On UFO Insight, we love to take a look at different stories from across history with a particular twist to them. Recently, we were discussing the famous book and movie series, The Amityville Horror and wanted to discuss it.
With some of the UFOI team more convinced by its legitimacy than others, we set out with the determination to find out the facts.
Let’s take a look at this famous story – what is it? And what basis does it have for being factual?
The Amityville Horror
The Amityville Horror is a 1977 book written by Jay Anson. The book also spawned a wide range of films to do with the same subject at a later date, filmed from 1979 up until (at the time of writing) 2013. It’s a series of books based around crazy experiences that were supposed to have occurred to the Lutz family.
Over the years, various critiques and battles have occurred as people try and determine whether the Amityville Horror has any genuine basis. It’s seen lawsuits and arguments over its liberal use of the truth, but how bad is it?
Is It Historical?
The general basis for what the book is based around is that of Ronald DeFreo Jr. On November 13th, 1974, DeFeo slaughtered six family members at 112 Ocean Avenue.
DeFreo went down in history after killing is mother and father as well as both brothers and both sisters. From here, the terrifying events of this led to the creation of the series that we’re about to take a further look at. From that perspective, then, the books are “historical” in that they use a real event.
It also spawned other theories about why this event took place. Not only were the inconsistencies with the deaths very intriguing (neighbours heard no gunfire despite six deaths, and each member of the family looks as if they died without struggle) but it took on a very paranormal feel. In many of the writings, such as The Amityville Horror, there is the introduction of paranormal activity.
For example, in the 2005 remake of the movie, there is a fictional child included called Jodie. This is not historically accurate. Nor is the idea that spirits from a Lenape burial ground had something to do with the killings. This tends to be a common claim, but the majority of local historians and Native American leaders claim otherwise.
This is what causes so much controversy. Nobody is 100% certain what claims are artistic license, and what is supposed to be the “true story”.
This large Dutch Colonial house found in Amityville, Long Island, created a major stir. Convicted with second degree murder in November 1975, DeFreo was now consigned to the dustbin of history.
However, the book then centres in on the experiences of George and Kathy Lutz. They, together with three young children, move into 112 Ocean Avenue. However, after just 28 days the family had moved out. They claimed to have been the victims of major paranormal events when living in the house.
This is the very basis for the majority the books and the movies, with the obvious artistic license being used. We’ll try and decipher just what that is.
The Books & Movies
If you have ever read the books or seen the movies then you will have no doubt noticed the artistic license. Having sat empty for over a year following the murders, the Lutz family decided to take a chance and buy the property. It cost them just $80,000. The family already knew of the events that took place here before moving in, but decided that they would give it a go anyway,
To try and make sure things would not go wrong, the family had the house blessed by a friend of George Lutz. In the books, the priest was named Father Muncuso for privacy purposes. When beginning the spraying process with holy water to bless the home, Muncuso supposedly hears a male voice telling him to “get out”.
Although he never told the family this at first, he eventually lets them know to stay out of the room where he heard the voice in. The Father claims to have also developed a high fever and a stigmata-style illness on his hands.
However, it was at this point that the families started to notice weird events going on around them. For example, would George wake up at 3:15AM (the time the murders occurred) to check the boathouse. Kathy would wake up, seeing vivid nightmares of the murders that took place here. Many weird events then take place throughout the books and the movies, all of which seem to carry some kind of supernatural element.
The house becomes swarmed by flies at one point, despite being in December. One of the daughters, Missy, befriends someone called Jodie. In the books, it’s a demonic pig. In the movie remakes, Jodie becomes the name of the fiction son.
(We won’t spoil all the fun for you, but make sure you check out both books and movies to see the crazy stuff that “happened”.)
Eventually, the couple carry out their own blessing in January 1976 in a bid to stop the madness. George alleges to hear a chorus of voices asking them to stop when carrying out the blessing. They tried a second blessing and never told anyone what occurred afterwards. All we know, according to this media, is the fact that it was “too frightening” to tell anyone. The night of the second blessing was also the last night spent in the house.
The books are supposedly based on over 40 hours of tape recollections by the family, which were used. These references became a major part of telling the story.
However, other events in recent times – such as this revealing interview with Daniel Lutz – throw doubt on the veracity of the book. With supernatural objects always taken with a pinch of salt, how far did things really go?
The Role of the Father
The major problem most have with The Amityville Horror, and all other projects in this line, is authenticity. Upon release it was marketed as a true story. They even compared it to The Exorcist. Given that it uses a fictional movie as its inspiration, questions have to be asked about it’s overall veracity.
Many other researchers over the years have looked at the facts of the Amityville Horror. Very few have come up with the same conclusions that Anson did. Many of the information that was released regarding it had very little of the same creativity found so abundantly here.
Indeed, the Father in the story – who plays a prominent role – appears to be a fictional addition. The Father it is based on, Father Pecoraro, stated that he merely spoke to the Lutz family via phone. Other accounts (given the Fathers anonymity, sources are mixed) say he visited but found nothing weird.
He never managed any blessings, and certainly never broke out in any illness and fever. Indeed, in a special 1980 episode of In Search Of, the real Father made an appearance. Although obscured in the face, he repeats the claim that he heard a voice say “Get out” but never noted it.
The fact, though, that the Father plays such a major role but has no consistency adds questions. This is a major critique of the books and movies, as there is no real proof that this “true story” is true at all. It’s based on conjecture and a changing storyline to do with the Father, a supposed key piece of evidence.
