For a house built in 1924 in the Dutch Colonial style, 112 Ocean Avenue has quite a history. It is one of the most famous stories in the world. It spawned nine movies, several books, and millions of fans. One of the main reasons why people flocked to The Amityville Horror was because it was a true story, or so said the original book, which clearly read, “based on a true story” across its cover. Yet was it true, partially true, or a complete hoax? Lets examine the facts.
In November of 1974, Ronald DeFeo murdered his entire family with a rifle, in their gorgeous Dutch Colonial house on Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. After a relatively short trial two years later, he was found guilt and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Despite the grisliness of the murders, the story wasn’t very well known outside of the state.
On December 18, 1975 a young family purchased the house for $80,000 and moved in; they were George and Katy Lutz, and Kathy’s three children from a previous marriage. From the moment they moved in, the Lutz’s claimed to experience something wrong with the house. Doors and windows opened and closed on their own, noises came from nowhere, and a priest refused to exorcize the house after a voice told him to, “get out.”
The family also claimed to see a creature with glowing eyes, slime rolling down the walls, and flies. Adding to the horror, was their youngest daughter who claimed to talk to a pig creature she called Jodie. Kathy Lutz told others that she levitated off a bed, and was the victim of beatings and scratches by an unseen force.
28 days after the Lutz family moved into the house, they fled in the middle of the night, leaving behind the majority of their possessions.
Less than one month later, New York’s Channel 5 news team did a report from the house on the Amityville Horror, bringing along Ed and Lorraine Warren, the famous investigating mediums. George Lutz allowed the couple access to the house, and gave them a key, but refused to go back inside. The couple found evidence that the family left unexpectedly, including a fully stocked refrigerator. They also claimed to sense an evil presence in the house caused by Shinnecock Indians that once lived left their infirm tribe members on the land, but did not use it because it was possessed.
George and Kathy Lutz worked with author Jay Anson, to write “The Amityville Horror”, which the movies were sometimes loosely based on. The Warren’s worked as consultants on the first movie, and also appeared on several talk shows to discuss the horrors.
As the popularity of the story grew, so to did interest from paranormal investigators. Dr. Stephen Kaplan, former executive of the Parapsychology Institute of America, was one of those interested. In 1976, George Lutz had contacted him about investigating the house, and asked about a fee. Kaplan informed him there was no fee, but that he would inform the public if a hoax was discovered. Lutz later cancelled the investigation, claiming Kathy didn’t want to deal with the publicity, and a few days later the Warren’s conducted an investigation, on air.
Kaplan was suspicious of both the story and the Lutz family from the beginning. George could not name specifically what happened, but could name spirits in the house, choosing not to name them for fear they would appear again. He also claimed he learned the types of demons from a book he read, but when pushed could not name the title. Kaplan was one of the first to believe the Amityville Horror to be a hoax. The Warren’s almost immediately denied his claims, and tried to discredit him and his work, even after his death.
William Weber was a well know lawyer in the area, and had served as Ronald DeFeo’s lawyer as well as having a more important role in the Amityville Horror hoax. Weber claimed that he and George Lutz had worked together to create the story. He hoped to use the story to mount a new trial, and Lutz, who was having money problems simply wanted to escape his mortgage payments. Weber claimed George promised him a share of the book deal, and when that did not happen, he sued for $2 million. To back up Weber’s claims, a former co-worked publicly stated that during the trial, the lawyer told him of a man who approached him about writing a book.
More proof appeared to discount the stories. The book claimed that the front door had been knocked off and that severe damage occurred to all the doors and windows, but everything was intact. The book also claimed there was a sinister Red Room in the basement that once held occult ceremonies; the original DeFeo family used the room to store toys, and the room itself was too small to hold any assortment of people. There was also no evidence of a face burned into the bricks of the fireplace, as alleged by the book.
Adding to the mounting proof of The Amityville Horror Hoax, were the inconsistencies in the Lutz’s story. While they claimed to have found hoof prints in the snow outside their house, there was no snow reported. And while they said they never went back to the house, they actually did return the day after “fleeing”, to hold a garage sale. Then there was the issue of the priest who attempted to exorcize the house; he never had any problems, and never saw a sinister figure.
Since the house left the Lutz family, no one else have ever experienced any problems. Jim and Barbara Cromarty later purchased the house, and sued the publishers of the book, author Jay Anson, and the Lutz’s because of problems stemming from curiosity seekers. It is worth noting that during the preliminary trial, George admitted that the story was fake.
There is also the issue of the book itself. While the cover stated that it was a “true story”, however on the inside cover it also stated not only that names had been changed but, “all facts and events, as far as we have been able to verify them, are strictly accurate”. How do you verify facts when only one (or two) people saw them? Ronald DeFeo even got in on the action, writing a letter from prison where he stated that his lawyer told him of the fallacy during his first trial.
Then there’s the issue of the Shinnecock Indians, which are frequently brought up in regards to the “ghosts”; only problem is that those Indians were never anywhere near Amityville. The Native Americans who do still live in the area, are also highly outspoken that no burial ground was ever near the site of the house. Likewise there is no evidence of a cemetery on the property. The town itself firmly believes this is The Amityville Hoax, and refused offers to film any of the movies there.
The “proof” for the story seems spotty at best. Some claim that author Anson died before he could fully proof read the book, while he was actively giving interviews and promoting the book two years after its publication.
George Lutz has frequently changed parts of his stories over the years. He originally stated that he knew the priest who blessed the house, then said they only met when he came to the house, and then later recanted to state that the priest annulled his first marriage. As for his assertion that the family left behind all their possessions, he neglects to mention hiring a mover to send the items to their new home. Lutz also stuck by his memories of police coming to the house, though the truth is that the police were never called.
It seems as though the true story of The Amityville Horror is nothing more than a hoax, a very successful hoax at that. The first movie made over $80 million and the first book had six million copies in print.