gate at his waist and fumbled with the gate latch before being pounced on by the monster dog. My boss covered his head and turned toward the attacking dog who then stood up on his hind legs and put both massive paws on my boss’s shoulders. They were now face to face. Then this great white toothy beast began to lick my bosses face up and down rubbing his giant head on his chest and begging for a scratch under his chin. Casper as it turns out, truly was a “Friendly Ghost”. We all laughed as the owner apologized and we went on to make our inspection. Needless to say, from that day on I, as the trainee, I was sent first through any fenced gates and knocked on all the client doors so that my boss had a clear path for a quick exit and I would be the preferred victim of the next ghost attack!


Little House of Horrors

It was a beautiful, sunny day in early October 2004 with the temperature in the 70s. I arrived at the subject property around midday looking forward to a quick and easy inspection of what I knew from on-line assessing records was a +/- 20-year-old, 960 square foot ranch. Pulling into the driveway I saw a multitude of random items strewn about the yard and a lawn that looked like it hadn’t been mowed all year. As I exited my vehicle and gathered my tools of the trade, I was met by one of the home’s occupant, a 20 something year old woman with a cigarette in her mouth and coffee in hand. I introduced myself and we chatted for a moment, going over the inspection process, and then began measuring and photographing the exterior of the home. While wading through the tall grass measuring the rear of the home, I was startled by something brushing against my leg. I jumped back looking down and saw not one, but two rather mangy looking cats, one of which than began rubbing against my leg. I laughed at myself for being startled so easily and continued measuring and inspecting the exterior of the home all the while being accompanied by the two friendly felines.

The home looked older than its reported 20 years having had little to no exterior maintenance since being built but thankfully, no significant deferred maintenance was noted and so I was still under the impression this was going to be an easy inspection. However, that changed just moments after entering the home. I was let into the kitchen and was immediately enveloped by the thick layer of cigarette smoke that hung in the air (did I mention I’m asthmatic) and was greeted by several more cats. Now I love cats but do have allergies and so between the smoke and the SEVEN cats that lived in the home, I instantly began having difficulty breathing. I put on my game face as the young woman who had met me in the driveway, and who was now smoking another cigarette, introduced me to her boyfriend and roommate, both of whom were also smoking. Immediately after the introductions I went to work, still hoping to be out of the home in 10 minutes or less. As I was taking notes in the kitchen, I was surprised to find that I was able to smell anything other than the smoke (or cats), but the overflowing trash and pile of food laden dishes in the sink proved odiferous enough to be noted.

By the time I had finished inspecting the kitchen and living room, my chest was heavy and breathing was getting more difficult by the minute. As I went down the hallway, I was again surprised to find I could smell anything over the smoke, but the smell of trash and of a litterbox that needed changing was unmistakable. As I entered the bathroom I did not find the litter box as I had expected but did find a ceiling with several large black splotches of a mold-like substance and bathroom fixtures that were stained from the iron in the water and a very apparent lack of adequate cleaning. As I moved down the hall and inspected the very cluttered and untidy bedrooms, my breathing worsened and I was thankful the inspection was almost over…with only the basement left to inspect.

As I went to open the basement door I noticed a kitty door in the bottom and now knew where the litter box was kept. Given the cleanliness, or lack thereof, with the living area and the strong odor emanating from the basement, I steeled myself as I opened the door, flipped the light switch and descended into the basement. A few feet from the foot of the stairs I found the litter box which was, as I had expected in dire need of cleaning but to be honest, it was not as bad as I had been expecting and I couldn’t understand why the smell of trash was stronger down here than in the kitchen with the overflowing trash and pile of dirty dishes. As I was looking at the litter box and now precariously close to having a full blown asthma attack, I heard buzzing sounds behind me and turned to see what was the cause. It was then I understood why the smell of garbage (and of litter box) emanated throughout the house. Directly in front of me was a PILE of trash over five feet high (no joke) that took up a quarter of the basement. Most of the trash was in bags but several had broken open (or been torn open by the cats) and rotting food could be seen and was what had attracted the flies. I took out my camera in a hurry to photograph the scene before me and get out of the house so I could breathe again. As the flash of the camera went off there was movement directly in front of me as something leapt out of the pile towards me. I jumped back wondering what monstrous creature was attacking me, only to find the same mangy cat that had startled me when I was measuring the home, once again rubbing up against my leg.

I hurriedly left the house and, after a few hours and several puffs on an inhaler, was able to breathe normally again. Since that time I have inspected thousands of homes, many of which had significant deferred maintenance, mold and other issues but for me, this small ranch will always be my little house of horrors.



