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The Amityville Horror convinced many that the supernatural was real.

The dwelling where it all took place had a frightening history before it became the world’s most famous haunted house.

On November 13, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr. stumbled into a bar in Amityville, New York, begging for help.

“I think my mother and father are shot,” he cried.

As it turned out, it wasn’t just his mother and father. DeFeo was the only survivor of a massacre that also took the lives of his four siblings, who ranged in age from nine to 18.

Ronald DeFeo Jr. was eventually convicted of the murders. He gave several different reasons for slaughtering his family, but the most chilling was that he heard voices in the house telling him to do it.

DeFeo

Just over a year later, the Lutz family moved into the home (why on earth you’d want to live in a place where six people had been brutally murdered is beyond me, but apparently the tragedy didn’t bother them). They even kept the DeFeos’ furniture, which they’d purchased for $400.

George and Kathy lived in the home with their three children for less than a month before fleeing in the middle of the night, leaving all their belongings behind.

 George and Kathy Lutz

George and Kathy Lutz

During the 28 days they lived in the DeFeo house, the Lutzes claimed to have been tormented by demonic forces, including a pig-like creature with glowing red eyes that “befriended” one of their daughters. A priest who attempted to bless the house was warned to “Get out” and was then slapped by something he couldn’t see (he later swore to this in a documentary). Slime oozed from doorways. Flies covered the windows, even in winter. Crosses hung on the walls turned upside down.  Kathy had red welts appear on her chest and said something lifted her off the ground. George was reportedly bitten by a Chinese lion statue. Everyone in the family saw demons, felt cold spots, and smelled something terrible in the home that was never explained.

And that’s only a few examples of what the family suffered.

They later agreed to have author Jay Anson tell their story. While Anson worked from audio tapes, he embellished some of the facts. When the book was released, many people had a field day identifying inconsistencies.

DeFeo’s lawyer, William Weber, eventually claimed that he”created this horror story over many bottles of wine” with the Lutzes. Weber’s admission confirmed to many that the story was indeed a hoax. Subsequent owners of the house denied having any issues–at least not of the paranormal kind. (Thrill seekers lured by the book and movies were another story.)

However, both Lutzes passed a polygraph test, and while George admitted that not everything happened the way it was described in Anson’s book, he said it certainly wasn’t a hoax.

In 2011, one of the Lutz children came forward and said that many of the events described in Anson’s book were fictionalized. Like his father before him, Christopher added that what did happen to the family was far from a hoax, saying the real events were more terrifying than anything Hollywood or Anson cooked up.

Lutz, a veteran who fought in Iraq, seemed sincere. But was his startling story just an attempt to sell his own book?

Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know.

Where do you stand? Do you think what happened in Amityville was real or a hoax? Did the story make you believe in the supernatural? 

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68 Comments

  1. Avatar

    When it comes to Amityville I’m one the fence – I assume something of some kind did happen, why else would the family have left so suddenly, but I think the original murders were purely down to Ronald DeFeo Jr. and talk of voices was a pitch for an insanity plea. Too many people have made too much money out of the story for me to have any faith in it.
    Tasha
    Tasha’s Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

    Reply
    • JH

      Welcome, Tasha! You could be right about Ronald’s motivations…apparently he didn’t get along with his father, which could have sparked the murders.

      Amityville is one of those stories I hope is and isn’t true in equal measure!

      Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    The thing that sticks out in my mind is – bleeding walls! *shudders*
    I can remember the hype around this when it came out.
    Real or a hoax? There’s no smoke without a fire…you know that saying…

    Reply
    • JH

      Yeah, I keep going back to what a huge risk this was. Presumably, the Lutzes had a good home for their somewhat-large family (assuming the place wasn’t haunted).

      So they abandon the house and their possessions in the hopes they’d get a big book deal out of it and make tons of money? Hell of a risk to take. I’m a writer and I wouldn’t bet anything on getting a book deal.

      Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Randee. Not sure about carbon monoxide, but it’s a good suggestion.

      They did have pets, though, and don’t pets usually die from CM leaks?

      Reply
      • Avatar

        Is there a reason animals would be less susceptible to carbon monoxide?

