Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In this Hole bill has fears

The Amityville Horror

An original 1970s cover of The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror is a best-selling book by the author Jay Anson which was published in September 1977. The book has also formed the basis of a series of films made between 1979 and 2005.

Brief Synopsis

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

The book and film adaptations tell the story of the Lutz family, who moved into a Dutch Colonial home in the village of Amityville, a suburban neighborhood located on the south shore of Long Island, New York in Suffolk County in 1975. Thirteen months earlier the house at 112 Ocean Avenue had been the scene of a brutal mass murder. After living in the house for 28 days the Lutz family fled the house, claiming to have been terrorized by paranormal phenomena.

The DeFeo Murders

Mug shot of Ronald DeFeo Jr. taken shortly after his arrest

This section contains information about the DeFeo murders which are a matter of public record and separate from the claims made in the book and films.

See also: Ronald DeFeo, Jr.

On the evening of November 13, 1974, police officers were called to 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island, where they found that six members of the same family had been killed in a shooting incident. The victims were the two parents, two brothers and two sisters of Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Junior, a 23 year old who had survived the incident unscathed. The victims had all been shot with a .35 caliber Marlin rifle at around three o'clock in the morning of that day. Ronald DeFeo initially suggested that they had been murdered by a Mafia hit man before confessing to the killings.

DeFeo was put on trial for the killings and attempted a defense of insanity, which was supported by his psychiatrist, Doctor Daniel Schwartz. The psychiatrist for the prosecution, Doctor Harold Zolan, maintained that although DeFeo had an antisocial personality disorder and was an abuser of heroin and LSD, he was aware of what he was doing at the time of the crime. DeFeo was convicted on six counts of second degree murder on November 21, 1975 and is currently serving a 25 years to life sentence at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Beekman, New York. [1] [2]

Jay Anson's Book

This section is based on the version of events at 112 Ocean Avenue as they are described in Jay Anson's book. The paranormal claims have been the subject of much controversy.

The house at 112 Ocean Avenue remained empty for thirteen months after the DeFeo murders until December 1975, when George and Kathleen Lutz purchased the house for what was considered to be a bargain price of $80,000. George and Kathy had married in July 1975 and had their own houses, but they wanted to start a new life with a new home. Kathy had three children from a previous marriage, Daniel, 9, Christopher, 7, and Melissa (Missy), 5. They also owned a crossbreed malamute / Labrador dog named Harry. During their first inspection of the house, the realtor told them about the DeFeo murders the previous November and asked if this changed their opinion on wanting to purchase the house. After family discussions, it was agreed that it was not an issue.

The Lutz family moved in on December 18, 1975. When a friend of George Lutz learned of the house's history, he insisted on having the house 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 Ray and he agreed to carry out the house blessing. (In Anson's book the priest is referred to as Father Mancuso. This was done for reasons of privacy and the priest's real name was Father Ralph J. Pecoraro, who is now dead). [3])

Father Mancuso was a lawyer, a Judge of the Catholic Court and a psychotherapist who lived at the local Sacred Heart Rectory. He agreed to perform the house blessing and while George and Kathy were unpacking their belongings on the afternoon of December 18, 1975 he went in to the building to carry out the rites. When he flicked the first holy water and began to pray, he heard a masculine voice say clearly "Get out!" When leaving the house, Father Mancuso did not mention this incident to either George or Kathy. On December 24, 1975 Father Mancuso telephoned George Lutz and advised him to stay out of the room where he had heard the unearthly voice telling him to get out. This was a room on the second floor that Kathy planned to use as a sewing room, and had formerly been the bedroom of Marc and John DeFeo. The telephone call was cut dead by static, and following his visit to the house in Ocean Avenue Father Mancuso allegedly developed a high fever and blisters on his hands similar to stigmata.

Jay Anson (1921-1980)

At first, George and Kathy Lutz experienced nothing unusual in the house. Talking about their experiences subsequently, 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 would have vivid nightmares about the murders and discovered in which order the murders occurred and who was shot where. 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.

The Lutzes' five year old daughter, Missy, developed an imaginary friend named “Jodie,” who it was learned could take the form of a little boy or a demonic pig-like creature with glowing red eyes.

George would be awoken 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.

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 and to her room, there was nothing to be found. Later it was suggested that it could have been “Jodie."

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

Locks and doors 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 12 inch crucifix hung in a closet by Kathy Lutz revolved until it was upside down and gave off a sour smell.

