The Amityville Horror: 112 Ocean Avenue Amityville, New York

Tonight, I’m writing about something that I’m quite sure you have all read about: The Amityville Horror.

However, do you really know the entire story?

The real story?

I recently watched the documentary about Amityville, “The Real Story: The Amityville Horror” as well as “My Amityville Horror”. I also found a great forum that has a plethora of information.

I’m going to present the facts about the case and then my own take on the situation. I’ve also researched (legitimate) websites and even the court documents.

Please note that every article or post can and will change. As much as I like to think that I did a decent job as researching, no one person can ever research 110%. I may find and add addendum or completely re-write something. 

The Facts

Address: 112 Ocean Avenue Amityville, New York 11701

Noticed that this house is not excluded as the films suggest, but in a suburban neighborhood
Noticed that this house is not excluded as the films suggest, but in a suburban neighborhood

People Involved: For a FANTASTIC resource on all parties involved, please visit this page: http://www.amityvillefaq.com/who.html

During the early hours of November 13th, 1974, the Defeo (duh-fay-oh) family was destroyed when the eldest brother, Ronald Defeo, killed his parents and his four siblings. Ronald stated he heard voices in his head that told him to murder his family. Ronald was a heroin and LSD user.

The night of the murders, Ronald claimed voices in his head told him to kill his family.

Mugshot of Ronald "Butch" Defeo
Mugshot of Ronald “Butch” Defeo
The victims were all on their stomachs and the bodies; there were no signs of a struggle (all victims had an autopsy; none of them were drugged). The shotgun used as the murder weapon was not equipped with a muzzle/silencer which makes police wonder why no one heard the shots (such as the other children; reports say the parents were shot first). To this day, this issue has never been resolved.

However, the defense attorney for the murdered, Ronald “Butch” Defeo, states that they believe that this was a two man job (although no further evidence could be found to support his claim.).

It is worthy to note there has been speculation that the oldest sister Dawn had been a part of the murders before she herself was shot. There was gun residue on her night gown. However, upon further police investigation, they came to the conclusion that the gun powder residue was result of the gun being fire at her and NOT a result of her using the murder weapon.

His attorney pleaded insanity, but a year after the murders took place, he was convicted of murder and is currently serving six life sentences for murder.

The Lutz Family

The Lutz FamilyThe Lutz Family

 The Lutz family moved in one year after the murders. December 18th, the family moved in. Since the family knew of the murders before they moved in, the wife had the house blessed. George Lutz first met Father Peceraro during his annulment of this first marriage

NOTE: The following is heavily disputed. This article claims the family did not meet Father Peceraro in person, rather, they only spoke on the phone. However, in “My Amityville” (Documentary), Danny Lutz states that the priest indeed came to the house and did a blessing while he was moving boxes and left suddenly. He then stated he went upstairs to finds hundreds of flies.

A priest named Father Peceraro blessed the house for the family. The Lutz family claims the priest heard (in one of the former girls’ rooms) a voice that said “get out” accompanied by flu-like symptoms and bleeding hands. The Diocese he belonged to claimed that never happened. The reporter  Laura DiDio claims she spoke to Father Peceraro and he stated that his happened. Father Peceraro has since died and this cannot be verified.

The Claim/Occurrences of the House

The Lutz family stayed a total of 28 days and fled the house and all their belongings in it after the final night.

The family reported many odd occurrences, including fluctuations in temperatures, fetid odor, cheap perfume, a strange “slime” and a “red room” that was “hidden” in the basement. Loud scrapes and bangs in empty rooms and even Mrs. Lutz (Kathy) said she felt someone touch her on several occasions.

The family claims the noises became more violent as the days passed. The youngest daughter (Missy) claimed she was playing with a girl named Jodi (no former resident was named Jodi). They said they also heard the sound of an orchestra tuning up.

The last night, everything was banging, “poltergeist activity” with inexplicable sounds. Mr. Lutz (George) felt like he was being weighed down in his bed and could not move. They all quickly left the house and left all of their belongings behind.

The following is what the family stated: Days after the incident, George said he felt compelled to speak with William Webber, Ronald Defeo’s defense attorney. They said they thought Ron deserved another trial after what they experienced.

William Webber heard their story. He then said he wanted to write a book about the murders once the Lutz’ told him what happened. Mr. Webber convinced the Lutz family to have a press conference to announce it. After that, there was a flurry of press trying to contact the Lutz family in an attempt to gain ratings from the wild story.

