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We all know that Americans love to sue. It’s what they’re famous for. Doctors, employers, plastic surgeons, fast food outlets; no one is safe from the ceaseless deluge of lawsuits across the pond. When Americans are not suing other people, they’re being sued themselves. It’s a right old sue-a-thon over there. I’ll probably get sued just for writing that.

Crass generalisations aside, this story in USA Today takes insanity to a whole new level even by American standards.

A couple in New Jersey are suing their landlord because they believe the house they rent from him is haunted. If you’re looking for further proof that mankind is doomed, read that sentence over and over until the degree of idiocy we’re dealing with here is fully absorbed. Ready? Great.

The couple, both in their mid-thirties, claim that they have been driven out of their home after being terrified by paranormal lunacy such as “lights that switch on and off by themselves, clothes and towels mysteriously ejected from closets, unintelligible whispering, footsteps in the kitchen and a mysterious force tugging at bedsheets during the night.” As such, they want their $2,250 deposit back and are going through the courts to get it.

They even have irrefutable proof that the house is haunted to back up their claims. Well, not so much irrefutable proof as just some people saying things, but still.

Marianne Brigando, co-founder of NJ Paranormal Investigators of Old Bridge (or Garbage Peddlers Extraordinaire), has conducted an investigation (ie stood around in their house for a bit) and supports the couple’s view that their home is the “site of an active or intelligent haunting, one level above a residual haunting.” An intelligent haunting? That’s ironic, considering that the house seems to have been an intelligence-free zone of late.  

Also, isn’t it kind of in her best interests to convince people that ghosts are real? After all, if people didn’t believe in ghosts there would be technically no reason for people like her to even exist. I’m not saying she has an agenda or anything (even though she absolutely does), it just seems a little convenient that paranormal investigators will invariably find some “evidence” of ghosts in any situation where they are called upon. Shouldn’t someone be regulating this madness?

Pastor Terence Sullivan of the Element Church in North Brunswick, who, to be fair, is an expert in things that don’t exist, has counseled the family through the ordeal and even blessed the house, before reaching the conclusion that “demonic possession” is at work. Right, that settles it then. Case closed. Give them their money back, pronto.

Well, not so fast. In response to the lawsuit, USA Today reports that landlord Dr. Richard Lopez has filed a countersuit claiming that the couple is using “the specter of paranormal activity as a cover for personal financial troubles. In short, he claims they can’t afford the place and want their money back.” Seems plausible enough to me.

His attorney also says that no one else has ever claimed before that the house is haunted.

So who to believe? Some chancers who have seen too many horror films for their poor brains to process, fed a load of horseshit by crackpot “experts” of questionable merit, or an exasperated landlord who is just trying to earn an honest buck? Clue: it’s the landlord. Definitely believe the landlord.

Hilariously, some people commenting on the message board beneath the story have had the temerity to disagree with me and seem to support the couple. Some have even mumbled something about “Full Disclosure laws”  and how the landlord was obligated to disclose that the house haunted before renting it to the couple. Yes, that makes a lot of sense:

“So this is the second bedroom…”

“Okay…”

“And this is the bathroom. As you can see, it’s a good size.”

“Mmm.”

“Oh, and the whole place is swarming with malevolent demons who will mercilessly tear your life asunder.”

“Sounds perfect. Where do I sign?”

Anyway, why should he have to declare something that he doesn’t even believe in? He might as well warn them that the Tooth Fairy lives in the loft and that they share the communal garden with a family of leprechauns. It’s total fantasy.

Reading the comments was, in fact, more alarming than the premise of the story itself, full of worthy “you don’t know them so please don’t judge them” types with their silly “unexplained things do happen, ghosts could exist” views.

Look, let’s be absolutely clear on this: there is nothing wrong with judging people who have already proven beyond all doubt that they are total morons. It’s what separates us from primates. If we all just went around giving people the benefit of the doubt and accepting their deranged theories about ghosts and aliens and God knows what else, then who knows where we would be? People like this couple would probably rule the world, at which point we’d be better off praying for Armageddon so that the human race can start all over again.

The story even ends on a delightfully tenuous link to the The Amityville Horror, revealing with triumph that the film was filmed in the same town as the house in question. Coincidence?

Yes. A thousand times yes.

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A lot of people like to drink alcohol. A lot of people like to get drunk. And a fair few people claim to have seen ghosts. See where we’re going with this?  

Humans + alcohol = loads of bloody ghosts (H+A=GGGGGGGGGG!!)  

Looking For Ghosts put this finely equated scientific formula to the test by taking ourselves on a “research expedition” around some of Hampstead’s finest drinking dens.  

We began at The Spaniard’s Inn at the peak of Hampstead Heath. Reputedly the home of highwayman Dick Turpin, customers have seen a shadowy figure striding around the pub in a domineering fashion. Black Bess’ haunted hoof beats are heard in the car park, while ghostly tugs at sleeves have been felt in Turpin’s bar.  

While it is a fantastic pub, which no doubt has seen a lot of history in its 500+ years, it’s hard to be spooked by it when it’s packed to the rafters with tourists, clumsy waiters and whining children.  

We plodded over Hampstead Heath, making sure to avoid any ghostly horsemen and found ourselves in Hampstead village. We recovered from our trek across the heath in The Flask Tavern. This pub is haunted by Monty, a former landlord who likes to pay the occasional visit to his pride and joy. In 1997, some definitely-not-pissed customers saw Monty moving tables and chairs around due to his annoyance at a recent refurbishment. We didn’t see Monty unfortunately, probably because we didn’t stay for long.  

The pub benefits from an idyllic location and attractive interior, but on a negative point, all the customers seemed to know each other from a recent bank robbery they’d committed. Monty would not approve.  

The William IV in Hampstead

We re-located to the William IV. Legend has it that a doctor murdered his wife here and concealed her corpse in the pub’s cellar. Her ghost has ever since been a-haunting here. Obviously gagging for a pint. Although, we didn’t see here; she must have had a hangover. We stayed for a few more pints here, waiting for the second of the pub’s spooks to arrive.  

The spectre of a young girl in a white shroud has been seen looking up at the pub from the high street. She is supposed to be a suicide victim that killed herself after some particularly atrocious dental treatment in a cunning tactic to avoid her next appointment. Maybe her ghost stands on the pavement thinking “bugger, maybe I should have just got battered here before having my molar done”. We raised a glass or two to her.  

A bit of bush 

We then stumbled through the back streets of Hampstead to the Holly Bush Inn. We trekked through graveyards, deserted streets and winding alleys, up and down the area’s hilly terrain. The secluded nature of Hampstead really reveals itself when wandering the sparse streets at night.  

A good time was had by all

We finished our night with a few at the Holly Bush Inn, which is frequented by a phantom waitress. She didn’t serve us.  

Let’s cut to the chase. We had quite a few drinksssh a we didn’t shee a sshingle bloody ghossshht.  

That’ssh becausshhe they don’t exisssht. Right? I’ll tell you another thing, hic… I jusht felt shomething on me leg… What wassh that? Oh no, forget it… I pisshed meshelf again.   

Sadly, we ended the day ghost-less. Half cut we flagged down the nearest ghost bus, paid the spectral driver and headed back to LFG HQ to hold each other’s hair as we vomited the night away. 

Looking For Ghosts

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