George Lutz 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, the saliva dripping from her mouth."

After deciding that something was wrong with their house that they could not explain rationally, George and Kathy Lutz decided to carry 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 of 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. To this day, events of this night have not been disclosed fully by the Lutz family as they have described them as "too frightening."

After getting in touch with Father Mancuso, 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. On January 14, 1976, George and Kathy Lutz, with their three children and their dog Harry, left the house at 112 Ocean Avenue, 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. [4]

Jay Anson is said to have based the title of The Amityville Horror on The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft, which was published in 1929. George and Kathy Lutz did not work directly with Jay Anson, but submitted 45 hours of tape recorded recollections to him which were used as the basis of the book. Estimates of the sales of the book range from three million to ten million copies, and the front covers of two of the editions of the book from the 1970s can be seen in this article.


Another 1970s cover of The Amityville Horror

Much of the controversy surrounding the Amityville Horror can be traced back to the way that it has been marketed over the years. The cover of the book shown on the right implies that it is based on verifiable events. A quote from a review in the Los Angeles Times featured on the front cover of the book states: "A FASCINATING, FRIGHTENING BOOK... THE SCARIEST TRUE STORY I HAVE READ IN YEARS", while the tag line at the bottom of the cover of the book states: "MORE HIDEOUSLY FRIGHTENING THAN THE EXORCIST BECAUSE IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED!" The reference to The Exorcist is revealing, since the 1973 film had been a huge box office success and was one of the major cultural events of the 1970s. Many of the incidents in Jay Anson's book describing the events at the house at 112 Ocean Avenue carry with them the style of The Exorcist, and this is one of the reasons why some of the events described in Anson's book have aroused suspicion.

Anson himself wrote: "There is simply too much independent corroboration of their narrative to support the speculation that [the Lutzes] either imagined or fabricated these events", but other writers and researchers begged to differ. Almost as soon as the book was published in September 1977 other writers began looking into the events at the house at 112 Ocean Avenue, and the conclusions that they reached were often considerably different from those that had appeared in Anson's book. Much attention has been given to the role of Father Pecoraro in the events at 112 Ocean Avenue. During the course of the lawsuit surrounding the case (see following paragraph) Father Pecoraro stated in an affidavit that his only contact with the Lutzes concerning the affair had been by telephone. Additionally, Ronald DeFeo's defense lawyer William Weber claimed in a radio interview that Father Pecoraro had never at any time visited the house. Other reports say that Father Pecoraro did visit the house but experienced nothing unusual there. With regard to the hoofprint claims, subsequent research showed that there had been no snow in Amityville on the day in question. The claims of physical damage to the locks and doors were questioned since an inspection suggested that they were still the original items. 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. [5] Neighbors of the house reported nothing unusual during the time that the Lutzes were living there. In the book and film, police officers are shown visiting the house, but records showed that no police officers visited the house during the 28 days that the Lutzes were living in Ocean Avenue. The response of supporters of the hauntings to the criticisms has been to argue that due to the subjective nature of paranormal phenomena, some of the events may have occurred as sensory illusions rather than as real events. (See also: Sleep paralysis). [6] [7] [8]

In May 1977 George and Kathy Lutz filed suit against William Weber, Paul Hoffman (a writer working on an account of the hauntings), Bernard Burton, Frederick Mars (both alleged clairvoyants who had examined the house), Good Housekeeping, the New York Sunday News and the Hearst Corporation (which had all published articles related to the hauntings). The Lutzes alleged invasion of privacy, misappropration 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." 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.” [9]

Kathy Lutz died of emphysema on August 17, 2004 and George Lutz died of heart disease on May 8, 2006. The couple were divorced in the late 1980s, but remained on good terms. George Lutz maintained that events in the book were "mostly true" and denied any suggestion of dishonesty on his part. In a television interview with the History Channel broadcast in October 2000 he commented: "I have never said it was a hoax and I never will, because it is not a hoax. That doesn't mean that everything that was ever said about it was true, but it is certainly not a hoax. I wish it was. It's not." The debate about the Amityville Horror continues, and despite the lack of evidence to corroborate much of the story, it remains as 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. [10][11]

The Films

Poster advertising the 1979 film version, showing the tag line "For God's sake, get out!"

At the most recent count, the story of the Amityville Horror has been the subject of nine films, which are as follows:

The Amityville Horror 1979

Amityville II: The Possession 1982

Amityville 3D 1983 (this film was made in 3-D)

Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes 1989 (This was made for television)

The Amityville Curse 1990

Amityville 1992: It's About Time 1992

Amityville: A New Generation 1993

Amityville Dollhouse: Evil Never Dies 1996

The Amityville Horror (remake) 2005.

