Monday, November 16, 2009

The Amityville Horror

Right, so, I was watching the 2005 remake the The Amityville Horror. Meh-y remake, but Ryan Reynolds, so I watch.

mmmm....Ryan Reynolds....*eyes go glassy and distant*


The case is fairly well known, even outside of paranormal, horror circles.

The story starts late in the night on November 12, 1974. Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shoots his mother, his father, and four siblings in their beds. He cleans up a bit, bathes, and goes to work like nothings going on the next day. That evening, the 13th, he rushes into a bar he frequented, claiming that he'd gone home and found them all dead. Ronnie DeFeo was taken into 'protective custody', because he was claiming that his father had had dealings with the mob, and that the murders were a hit. The next day, with the police suspicious because of inconsistencies in his story, he confessed to having murdered his family.

He claimed insanity, saying that voices in his head had told him to commit the murders. He was, in fact, a drug addict (heroin and LSD) and there are stories/evidence that his father was a abusive. There are also, though many people doubt the truth, rumors that Ronnie and his oldest sister had an incestuous relationship. On November 21, 1975 he was found guilty on six counts of second degree murder, and on December 4, 1975 he was sentenced to six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life.

In December 1975, George and Kathy Lutz purchsed the DeFeo house and moved in with Kathy's three children from a previous marriage. The real estate agent did inform them of the murders the year before, but they decided to purchase the home anyway.

This is what the Lutz's *claim* happened after they moved in:

Much of the DeFeo's furniture was still in the house, since it had been included as part of the deal. A friend of George learned about the history of the house, and insisted on having it blessed. At the time, George was a non-practicing Methodist and had no experience of what this would entail. Kathy was a non-practicing Catholic and explained the process. George knew a Catholic priest named Father Ralph J. Pecoraro, who agreed to carry out the house blessing.

Father Pecoraro was a lawyer, a Judge of the Catholic Court and a psychotherapist who lived at the local Sacred Heart Rectory. He arrived to perform the blessing while George and Kathy were unpacking their belongings on the afternoon of December 23, 1975, and went in to the building to carry out the rites. When he flicked the first holy water and began to pray, he heard an audible, masculine voice demand that he "get out." When leaving the house, Father Pecoraro did not mention this incident to either George or Kathy. On December 24, 1975, Father Pecoraro telephoned George Lutz and advised him to stay out of the room where he had heard the mysterious voice. This was a room on the second floor that Kathy planned to use as a sewing room, and had been the bedroom of Marc and John Matthew DeFeo. The telephone call was cut short by static, and following his visit to the house, Father Pecoraro allegedly developed a high fever and blisters on his hands similar to stigmata.

At first, nothing unusual happened in the house. Talking about their experiences later, they reported that it was as if they "were each living in a different house."

Some of the experiences of the Lutz family at the house have been described as follows:

- George would wake up around 3:15 every morning and would go out to check the boathouse. Later he would learn that this was the estimated time of the DeFeo killings.

- The house was plagued by swarms of flies despite the winter weather.

- Kathy had vivid nightmares about the murders and discovered the order in which they occurred, and the rooms where they took place. The Lutzes' children also began sleeping on their stomachs, in the same way that the dead bodies in the DeFeo murders had been found.

- Kathy would feel a sensation as if "being embraced" in a loving manner, by an unseen force.

- Kathy discovered a small hidden room (around four feet by five feet) behind shelving in the basement. The walls were painted red and the room did not appear in the blueprints of the house. The room came to be known as "The Red Room." This room had a profound effect on their dog Harry, who refused to go near it and cowered as if sensing something negative.

- There were cold spots and odors of perfume and excrement in areas of the house where no wind drafts or piping would explain the source.

- While tending to the fire, George and Kathy saw the image of the devil with half his head blown out. It was burned into the soot in the back of the fireplace.

- The Lutzes' five year old daughter, Missy, developed an imaginary friend named "Jodie," a demonic pig-like creature with glowing red eyes.

- George would be woken up by the sound of the front door slamming. He would race downstairs to find the dog sleeping soundly at the front door. Nobody else heard the sound although it was loud enough to wake the house.

- George would hear what was described as a "German marching band tuning up" or what sounded like a clock radio playing not quite on frequency. When he went downstairs the noise would cease.

- George realized that he bore a strong resemblance to Ronald DeFeo, Jr., and began drinking at The Witches' Brew, the bar where DeFeo was once a regular customer.

