With Halloween finally here I thought I would dive in a little deeper into the macabre side of real estate. In the past I’ve written about haunted houses and property disclosure statements. Here’s another aspect of it…
John Wayne Gacy was a notorious serial killer who lived outside of Chicago. He was known as the “Killer Clown” because he worked a bit as a clown, going to parades, charitable events, and children’s parties as either “Pogo the Clown” or “Patches the Clown”—characters he had created. He also would lure boys and men to spend time with him, then rape and torture them before killing them. He murdered 33 people and was convicted of all 33 murders. He was put to death by lethal injection on May 10, 1994.
What does this have to do to real estate? Well, all the murders took place at his home.
That Norwood Park, Illinois home was torn down in 1979. Someone bought the lot and built another house on it in 1986. That newer home was listed for sale in 2019 and needed ten price cuts before it finally found a buyer. It shows that the stigma of the property often stays with the land…even though the original house is long gone.
However, there’s nothing to disclose, right? The home was torn down, right? Even though it was torn down it’s important to note that 29 of the 33 bodies of his victims were buried on the property. Most were put in the crawlspace of the home and a few were buried elsewhere on the property. The last four bodies were dumped in a river. Likely because he was quickly running out of storage space.
Whether you are a buyer or a seller you will need to consider the property’s disclosure statement. No, there isn’t any section that provides specific information about previously buried bodies. However, in South Dakota there is a section that includes these two relevant questions:
- Within the previous twelve months prior to signing this document, are you aware of any of the following occurring on the subject property? – a.) a human death by homicide or suicide?
- Are you aware of any other material facts or problems that have not been disclosed on this form? If yes, explain:
Regarding the first question the wording asks if you became “aware” of an event. So, as a seller, you could say that you are aware of the murders but that was long ago and may decide not to disclose it.
However, homicides and suicides are events which lead to the property being referred to as “stigmatized” and will sometimes negatively impact the market for your home. It’s advisable to disclose that information even if it occurred outside of the 12-month window. Why? The buyers will likely find out about it when they move in and talk to the neighbors. In the case of John Wayne Gacy, I would say that is almost guaranteed. I would hope that they would be disclosing that information even if they are not required to do so.
So, would you buy John Wayne Gacy’s former house or the house of any other former serial killer?
I would definitely suggest checking the basement and crawlspace thoroughly before doing so.
If you are looking at buying or selling a home, please give me a call at (605) 593-3759—unless you have buried bodies in your home. I will avoid that listing!
Have a very happy and safe Halloween!