Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wanna Buy England's Most Haunted House?

I have previously reviewed legal concerns and business practices regarding the sale of "haunted" property, and other sorts of ways in which paranormal beliefs and folklore intersect with the law.

While most of the concerns have been that a haunted reputation would damage property values, I've wondered if and when a haunting would be a plus. I need not wait anymore. In the current depressed real estate market, a house being "England's Most Haunted" is being used as a selling point. Digital Journal has the details on Wymering House, including television video of ghost hunting in the house, link to the Daily Mail story, and the actual listing itself.

It's an interesting paradox. On the one hand, stories attached to objects and structures should add extra cultural value. We've seen this with the fad a few years ago of selling "haunted" paintings and other objects on Ebay, where virtually the entire value was based on the purported history and supernatural aspects of the object. Museums are no strangers to notorious objects having an added cachet. As Phantom Limb from The Venture Brothers reminds us, the Mona Lisa is famous because it was stolen.

Never mind consumer capitalism. Historical and supernatural history is at the heart of prestige objects globally. Bronislaw Malinowski illustrated this in his classic groundbreaking ethnography Argonauts of the Western Pacific (read it at He describes the kula exchange of the Trobriand Islanders of the early 20th century, in which inter-island trade is organized through the exchange of shell jewelry. But these aren't just random items, they have individual names and legends, that is part of what makes them valuable.

At the same time, in regards to haunted houses, the stories of ghostly doings may have little positive, and great negative effect on saleability. Non-believers in such phenomena might find the stories charming, but will likely not be that effected by them (enough to pay extra). Believers, on the other hand, may not want anything to do with a house full of tormented and tormenting spirits.

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