Roy Condrey is the founder of DiedInHouse.com, a site that allows you to plug in your address and, for a fee, get a report that reveals how many deaths occurred at your home. A DiedInHouse.com report will also alert you to the former presence of meth labs, sex offenders, and fires, among other, more mundane information. Submitting my Lake Charles address into the DiedInHouse.com search engine, I learn that Louisiana law does not consider any death in the home to be “material fact,” meaning that the homeowner or realtor is not required to disclose the death, and I can’t sue the seller or agent for failing to tell me about the said death. I learn that Louisiana has a population of 4,649,676 people and 2,010,868 housing units, and that 85 percent of Louisianians share a residence with others, though most households average only two individuals. I learn that in 2012, 567 of those residents took their own lives inside their homes.
Condrey argues that this is all pertinent information that any potential renter or buyer would want to know, himself included. “Let’s say there’s this sweet old lady, and she’s in this home living all by herself,” Condrey hypothesizes. “She passes away in the house. I could probably be fine with it. My wife, probably not; she likes to have a new slate. But let’s say the lady was on auto pay; she didn’t have any more family members, or she’s aloof and her mortgage was paid automatically. She passed away and no one knew, and she decomposed right there in the house. That changes things for me, you know?”
I spoke with Condrey about haunted houses, the Holy Ghost, and where we choose to live.
The Rumpus: How did DiedInHouse.com get its start?
Roy Condrey: I have a couple of rental properties. I went to Afghanistan for a couple years and I handed them over to a property management company. In July 2012, I got a call that a new tenant’s air conditioning went out. It’s really hot in South Carolina in the summer time, and I didn’t want her to have to deal with a third party, so I said, “Give her my cell phone number, and we’ll get her an air conditioner put in.” I talked to her one summer to take care of this, put the air conditioning in, and once we got done, that was the last time I ever spoke with her.
About six months later, I got a text from her in the middle of the night, and she said, “Did you know your house was haunted?” I texted her back and and asked her “What’s going on?” but she never got back to me. I got online and was just sitting there thinking, did someone die in this house? I didn’t know the history of the house and so forth, so I got online looking for something like DiedInHouse.com, and I didn’t find anything.
You find all the standard real estate sites that tell you when your house was built and all that, but nothing that told you this type of information. What I also found was there were pages and pages of people asking the same question, “Did someone die in my house?” or “Was my house haunted?” I did find a couple realtor sites that provided suggestions saying, “Always ask us,” “Ask the seller,” “Ask the neighbors,” and “Check local government records.”
So I set off to do that, and what I found out was a married couple died in one of my properties. They died a month apart. One guy died in the house and she died in the hospital. They died from complications of AIDS. I was like wow, should that have been disclosed to me? I started looking at disclosure laws, and I found that most states do not consider that “material fact.” What they considered to be material fact is the age of the roof or something, or some type of physical repair on the home, and you are supposed to disclose that information to the buyer. But a death in a home, whether it’s a violent death or not, or when it occurred, you are not by law required to disclose that. I found stories of people buying these homes and finding out afterwards, and they were bothered by it just like I was bothered by it. Mine wasn’t a murder/suicide, but it still bothered me; I wished I had known. I probably wouldn’t have bought it.
When a murder/suicide in a house happens, they eventually try to sell the home. The realtor tries to put it up for comparable value, and people in the area usually don’t wanna buy it. The value tears down in price through time, and then it probably goes up for foreclosure at an auction and some investor buys it. They clean it up, and enough time has passed that they flip it and sell it to some unsuspecting buyer and make a big profit. That buyer moves in and they find out there was a tragic story to it, but they’re stuck; there’s nothing they can do. They try to make the best of it. But I bet that if you go back and give them that option, a lot of them would choose not to buy it; they would just move to the next option. And if they don’t mind, then they could also use that information as leverage, say, “Hey, there was a murder/suicide here,” and get a better deal.
