I just completed a new draft of a screenplay that sent me researching paranormal investigators of the 1970s. This put my eyeballs on the bios of ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, founders of the New England Society for Psychic Research, established in 1952. One of their most high-profile cases was the haunting of 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. Before the terrors allegedly endured by the Lutz family there, the home was named "High Hopes".
George Lutz and his family took up residence at 112 Ocean Avenue at the end of 1975, stayed for only a month, then were reportedly driven out by the evil forces that inhabited the structure. After Jay Anson's 1977 book about the unnerving events, the home and the horrors experienced therein were known as "The Amityville Horror".
Ed and Lorraine Warren were among the first to investigate the Lutz family's bizarre claims, and the two were prominent voices among those who declared the controversial Amityville haunting was not a hoax.
As a young lad with a rapidly growing interest in horror, this case had been early fuel for my fascinations. I was in my early teens when I read Anson's chilling book, long before I saw the 1979 film.
Partly because Lorraine Warren is in it, I recently watched My Amityville Horror (2012), a documentary by Eric Walter. The film features Daniel Lutz, who experienced the whole frightening ordeal with his family. The documentary centers on Daniel, who finally speaks up after staying quiet on the subject for 35 years, revealing the sensational story from his perspective. I liked the documentary quite a bit, and it did much to support the claims that the story is true.
Quite a number of people have provided opinions and a smattering of evidence that George Lutz fabricated his Amityville Horror to bolster his bank account. It is true that Mr. Lutz took all the right steps to make his fascinating tale profitable, but just because he conducted The Amityville Horror like a business does not necessarily mean the story is fiction.
Personally, I'm on the fence about whether it's true or not. Scamming readers and filmgoers to make a buck is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility, but one bloody piece of the puzzle indicates that the dark forces of the house had already settled in a year before the Lutz family moved there. Thirteen months previous, Ronald DeFeo murdered his family in the High Hopes home. The police investigation concluded that most of the victims, found face down in their beds, had been asleep at the time they were shot - apparently having slept through the gunfire. There were no signs of a struggle, and no sedatives were discovered in the victims' systems. DeFeo's rifle, the murder weapon, had not been fitted with a suppressor. So how were these victims not awakened by the noise as DeFeo went room to room, firing his weapon? The medical examiner on the scene proposed the possibility that more than one person had been responsible for the crime, as a single shooter would have been unable to kill all six victims without waking them. A clear motive for the murders was never established.
Ronald DeFeo has provided several conflicting accounts of how the murders were carried out that night. To this day, how it all really went down is a mystery. While many non-supernatural explanations have been voiced, the killings remain a perplexing preamble to the Lutz family claims of paranormal shenanigans.
I'm not a big ghost-hunting aficionado, and I don't tend to seek out tales of "true" occult phenomena (except for when I'm researching a screenplay). However, The Amityville Horror is one that really grabbed my attention, and lingered with me since I first heard of it all.
The investigation of the Amityville case is fascinating. The debate over whether it is fact or fiction is intriguing. I love the first two films, The Amityville Horror (1979), and Amityville II: The Possession (1982). But the only part of it all that really plunged the icy claws of fear into me was Jay Anson's book. If you've never familiarized yourself with this infamous haunted house story, or if you simply want to read a damn scary book, I recommend you "Get out!" and grab yourself a copy.
Thanks for reading.
- Eric Stanze