The best known of these films is the first version which was released in July 1979. This starred James Brolin and Margot Kidder as George and Kathy Lutz. The part of the priest who blesses the house was played by Rod Steiger, whose name in the film is Father Delaney as opposed to Father Ralph Pecoraro who was the actual priest concerned. The 1979 version and its two sequels were filmed at a house in Toms River, New Jersey which had been converted to look like 112 Ocean Avenue after the authorities in Amityville denied permission for location filming. The music score for the film was composed by Lalo Schifrin and nominated for an Academy Award but lost out to the score for A Little Romance by Georges Delerue (click here to listen to an audio clip taken from the main title theme of The Amityville Horror). The 1979 version took $86 million at the box office in the USA, making it one of the most successful films produced by an independent studio at that time. Remarkably, the film grossed more at the US box office than the 1980 Stanley Kubrick film The Shining (source: Box Office Mojo). [12] [13] [[14].

The first three films received a theatrical release while the sequels from the 1990s were released direct to video. Some of the direct to video films contain virtually no material relating to the period when the Lutz family was living in the house, and concentrate instead on paranormal phenomena caused by cursed items supposedly linked to the house, such as the clock in Amityville 1992 - It's About Time and the dollhouse in Amityville Dollhouse from 1997. The Amityville Curse from 1990 is the most loosely based of all the films, since it deals with events in another haunted house in Amityville, Long Island rather than the house in Ocean Avenue.

One of the famous aspects of the Amityville Horror films is the distinctive pumpkin head appearance of the house which was created by two quarter moon windows on the third floor attic level of the house. Following problems with tourists disturbing the peace in Ocean Avenue, these windows have been removed and the house as it stands today looks considerably different from the way that it does in the films. The address of the house has also been changed in order to discourage tourists from visiting it. Although not all of the Amityville Horror films take place at the house on Ocean Avenue, the malevolent-looking house is used on most of the film posters and is the best known image from the films.

In April 2005 MGM Studios released a remake of the 1979 film. George Lutz described the remake as "drivel" and sued the makers for defamation, libel, and breach of contract.

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

He objected particularly to the scene in the film where the male lead - named as George Lutz and played by Ryan Reynolds - is shown killing the family dog with an ax. The film also shows the George Lutz character building coffins for members of his own family. The defamation claim was dismissed by a Los Angeles court in November 2005, while other issues related to the lawsuit remained unresolved at the time of George Lutz's death. [15] [[16]].

The tag line for the 2005 version was "Katch em and kill em." This refers to the claimed link between the house in Ocean Avenue and John Ketcham, whose name has been linked to witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts but remains a controversial and elusive figure. [17] The house used in the 2005 version was in Silver Lake, Wisconsin, while much of the location work was shot in Antioch, Illinois.

Additional Information

The 1995 book The Amityville Horror Conspiracy by Stephen and Roxanne Kaplan was critical of the Lutzes' version of events.

During the period that the Lutz family was living at 112 Ocean Avenue, Stephen Kaplan, a self-styled vampirologist, was called in to investigate the house. Kaplan and the Lutzes fell out and Kaplan went on to write a critical book entitled The Amityville Horror Conspiracy with his wife Roxanne Salch Kaplan. The book was published in 1995 and Stephen Kaplan died of a heart attack in the same year. Several weeks after the Lutz family left the house in 1976 it was investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren, a husband and wife team described as demonologists. During the course of one of their visits to the house a photograph was taken allegedly showing a demonic boy with glowing white eyes. The photograph can be seen online at [18]. The house was also investigated by Hans Holzer. In recent years many websites devoted to the Amityville Horror have sprung up, often taking a strong stance either for or against the events. Virtually every aspect of the story has been disputed at some point, and rivalry between researchers has been a long standing feature of the case.

George Lutz registered the phrase The Amityville Horror as a trademark in 2002, and it is referred to as The Amityville Horror™ on his official website. [19]

One of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Peter O'Neill, lived at the house in Ocean Avenue from 1987 to 1997. [20] Also, the actress Christine Belford lived in the house from 1960 to 1965 [21]

Eminem recorded a song called Amityville for his 2000 album The Marshall Mathers LP. The lyrics of the song are controversial and disturbing. [22]


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