        The CM generally is attributed as inducing hallucinations, at least it is in the TAL piece, in homes with poor ventilation, etc.

        Reply
        • JH

          I’m not sure, but it usually kills them. People too, although perhaps it takes longer than I thought.

          Reply
  3. Avatar

    Something happened, just not to the extent of what was in the book. Or the really bad movie. (And it was cheesy bad. The second one with Ryan Reynolds was better.)

    Reply
    • JH

      Aw, I like both movies. They’re better than a lot of the stuff out there. But yes, two thumbs up for the remake.

      Did you know George Lutz sued over the remake? He had issues with himself portrayed killing the family dog, among other things.

      Reply
  4. Avatar

    I read the book in Jr. High and begged someone to take me to see the movie. The following year, I saw a documentary on the house and the current owners showing where everything supposedly happened. They’d never experienced anything, which was disappointing. I wanted to believe.

    Reply
    • JH

      From what I hear, those owners were harassed by tons of people coming onto their property, wanting to experience something paranormal.

      So, if something was going on, would you admit it? Could be they saw a few things and decided to keep their mouths shut. Couldn’t be too bad, though, if they lived there for ten years!

      Reply
  5. Avatar

    I’m also on the fence. I think it says something that both George and Kathy went to their deaths always insisting that they were telling the truth, and life was not breezy for these people.
    I know the book was fudged a bit, but I can say with all honesty that that book is the only horror novel to ever give me vivid nightmares. If you take the “based on actual events” side out if it and just read it as a horror novel, it really is quite good. Scared 12 year-old me, at least.

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Somer. I enjoyed both incarnations of the movie and the book.

      I honestly feel sorry for anyone who goes public about their house being haunted…they’re ridiculed forevermore. It’s not an easy life. And this makes me enraged when I hear about hoaxes. Makes it more difficult for society to accept that some of these claims may be legitimate. (If any are.)

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    I think the true horror in that house came at the hands of Ronnie Defeo. The simple act of the Warrens being involved makes the whole subsequent haunting suspect. The Lutz family had some serious issues, as evidenced by the way they completely unraveled in the 80s. If strange things did go on, I think it was an extension of their troubled psyches, not a ghost or demon.

    Reply
    • JH

      Could be, Hunter. No argument that what Ronnie did was truly horrifying.

      I don’t think I could live in a house where something like that happened.

      Reply
  7. Avatar

    I don’t know if I believe in this particular haunted house, but a witness to my own mild paranormal incidences, I do believe it is possible. Didn’t that demonologist couple, the Warrens, also investigate?

    Reply
  8. Avatar

    I’m with you – why would someone want to live in a house where such horrible things happened? I can understand wanting to see it maybe, but to live in it? No. Way. Shudder.

    Reply
    • JH

      Agreed, Madeline. Even if it wasn’t haunted, I’d be jumping at every creaking door.

      Reply
  9. Avatar

    I’ve always been fascinated by this story. There’s clearly much artistic license in the book, but I do believe something happened there. Whether that was paranormal or psychological we’ll never know, but it doesn’t stop it being creepy as hell!

    Reply
    • JH

      There’s certainly a lot of people besides the Lutzes who claim something weird was going on…the priest, for instance. Since they weren’t part of the “big payday,” what was the motivation for them to lie?

      Welcome back, Tee! Good to see you.

      Reply
  10. Avatar

    I’m not a true believer in any paranormal phenomenon.
    That being said, I’ve been places that felt … wrong.
    I’ve met people that are … wrong.
    So, not everything in this world is pure and good.
    Great start!

    Heather M. Gardner / @hmgardner
    Co-Host, Blogging from A to Z April Challenge
    The Waiting is the Hardest Part

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re an unbeliever?

      But what about the X-Files? What would Mulder say, Heather?

      Reply
      • Avatar

        That’s why we would have gotten along so well. I would have been his Scully. Well, without her science background, and her doctor degree, and her FBI training, but you know what I mean!

