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Excerpt from an article by Bob Aaron
Buying and living in a house which was the scene of a murder or suicide is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for some people, living in a tainted house is simply not an issue.
Last month, the would-be buyer of the house where child model JonBenet Ramsey was murdered lost out on his plans to move into the $1.7 million property when it was taken off the market following the arrest of John Mark Karr.
In July, Mike Hatter had signed an offer to purchase the 6,866-square foot home where the six-year-old was killed in 1996. Shortly after Karr was arrested in Thailand in August, Hatter got an email from the real estate broker in Boulder, Colo., saying the house was being taken off the market by its current owners who are unrelated to the Ramsey family.
JonBenet’s parents sold the house in 1998 soon after their daughter’s murder. A group of investors purchased the red-brick Tudor-style mansion at 749 15th St. for $650,000, and the house has had four owners since then.
The most recent owners, Tim and Carol Schuller Milner, paid $1.05 million for the house in 2004, but moved out late last year because they could no longer take the pressure of living in the glare of curiosity seekers.
The would-be buyer is not at all bothered by things that go bump in the night. In fact, he seems somewhat fascinated by the whole subject. “I’m the kind of person who likes graveyards and full moons,” he told a reporter.
In the real estate industry, this kind of house is known as stigmatized or tainted. The perception is that the value of the property has been reduced by non-physical, non-scientific, irrational or even superstitious perceptions by buyers.
Colorado realtor Joel Ripmaster has represented the last four owners of the Ramsay home. Last month, he was quoted in USA Today as saying, “It’s stigmatized. It’s always been stigmatized.”
Whether a home has been tainted by being the site of an actual murder, or by the reputation as being haunted, its value may be affected â€” positively or negatively.
Consider, for example, so-called haunted British castles and guest houses, where tourists flock to spend a night or two in the company of ghostly housemates. Or the bed-and-breakfast in Fall River, Mass., where guests can sleep in the room where Lizzie Borden was accused (and acquitted) of killing her father and stepmother with an axe in 1892.
Usually, however, the value is adversely affected by the property’s reputation.
Ontario has hundreds of homes, condominiums and apartments that were the sites of notorious and even grisly crimes â€” some private, and some very public. Consider, for example, the site of the now-demolished Bernardo house on Bayview Dr. in St. Catharines, or the site of the Mississauga home (since destroyed by fire) where Christine Demeter was murdered in 1973.
Buyers have many reasons to shun stigmatized real estate, according to Toronto real estate appraiser and educator Barry Lebow. A frequent lecturer on haunted and stigmatized houses in Toronto, Lebow is the former owner of a house that was the site of a messy public suicide.
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The Beaches is an upper-middle class neighbourhood and popular tourist destination located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The trendy shops of Queen Street East lie at the heart of The Beaches community, with the boardwalk by the lake and several large parks being just a few steps south.
The neighbourhood is a mixture of single and semi-detached homes, low-rise apartment buildings, and some mansions.
The beach itself is a single uninterrupted stretch of sandy shoreline bounded by the R.C. Harris Filtration Plant (locally known as the water works) to the east and Woodbine park (a small peninsula in Lake Ontario) to the west. Although it is continuous, there are four names which correspond each to approximately one quarter of the length of the beach (from east to west): Balmy Beach, Scarborough Beach, Kew Beach and Woodbine Beach.
The name of the community is the subject of a long-standing dispute. Some long-time local residents believe that The Beach is the proper historical name for the area, whereas others are of the view that “The Beaches” is the more universally recognized neighbourhood name, particularly by non-residents. All government levels refer to the riding, or the ward in the case of the municipal government, as Beaches-East York.
The dispute over the area’s name reached a fever pitch in 1985, when the City of Toronto installed 14 street signs designating the neighbourhood as “The Beaches“. The resulting controversy resulted in the eventual removal of the signs, although the municipal government continues to officially designate the area as “The Beaches“.
In early 2006 the local Beaches Business Improvement Area voted to place “The Beach” on signs slated to appear on new lampposts over the summer, but local outcry caused them to rescind that decision.
The Beaches Business Improvement Area board subsequently held a poll in April 2006 to determine whether the new street signs would be designated “The Beach” or “The Beaches“, and 58% of participants selected “The Beach” as the name to appear on the signs.
Ironically, the two names have been used to refer to the area since the first homes were built in the 19th century. In his book, Accidental City: The Transformation of Toronto, Robert Fulford, himself a former resident, wrote: “the historical argument for ‘The Beaches‘ as a name turns out to be at least as strong as the historical argument for ‘The Beach‘”.
“Pluralists” hold that since the area had four distinct beach areas, using the singular term is illogical. Those preferring the singular term “Beach” hold that the term has historically referred to the area as the four distinct beach areas merged.
Historically, there are or were a number of institutions that used the term “Beach” in the singular, including the original Beach telephone exchange (1903 – 1920s), the Beach Hebrew Institute (1920), the Beach Theatre (1919 to the 1960s), and the Beach Streetcar (1923 – 1948).
The singular form has also been adopted by the local historical society, which is called The Beach and East York Historical Society (from 1974). There are also numerous examples of early local institutions that use the plural form “Beaches“, such as the Beaches Library (1915), the Beaches Presbyterian Church (1926), the Beaches Branch of the Canadian Legion and a local war monument in Kew Beach erected post WWII by the “Beaches Business Mens Association”.
Despite the naming controversy, most Torontonians recognise either name as referring to this particular neighbourhood, despite the fact that there are numerous beaches located elsewhere in the city.
Originally, The Beaches area was considered to be bounded by Woodbine Avenue to the west, Victoria Park Avenue to the east, Kingston Road to the north, and Lake Ontario to the south. The lakefront is divided into three sections; Woodbine Beach to the west, Kew Beach in the centre, and Balmy Beach to the east.
It is these beaches which give the neighbourhood its name and defining principal characteristic. Until Lakeshore Boulevard was extended to Woodbine Avenue in the 1950s, Woodbine Beach was not a bathing beach, but rather a desolate wooded area known as The Cut.
Today, Torontonians generally tend to view the The Beaches neighbourhood as extending to Coxwell, with the area north of Queen Street East and west of Woodbine nicknamed The Beaches Triangle. In addition, the area north of Kingston Road up to the CNR tracks has become known as The Upper Beaches.
Still, whatever the definition of its borders, before amalgamation in 1998 The Beaches neighbourhood was at Toronto’s extreme eastern limit and formed part of the city’s border with the suburb of Scarborough. Even now, residents refer to The Beaches as being in the east end of the city, though since the amalgamation of city services in 1998, it is strictly speaking part of the east-central district of Toronto.
The beach is diminishing as the sand continuously migrates from east to west. Although sand is replaced by new sand generated by the erosion of the Scarborough Bluffs to the east, this source of sand is itself diminished due to municipal efforts to reduce erosion of the bluffs in an effort to preserve homes at the crest of the bluffs.
A notable site in the area is the R.C. Harris Filtration Plant, which has been featured in several television programs, as well as in the films “In the Mouth of Madness” and “Undercover Brother”.
In the 1920s, the neighbourhood was the site of an amusement park, located at the end of today’s Scarborough Beach Boulevard. Kew Gardens is a medium-sized park in the neighbourhood running from Queen Street to Lake Ontario, and includes a bandstand for concerts. Every July, the neighbourhood celebrates The Beaches International Jazz Festival, drawing thousands of tourists to the area.
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