- While checking the boathouse one night, George saw a pair of red eyes looking at him from Missy's bedroom window. When he went upstairs to her room, there was nothing to be found. Later it was suggested that it could have been "Jodie".

- While in bed, Kathy received red welts on her chest caused by an unseen force and was levitated two feet off the bed.

- Locks, doors and windows in the house were damaged by an unseen force.

- Cloven hoofprints attributed to an enormous pig appeared in the snow outside the house on January 1, 1976.

- Green slime oozed from walls in the hall, and also from the keyhole of the playroom door in the attic.

- A crucifix, hung in a closet by Kathy, revolved until it was upside down and gave off a sour smell.

- George tripped over a four foot high china lion which was an ornament in the living room, and was left with bite marks on one of his ankles.

- George saw Kathy transform into an old woman of ninety, "the hair wild, a shocking white, the face a mass of wrinkles and ugly lines, and saliva dripping from the toothless mouth."

After deciding that something was wrong with their house that they could not explain, George and Kathy Lutz carried out a blessing of their own on January 8, 1976. George held a silver crucifix while they both recited the Lord's Prayer, and while in the living room George allegedly heard a chorus of voices telling them “Will you stop?!”

By mid-January 1976, and after another attempt at a house blessing by George and Kathy, they experienced what would turn out to be their final night in the house. The Lutzes declined to give a full account of the events that took place on this occasion, describing them as "too frightening."

After getting in touch with Father Pecoraro, the Lutzes decided to take some belongings and stay at Kathy’s mother’s house in nearby Deer Park, New York until they had sorted out the problems with the house. They claimed that the phenomena followed them there, with "greenish-black slime" coming up the staircase towards them. On January 14, 1976 George and Kathy Lutz, with their three children and their dog Harry, left leaving most of their possessions behind. The next day, a mover came in to remove all of the possessions to send to the Lutzes. He reported no paranormal phenomena while inside the house.

They were put in touch with Jay Anson, who wrote a book based on their experiences, titled, of course, The Amityville Horror. The claim has always been that it's a true story, but many experts have problems with the claims.

The role of Father Pecoraro in the story has been given considerable attention. During the course of the lawsuit surrounding the case in the late 1970s, Father Pecoraro stated in an affidavit that his only contact with the Lutzes concerning the matter had been by telephone. Other accounts say that Father Pecoraro did visit the house but experienced nothing unusual there. Father Pecoraro gave what may have been his only on-camera interview about his recollections during an edition of In Search of... broadcast in 1980. In Search of... was a series of half-hour television documentaries about the paranormal, and was narrated by Leonard Nimoy. Father Pecoraro's face was obscured during the interview to preserve his anonymity. In the interview, he repeated the claim that he heard a voice saying "Get out", but stopped short of giving it a paranormal origin. He also stated that he felt a slap on his face during the visit, and that he did subsequently experience blistering on his hands. As with many areas of The Amityville Horror, the inconsistent accounts given by Father Pecoraro about the extent of his involvement with the Lutz family has led to more questions than answers.

The claims of physical damage to the locks, doors and windows were rejected by Jim and Barbara Cromarty, who bought the house for $55,000 in March 1977. In a television interview filmed at the house for That's Incredible!, Barbara Cromarty argued that they appeared to be the original items and had not been repaired. The That's Incredible! feature also showed that the "Red Room" was a small closet in the basement, and was known to the previous owners of the house since it was not concealed in any way. The claim made in Chapter 11 of the book that the house was built on a site where the local Shinnecock Indians had once abandoned the mentally ill and the dying was rejected by local Native American leaders. The claim of cloven hoofprints in the snow on January 1, 1976 was rejected by other researchers, since a check on the weather records showed that there had been no snow in Amityville on the day in question. Neighbors reported nothing unusual during the time that the Lutzes were living there. Police officers are shown visiting the house in the book and 1979 film, but records showed that the Lutzes did not call the police during the period that they were living on Ocean Avenue. There was no bar in Amityville called The Witches' Brew at the time, and Ronald DeFeo, Jr. was a regular at Henry's Bar, a short distance from 112 Ocean Avenue.

Critics including Stephen Kaplan pointed out that changes were made to the book as it was reprinted in different editions. In the original hardcover edition, Father Pecoraro's car is "an old tan Ford" and experiences an incident in which the hood flies up against the windshield while he is driving it. In later editions the car is described as a Chevy Vega, before reverting back to a Ford.

