Screen shot, ABC News
Most ghost stories don't wind up in court. But a family in Toms River, N.J., has filed a lawsuit demanding that their landlord let them out of their new lease and return their security deposit, because, they say, the house he rented them was "haunted." Is this an Amityville Horror-style story, or a scam? Here, a brief guide:
What exactly happened in this "haunted" house?
Some extremely spooky stuff, according to the tenants, Josue Chinchilla and Michele Callan. In their lawsuit, the couple, who lived in the house along with her two children for just one week, say they frequently came home to find clothes and towels strewn across the floor. They also say that doors in the house sometimes opened slowly and slammed shut, on their own, and they often saw lights flicker. Sometimes, when everyone was in bed, the family could hear footsteps in the kitchen.
Do they have any proof?
Chinchilla and Callan hired N.J. Paranormal Investigators to back up their claim. Marianne Brigando, co-founder of the agency, says her investigators found more evidence of haunting in this house than in any other house they have ever examined. Brigando says something unseen answered a question from her team using light switches. They also brought in a church pastor, who suggested the house had been possessed by demons. And, as it happens, the house is in the same town where the 1979 version of The Amityville Horror was filmed.
What does the landlord say?
Predictably, landlord Richard Lopez is not buying it. Lopez, who has an orthodontist practice next to the allegedly haunted house, says he's been renting out the house for years with no complaints, and his new tenants just made up the story so they could break their lease without losing their $2,250 security deposit. Lopez filed a counter suit accusing Chinchilla and Callan of using "paranormal activity" as an excuse to get out of a rental they can't afford. "She is a single mom, she has this fiancé living with her," says Lopez's attorney David A. Semanchik. "I think she is in over her head."
So do the tenants have a case?
"Ultimately a judge will have the final word on whether the family will be able to escape their alleged nightmare on Lowell Avenue," says Alyssa Newcomb at ABC News. It's going to be an easy decision, says Cherlyn Gardner Strong at Paranormal Old Pueblo. "The only thing that matters is the terms of the rental contract," which has no haunting clause. Even if testimony from paranormal detectives were admissible in court, the evidence in this case is flimsy. They don't stand "a ghost of a chance."