    I have been a real estate appraiser in the Boston and Greater Boston area for over twenty-five years. On occasion over that time I have inspected some older homes that have that have left me with the uncomfortable feeling that I might not have been as alone in the room as I had thought. A few times I’ve left with the hair standing up on the back of my neck and happy to get out and see the light of day. When I read the request to share a story about fear and fright, no one incident in particular came to mind but I did recall an event that would appropriately fall within the spirit of the dark side of Halloween.

    My true story begins in the mid-1990s on a bright August day down in the seaside community of Fall Fiver, Massachusetts. My appraisal assignment was to inspect a fully occupied, four family building. I contacted the property manager to schedule the appointment and let him know that the lender required that I enter and photograph all rooms in all four units.

    I met the agent on the scheduled date and time in front of the building. We began with unit one and went through the first three units without incident. Inside the last of the apartments as I made my way through the inspection I came across an interior room with a rather sophisticated looking lock on the door. I turned to ask my guide to open the door to the room when I saw that he was out in the hall. When I requested access to this room, he said that he did not have the key and that entry was not necessary. When I reiterated to him the lender requirement to access and photograph all rooms he looked my dead in the eyes and said “You don’t want to go into that room.”

    Well, entry was a requirement and now my curiosity was high so I was determined to get into that room and since Fall River is quite far afield from my office in Boston I did not want to make a return trip. The property manager silently nodded his head in agreement and I was asked to go to lunch while he arranged to acquire the key. I was asked to please come back in one hour.

    At the appointed time we reentered the unit and I would soon learn the secret behind the forbidden room. Head down and intentionally avoiding eye contact, he turned the lock and slowly but firmly pushed the door open. I remember that as I stepped forward into the room it took a moment for my eyes to adjust from the strong sunlight poring through the rest of the unit to the dimly lit, windowless room where I now stood.

    What I saw next made even this seasoned appraiser blush. I found that I was now smack in the middle of a dominatrixs’ dungeon room!! As I perused the well-organized room I saw that it was complete with all kinds of leather costumes, whips, chains, toys, tools, props, gadgets, assorted oils, potions and elixirs. And bolted into the wall on the left side of the room was a very ominous looking large wooden beam constructed stretch rack that immediately brought disturbing images to my mind.

    I suddenly remembered that I still had to photograph this room so I used my most creative photography skills to attempt to exclude most of this interesting personal property that filled the room. As we parted ways, we exchanged silent but knowing nods. I then made my way north to my next appointment shaken but not stirred….

  2. Sometimes I feel as though I have stepped into an episode of Criminal Minds! Everything looks ok from the outside but then someone answers the door and you get a very uneasy feeling as you enter the home.

    The feeling, as well as the homeowner, follows you around through every room in the home and every door is closed. Makes you wonder what is on the other side. As you keep entering different rooms, the suspicion that you have stepped into a horror movie that you can’t escape from grows to a point that overwhelms you and you can’t get out of that home soon enough! You tell yourself that you are over reacting and you forge ahead but something inside is telling you to run the other way!

    All these thoughts are swirling around in your head and then the homeowner comes to the last door and before he opens it he says to you “I have saved the best for last”. Now you are thinking…what the heck is behind that door?…Should you run now? Is it a room filled with other victims that have entered the home and never gotten out? A torture chamber and you are the next casualty? Then the door opens and you enter into a part of the home you wish you had never seen and was not there!! An illegal in-law!!! So it WAS a nightmare after all !! You knew your instincts were right to run the other way!! Happy Halloween!!! :)

  3. I appraised an 1825 antique Colonial home in Stratford, CT over 20 years ago but I can visualize this home in my mind like it was yesterday. It was a typical vintage home with a 10×10 foot central chimney with three fireplaces on the first floor.

    Like always, I start my inspection in the basement. I go to the basement, which has crushed stone flooring, not concrete. As i turn the corner around second side the stone chimney, I am met with three etched marble headstone sticking out of the basement floor! That’s odd I thought and finished the basement inspection. I went back upstairs and asked the owner about the headstones in the basement.

    The owner explained that they are REAL graves of the original owners of the home! My next question was, Are their spirits still in the home?? She said, Yes. They walk around the house, up and down the stairs, rock the rocking chairs, move things around the house and sometimes a glowing figure can be seen walking the the back yard at night. She said, they bought the home knowing there were active spirits in the home. They raised their five children there and told them that the spirits were kind and not to worry about it. So don’t believe all the stories out there.