After some time went by, it was arranged for Channel 5 News to spend a night in the house along with paranormal researchers (for a séance), including the famous Loraine and Ed Warren noted for their psychic and demonologist skills.

warrens
The Warrens
 Loraine stated that she had “no idea how someone could stay in that house for 28 days” and “I hope that’s as close to Hell as I ever get“. During the night everyone stayed, there was no evidence caught on either video or audio, expect for a picture of a little boy with glowing eyes (Note: during the night everyone was there, the children were reportedly NOT in the house; they were sent away for the night. As you may imagine, this picture is VERY debated; it’s almost too good to be true).
No one claimed a child was there that night
No one claimed a child was there that night
Some speculate that it was the little boy Missy said she was speaking to. However, there has been no person named “Jodi” in the history of the occupants of that house. It is also worthy to note that Nick Nickell, paranormal investigator, says this would be very easy to fake this picture (and this author agrees wholeheartedly).  He went on to say, in regards to an actual ghost being in a photograph “…for the first time ever, a REAL photograph of the demon child! That is NOT likely.”

Book Deal

The Lutz family moved to California in May 1976 and met Jay Anson (Hollywood author). He persuaded them to write their story and gave them a large monetary amount (which was no disclosed, nor could I find that information). Webber was no happy with that deal. The book was released in September 1977, marketed as a true story. Two years later, the movie we all know first came out.

Cover for The Amityville Horror
Cover for The Amityville Horror

According to ABC News: “The Lutzes say they felt pressured by Weber and did not like his idea of offering a share of the profits to DeFeo. They decided not to work with him and, after moving to California, ended up agreeing to a book project with author Jay Anson.”

Webber decided to launch his own investigation, after losing out on the deal directly with the Lutz family, and brought in Hans Holzer and Ethel Johnson-Myers.

They claimed to have spoken to an angry Native American buried under the house. Ethel stated that the house was buried on a “sacred place”. She says the Indian is the one who had Ronnie Defeo kill the family.

Since the claim, there have been many, many people who quickly debunked the Native American theory. Although there were Native Americans in the area, it was found through records that there were no evidence of graveyards of communities on or around the property before the house was built.

Fabricated, Exaggerated or Hoax?

The following is heavily debated with some of my own input, but written here for the attention of the reader. It is solely up to the reader to decide

The Lutz family were  on numerous talk shows and faced scrutiny by many people. In fact, it is often reported (and found on snopes.com) that William Weber announced it was a hoax.

The defense attorney, Webber, supposedly stated that he made up many of the Lutz’s stories, including the green slime. He said when the family told him what they saw when they first moved in (the slime); he told them that when they moved in, the last people to be in the house were detectives investigating the murder. What they probably saw was the fingerprint residue from the powder.

However, we must also remember that William Weber was “double crossed”, if you will, by the Lutz family: saying they will work with Weber, but later felt pressured and decided to go elsewhere.

Weber actually had a signed contract with both George and Kathy, as show on this website: http://www.amityvillefaq.com/truth/contract.html

As for the snopes comment:

The Lutz’s admitted that the book and film exaggerated their claims and they were the victims of a ”media frenzy”. However, unlike what snopes.com claims, they stress that everything was exaggerated in the films and book; not that it was an entire hoax. Also, the tape in which the audio containing the damning evidence is lost. We might never know what actually was said on the tape. One such investigative reporter who originally got a hold of the Lutz family after their initial press conference, (Laura DiDio) said she heard it the tape as well. She does not know where the tape went, either; Weber was the person who recorded the conversation and it has yet to be found.

The first discussion on the tape between Weber and the Lutz involved “four bottles of wine” and “a lot of giddiness and jokes”. However, Laura DiDio (investigative reporter for local news) was one of the few people to hear that tape. She says that before she listened to the tape, the Lutz family told her “we’re not very proud of this”.
Weber concludes that the Lutz family pulled off a grand commercial hoax that made a lot of money for many people.

Lie Detector Test

The Lutz family claims this is simply not true. Cathy and George took a lie detector test under a former CIA employee and both passed.

People counter that, stating that once you believe a lie, then you can beat a lie detector test. Note: It is unknown to me how I can verify the validity of this test or if there actually was a lie detector test that occurred in the first place.

(Author’s note: I actually reached out to snopes regarding their information sources and pointed out some key evidence that suggests that the tape may not be the most reliable source; when they do respond, I’ll be sure to post here. Hersey is never a reliable source).

A family moved in a year later after the Lutz moved out (Cromartys). This family claims that they have not experienced any of the claims the Lutz family had experienced. They came forth to say that the house is not haunted and that the Lutz’s claim was a “money making scheme”. Subsequent families have not reported anything unusual in the house and also express their anger with having people coming by the house and snapping random pictures.

