Melissa Duer and her husband own a property that includes the state of Ohio’s only surviving grist mill, built by her ancestor, Eli or Elias Staley. Stories that the property is haunted have circulated for many years and were relayed in the book “Weird Ohio” and on the (apparently unrelated) website Forgotten Ohio. The Duers sued the authors of book and site on the grounds that by giving publicity to the stories they had helped attract many curiosity seekers to the site, forcing the couple “to spend thousands of dollars on security measures at the mill including $35,000 for an estate dog, Duer testified at a March hearing”. A judge ruled for the book defendants, “saying those responsible for [“Weird Ohio”] did not place the Duers in a false light, had no intent of emotional distress and had not trespassed or caused anyone else to trespass on the property.” However, Columbus resident Andrew Hamilton did not respond in defense of his website Forgotten Ohio (where it looks as if the disputed passage may still be standing, in the “Clark County” section, though other accounts place the property in Miami County) and the judge awarded a default judgment against him of $125,000. The Duers’ lawyer, Jeremy Tomb of Troy, says the couple intends to appeal the judge’s ruling in favor of the book, which has dropped the Staley story from its second printing.
The damages claimed included: $1,921 for an invisible fence; $1,710 for private security; $27,606 for diminished value to the property from rumors it is haunted; $57,217 in legal fees; $6,340 in litigation expenses; and $35,000 for the dog.
Duer testified extra money was spent on the dog specially trained to be under command.
“We didn’t want just any pet or regular dog that could possibly bite people,” she said in court.