The Richmond Register

March 8, 2014

The case of the ghostly neighbor

By Jack Strauss
Register Columnist

BEREA — Wilbur lived in a world of fears. Everything frightened him. The full extent of his courage was to admit that he had none.

Noises in the middle of the night, his own shadow creeping up on him and, most of all, black cats scared the wits out of him.

So, picture his chagrin, one day, when he came home from vacation only to discover that a mausoleum had been erected on property adjacent to his home.

With his knees still knocking, Wilbur raced to court where he insisted that the mausoleum was a nuisance and that it be removed immediately.

“I don’t normally care who lives next to me,” Wilber told the judge, “but ghosts are another thing. When I hear rapping on my door at night, I want to be able to see who it is. A mausoleum is too scary a place to have as a next-door neighbor.”

Mausoleums have to be built somewhere,” was the defense, “and since there’s no law prohibiting one next door to Wilbur’s home, when he answers the door at night, he’s just going to have to hope for the best.”

If you were the judge, would you allay Wilbur’s ghostly fears by ordering removal of the mausoleum?

This is how the judge ruled: No! The judge ruled that to provide for the repose of the dead is as lawful as to provide for the comfort of the living. While the presence of a mausoleum may cause some unpleasant thoughts, the judge noted, a mausoleum, like a cemetery, is not a nuisance unless it is managed in such a manner as to endanger the comfort and health of those living nearby.

(Based on a 1918 Washington Supreme Court Decision)

Jack Strauss, a retired New York City trial attorney who now resides in Berea, wrote a syndicated column for 36 years called, “What’s the Law?” It appeared in papers coast to coast, including the Pittsburgh Press, the Los Angeles Examiner, the Hartford Times, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News, among many others. It appears here with his permission.