"To Kill or Not to Kill" was the intended title of this column. The topic was how to end a series since I'd just launched the eighth Callie Parrish mystery. thinking it might be Callie's final adventure.
|Ring Around the Rosie, A SKULL FULL|
OF POSIES is the eighth Callie Parrish
mystery, and I planned it to be the last.
Guests each received a new bookmark,
modeled on the right by a reader at the
the book signing.
I took the long way home from the launch and something happened that changed my mind about what to write. I passed a familiar house.
This house was flipped back in 2010, but it's changed hands frequently since then. How much do the current residents know about the place? Property values are based on more than location and physical condition. Real estate can be stigmatized by such things as phenomena stigma, public stigma, and murder/suicide stigma. This house would be classified as stigmatized.
Phenomena stigma refers to property "known to be haunted." One famous case about this is Stambovsky v. Ackley. Stambovsky sued Ackley because he bought property without knowing it had been featured in magazines as haunted. He claimed this decreased the value and made the sale fraudulent. The final decision in that case didn't determine the validity of the haunting, but the court did void the contract and refund Stambovsky's down payment.
|749 15th Street, Boulder, Colorado, was 755 until 2001 when|
owners requested a change of address from how it was known
when Jon Bonet Ramsey died there in 1996. The house has
changed hands frequently since the six-year-old's murder.
Jacono claimed Milliken should have researched the property before he bought it. Milliken claimed he'd been cheated. The court determined it would be impossible to determine the degree of loss of value from a murder or suicide in a home. Would it be greater based on the degree of violence of the murder? Would an ax killing decrease value more than a poisoning? They ruled in favor of Jacono. essentially "buyer beware." Perhaps prospective buyers should have structures inspected for termites and call Ghost Busters. Since then, many states now have laws requiring sellers to reveal murder/suicide property stigmas.
|Known as the "Amityville Horror" house, the street number of|
this house was also changed by new owners, but the place is
too well known for a different address to matter. It also goes
up for sale frequently.
In The Invention of Murder, Judith Flanders says, "Crime, especially murder, is very pleasant to think about in the abstract . . . to know that murder is possible, just not here." Flanders spends 555 pages telling how people in the 1800s satisfied their fascination with murder through serialized handbills, tours of murder sites (both real and simulated), and stage plays. That fascination remains. It's evidenced in books, movies, and television shows from Murder She Wrote through How it Really Happened to Forensic Files (where insomniacs can watch murder after murder all night long.)
I've been reading murder mysteries since childhood, but in 2009 my lifelong best friend was brutally beaten to death during an in-home invasion. Her death brought the harsh, painful realization that murder in reality is far different from fiction or even true crime books. I was asked after her death if I would write about her homicide. The answer was and remains an emphatic "NO!" When I discussed this SleuthSayers column with a friend, he asked, "Would you live in a stigmatized home?"
Thoughts of stigmatized property rose from passing my friend's house on the way home from my most recent launch. Suddenly Callie popped into my mind with an idea for a ninth Callie Parrish mystery. It will involve stigmatized property but will not be about my friend or her home. I'll probably be back in a year or so to tell you about it.
How about you? Would you live in a stigmatized house?
Until we meet again, please take care of … YOU!