The little paper figurine startled Mr. Burns partly because he had already removed 60 similar dolls when he prepared the Boerum Hill property for an open house a few weeks earlier. Dozens of the ghosts, made of tissue and wrapped in twine, were hidden all over the four-story building, which had been a rental until its owner vacated it for sale. The dolls were tucked in corners, in closets, on shelves and behind pipes. Now, with the building under contract and the buyer’s inspector en route, Mr. Burns found a few stragglers, including the one in the basement.
“It was very creepy,” Mr. Burns said. “It reminded me of some sort of voodoo-style curse. It really, really freaked out our client.”
When a home is sold, its many secrets can come out of the closet. Brokers, potential buyers and home inspectors step inside properties that may have been completely private for years. They peer into basements, attics and electrical panels and find a home’s shortcomings. Such moments offer a rare glimpse inside the workings of a place, and can uncover shoddy renovations, failed do-it-yourself projects, neglect and, in the case of Mr. Burns, baffling remnants of the lives of the former occupants.