Another interesting element of the story, though, is the fact that the couple who bought the house next, Jim and Barbara Cromarty, say it wasn’t damaged. They claimed that the original items were still intact. The windows, doors and locks had not been changed, even though they were supposedly damaged in the events that occurred.
As we mentioned above, the idea of it being built over the old Indian burial ground is soundly rejected, too. Another interesting piece of information is that, according to experts, Amityville seen no snow. A major part of the books and movies is that hoofprints are found in the snow in January 1976. There is also a scene where the police are supposed to have been called, but no records show this.
Changing the Tune
There is also a major range of inconsistencies across the different versions of the book. For example, in one of the editions it’s noted that the Father drives a tan coloured Ford. In later editions it’s a Chevrolet. It’s not a major thing, but it’s one of the first inconsistencies that people spotted which changed with various editions of the book.
Another interesting element is the fact that the Lutz family took plenty of people to court. They got into legal battles with the defence lawyer for Ronald DeFeo, a writer named Paul Hoffman, two alleged clairvoyants called Bernard Button and Freddie Ars and even the Good Housekeeping magazine. On top of this, they sued the New York Sunday News as well.
Why? Invasion of privacy, mis-appropriation of names and even mental distress.
In the legal battles, the Lutzes lost because the books were “a work of fiction”. Weber, the attorney, also stated that he “knew” the book was a hoax, he said that the horror story was created over bottles of wine, as well.
George Lutz defends his conduct, saying that the book is “mostly true” and the couple even passed a polygraph test. Although he claims that he wishes it was a hoax, he’s vehemently opposed to the idea that it was. This poses interesting questions about the whole book and story.
Finding the Truth
Who is telling the truth here?
Is the attorney telling the truth when he says it was all concocted together?
Or is the family telling the truth when they say it’s based on reality?
Despite all of this, many people still believe – or like to believe – in the story. The most interesting element is the fact that the Lutz family are the only family to experience this. Home owners since have had had no such problems in the home. James Cromarty, the home owner since 1977, claims to have had no problems.
The Lutz family never even took the bad luck with them – they’ve had no supernatural events occur to them since moving out of the house after the 28-day period.
In search of answers and ideas as to what might be going on here, we took to looking around. With the hope of finding more answers, we found some rather interesting facts out about the house. Having watched plenty of old documentaries on the house itself, we find that many claims contradict one another.
In terms of learning the truth here, there appears to be genuine evidence for it all!
The facts that we know of the Lutz family – away from books and stories – are that;
- They ran a successful family business and had no real need to make money.
- The family were well-liked and were seen to be balanced, happy people.
- There is no need for the story to involve the creation of fantasy to make money; they were rich already.
- George and Kathy Lutz were divorced by the 80s. Kathy died in 2004 and George in 2006. There is no reason to believe either death was suspicious or even slightly strange; they died of illness. Kathy died from emphysema, and George from heart disease.
For this reason, the idea that the couple created the myth is one that is hard to follow. Without any real need for financial aid, and the fact they could sell the home at a loss, makes them well off. This means they would have no need to create this story to try and make money. Why then, does the story exist? The family created a best-seller, but did they mean to?
As mentioned, the couple provided over 40 hours’ worth of content for Anson to look through. Anson died in 1980 from heart disease. The Amityville Horror was his legacy, selling over 11 million copies since release.
The movie was directed by Sandor Stern, and was released in 1979. The movie became the most successful independent movie in history, taking in more than $86m in 1979. The 2006 re-release produced even more money for the directors.
Other book volumes such as Amityville Horror 2 were created by John G. Jones. Jones met with the couple in the early 80s to take the idea further, and produced an after-story of what occurred post-Amityville.
So how did it become so heavily fictionalized?
The big problem, then, comes from the fact that the word Amityville is a town. For this reason, nobody can copyright it. This means that anyone can create a story, slap the word into the title, and people will spot it. Over the years of poor writing and cheap plots based around this story, it has become diluted.
Now, the true story has become buried in layers of nonsense, artistic license and pure lies. The hard part, then, is working out what seems to be the true story. Even the Lutz family appeared to have clashes about this, given the various interviews they managed prior to dying.
What Do We Know?
After much reading and looking around, we feel comfortable enough to try and confirm the following;
Jay Anson did not get this quiet right. He used various scenes that sounded good in a book, embellished others and flat out removes others. The tapes that were supposedly recorded were never heard. For this reason, nobody knows if they even exist.
Dramatic license was certainly used, and has been in every rewriting, movie and “sequel” to be released. The only book that was released with any supposed proof – the tapes – is still incorrect. For this reason, we doubt we’ll ever see a truly factual take on this book.
The couple did stand by their version of events, 100%. They claimed that the book was mostly true, as we mentioned, allowing for creative direction as you would expect. They both went to the afterlife fully in belief that this did occur.
One thing we do know is that the Lutz family struggled more after the events than they did before. The books and movies only made them small royalties, meaning that the family mostly struggled.
The last fact we can total confirm is that people hate tourists coming to view the house. The old 112 Ocean Avenue is gone; the street name has even been changed to remove suspicion.
The main problem with this, then, is that nobody will ever really know the “full truth”. We’ll only ever have 75% complete versions, old quotes to go on, and interviews with the children. The likelihood is that we’ll never know the truth behind The Amityville Horror, we just know that it’s not 100% out there.
Nothing you read on this story will ever give you the full picture, for the simple reason that nobody knows it.
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