Home buyers, ghost hunters and the morbidly curious have flocked to a U.S. website designed to reveal whether a dwelling they feel may be haunted actually harbors a deadly past.
Launched in June by Roy Condrey, 42, a software developer who also owns rental properties, the DiedInHouse.com site can show users - for a fee - if and when a death has occurred in a home.
Condrey said he got the idea two years ago, when a tenant sent him a text in the middle of the night saying his rental property was haunted.
"I was lying there and thinking, ‘You know, I don't even know the history of that house,'" Condrey recalled. So he began to do some research.
After hours of digging through online records, Condrey learned that someone had died of an illness in one of his homes, but more surprising was the discovery of how difficult his search had been.
"I was expecting to see a service for this because they have a service for everything these days, but there wasn't," Condrey said.
He then teamed up with a friend to build a website that could perform the necessary leg work for anyone curious about the life-and-death history of residence.
DiedInHouse.com uses an algorithm to search a database of millions of police, government and real estate records and issues a report that includes the name and date of anyone who died in a home. A single search costs $11.99.
Condrey said he sells between seven and 14 reports per day and about 600,000 people have visited the website since its launch.
Only about 8 percent of the homes searched on DiedInHouse.com have a record of deaths. Still, Condrey said running a report could save time, money and peace of mind.
Condrey said prospective home buyers worried about the stigma of owning a home where someone had died, especially from foul play, are among those who patronize his site.
Some users have reported getting a discount on their rent after notifying their landlord that they had discovered a death on the premises, Condrey said.
Most of all, people suspicious of paranormal activity visit DiedInHouse, Condrey said.
"I was amazed the first time I used it for an investigation," said Leslie Self, who runs Self Paranormal Investigations out of Craig, Colorado.
Self, who has used the site seven times, said having proof that someone died in a house aids in his investigations into suspected paranormal happenings.
He recounted one set of clients who believed their home was haunted and planned to sell the property until they saw a DiedInHouse report showing no recorded deaths there.
"It's important information," he said, pointing to the prevalence and popularity of haunted house stories in popular culture. "There wouldn't be 'Amityville Horror' ... and all of these ghost shows if it wasn't important to people."
(Reporting by Laila Kearney in San Francisco; Editing by Steve Gorman and Lisa Shumaker)