Home Guru: Call Ghostbusters for Haunted Houses?

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Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

Do you sometimes think that needed information comes to you in a strange, synchronistic way, above and beyond objective reasoning?

Last week, to observe Halloween with a spooky story, I wrote about a long-kept secret of my family living with a varied assortment of spirits in an early19th century house in Brooklyn Heights. I was waiting for someone to call or write me with negative criticism, but surprisingly I received much feedback to the contrary.

One associate told me that she sometimes hears her deceased husband breathing next to her when she is in bed. One of my sellers told me that her mother’s spirit still resides in a house I have listed, but I was already strongly aware of that.

The weirdest experience of all happened just the other day in Panera’s when I stopped by to get my fix of acai berry tea and do some writing on my iPad. There I saw a former client whose historic home I had listed a couple of years ago. As she was leaving, she stopped at my table and told me that she must share with me a series of strange incidents that had happened to a new tenant in her home’s rental unit. On three separate occasions, a light fixture from the ceiling had fallen when the tenant was standing under it–and in three different rooms. “Wow,” I exclaimed, “You’re telling me this because you read my column last week about paranormal activity in homes?” No, she responded, she hadn’t read the column.

Isn’t it strange that she would have shared this story with me without knowing that I had just written about the subject? I told my friend that she should definitely look into the history of the house to see if she can determine what negative energy might be having such a reaction to her tenant.

That’s what I did in my own case.

Last week I reported having seen the apparition of a man in my former home. A short while after the experience, my wife and I visited the Long Island Historical Society and in its main room was an enormous painting by Francis Guy, a street scene from 1820 showing important citizens from the period. I was surprised to recognize it as a corner just a block from where my house was located. But what astounded me was recognizing the appearance and posture of the man I had seen as an apparition in my house! He was holding a chicken that he had just purchased at the market and was in identical garb as I saw him, with a vest covering a healthy pot belly, shoes with bulbous tips and a bowler hat. The painting included a legend of the citizens’ identities and, tracing the figure to a name, I squinted to see that it read “Jacob Hicks,” whom I already knew from research was the original owner of my home.

That was just the first coincidence that led me to know that what my family and I were experiencing were not figments of our imagination. I went to the Department of Records in Brooklyn and learned that over a period of 25 years, there had been a series of children’s deaths in the Hicks family–18 of them in all–either at childbirth or when just a few months old. That to me explains the babies’ cries we frequently heard when there were no babies in our building or nearby. I then felt that I knew the man I saw and the heartbreak he experienced with the loss of his children.
When I sold that “spirited” house as a “for sale by owner” (shame on me now as a realtor), I mentioned nothing about my strange experiences to the buyer. But I was within my right not to. I wasn’t smart enough then to know it, especially representing myself without a realtor, but New York is a “non-disclosure” state where there is no onus on a realtor or homeowner to disclose anything that might be considered a “latent defect,” such as a suicide, break-in robbery or “ghosties” in the night.

For those of you who believe that energy is neither created nor destroyed but only transformed, and that the spirits of the deceased can remain in a house, I’m here to tell you from personal experience that we’re far from alone. If there were no plausibility to such beliefs, there would be no reason for feng shui or such websites as, which claims it can cleanse a house of spirits long distance!

As for me, I couldn’t swear on a stack of bibles that my imagination hasn’t run wild at times in the old homes I’ve owned and shown to clients, but I know for sure that a certain Jacob Hicks once revealed himself to me to say hello.

Bill Primavera is a Residential and Commercial Realtor® associated with Coldwell Banker, as well as a publicist and journalist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. For questions about home maintenance or to engage him to help you buy or sell a home, he can be emailed at or called directly at 914-522-2076.


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