Sinkholes and Roaches and Snakes, Oh My!


By Erika Riggs

Halloween is the annual fright night for thrill-seeking trick-or-treaters. For homeowners, however, a rousing case of hair-raising creeps can crop up anytime, any day of the year.

Homeowner horror stories know no seasonal bounds, and we've collected a slew of scary tales: Homes infested or attacked by myriad invaders, including roaches, mold and sinkholes. We invite you to read on, if you dare.

Idaho Snake House

"Snakes on a Plane?" How about snakes in a house?

Ben and Amber Sessions purchased their ideal house in Rexburg, Idaho, in 2009 for a bargain price of $179,900. The five-bedroom home seemed perfect for their growing family, at least until they met their new roommates. The home was infested with hundreds and hundreds of garter snakes.

According to one report, the infestation was so massive that the ground appeared to be moving. During the most intense point of battle, the Sessions killed 42 snakes - in one day!

Despite their efforts, the snakes "won." The Sessions raised the white flag and slithered away in defeat. So bad was the situation that the Sessions walked away from their house and mortgage. And this from a couple who, when they purchased the home, thought the snake infestation was "a myth."

The property is now known as the "Snake House" and was put on the Rexburg real estate market in December 2010 by the lender, Chase Bank. That did not last long, as the listing was removed shortly after. There's no word of a prospective buyer brave enough to tackle the snakes. (Check out these photos of the Snake House.)

Condemned Cottage

On Mother's Day weekend 2009, Chad and Tasha Bennett moved into their two-story, Wakefield, N.H., home with big dreams. A few months later, it was all up in smoke. Or, rather, spores. Their dream was branded unsafe to live in by the town building inspector and health officer.

The culprit? Mold.

Although the Bennetts had a full home inspection when they purchased the piece of Wakefield real estate, it wasn't enough to discover the four kinds of mold flowering in the walls. The tab for the problem totaled $80,000, not limited to structural issues, water and fire hazards.

That Sinking Feeling

One day the house is there, the next day it's not. The scenario in which entire homes, driveways and even cars have been swallowed whole is not as uncommon as it might seem. Sinkholes aren't predictable, but the consequences are significant, says Nicole Garcia, public information officer for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The only way to ensure that you don't purchase property that might be prone to sinkhole activity is to not buy property in a karst region," she said. "Karst refers to landforms that develop due to the dissolving away, over geologic time, of geologic materials near the surface."

As recently as early October 2011, a family fled their home in Ocala, Fla., when a sinkhole opened up in their driveway, swallowing their car and threatening to expand to their children's rooms.

The family told Orlando news station WKMG that they didn't want to return to their home, no matter what the insurance company says, because "the problem underground appears to be spreading."

The Creepy-Crawlies

For most people, a problem with roaches can be resolved with a quick hit of aerosol bug repellent. Then there are extreme roach infestations. Do not confuse the two. Just see what happened to one Dayton homeowner who currently tried to do the math on his cockroach infestation, but could not keep up.

Homeowner James Manning recently told the Dayton Daily News that he sees "50 to 60 roaches" on an average night in his home.

"And I was told by Orkin, if you see one, multiply it by 500," Manning said.

The problem stems from the foreclosure next door. Sitting only three feet away from Manning's house, the neighboring home's walls look to be "alive" with roaches. For three months, Manning fought a one-man war against the creatures while responsibility for foreclosure cleanup has been passed from city officials to a property management company to county inspectors.

Honey, There's a Gator in the Bathroom!

It was a typical Saturday in April when Alexis Dunbar walked into her Palmetto, Fla., home's bathroom to find herself staring at a 7-foot-long alligator. The reptilian intruder was staring back at her - with its jaws wide open.

Screaming, Dunbar and her boyfriend propped a small table against the door to keep the gator in the bathroom until help arrived.

The alligator apparently went through the cat door of Dunbar's home and, while looking for food or a cool place to rest, wandered into the bathroom.

The alligator was removed without damage to the home, and ABC News reports that Dunbar consequently decided to remove the cat door. One gator invasion was, apparently, enough.

Take It to the Dump

The Dyer family of Lakeland, Fla., decided make good on their desire to have a backyard pool. So in the summer of 2011, as the contractors began to dig, the ground gave way to some odd buried objects: Washing machine tubs, electronic equipment, tires and household trash.

The old appliance graveyard rested only a few feet under ground level, but extended down at least 12 feet, reports The Tampa Tribune, and it's not just in the backyard but beneath the house as well. When the Dyers hired someone to remove the trash, it caused a truck tire-size sinkhole.

Fortunately, the trash was not hazardous, but it's the Dyers who were left to deal with their backyard dump, and the potential of more sinkholes from settling trash.

Thief in the Night

Some burglars take electronics, jewelry and other valuables. These thieves took copper pipes.

Homeowner Alan Klotz's 100-year-old Fort Worth house was flooded with an estimated 200,000 gallons of water when thieves broke into his crawl space and removed the copper piping, which is a prime target of thieves since the expensive copper can be re-sold at salvage stores. Water was 6 inches high on the the foundation pilings after all the pipes that ran from the main water line to sinks, tubs and showers were stolen.

Oh, Rats!

Dori Caussey's rental should have come with a warning. It was so overrun with rats that Caussey wouldn't put her toddler daughter down on the floor. At night, the Cape Cod resident was kept up by the noise of rats rustling in the ceiling, in the walls and scurrying across the floor. A few months later, so overwhelmed by droppings, she lived in just three of the rental's rooms: The bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.

There were differing opinions about why the rat problem wasn't addressed, reports the Cape Cod Times, but that didn't lessen the damage done by those rowdy rodents.

Do you have your own homeowner horror story or did we miss a particularly bad one? Take a moment and share it in the comments.

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Halloween Home Improvement: Zombie-Proof Your House
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