Do you love creepy ghost stories? Do you enjoy the paranormal? Who doesn’t love a little spooky fun for the Halloween season. With Halloween just a few weeks away, the Civille Team wanted to get in on the festive fun and we have created a list of the Top 10 Supernatural Legal Cases that promise plenty of fun and maybe even a few chills up your spine.
We know that many of the lawyers and attorneys we serve here at Civille have taken some strange cases in their careers – but we are not sure any of them can hold a candle to this list of weird and supernatural court cases that includes lawsuits against God and Satan, literal ghost writers, and ghost murders.
If you are looking for a scare – fright this way to the Civille Blog!
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10. Betty Penrose v. God
Bad things happen to good people all the time and who is to blame for things like natural disasters? Tornados, lightning strikes, earthquakes, floods, plagues of locusts? Betty Penrose chose to seek legal action against the big guy upstairs – God. Betty Penrose sued God for $100,000 in damages in 1969 when her Arizona home was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Her case was filed in a California court, based on a recent case that had transferred ownership of a property to God. Betty Penrose won her lawsuit – but was never able to collect the damages.
9. Gavin Cox v. David Copperfield
David Copperfield – magician and illusionist or black magic sorcerer – you decide. David Copperfield, the man who made the Statue of Liberty disappear and walked through the Great Wall of China, faced a lawsuit in 2013 for his magic trick Lucky #13. The plaintiff – Gavin Cox – claimed he was injured while participating as an audience member in the magic trick and sought $400,000 in damages. Copperfield was forced to divulge the secret of the trick in court and Cox was found negligent for his fall.
8. Ernie Chambers v. God
Politician vs God. No, this is not the start of a bad joke. Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers filed a divine lawsuit against God in 2007. The senator filed for a judicial injunction to prevent God from creating anymore:
The lawsuit asserted that God could be sued in Nebraska because he is omnipresent and has agents (priests) operating for him in the earthly realm and that because he is omniscient, he could not claim to be unaware of any harm caused by the aforementioned natural disasters. The case made it before the judge, but was dismissed because God could not be at the trial. Chambers maintains he filed the lawsuit to make the point that any and all cases should be heard and not dismissed out of pocket.
7. Chico Xavier v. de Campos
The writers here at Civille have taken particular interest in the supernatural case of Chico Xavier v. the widow of Humberto de Campos and we think that copyright lawyers will appreciate this case. Francisco Cândido Xavier was a spiritual medium and Brazilian author of more than 450 books. Xavier claimed that his literary inspiration came from deceased spirits that he communed with, and in 1944, the widow of poet Humberto de Campos filed a lawsuit that ascertained that the family should get the royalties for Xavier’s book that he claimed was inspired by de Campo. The court ruled that the family could only claim ownership of literary works produced before death and that dead people have no legal rights to the work.
6. Pavel Mircea v. God
Any contract lawyers out there? Pavel Mircea was a convicted murderer in Romania in the middle of a 20-year sentence when he filed a lawsuit against God (a popular target for lawsuits in this supernatural list). Mircea claimed that his crimes were due to the unholy influence of Satan and that because of his baptism and Christian beliefs, God should have protected him from that influence and was in breach of contract. Mircea filed the lawsuit against the Orthodox Church and the case was dismissed because God was not a citizen of Romania and was not in their jurisdiction.
5. Stambovsky v. Ackley
We are officially to the ghost, spirit, and poltergeist section of our supernatural list at Civille. Do you love contract and property law? You may love the Stambovsky v. Ackley case. Helen Ackley owned a home in New York that she claimed was haunted in multiple local publications when she owned it and it received a reputation for that reason. Ackley sold the home to Jeffrey Stambovsky, who she claims was told about the spirits prior to signing the documents. After the purchase, Stambovsky became nervous and wanted to pull out of the sale, claiming he was not notified about the poltergeist and that the property was misrepresented. The New York court ruled that the house was haunted by the letter of the law, not because ghosts are real, but because the haunted reputation affects the property value and that the buyer is responsible for checking the details of the property prior to the sale.
4. McClary v. Stull
Are you an estate lawyer? Let us know if you have ever had a case that involved the spirit of the deceased. Elizabeth Handley – who was recently widowed – claimed a strong spiritual connection and claimed to have spoken with the ghost of her deceased husband via a planchette (like an old-school Ouija board). When she passed away, her will stated that the majority of the estate would be donated to a charity – which did not make her family happy. The case filed by her children stated that the changes to the estate had been made based on the advice of the spirit of her husband. The court ruled in favor of the estate and stated that Handley was not insane in her beliefs, that it was her money and her choice.
3. Ghost Murder of Hammersmith
How do you fight a ghost? Can you fight a ghost? The Ghost Murder of Hammersmith is an interesting case based in 1804 England. Reports of a ghost – a tall man dressed in white – attacking people in London were in the headlines and many men hit the streets to search for the rumored poltergeist. A man named Francis Smith saw what he believed was a ghost at night and shot the “ghost”. The “ghost” was a bricklayer named Thomas Millwood dressed in his white work coveralls and was killed. Francis Smith was put on trial for murder, found guilty, and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to hard labor.
2. Erasmus Stribbling Shue and the Greenbrier Ghost
The case of the Greenbrier Ghost is the only legal case in United States history where a ghost led to the conviction of a murder suspect. Zona Shue was found dead in her home, at the bottom of the stairs in 1897 and her husband dressed her in a high-neck dress and put her in bed before the doctor arrived. The doctor arrived and examined the body – except for the head and neck – which was covered by her husband Erasmus Stribbling Shue. Zona’s mother pushed the court to investigate her death, based on testimony that a ghost told her, her daughter had been strangled and had her neck broken. The body was exhumed and her neck was found to be broken. Erasmus Shue was charged with murder, found guilty, and sentenced to life in prison.
1. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Minions
If you thought filing a lawsuit against God was intimidating – imagine filing a lawsuit against His Evilness. Gerald Mayo, a prisoner in Pittsburgh, PA in 1971, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court against Satan and it was stated that:
These actions by Satan and his minions were in direct violation of Mayo’s constitutional rights according to the case. The court denied the case, claiming that there was no evidence that Satan was a resident of the district and not in their jurisdiction and they did not know how to deliver a court summons to Hell.
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Which spooky court case is your favorite in our list of the Top 10 Supernatural Legal Cases? Do you have any different cases that you want to share? Do you think that you could prosecute in a courtroom? Do you know how you would question a ghost witness?
Halloween is just a scream away and we hope that we have added a little legal fun to the holiday here at Civille. Contact the Civille Team today for more information on the services we provide for law firms and attorneys across the country – from custom law firm websites and digital marketing to lead enhancement – we are happy to help.
Happy Halloween from all of us at Civille!