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The events of SYFY’s SurrealEstate may be fictional, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t real estate agents in real life who have to contend with the spookier side of the spectrum just like the Roman Agency.
“Energy is everything, I believe that for sure. Everything you put out you get back... so I know that energy plays a part. And some of these houses have bad, negative energy,” James Harris told SYFY in an interview ahead of the Season 13 premiere of Bravo’s Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles. Harris, who sells high-end residential real estate in the L.A. area, has had plenty of run-ins with haunted houses, even if he’d like to talk himself out of the notion.
If Harris gets a bad vibe from a home, he brings in a company called Energy Optimization to sage, perform blessings, and try to rid the house of anything that could go bump in the night. To learn more about his experiences, we asked him to tell us his spookiest haunted house stories, and to share the one thing that would make him never return to a home again. Read on for our full interview!
Have you ever had an experience with a haunted house?
Great question, and yes, I have. I’ve had several actually. But for me, it’s about the energy that flows through a house, so when I get a new listing if I feel there is a negative energy, I bring a company called Energy Optimization into the house to do a full cleanse.
So I had this one house in Bel Air that was a brand-new construction but I had heard that before the new house was built, the old house was haunted and several people had died on this property. And if I tell you I was scared, I would be lying — I was petrified every time I walked in this house. You go in and the first thing I do is turn on all the lights because there was like a very strange energy about this house where you felt as though someone was watching you or watching over you and I wasn’t sure if this was a peaceful death or a non-peaceful death, and I really didn’t look that far into it, but I always felt spirits watching me, following me, and I’m not into all of that, so it was super, super strange. So I did call my friend who owns this company to come in and do a complete cleanse of the house, at which point when SHE came in, they were burning sage around the property and they went down to the movie theater and this woman said that this has never, ever happened before, the sage went out. And so SHE got super spooked, at which point I just wanted to run the heck out o this house. And she couldn’t get the sage to relight, which, again has never happened in her career before. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Needless to say, the house never sold and we won’t give the exact address but that’s definitely one of the most bizarre encounters I’ve had in this business.
What did you tell your contact who was doing the cleansing when you called her up?
I told her, "I feel spirits, I feel like I’m being followed, I feel as though somebody is here with me and I know I’m on my own and can you please come and look at it." And immediately within 20 minutes of being there, just setting up, me just touring her around the house, she said there are weird spirits in this house, I’m picking it up from different rooms, different parts, and as I said when she went down to the movie theater, she said it was cold and something was going on in there and lo and behold she came up and said, “Oh my god, my sage just went out. That’s never happened before.:
So I thought, “Oh s***, we have a problem.” I left, actually. I asked her, “Is it OK if I leave?" She said, “Yes, I’d rather be alone,” and she spent the next five, six hours in there cleansing the whole property.
Are you a believer?
I am desperately trying to say no but yes. Again I’m NOT but when you feel something… When we sell homes, if somebody has died in that home in the last seven years, legally speaking you have to disclose it. And I always ask the question to myself would I live in a home that someone had died in before and I have to say I think the answer is no. I don’t think I would. But the first question I would ask is “was it a peaceful death? How did they die?” because if it was a peaceful death and they went quietly I think I’d be slightly more inclined, but if it wasn’t, no f***ing way would I live in that house. Excuse the language — that’s just how I feel.
Would you take on another haunted house even if you got bad vibes from it?
Absolutely, yes! [Laughs.] That’s the real estate agent talking. The reality is if I couldn’t get it cleansed I’d have to take one for the team and just s*** myself every time I showed the house. [Laughs.] But believe me, I would push to get that house cleansed in every which way [and] direction humanly possible. But yes I wouldn’t turn down a good listing that I truly believe would sell because I wouldn’t be doing my job if I did that.
Or MAYBE I would turn it down and I’d give it to Josh Altman and let him handle it because I don’t really like him. [Laughs.]
Do folks ever directly ask you if a home is haunted?
People always want to know what has happened in this house, what is the history, did somebody die? You know something, it’s interesting, there are haunted houses in Los Angeles and if you identify the buyers who bought those houses, they LOVE a haunted house. There’s people out there definitely opposite to I, which is what makes the world go ‘round, that live for stuff like this. They want to know that some weird s*** has gone down in this house. They LOVE the history. They want to know what happened.
Think about it: L.A. doesn’t have history like Europe has which is tens of thousands of years old, but if a house here was built in the 1920s, that’s called history in LA. And people love to dive into that and there’s some really quirky, interesting people here that love a very strange story. And we have a lot of that here in Los Angeles.
Is there a house you’ve seen that you would want the challenge of selling?
There are several homes interestingly enough that are located in Hancock Park. Hancock Park is what they call “the original Beverly Hills” many many many many years ago and those are some of the oldest homes in LA, which have questionable pasts, and if you ask locals from L.A. that live in Hancock park they will literally point out the different houses that have history and have ghosts and have had some pretty scary stories.
For me, I’m always up for a challenge and always up to — listen, if there’s something that has a story, someone buys into that story. And so if there’s a world where I can help sell a home from a story, I’ll take it on and do it.
Is there anything spooky that could happen in a house that would scare you away for good?
Yes. If I, god forbid, and I have by the way — I’ve been in houses where lights start flickering, TVs come on. The pool spa suddenly turns on. A door locks. But I always try and rationalize that wasn’t a spirit, it was just a failed smart system. But I have to say if for some reason I ever felt some THING touch me — I would be out, that door would be locked, and I can assure you I would never set foot back in that house.
I’d probably leave LA. I’d probably move back to London at that point — that would be the end of me.
[Laughs.] You know, London. Where nothing bad or spooky has ever happened.
That’s not true but I’d leave Los Angeles. I’m a wimp. There’s no denying I’m a wimp. I’ll be completely upfront. So if god forbid that actually happened I would be out of America. Peace. That’s it.
Are you a horror fan?
I love a good horror movie. My wife and I will sit up and watch a horror movie. And the truth is I probably won’t sleep for the next five nights and my wife kind of loves that because sadly I’m a wimp.
Child’s Play, still, to this day, I can’t watch. The Exorcist, another one. If you told me to watch that tonight, couldn’t do it.
Speaking of a house where spooky things happened, The Exorcist is definitely one of them.
I heard all sorts of stuff happened after they filmed that movie. People died. Terrible things happened. No thank you.
I’m happy you brought up Child’s Play because SYFY and USA have an upcoming live-action Chucky series.
That teddy bear had me sleeping with my mum ‘til I was about 8! I was a disaster!
What is it about Chucky that freaks you out so much?
You can never look at a doll ever again and there’s one percent of you that thinks “This thing’s about to kill me!” [Laughs.] It actually becomes real. This dude has a knife and when I go to sleep [the dolls] are going to talk about it and come up with a plan. No thank you. Especially not with two kids that have teddy bears — I’m out.