An intervention on a family of hoarders in Greenwich, Conn., turned tragic when a fire ripped through their cluttered house, authorities say, badly burning the woman who owned the home and killing her 42-year-old son.
It's believed the fire was intentionally set Tuesday, possibly by the son, Dean Verboven, because he was upset about the intervention, Greenwich Police Lt. Craig Gray told WCBS-TV in New York. Firefighters' efforts to enter the premises were reportedly hampered by the piles of possessions inside.
Surreal Estate: Weirdest Home Happenings We've Ever Heard Of
1 Dead, 1 Badly Burned in Fire at Cluttered 'Hoarders' Home in Greenwich, Conn.
You've heard the phrase "truth is stranger than fiction?" We know that all too well. At AOL Real Estate we've written some pretty crazy stories about wild, unimaginable things happening to, inside and around homes. But these stories rank as the strangest we've ever heard. Click through the gallery to catch up on some of the oddest real estate stories you might have missed.
Shortly after moving into their first home in Suquamish, Wash., Jessie Bates noticed that her husband, John, was becoming perpetually sick, and their son, Tyler, was developing unexplainable rashes. After the family was plagued by odd illnesses for a year and a half, their neighbor revealed a possible cause: Their home was once a meth lab. When the Bateses tore up the floor, they found iodine stains and worse. Toxic chemicals used to make meth had soaked into the house, turning floors spongy. An environmental crew determined that the home was uninhabitable. The Bateses ended up having to tear the house down and rebuild a new one, and Jessie told Fox 13 in Seattle that it would take them 20 years to recover from the financial setback.
If you've ever seen a horror movie, then you know not to go in the attic. But we're guessing one couple didn't let their two young daughters watch those kinds of flicks, so they had to find out for themselves. Bryant and Teasha McIntosh were in the middle of remodeling their Union City, Mich., home when their daughters wandered up to the attic -- and found a skeleton up there. The house, built in 1839, was part of the Underground Railroad in the Civil War era and was a place where runaway slaves would hide. The bones were thought to belong to a woman.
Pop quiz: How do you know your home is infested with thousands of bees? It's probably pretty clear when your ceiling starts dripping honey. That's what it took before Loretta and Kevin Yates realized that 30,000 bees were swarming inside the walls of their house in Ontario, Canada. Honey began to fall from a crack in their kitchen ceiling. "Like, you're standing in the kitchen, and you get honey dripped down your hair. It's not pleasant," Loretta Yates told Canada's QMI Agency. A beekeeper was called in to pull down the ceiling and remove the bees and the honey that were trapped inside.
When Michele Callan and her fiance, Josue Chinchilla, moved into a rental home in Toms River, N.J., there was one thing that wasn't part of the lease agreement: ghosts. But that's exactly what they got, the couple said, when lights started flickering, bed sheets started moving and disembodied voices started talking to them from the netherworld. The alleged freaky incidents got so bad that the couple filed a lawsuit against their landlord demanding their $2,250 deposit back -- after they fled the home and moved into a motel room. Their landlord claimed that their tale of terror was just a hoax by the couple to get out of their lease.
Some homes have a lot of history, but Colin Steer's could date back to the Middle Ages -- well, what's underneath it, anyway. Perplexed by a sagging spot in his living room, Steer began to dig under the floor until he uncovered a 33-foot-deep well with a sword inside it. Through research, Steer found out that the area around his home was woodlands up until 1895, when his house was built. Site plans showed that the well could date back to the 16th century.
Lately, we hear mostly about homeowners walking away from their houses because they can't afford to keep up with the mortgage. But Amber and Ben Sessions bailed on their abode for a very different reason: It was infested with thousands of snakes. The couple said that they could hear snake scales rubbing against the inside of the walls of the Idaho home as they lay in bed, and they had smelled the snakes for so long that the water "tasted just like the snakes taste." Finally, they decided to leave and default on their mortgage. Last we heard, JPMorgan Chase Bank, which repossessed the snake-infested home, was still looking for a buyer.
The town of Louisville, Ky., has a very wicked past that had been hiding underground for decades until demolition crews stumbled upon the evidence, shocking the city. Workers preparing a row of historic buildings for renovation uncovered an abandoned S&M club a couple stories below the buildings. Torture gear, pornographic paintings and torn-up furniture were all that remained in the space when it was uncovered. It turned out that a local group started the club, called "Latex," many years ago, hosting bondage and sadomasochistic gatherings there. But by the mid-1990s, the club was defunct, and the underground space was abandoned.
Sometimes home improvement projects can trash a property, as homeowner Brian Dyer can tell you. Dyer hired contractors to dig a hole in his backyard for an in-ground pool, but mountains of trash emerged in the process. Tires, machine parts and even a lawnmower were among the debris found buried in the backyard, some of it as deep as 11 feet. It was impossible to know who had put the garbage in the yard, and Dyer was fearful that trash might also be buried under the house.
A backed-up drain in the town of Parrottsville, Tenn., was causing a local hotel to flood every time it rained. The hotel's owner demanded that town officials fix the drain, and that's when they found 27 basketballs and other sports gear clogging it. Officials said the sports items could date back to the 1940s, adding that they apparently got into the drain because it didn't have a grate. The gear was donated to children around town. After all, Parrottsville had just opened a new basketball court.
A newly built $500,000 home in Houston suffered $100,000 in damage before it even went on the market when a group of youths broke in and threw a massive party there. In the aftermath of the wild scene, there were gaping holes in walls, and broken glass and empty liquor bottles all over the property. When police caught the youths allegedly involved and asked them why they destroyed the house, they reportedly said that they were mimicking the house party in the movie "Project X."