The Pig/Demonic Eyes

In the movie, we see a pair of “demonic looking” eyes outside of the little girl’s room. In the movies and in books, it says these eyes belonged to a pig. Weber said the eyes were a neighbor’s cat that was said to jump onto the second story.

Personally, I’ve had cats for my entire life. Yes, their eyes do glow when reflected by a light source. For more info on why cats’ eyes appear to “glow” in the dark, please read this.

The “Red Room”

As for the red room, the family friend of the Defeo’s (Patrick O’Rielly) says the room was red because one day, the father gave the children some brushes and red paint and stated it was “going to be their toy closet, so help me paint it”.

Imaginary Friends and Children

As previously stated, the youngest Lutz girl, Missy, said she had an imaginary friend named Jodi. The parents (Kathy and George) say she did not have this imaginary friend until they moved into the house.

Studies show that two-thirds of children under the age of seven have imaginary friends.

Taken from the same article:

The study also showed that:

  • While preschool girls were more likely to have an imaginary companion, by age 7 boys were just as likely as girls to have one.

  • 27 percent of the children described an imaginary friend that their parents did not know about.

  • 57 percent of the imaginary companions of school-age youngsters were humans and 41 percent were animals. One companion was a human capable of transforming herself into any animal the child wanted.

  • Not all imaginary companions are friendly. A number were quite uncontrollable and some were a nuisance

Waking Dreams (Hypnagogia)

George Lutz said many of his experiences were in the early hours of the morning and he felt he was being pinned to the bed, such as hearing a symphony and furniture banging throughout the house. One documentary explained this could be the phenomena known as “waking dreams” or hypnagogia.

 Psychology Behind the Haunting

Joe Nickel, renowned skeptic
Joe Nickel, renowned skeptic

Joe Nickel, a skeptic/paranormal researcher, says that the Lutz’s belief as Catholics may have had an effect on their belief of the supernatural. He went on to say that if people who believe in the supernatural “hear a noise in the house, they no longer hear it as just a noise, rather a supernatural entity”.

Richard Wiseman, a specialist who studies the psychology of hauntings in the UK, says that “some people are fantasy prone. They find it difficult to differentiate between something they have imagined happening and having that thing actually happen.”

We’re The Lutz’s Rich?

The Lutz family claims they made $300,000 from the original movie and book and never saw much more of anything else in terms of monetary compensation. However, the copyright of that book actually went to court. The Lutz couple eventually divorced (although the actual reason for divorce has not been determined; I’m not trying to insinuate they divorced over monetary issues).

In 2004, Cathy Lutz died and George died in 2006.

Miscellaneous Comments

Originally, I was also going to use My Amityville Horror, starring Daniel Lutz, the Lutz’s son (his father, George, was his stepfather; his mom, Kathy, is his biological Mom) for this article. However, after reading reviews and merely watching the documentary, I came to the conclusion that he is not a reliable source. The following are my notes:

“Danny Lutz tells his side of the Amityville Horror Story in a documentary. He seems irritated and angry nearly the entire time.

In regards to the hauntings, Danny says his toilets were black and there were thousands of flies. He had witnessed George becoming “possessed” and seeing entities go through him and his Mom in the house.

As for his Mom: his parents married young and divorced when he was about seven and a half. He was introduced to George Lutz a year after his parents divorced. George Lutz was an ex-marine and was also recently divorced. Danny says that George was a “well to do guy”. He had a boat, corvette, etc.

Danny states that his biological father and George had an agreement that George would legally adopt Danny and the other children and receive their last name, thus changing his name legally to Lutz.

Laura DiDio states that it definitely wasn’t the “Brady Bunch”

DiDio said to Danny that there were reports of the parents using wooden spoons on him and his sisters. He said this happened many times afterwards.

Danny went on to say he was happy that his stepfather died. He said he tried to kill him several times, but he was never successful.

Although he does offer a unique perspective, I am not sure I would say he is a reliable source.

References

     Amityville FAQ. (n.d.). . Retrieved May 22, 2014, from http://www.amityvillefaq.com

     Amityville Truth Board. (n.d.). . Retrieved May 22, 2014, from http://www.amityvillefaq.com/truthboard/index.php

     Anson, J. (1978). The Amityville horror: a true story ; 28 days of terror in a house possessed by evil spirits. New York [u.a.: Bantam Books.

Chambers, D. (2009). Amityville Horror [Television series episode]. In The Real Story. Amityville, New York

     Walter, E. (Director). (2012). My Amityville horror United States: Lost Witness Pictures.

 

What did you think? Have anything to add? Tell me in the comments! Let’s get a discussion going!

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