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Massachusetts Law About the Paranormal

Selected Massachusetts Laws

MGL c. 93, s.114: "Psychologically impacted" Properties. Sellers and brokers do not have to disclose to buyers or tenants the fact that a property is perceived to be tainted by the health of a previous occupant, a murder or suicide, or paranormal phenomena. However, they may not be deceitful in answers to questions about the property.

Resolves 1957, c. 145: Resolve reversing the Salem Witchcraft Convictions.

Selected Case Law

Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993) Set the standard for admitting expert scientific testimony in a federal trial. The court noted that, "[t]he study of the phases of the moon, for example, may provide valid scientific 'knowledge' about whether a certain night was dark, and if darkness is a fact in issue, the knowledge will assist the trier of fact. However (absent creditable grounds supporting such a link), evidence that the moon was full on a certain night will not assist the trier of fact in determining whether an individual was unusually likely to have behaved irrationally on that night. [Federal Rule of Evidence] Rule 702's 'helpfulness' standard requires a valid scientific connection to the pertinent inquiry as a precondition to admissibility."

Commonwealth v. Lanigan, 419 Mass. 15 (1994) . Massachusetts accepted the basic reasoning of Daubert concerning admissibility of scientific evidence.

Woodbury v. Obear, 73 Mass. 467 (1856). A jury could consider evidence that a testator believed in witchcraft and ghosts and thought that he had communications with departed spirits, among other things, to determine whether the testator was of sound mind at the time he executed his will, but it cannot be ruled as a matter of law that a belief in Spiritualism is itself an insane delusion, or such conclusive evidence of mental aberration as to destroy testamentary capacity. See Dunham v. Holmes, 225 Mass. 68 (1916).

Other Web Resources

Bedeviling Spectacle: Law, Literature, and Early Modern Witchcraft, by Todd Wayne Butler. 20 Yale J.L. & Human. 111 (2008). Requires Library Card for Access.

Famous American Trials: Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692. University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) School of Law.

Got ghosts? How to sell a haunted house, Realtor Magazine. Offers practical advice from real estate professionals.

Obscuring American History: Reversing the Salem Witchcraft Convictions, by Frank W. Grinnell. 43 A.B.A. J. 997 (1957). Requires Library Card for Access.

The Paranormal, Daubert, Dictionary Court, and a Futuristic Courtroom Drama, by Judge Joseph P. Baker, 1 Fla. A & M U. L. Rev. 117 (2006). Requires Library Card for Access.

The Right to Trick-or-Treat: Constitutional Implications of Halloween Ordinances, by Jordan Lipka & Frank Giordanella. 20 Harv. J. on Legis. 601 (1983). Requires Library Card for Access.

The Specter of Sex Offenders on Halloween: Unmasking Cultural, Constitutional, and Criminological Concerns, by M. Benjamin Snodgrass. 71 Ohio St. L.J. 417 (2010). Requires Library Card for Access.

Want to buy a haunted house?, Bank Rate dot com. Some buyers are more attracted to, and will pay more for, a haunted house.

What to Do When Human Burials are Accidentally Uncovered: Know How #4, Mass. Historical Commission. What you should do if you uncover bones, and the role of the state archaeologist.

Wonders of the Invisible World: Prosecutorial Syndrome and Profile Evidence in the Salem Witchcraft Trials, by Jane Campbell Moriarty, 26 Vt. L. Rev. 43 (2001-2002). Requires Library Card for Access.

Print Sources

Insane Delusion as Invalidating a Will, by J.E. Macy. 175 A.L.R. 882 (Current; originally published in 1948). Section VI: Speculative, Theoretical & Occult Beliefs, describes when belief in the paranormal could invalidate a will.

Massachusetts Practice v. 36A (Consumer Law), 3rd ed., Thomson/West, 2010 with supplement. Section 28:5: "Psychologically impacted" property.