        HMG

        Reply
  11. Avatar

    Ugh. Made up or not, it sounds stressful… and the original murder is pretty awful too. I would not seek thrills in there, hoax or not. 😛
    Happy A to Z! 😀

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    The Multicolored Diary
    MopDog

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Tarka!

      It was a big risk to take if it was a hoax. What if the Lutzes abandoned everything they owned, just to have a few articles in the paper and an, “Oh well,” from the public?

      Who banks everything on the possibility of a book deal?

      Reply
  12. Avatar

    These are the kinds of things I just don’t know about. While it was at least embellished, I have no issue believing sites of horrible violence have scars we can’t see that may manifest is what we call hauntings.

    Reply
    • JH

      I agree, Frank. I would imagine a place like that to feel quite sad, if nothing else.

      Reply
  13. Avatar

    Who would have kept the furniture of a murdered family? Brrr. That is beyond me.

    Reply
    • JH

      Hopefully they at least passed on the beds, where each family member was murdered.

      “Oh, it’s just a little blood. Throw a sheet over it and it’s good as new!”

      Reply
    • JH

      You too, Tami! It’s great to reconnect. I’m looking forward to seeing more thrift-shop finds from you.

      Reply
  14. Avatar

    Great start for the challenge! Looking forward to reading more. I saw that movie as a teenager and it freaked me out!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Amy! It’s a great movie.

      Welcome to my blog. Looking forward to seeing what you cooked up for the Challenge.

      Reply
  15. Avatar

    I read the Amityville Horror when I was in middle school. I was fascinated. One of those books I read cover to cover in one sitting, barely pausing to eat. I totally believed it then. Of the waters have been muddied and now I have doubts, but it doesn’t erase the fascination. Excellent choice for your first A to Z post!

    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Samantha! Seems that book has a long and proud history of freaking people out.

      I still own a copy.

      Reply
  16. Avatar

    The macabre and ghostly is always fascinating, so I guess it doesn’t matter if the stories are true, we’ll read them again and again. And each time we’ll thrill to the chill.

    I remember seeing that movie and not being able to sleep without the lights on. I’ve never been brave enough to see it again.

    Reply
    • JH

      You should try the remake, Lee. There’s lots of Ryan Reynold’s bare chest to keep your eyes open. 🙂

      Reply
  17. Avatar

    It’s hard to say. Although, I wouldn’t go to a slumber party there if I was invited.

    Reply
    • JH

      I would! 😀

      Reply
  18. Avatar

    arrrggghhhh – this is truly an awful story! It’s going on 10.30 p.m. here in South Africa, am about to go to bed, perhaps I’ll take a sleeping pill .. 🙂 🙂 🙂 and apologies if this is a duplicate comment, the first just seemed to get erased –

    Reply
    • JH

      This is the first I’m seeing, Susan…sorry if you’re having trouble with the site.

      Sweet dreams. 😀

      Reply
  19. Avatar

    I remember when I first found out that The Amityville Horror was based (or supposed to be based) on a true story, I had trouble watching the movie again. Especially the remake. It’s truly disturbing to think those events happened or could’ve happened. I think something did happen. What that was, we may not know for sure.

    Reply
    • JH

      The remake’s suggestion that George became possessed with the house and was led to do the same thing as Ronnie DeFeo was very much a fabrication, and pissed off George so much he sued.

      But it was creepy as hell. It must be odd to see people make movies about something you went through personally, watching as they all add their own dramatic embellishments.

      Reply
  20. Avatar

    That story was BIG when I was a school girl. Everyone was talking about it and freaking each other out about it. I would never buy or live in a house where someone was murdered. I don’t believe all the stories that made it into the film or school bus talk.
    Great A post! Looking forward to the whole alphabet.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Mary! I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t, either. I’d love to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

      Reply
  21. Avatar

    This is one of those where I’m just not sure. Something sure happened, but I think over time and with each re-telling, it has had a bit more added on and has become a bit far fetched
    Debbie

    Reply
    • JH

      I think you’re right, Debbie. The author certainly added his own “spin.” It always boggles the mind when people do that. Wasn’t it creepy enough?