  4. A few years ago, New England had one of those winters where it seemed to snow every other day. One afternoon, I set up an inspection while on the road, so there was no note in my day book or anywhere else. The Realtor that met me was wishing she had not made the appointment as there was to be an early school closing due to yet another snow storm. As the house was vacant, I assured her that in appraisal 101 I had been taught how to lock up and encouraged her to leave. Which she did, leaving me alone in the house.

    The house was located on a rear lot of a larger than usual lot, and there were no other houses within view. Once I’d finished the inside of the house, I locked up and started on the outside. The relocation company had had the driveway and walkways cleared but getting a rear photo was going to be tricky. The snow piles had frozen over, and even with Yaktrax on my boots it was miserable at best.

    I’m not sure what gave me the idea to run and jump out onto a snow bank, but there I was running towards the pile. I remember my feet going out from under me and thinking that this was probably going to leave a mark. I woke up some time later, and the snow had started to fall. There was already a layer covering me. I got knocked out, but thankfully woke up and lived the tell the tale.

  5. I was a haunted house skeptic until I appraised this one!

    I did an appraisal about 4-5 years ago on a single-family home. As soon as I entered the property I was overcome by a very strange and unsettling feeling. The feeling got much stronger as I was going through the house with the homeowner who had purchased the property not too long prior to my inspection.

    When I was on the second floor loft looking down on the first floor, the sensation became so overwhelming that I actually began to feel fear. I just needed to finish up and get the hell out of this house. I left as soon as I could, and went to the town hall to do the rest of my work. It was then I realized that a woman had been murdered in that house a short while before the homeowner I had met with had taken possession. The murder was a well known story, however I didn’t know it was that house until I learned who the prior owner was. It was far and away the weirdest and scariest feeling I have ever had in all my years of appraising.

  6. I appraised a funeral parlor many years ago with a woman from my office named Mary. It was a decrepit old building in Charlestown, MA with creaky floors and old furniture in every room. We went downstairs into the basement to check out the systems and we had to walk through cobwebs and some oozy puddles on the concrete floor. I think Mary’s shoes were a victim of the ooze as when we left the basement, they were now a different color. Anyway we were completing the inspection and we found ourselves in the embalming room…(had never done that before). There was a body on the porcelain table and all the bottles of fluid on the table next to the body. We didn’t spend a lot of time in that room, but as we were leaving the room I looked back at the body and I’m sure that it winked at me.

  7. Do You Like Snakes?

    I was inspecting a multi family residence. In one unit I met a small 4 foot maybe 8 inches tall woman in her mid thirties. She asked what rooms do you need to see? I told her all of them. She said reluctantly, “when you go into the bedroom don’t mind the snake”. It certainly peaked my interest, and I asked “is the snake in an aquarium or cage of some sort?” She said no we let it wander around. I then asked if it was non venomous, and she said it was not poisonous. Still a little unnerved, I went about my work. Eventually, I reached the bedroom. Under the king size bed, on the floor was a snake with a head bigger than my extended hand and wrist just watching me with its tongue flicking out. As I walked around the other side of the bed to inspect the floor and wall I saw its tail was sticking out from the other side of the bed diagonally. Wow! This was one BIG snake. I walked back out and asked her what was up with the snake. She never blinked as she said “well it eats the rats”. I looked at how big she was and said what if it doesn’t find any rats? She said its never been a problem, we have had it for over 8 years, and never fed it once. I didn’t like that answer as I had not yet been in the basement. When I eventually reached the basement however, I did not see a single, or even a sign that a rat had ever been there. As scary as it was to find such a huge snake out in the open, it evidently was an effective pest control solution. Right out of Harry Potter and the House of Slytherin!

  8. These stories are great. I’m not a licensed appraiser, but I am an experienced real estate agent who has been in the industry for over 30 years. I have a story that I think this group will like!

    Back in the ’80s, I was listing an old Victorian home in Palestine, Texas. Although it was many years old, it did not look run down at all. It had a sort of elegant look that immediately made you think there must be a lot of interesting history here. I had gone to the house to take pictures for the listing on day, and it was completely empty when I arrived. I began moving around the home collecting my photos, and became focused on a beautiful arched doorway which separated the kitchen from the dining room. I made sure to get an especially good shot of this, because I thought it was one of the best features of the home.

    Back in those days, we did not have cool camera phones. We actually had to take our film to have it developed. Two days later, I was looking through the photos and came to a picture that sent chills up and down my spine. Standing there in that arched doorway was a young girl. She had absolutely NOT been in that house at the time I was taking the photos. It would have been impossible for me to have missed someone just standing there. The little girl in the photo was staring directly at me with a piercing look on her face.

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