When Susan Minutillo left her Hudson, Fla., home to run an errand, everything was fine. But when she returned, half of her house was missing. The back end of Minutillo's house had fallen into a sinkhole that opened up shortly after she left. Minutillo ran to her neighbors' home for refuge, but they soon had to evacuate there, too, because of the threat of sinkhole damage.
Artist Rian White wanted to make a statement with his work, and he did -- in front of a judge, eventually. White had put up a sign in front of his East Hampton, N.Y., home asking people to "help paint a starving artists [sic] house. Throw a pint." The entire exterior of the home -- doors and windows included -- was subsequently covered in splashes of paint of all colors. White's neighbors raised a fuss, saying the paint job "degrades the whole neighborhood," and the town fined White for the mess. He eventually landed in court to answer for his conceptual masterpiece.
Troy Donovan winterized his home in Littleton, Colo., in 2011 and headed out to Indiana with his family for a few months, where he had a job. But when the Donovans returned, they found another family living in their house. Its new occupants, Veronica Fernandez-Beleta and Jose Rafael Levya-Caraveo, said that they had bought the Donovans' house in the family's absence. The pair said that a former real estate agent, whose license had been revoked, sold them a deed of adverse possession -- purportedly allowing them to claim ownership of it as abandoned property. But the Donovans' home hadn't been abandoned. The Donovans had to move into a relative's basement as a court battle ensued.
We've heard of spontaneous combustion -- but spontaneous explosion? That's what Adam Welch said happened to a glass table in his Seattle apartment one morning: It suddenly exploded, throwing shards of glass all over the place and leaving only the base intact. One expert speculated that heat (for instance, from a pan placed on the table) could have caused the glass to shatter. The problem is not unheard of: A line of Martha Stewart patio tables has generated complaints for shattering in the same way.
A homeless man in Sunland, Calif., was able to start his own marijuana grow operation and hide it from authorities for months -- by housing it in a camouflaged shack in the middle of nature preserve, police say. Robert Downs purportedly built a shed in the Tujunga Ponds Wildlife Sanctuary using materials from Home Depot, then covered the makeshift home with a camouflage tarp so it would blend into its surroundings. It went unnoticed by authorities for months. When officials finally stumbled upon the place, they found eight pot plants nearby and arrested Downs. The homeless man reportedly told police that he had been living in the park for a year.
Police in Portsmouth, Va., were called to an abandoned home to recover a stray dog. But inside, they found a zoo. Twenty-three turtles, a 4-foot-long canebrake rattlesnake, an eel, a shovelnose catfish and a lovebird were found trolling through broken fish tanks, dresser drawers and other parts of the home, local TV station WTKR reported. The animals were determined to have been abandoned for about three months. Animal rescue officials took the animals to shelters, and police were looking for the creatures' owner.
Most people would get pretty angry if they discovered graffiti on their home. But not this guy -- after all, he spray-painted his own house. After Daryl McClain's truck was stolen, he wanted to send everyone a message. So he scrawled this note across the garage of his San Antonio, Texas, home: "To the motherf----- that stole my truck. U R a dead man." Of course, that ended up drawing quite a bit of unwanted attention, neighbors said. "It's like a parade route. Everybody comes by," neighbor Roy Patty told local TV station KENS-5. McClain said that he had every right to do what was necessary to recover his stolen truck.
The cremated remains of 56 people were reported found inside the house of an ex-funeral home director in Dayton, Ohio. Scherrie McLin's license had been permanently revoked some time before when the same remains were discovered hidden in her funeral home. At the time, the funeral home was closed and investigators contacted the prosecutor's office about the remains. But they somehow still wound up at McLin's home.
When recluse Walter Samaszko Jr. was found dead in his Carson City, Nev., home, he had only $200 in the bank. But inside his home was a fortune worth millions more. Officials clearing out Samaszko's home for sale found $7 million in gold bars and coins stashed away in boxes in the garage. A distant relative of Samaszko's was told that she could claim the fortune -- or at least what would be left of it after an IRS audit.
Police looking for a stolen food truck in Kissimmee, Fla., found it buried in Roberto Gonzalez Broche's backyard. Broche reportedly said that he was using it as a "Doomsday bunker." Police also found three trailers on Broche's property. He allegedly planned to bury three of the vehicles and leave one above ground with a hole cut in the bottom of it, which would lead to the underground bunker. Of course, as a police source noted: "You can have your Doomsday bunker if you want. You just can't make it out of stolen materials."
There had been a dumpster placed outside the home of his 69-year-old mother, Barbara Verboven, where stacks upon stacks of personal belongings inside were to be discarded. State social workers were due to visit the family that day.
"Smoke [was] pouring out of the house, and we said there's someone still inside," neighbor Richard Meehan told WCBS. "And about five or six minutes later, they took the second person out in an ambulance."
"The lady used to work for the Board of Education in Greenwich, and then she got sick and, basically, her son was taking care of her," neighbor John Pardo told WCBS. "It was a slow decline."
Another neighbor said the woman was holed up in a single room of the house with the TV on around the clock.
Greenwich Patch reported that the home was known as an eyesore in the neighborhood, and for years neighbors were concerned that it was a deathtrap.
"About two or three months ago, a dumpster was delivered, and we thought they were going to clean it up," Meehan told Greenwich Patch. But it was apparently used for household garbage rather than clearing out the home, Meehan said.
"It's been a bit of a contentious issue with the neighbors," the neighbor added. "You couldn't walk in the house ... it was like a hoarder-type situation."
"I know this boy [Dean] since he was 8 years old," neighbor Gladys Pardo told WCBS. "They are sweet people, nice people."
Barbara Verboven was in critical condition at Bridgeport Medical Center, and she was being treated for severe burns.