Our Northwest

Haunted-house discount, Halloween tips

Friday, October 25, 2013by  Jon Osterberg

More than half of homebuyers would buy a haunted house, but they’d expect a hefty discount.
   So said a 2013 realtor.com survey, as reported on MyNorthwest.com.
   How do you learn if someone has died in a home? Easy. DiedInHouse.com documents deaths in residences, and you can subscribe for only $11.99.
   Belief in haunted houses is pretty much mocked by our high-tech post-enlightenment society. But with Halloween creeping closer (see our Halloween safety tips below), submitted for your approval is this true tale from the past.
   The first house my wife and I bought was a charming but drafty 1949 cottage near downtown Kirkland. It had a forced-air oil furnace with just one vent – a large metal floor grate smack in the middle of the house.
   The outer walls had zero insulation. Instead of two-by-four construction, the exterior had no wall cavity – just inch-thick fiberboard clad in shingles. Our windows were single-pane glass.
   Beneath our one-story house was a cramped half-basement with no windows, accessed by an outside door. The basement had barely enough headroom for me. Behind my workbench was a dirt berm that extended under the rest of the house to the cinder-block foundation.
   I’d go down there to tinker on projects or cut wood for remodeling, and when she was upstairs in the kitchen my wife and I could shout back and forth through the furnace grate.
   My basement was a musty, gloomy place.
   One Saturday my wife left at dusk to go shopping, so I locked the front entrance behind her and went out the back door and down to the basement to cut some wood molding. About a half-hour later I heard the front door open upstairs and slam shut, and footsteps crossed the creaky living room floor into the kitchen. “Back so soon?” I yelled.
   I continued crosscutting with my mitre saw until, perhaps 10 minutes later, I realized all was silent upstairs. I shouted my wife’s name but got no answer.
   I walked outside to find night had fallen. I climbed up to the back porch and opened the door. The house was pitch black inside. Weird, I thought. I called out to my wife, got no response, turned on the kitchen light and crossed the living room to the front door.
   Goosebumps grew on my arms: The deadbolt was still locked, as I’d left it.
   Hours later when my wife returned I asked, “Did you come home earlier tonight?” No, she hadn’t. I explained what I’d clearly heard. “I know someone came in through the front door and walked across the room,” I said. “I heard the door slam shut.”
   We joked that the house might be haunted. After all, it was 30 years old, which seemed ancient to us at the time. (Funny how our current house is 26 years old, yet we call it our “new home.”)
   We never did determine what caused the sounds I’d heard. We sold that house the next year, and since then I’ve wondered if later occupants ever heard anything strange.
   The buyers never asked about odd noises, and with no such thing as DiedInHouse.com in 1980 we happily caught a rising tide in the housing market and sold the place for a nice profit.
   We offered no haunted-house discount.

Halloween safety tips


  • Choose a flame-retardant costume, and attach reflective tape to it.
  • Make sure costumes are short enough to prevent tripping or entanglement.
  • Inspect your own yard, porch, and walkway to eliminate tripping hazards like rakes, hoses, toys, etc.
  • Make sure your home and walkways are well-lit.
  • Always accompany young kids on the entire trick-or-treat route.
  • If your kids are older, talk to them about the route they should follow, and agree on a return time.
  • Tell your kids to stop only at well-lit homes and never to enter a stranger’s home or car.
  • Teach kids their home phone number and how to call 9-1-1.
  • Feed your kids before they go trick-or-treating, and tell them not to eat any treats until they return home.
  • Secure your pets. They might be frightened by strange costumes and sounds.
  • If you light your jack-o’-lantern with a candle, keep it away from drapes and fabrics.
  • Be extra cautious when driving. Watch for kids in dark clothing who might dart into your path.


  • Carry a flashlight to see and be seen.
  • Walk slowly and stay in a group.
  • Don’t cut across yards or driveways.
  • Cross the street only at corners, and stay on sidewalks.
  • Avoid strange neighborhoods, and approach only homes that have a light on.
  • Wear a watch you can read in the dark.
  • Be extra careful when wearing masks, which can block your vision. Watch out for cars, in particular.
  • Stay away from pets you don’t know.
  • Let your parents examine your treats before you eat them. (And don't get mad if a few pieces seem to disappear after you go to bed. That's merely your parents ensuring your candy is safe. Actually, it might require SEVERAL pieces to assure them.)

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