      Reply
  22. Avatar

    I like the original movie even if it is campy. What I find creepy is that these people bought the home only a year or so after these horrible murders, not 10, 20 or 50 years later but so shortly after plus they bought the furniture… That is weird. I really don’t know the truth… None of us do but I do feel sad for the people who were killed. If these innocent people were killed, would there be so much demonic things going on??

    Reply
    • JH

      Me too, Birgit. To be murdered by someone you love and trust has to be the most horrible way to die.

      Reply
  23. Avatar

    LOL, I was just listening to the Generation Why podcast guys on the Maura Murray podcast talking about this. As the Generation Why guy said, you say you saw a pig’s face floating outside your window? At that point, you’ve blown your believability in one shot. The whole thing was obviously a scam…they saw that The Exorcist had done well and said, “Hey, we can do something like that.” The most telling thing is that people who have lived there since have said they’ve seen absolutely nothing. Where did the ghosts go?

    Reply
    • JH

      Well, they did have that poor priest do an exorcism/blessing. Or the subsequent owners may have wanted to be left alone. But yes, it definitely raises questions.

      Reply
  24. Avatar

    Fascinating read! Thank you for such an interesting blog.
    Daryl

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Daryl. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Reply
  25. Avatar

    Fascinating read. Your blog is outstanding.

    Reply
  26. Avatar

    Interesting, it sound familiar maybe I’ve watched a documentary on TV before.. would love to know if some of the similar stories are actually proved to be true. Best regards!

    Reply
    • JH

      Oh, there’s lots of horror movies about The Amityville Horror. It’s an extremely famous case.

      Reply
  27. Avatar

    I can’t say if anything did or didn’t happen, but it is a topic I enjoy reading or watching shows talk about. I think it’s the mystery of what really happened that gets me.

    Reply
  28. Avatar

    I think something really did happen in that house. Especially since the young man not only killed his parents he was rumored to have issues with but every other family member present. That and the other family quickly experiencing supernatural occurrences makes me think Ronald’s hatred was intensified by a demonic force to the point that everyone was his enemy. It just seems too coincidental to be false. The embellishing however makes it so much harder to be believed though. Why can’t people just stick with the scary facts that really happened. Stop embellishing stuff people! It always comes back to bite you in the ass.

    Reply
  29. Avatar

    As a Christian, I can say that I definitely believe in the demonic. There are unseen forces fighting over the souls of men. Christ cast out demons. We are warned several places in the Bible to stay away from anything associated with the occult, why? Because it is dangerous and real on many levels.

    That a writer or Hollywood added to their story does not surprise me nor does it make me doubt they encountered something evil and beyond this world in that house.

    Revisit the Tender Years with me during the #AtoZChallenge at Life & Faith in Caneyhead!

    Reply
  30. Avatar

    Don’t know if true, but when I read that book when I was in high school, I believed and was truly scared. My husband and I refused to consider Dutch colonial style homes when our realtor wanted to show them to us. It made us think of that house.

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s a great story, Maryann. Do they all have those creepy eye-like windows? If so, I don’t blame you one bit!

      Reply
  31. Avatar

    These stories are so intriguing. I’m sure you have an all but boring life, JH! As a very skeptical person (I prefer to see or experience things before I believe them), I am inclined to not believe what happened Amityville. But, on the other hand, some stories and experiences can’t be all made up. Sometimes, they are so unbelievable that they have to be true, like the honest answers I always give to US Homeland Security when I come into the country and that get me “in trouble” for a certain amount of time, because they are unusual. 🙂

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

    Reply
    • JH

      Ouch! Not good people to be in trouble with, that’s for sure.

      Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  32. Avatar

    I definitely believe in the supernatural and paranormal. A friend of mine has experience bizarre things happen in his house that he has traced back to the former residents. The husband, in early stages of dementia, pushed his wife down the stairs. She didn’t die but because of the extent of her injuries she was never able to return to the house. My friend has had things moved in his living room. He’ll put them in one spot before he leaves for the day and they are moved when he gets home. He has also woken in the night feeling that someone is in the room with him.
    None of the occurrences is scary and he thinks that maybe the lady never got closure on this house so occasionally visits… ;0)

    Reply

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