There is a case here in my hometown this guy named Brett Parker, and he was a sports bookie. He had a job as a pharmaceutical sales or insurance guy on the front, but most of his money was being made behind the scenes as a sports bookie. He had this close to a million dollar home in this really nice neighborhood. He ends up killing his wife and business partner. But he claimed that the business partner came over, killed his wife, pointed a gun at him, and said “You get the money out the safe.” Parker said he pulled some cowboy move, grabbed the gun, turned around, and shot his business partner. After the trial, it was revealed that what happened was the Parker killed his wife and his business partner and tried to claim insurance and frame it on his business partner. But he’s in prison now.
That home sat on the market for a year and a half, finally sold for half price, and then it sold a year later for like $495,000. That’s just one example of how a tragic event can impact the price, the value of a home. Plus it also takes it way longer, fifty percent longer, to sell this thing, so your house will be up on the market for a while. This is information that people would want to know before they make the decision to buy or sell, or even rent, a property.
Rumpus: You said that if you personally knew that the house would have had one of these murder/suicides in it, you wouldn’t live in that house. Why?
Condrey: It’s just my personal belief. There was an AP poll back in 2007 that said one-third of Americans believe in ghosts, so that’s 100 million people. What I say is those are the people that admit it, because how many people believe, but just don’t admit it? I believe that a lot more people believe in the paranormal.
One of the reasons that people buy a DiedInHouse.com report is because they believe in ghosts and the paranormal. They don’t want to move into a house because they would be afraid that there may be some spirit or paranormal activity there. Then there’s another group of people that may not believe in ghosts so much, but they just don’t want to move into a house with a dark history. Then there is another reason that I don’t think people consider, which is the house can be a security issue, especially in a high-profile type case. Jodi Arias, the case where she murdered Travis Alexander in his home. She’s in jail, she doesn’t get tried yet. The house sells as is before the trial starts. The new owners said they thought that the bathroom—that’s where he was slaughtered—was just vandalized, so they renovated the whole house, fixed it up, moved in. The case starts, and people are driving by. It’s a tourist attraction to this day. People approach them in their yard, look in their windows, take pictures.
The last thing, you want to use the information as leverage. But, to answer your question, personally, I fall into all of those categories. I do believe in the paranormal. I don’t want to live in a house with a negative, dark history to it. I don’t want to live in a home that has high traffic—I have children. But if I was interested, I would use it as leverage, to get a better deal.
Rumpus: Before you found out about this, and before you started this site, were you interested in paranormal activity and spiritualism?
Condrey: I’m a fan of Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters and such. I love the stories. I’m the type of guy that if I’m in New Orleans I’m gonna go on the ghost tour. I am interested for sure. But I am not a ghost hunter. I don’t have spirit boxes and stuff like that.
Rumpus: Have you had any personal experiences with ghosts?
Condrey: Yeah, I have. In my early twenties, before I was married to my then-girlfriend. Her father passed away from a heart attack when she was young, but not in the house.
Years later, we came and stayed at her parents’ house because her mom got remarried, and they went off on a cruise or something, and they asked us to stay in the house. We were staying there, and it was like two in the morning, and I woke up and the bed shook. I’m going to tell you this with a straight face ’cause I believe it, but the bed shook and I’m sitting there like okay, my eyes are open, she’s asleep, the dog’s asleep. I didn’t know what to do. I was like, I’m not crazy but I swore the bed just shook. Then I was thinking, did the train go by, or did a big truck drive by? It was the middle of the night and you would hear a big truck.
I went onto the USGS website trying to find an earthquake or tremor. [Laughs] I ended up waking her up because I could not go to sleep and it just creeped me out. I asked her, “Did you feel that?” She was all groggy and everything, and I said, the bed shook. She just smiled and went back to sleep, so that creeped me out even more. I didn’t go back to sleep. The next morning I talked to her more about it, and she said that her stepfather experienced things but her and her mom never do. They ended up moving a year or so later.
