Sunday, February 7, 2016

Stambovsky v. Ackley: Notoriety Backfires, Part l

Stambovsky v. Ackley is an historic court case where a house in Nyack, New York was declared legally haunted.

When Helen and George Ackley with their seven children moved into their stately Victorian home--several entities watched them.

The Ackley’s felt this 2-story, 5,000 square foot, 18-room home, with a full attic and basement, would be ideal for raising their family.

They had only one initial concern. The house had been abandoned for seven years, so there was a lot of work to be done.

Ackley's home.
The family soon discovered their new home was already occupied. As Helen looked out one bay window at the Hudson River, a plumber, doing work for them, mentioned that before they moved in, he had heard footsteps on the floor above him.

He said they would stop mid-swing, defying gravity.

Then a neighbor mentioned that one set of French doors would burst open without cause. George was told that people had heard disembodied “voices” in the house.

One day as Helen painted the living room, she spotted a ghost watching her. It looked on with approval, so Helen took this to mean it liked the color she had chosen.

The family discovered the house was occupied by a poltergeist as well. Items were moved or would disappear.

Helen’s oldest daughter, Cynthia frequently felt her bed shake on school days. This would occur just before her alarm was set to ring. Over spring break, she informed the ghost that she didn’t have to rise early the next morning. The bed didn’t shake.

Helen Ackley
As the years passed, Helen and other family members saw three distinct ghosts. One was a young woman who wore a red cloak. She was seen descending the stairs.

An elderly man was often seen levitating four feet off the floor. He was spotted most often in the home’s living room. Helen stated this man with his “cheerful” continence and “apple cheeks.” reminded her of Santa.

The third ghost was a sailor, that wore a powdered wig. Helen came to the conclusion that all three of these spirits were from the Revolutionary War period.

The Ackley’s home gained notoriety when Helen wrote an article in 1977, about this activity for Reader’s Digest entitled, My Haunted House on the Hudson.

This article is no longer available online but one quote from it states--

“The ghosts have been, gracious, thoughtful—only occasionally frightening—and thoroughly entertaining. Our ghosts have continued to delight us . . .”

In the 1980s, two local newspapers, the Nyack News and Views published articles Helen wrote about the ghosts.

As the family grew up, the house turned into a compound, the older children’s spouses moved in.

Various family members received gifts that would appear, given to them by the ghosts. Sometimes these gifts would then just disappear.

Helen was given a set of small silver sugar tongs, that then disappeared. The grandchildren all received baby rings, and a daughter-in-law was given coins.

Cynthia’s husband, Mark Kavanagh who later wrote an article, The Ghost of Nyack was alone in the house one Christmas. As he put various toys together, he heard a muffled conversation in the dining room.    

When he went to investigate the voices stopped, but once he left the room, they continued. After, he felt he was being watched.

One night as he lay on his side, he heard his bedroom door open. He heard the floorboards creak as someone approached the bed. He felt a weight as if someone sat down by his feet. Then something pressed against his body.

When he turned, he saw, “a womanly figure in a soft dress in the moonlight.” Within minutes this figure got up and walked out.

After George died, Helen decided to sell the house. This decision would involve her in a sensational law case that landed in front of New York’s Supreme Court.

In Part ll of Stambovsky v. Ackley: Notoriety Backfires, this case is described.

No comments: