BOO! Happy End To Ghost House Tale

Haunted or not, it’s sold for $9.5 million
How to explain the strange goings-on at 52 Middle Lane? Did a restless spirit float through cast-iron gates to enter the East Hampton “ghost house”? Morgan McGivern

    In print and online, from Amityville to Australia, the so-called East Hampton Ghost House is back in the news, having finally been sold after eight years on the market.
    The house, at 52 Middle Lane in East Hampton Village, is reputedly haunted by the restless spirit of its owner, Barton Kaplan, an antiques dealer from a monied family whose body was found at the bottom of his pool early on a summer Sunday after a night of partying. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office classified the death as an accidental drowning.
    Ever since, summer renters at the 13-bedroom house have whispered of inexplicable happenings there: lights and faucets turning themselves on and off at will, furniture moving from place to place of its own accord. After the sale was recorded last week on The Real Deal, a Web site for real estate brokers, someone commented, “A couple and their children we know rented that house for a summer. One night after we’d had dinner out in the yard, we came back in to find the living room sofa upside down. True story.”

    In May 2007, the Corcoran Agency was asking $450,000 for a Memorial Day to Labor Day rental of the 18,000-square-foot house, which has, besides the expected amenities, an elevator, a screening room, two wine cellars, and an indoor spa and gym. The word around town was that the price would have been more, but brokers had to knock off $100,000 because the previous summer’s renters told everyone they knew that the place was haunted.
    At one point Mr. Kaplan’s father was said to have hired a psychic to exorcise whatever spirit had taken up residence at his son’s house. It didn’t work.
    Meanwhile, Mr. Kaplan’s live-in partner, one Sam Wagner, began putting it about that not only was the house haunted, but its grounds were as well, by Montaukett Indian warriors, no less, buried there in 1653, he maintained, after a battle with the Narragansett tribe. A good story — Mr. Wagner is reportedly writing a screenplay about the ghosts of Middle Lane — but, though there was some bad blood between the Montauketts and the Narragansetts that year, history has not recorded any such battle.
    Many people here will recall that not long before Mr. Kaplan drowned, Ted Ammon, a millionaire businessman, was murdered in an equally imposing house almost directly across Middle Lane from number 52. For two such grisly events to have occurred in close proximity on one of the quietest, most affluent lanes in the village, was strange enough, but stranger still was the enigmatic Mr. Wagner’s dual role. At the murder trial of Daniel Pelosi in 2004, Mr. Wagner, who described himself as a “Pop artist,” took the stand as the first witness for the defense. He testified that he and Mr. Ammon, after exchanging glances on Middle Lane a few years before the murder, had had sex together.
    “I, being an all-American gay human being . . . said something like, ‘Do you want to get busy?’ ” Mr. Wagner told the court. His testimony bolstered the defense’s contention that Mr. Ammon, who had no ties to the gay community, had picked up his killer at Two Mile Hollow Beach. However, Mr. Pelosi was convicted and is serving a 25-years-to-life term in prison.
    Mr. Wagner has since maintained that Mr. Kaplan’s ghost persists because he, Wagner, never got the $2 million Mr. Kaplan left him in an unsigned will.
    Whether it was fear of spirits or the dismal economy, the asking price of the East Hampton Ghost House fell by more than $10 million in the last four years, from $19.5 million to the $9.25 million it recently sold for. As of this week, the new owners will be 93rd on a list of the 100 highest property taxpayers in Suffolk County, at $67,625.26.
    Michele Tiberio, the Corcoran vice president who sold the house, said on Tuesday that she was “not at liberty” to identify the buyers, but that “they are very happy, and look forward to many years of happiness there.”


Comments

Dear Irene, This is Sam Wagner who you included in your article about the sale of the Ghost House in East Hampton at 52 Middle Lane. The estate of my late friend Barton Kaplan. Your facts are somewhat correct...but as a journalist you know that the way you presented them can give a totally different slant to the truth of what actually happened. The real facts. A reporter from the New York Post contacted me twice after Barton had died in 2004 when Danny Pelosi had been indicted for the murder of Ted Ammon and asked me if he could get me to comment of what it was like to be a neighbor of Ted Ammon after the murder . I told him I was not interested. Then a man called me and told me he was writing a book on the Murder and asked if he could interview me again as a neighbor and what I thought of the murder etc. I asked him when his book was coming out...he said not until at least a year from now meaning in 2005. I gave him the interview...and told him about my 15 minute tryst with Ted Ammon. The Authors name was Kieran Crowley who brought me a copy of his last book which he autographed and gave me before we did the interview. He also took a few pictures of me which he said were only for references for his book ...so he could remember everyone. The interview was recorded and an hour later he left . As he got into his car he stopped and looked at me and said..." Oh by the way I also write for the New York Post newspaper." I told him why didn't you tell me that in the beginning ? He just got into his car. He called me two days later and said ...I'm Sorry but this story I have to use for the New York Post. The story was printed the next day with headlines across the page that showed a picture of me that he had taken....and then super imposed it with a picture of Ted Ammon and then called me his Secret Lover . The press came out in droves and helicopters in the air...and I was then confined to staying in the house. It was horrible. I was involved in the case only because I was suponied and had to go to trial with no choice in the matter. At the trial I told the truth of how I got in the news and my brief experience with Ted Ammon who I said I was not 100% sure was even him since we never introduced ourselves.
Barton was a kind sole, one who I will always have fond memories of and was lucky enough to call my friend. He was not and antiques dealer, Mr Wagner was not his "Partner" in any way shape or form, he was his employee. Regardless of if Mr Kaplan is or is not roaming Chatau Bartau, He did love it there, enough of the drama, let him rest in peace. With regard to the 2 Mil..... Yea right that is what did it..... and I may have a bridge to sell you........... Rest in peace my friend, I hope that with this transaction you may be left alone, I additionally hope that the people purchasing the home have many many years of happiness, and joy, and create there own memories! For Barton, till we see each other again.....
I babysat at this house in summer of 2008. A wonderful family might I add. I never saw anything out of the ordinary happen. I do not believe there is a Ghost on Middle Lane. The house is beautiful and I hope the new family living there enjoys many years of happiness...