A family has fled this Toms RIver rental home, claiming it is already occupied by a demon. / ERIK LARSEN/new jersey press media
TOMS RIVER — No one among the living may ever want to reside in the house at the corner of Lowell and Terrace avenues again.
That is the fear of the landlord who has filed a new complaint in state Superior Court against a couple who fled the three-bedroom ranch in the middle of the night after living there for just one week, because they say the house is haunted.
Dr. Richard Lopez, a well-known orthodontist in Ocean County who owns the property, has filed a lawsuit against the family for at least $15,000. Among other issues, he contends they have stigimitized the property and diminished his ability to rent or sell the house in the future. Their story has received international media attention since it was first reported in the Courier-Post on April 13.
Josue Chinchilla and Michele Callan, who are engaged to be married, moved into the home March 1 with Callan’s teenage daughter and 6-year-old son.
After the family settled in, they said they would come home and find their clothes and towels ejected from closets and strewn over the floors. Doors would creak open and slam closed in unoccupied parts of the house.
At night, footsteps could be heard from the kitchen after everyone was tucked in and unintelligible whispering seemed to fade in and out of thin air, according to the couple.
The most disturbing phenomenon, they claim, was the sound they heard through the vents to the basement — the muffled din of something being dragged through the cellar.
The family left the house March 10 and moved to a motel room in Point Pleasant Beach, where they have been living since, after the couple claims that an evil spirit or a demon appeared to them as they were watching television in their bedroom.
They have since filed a lawsuit against Lopez demanding that he return their $2,250 security , claiming that he had at first verbally agreed to release them from their one-year lease and refund the deposit after the couple told him about their experiences. But, on reflection, Lopez later had an office assistant call Callan to explain he had changed his mind.
The matter is on hold while both the family and Lopez consider an offer to air their case on the television program, “The People’s Court,” which has offered to cover all fees and judgments regardless of who wins if the parties agree to sign a contract to settle the matter on the show, Callan said.
David A. Semanchik, attorney for Lopez, said real estate agents acting on behalf of his client will be legally bound in the future to disclose to all prospective tenants that previous residents claimed the house is haunted.
“Plaintiffs have made claims concerning the property which are unfounded and which have led to media attention,” Lopez’s counterclaim reads. “Upon information and belief, the of the property has decreased as a result of plaintiff’s action and statements.”
Callan said her family has been hurt by the attention too. She said she understands there is a large part of the public who have either read about her family’s ordeal or have watched them on television programs like ABC’s “Good Morning America” and have posted unflattering comments about them online.“Why would we make up such a story?” Callan asked. “We left a three-bedroom house for a one-room motel one week after moving in. We spent $2,000 on new furniture from Value City, we paid $4,000 on a deposit and rent after moving in. For what, one week?