In May 1977 George and Kathy Lutz filed a lawsuit against William Weber (the defense lawyer for Ronald DeFeo, Jr. at his trial), Paul Hoffman (a writer working on an account of the hauntings), Bernard Burton and Frederick Mars (both alleged clairvoyants who had examined the house), along with Good Housekeeping magazine, the New York Sunday News and the Hearst Corporation, all of which had published articles related to the hauntings. The Lutzes alleged invasion of privacy, misappropriation of names for trade purposes, and mental distress, and claimed $4.5 million in damages. Hoffman, Weber, and Burton immediately filed a countersuit for $2 million alleging fraud and breach of contract. The claims against the news corporations were dropped for lack of evidence, and the remainder of the lawsuit was heard by Brooklyn U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein. In September 1979 Judge Weinstein dismissed the Lutzes' claims and observed in his ruling: "Based on what I have heard, it appears to me that to a large extent the book is a work of fiction, relying in a large part upon the suggestions of Mr. Weber." In the September 17, 1979 issue of People magazine, William Weber wrote: "I know this book is a hoax. We created this horror story over many bottles of wine." This refers to a meeting that Weber is said to have had with George and Kathy Lutz, during which they discussed what would later become the outline of Anson's book. Judge Weinstein also expressed concern about the conduct of William Weber and Bernard Burton relating to the affair, stating: “There is a very serious ethical question when lawyers become literary agents.”

George Lutz maintained that events in the book were "mostly true" and denied any suggestion of dishonesty on his part. In June 1979, George and Kathy Lutz took a lie detector test relating to their experiences at the house, which they both passed. In October 2000 The History Channel broadcast Amityville - The Haunting and Amityville - Horror or Hoax?, a two-part documentary made by horror screenwriter/producer Daniel Farrands to mark the 25th anniversary of the case. George Lutz commented in an interview for the program: "I believe this has stayed alive for 25 years because it's a true story. It doesn't mean that everything that has ever been said about it is true. It's certainly not a hoax. It's real easy to call something a hoax. I wish it was. It's not." The debate about the accuracy of The Amityville Horror continues, and despite the lack of evidence to corroborate much of the story, it remains one of the most popular haunting accounts in American folklore. The various owners of the house since the Lutz family left in 1976 have reported no problems while living there.

I personally fall on the side of it being a hoax. The Lutzes bought a house they couldn't afford, and when they had to abandon the home, they made up a story about it being haunted, capitalizing on the murders there so that they could make some money and get out of trouble. It's a great story, but there're too many things that have been called into question, too many things that don't add up with the claims.
On the other hand, I find this picture interesting, but given that it was taken during an investigation that is suspect due to the people involved, not enough to sway me to the story being true.

These're the same picture, the one on the right is just an enlargement of the 'thing that doesn't belong'. The people who were there at the time all swear that there were no children in the house, and no one in the doorway at the time.


  1. This story is fascinating...too bad I cant handle horror movies. They creep me out.

    Oooo Ryan Renolds...

  2. Do you know if they took a bunch of pictures in that investigation? The thing that bugs me about the photo is...why take it, if the kid wasn't there? Without the creepiness of the little glowy-eyed kid, it's a really random and boring picture. I just can't see anyone saying "gee I think I'll point the camera down this hallway and take a picture of open doors and a staircase banister", ya know? It really only makes sense if either they were taking pictures of EVERYTHING, or if they had a kid w/them and staged the picture.

  3. LK,

    Oh, too bad. I *love* horror movies, though they don't really scare me anymore...

    MMmm...yes, Ryan Reynolds. He makes so many things better...:)

  4. Sanil,

    I believe that they were taking lots of random pictures. It's like on Ghost Hunters, etc. - they take pictures of seemingly random things, in places where activity has supposedly taken place, to see if they catch any photographic evidence.

    But, yeah. I think it's a staged photo. Creepy, but fake. But that's just my opinion.

  5. fake or not you have given me the colly wobbles.

    my sister said she saw a man in my parents old house. he woke her in the night once to tell her, her baby was coming.

    creeps me out. and Im still not sure if she told to freak me out or if it happened

  6. Slice,

    Well then, my work here is done. :)

    re your sister: maybe both? i liked telling my sister the family ghost stories to creep her out, but they were true too...


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