Afterward, I was up on this lake and went fishing with her stepfather. This guy was an Auburn grad—trying to give him some credibility—he was like the Vice President or Senior Manager at Dupont and retired. I asked him, “When you lived in that house, did you ever experience anything?” He didn’t say anything; he just gave me the look like, Yes, but I don’t want to talk about it. Since I started this business, I talk to people, and there are some people you can tell a few screws are loose, but there are some very rational people that are saying the same stories. I’m not going to sit there and tell you that you didn’t experience that.
You know, Ghost Hunters had a show where they talked about this guy Frank Sumption, who was an electrical engineer who created the spirit box. Basically this guy builds this thing so he can speak to his deceased daughter. I started analyzing it: is this guy such a dirtbag that he is exploiting his daughter to sell these things, or is it true? His wife, his other daughter, his son-in-law, they’re all doing this. So, the chances of getting all these people to exploit their loved one like that is, I think, low probability.
I said okay, there’s gotta be some truth to it. So if you are a spiritual person at all, even in the Christian religion, all religions have this, but they talk about the Holy Ghost. So if there is a Holy Ghost, if in Christian religion this can happen, why can’t it happen to you? You know what I mean? There are a bunch of Christians that claim they don’t believe in ghosts, but they believe in Christian religion. That goes for all religions by the way. I do believe there is something I can’t describe. I’ve never looked too deep into it, but I believe there is something else there.
Rumpus: What kind of response have you gotten from people that have used this site? Do people ever reach out to you and tell their stories?
Condrey: I have, but not as much as someone would assume. The reason for the lack of response, I believe, is because the topic, a death in a home, they call that “stigmatized data.” Death stigmatizes a property. I also believe that it stigmatizes a person. If a person openly talks about it, there is another group of people that are going to sit there and call them crazy. People are aware of the stigmatization and they are skeptical to discuss it.
Here is an example. When the site went out, and the press picked it up and it got the site going—it was Halloween time by the way, so that was perfect for articles about DiedInHouse.com—my neighbor had a Halloween party. All the men were on the back porch and the women were in the kitchen. We were talking, and some of the guys were really into the idea. They were like, “Congratulations, that’s a really good idea.” Then, four or five of the guys were like, “Good for you, but I don’t really believe in that stuff.”
After about twenty or thirty minutes, two or three beers into it, the two guys that were into it, they were still talking about the site. We got into ghost stories, and they started telling personal stories. Well, two of the guys that weren’t initially into it—maybe they had a couple of beers or whatever—they started telling ghost stories. I didn’t say anything to them, but I’m sitting there going, wow, thirty minutes ago, you weren’t into this, but now you’re sharing paranormal stories!
I think believing in ghosts stigmatizes people and that’s what they are afraid of, so they don’t openly talk about it. There’s the people that are ghosts hunters, and they’re not afraid to talk about it, but there are a lot of people that experience things and still don’t want to talk about it openly. That’s why they reach out to me. They think I’m an expert in it, but I’m just a software developer and project manager that came up with this website. But I’ve also spoken with paranormal experts, so what I do is just pass them off to them. I’ll say, “I just run a website; I’m trying to get as much information to people as possible, but I am not an expert in paranormal, so here is somebody that might help you or point you in the right direction.”
Rumpus: You have a couple of references that you provide them?
Condrey: Yeah. Who I go to a lot is Dave Schrader of Darkness Radio. He is a lead investigator for Ghost Adventures. I’ll email him and ask him, Do you have anybody in mind that can help people in this area? There is also a lady that has a free site—her name is Sonia Brosz—and she has a site called Get Rid of Ghosts; she’s been doing this for a long time. You know, I can’t vouch for these people, but I’ve spoken with them and they seem like pleasant people and they seem like people with a good heart. She goes out and does these cleansings, but she has a Do-it-Yourself type deal, too. [Laughs] She puts these things on her website, like this is how you do it yourself.
Rumpus original art by Kara Y. Frame.
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