Monday, October 26, 2015

Our house is a very, very, very fine house. Except for that one little matter…

The building my condo is in is over 150 years old. I suspect that, at some point during those 150+ years, a soul or two has given up the ghost while in house. |

If I were willing to part with $11.99, I could tap into the database at DiedInHouse and see if I could find out. But I can use that $11.99 for something else. (Soap dispenser? Toothbrush holder? Dishtowels?)

Still, I am a teensy-weensy bit curious.

Who might have died there?

Some Beacon Hill WASP grandee who used his last breath to disinherit a dissolute son? Some nameless down-on-his-lucker who lived there when the building was a Single Room Occupancy flop house?

I’ve lived in other old places, as well.

The place I lived in on North Anderson for a couple of years was one of the last remnants of the old West End. Immigrant housing built in the late 1800’s – early 1900’s. A bathroom that – bizarrely – didn’t have a sink in it. (You had to wash your hands in the kitchen.) Surely someone died of typhus or consumption in there over the years.

The apartment on Queensbury? When was that built? Somewhere in the 1920’s? Maybe even the guy who lived there before my roommate and I took possession. We found a bunch of empty booze bottles amid the dust kitties under the claw-foot bathtub when we cleaned. Who knows?

The first seven years of my life were spent in a flat in my grandmother’s triple decker in Worcester. My grandfather had died well earlier (1924) in my grandparents’ bedroom in the apartment on the first floor. I don’t remember it being haunted, but there was the gruesome story about my father (then 11) and his sibs sitting at the kitchen table while the undertaker undertook his tasks, bleeding out my grandfather’s body. And taking a few basins of blood out of the bedroom and into the bathroom to flush down the toilet while the kids watched. (I’m always a bit skeptical when folks are nostalgic for a kinder, gentler time.)

Anyway, well after we moved out of Nanny’s house, my uncle died in the back bedroom of the first floor flat.

So chalk up two deaths at least to 5 Winchester Ave.

The house I mostly grew up in had no deaths while my family was there. It was a new house, so it was “clean” when we moved in. My father died in a hospital, as did my mother.

And I’m just as happy that my husband died in hospice rather than in our condo. Just as happy…

Anyway, if you do feel the urge for knowing what’s happened in your place, Roy Condrey’s DiedInHouse is for you.

Two years ago, Condrey launched DiedInHouse, a website that allows customers to find out if someone died at a specific address and the cause of death. Using news reports, obituaries, and some search juju Condrey prefers not to disclose, his company has built a database of 4.5 million houses that were the sites of confirmed deaths. (Source: Bloomberg)

Some people just want to check on the history of their house (or prospective house). Others want confirmation of their suspicion that there are paranormal goings on that might be attributable to some ghostly hangers-on.

So far, Condrey has had 30,000 property searches conducted on his site.

Setting aside ghost stories, there are some down-to-earth forces fueling the business. Stigmatized properties, which is a polite way of describing the scene of a horrible crime, often sell at a 10 percent to 15 percent discount shortly after the event, said Randall Bell, a Laguna Beach-based appraiser who specializes in real estate damages.

I don’t think I’d want to live in a place where a grisly murder had taken place – many states (including Massachusetts) don’t require sellers to disclose it -  but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to ask. Now it might. How easy to get suckered in to purchase of a house where four family members were murdered when it’s build as the “’perfect place for a growing family top plant their roots.’” Which is how one realtor billed a house that he’d scooped up for rock-bottom.

A “perfect place for a growing family.” Unless, of course, you were the growing family murdered there. They just got planted. (And a year after the crime, the murder – parents and their two young sons – remains unsolved.)

No, I don’t think I’d want in on that house.

So maybe it’s best to check what’s happened.

If you use DieInHouse, they’ll also let you know if there was ever a meth lab on prem (no extra charge).

Now that would surprise me. Meth lab and Beacon Hill just don’t mesh.

Despite the lure, I’m still resisting the urge to fork over the $11.99 to check out whether there’s ever been any action – deactivation – life-and-death-wise at my digs.


I think I can find out for free whether anyone’s got their unit for rent on airbnb. That actually might be more useful.

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