The Amityville Incident – The Amityville Horror

There won’t be many people reading this list who have not heard of the Amityville horror movie – and the majority will no doubt have watched it. What you may not know is that it is based on true events. The authors of the original book (George and Kathy Lutz) were convinced right up to their deaths that the story was true. In 1975, the couple moved in to a home in Amityville, New York. Unbeknownst to them, 13 months earlier, the son of the previous owners shot and killed all six members of his family – claiming to have been directed by voices in his head. The killer (Ronald DeFeo) is still in prison in New York and will remain there until his death. Most strangely, all six of the victims were found lying face down in their beds with no signs of a struggle or sedatives having been administered.

Within 28 days of moving in to the house, George and Kathy Lutz fled – claiming a series of horrific experiences forced them to leave. The family experienced foul smells, loud voices, physical attacks, and unexplained noises. All members of the family, at one time or another, witnessed glowing red eyes in the house. Kathy discovered a small hidden room that was painted red and the family dog refused to go near it. A priest was called in to bless the house and he also witnessed some of the phenomena which he later testified to on camera. The current owners, and those after the Lutzes claim to have had no unusual experiences in the house. The distinctive Dutch style windows have been remodeled to keep curiosity seekers away.The Amityville Horror

The-Amityville-Horror

112 Ocean Avenue remained empty for thirteen months after the DeFeo murders. In December 1975, George and Kathleen Lutz bought the house for what was considered to be a bargain price of $80,000. The six-bedroom house was built in Dutch Colonial style, and had a distinctive gambrel roof. It also had a swimming pool and a boathouse, as it was located on a canal. George and Kathy married in July 1975 and each had their own homes, but they wanted to start afresh with a new property. 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 real estate broker told them about the DeFeo murders of the previous November, and asked if this changed their opinion about wanting to buy it. After discussing the matter, they decided that it was not an issue.

The Lutz family moved in on December 19, 1975. Much of the DeFeo family furniture was still in the house, since it had been purchased for $400 as part of the deal. A friend of George Lutz learned about the history of the house, and insisted on having it 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 who agreed to carry out the house blessing. (In Anson’s book the priest is referred to as Father Mancuso. This was done for privacy. The now-deceased priest’s real name was Father Ralph J. Pecoraro).

Father Mancuso was a lawyer, a Judge of the Catholic Court and a psychotherapist who lived at the local Sacred Heart Rectory. He arrived to perform the blessing while George and Kathy were unpacking their belongings on the afternoon of December 18, 1975, and went into the building to carry out the rites. When he flicked the first holy water and began to pray, he heard an audible, masculine voice demand that he “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 mysterious voice. 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 Matthew DeFeo. The telephone call was cut short by static, and following his visit to the house, Father Mancuso allegedly developed a high fever and blisters on his hands similar to stigmata. The Amityville Horror continues …

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 had vivid nightmares about the murders and discovered the order in which they occurred, and the rooms where they took place. 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.

* While tending to the fire, George and Kathy saw the image of a demon with half his head blown out. It was burned into the soot in the back of the fireplace.

* The Lutzes’ five year old daughter, Missy, developed an imaginary friend named “Jodie,” a demonic pig-like creature with glowing red eyes.

* George would be woken up 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.

* George realized that he bore a strong resemblance to Ronald DeFeo, Jr., and began drinking at The Witches’ Brew, the bar where DeFeo was once a regular customer.

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

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

* Locks, doors and windows 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 (30 cm) crucifix, hung in a closet by Kathy, revolved until it was upside down and gave off a sour smell.

* George tripped over a 4-foot-high (1.2 m) 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, and saliva dripping from the toothless mouth.”

After deciding that something was wrong with their house that they could not explain rationally, George and Kathy Lutz carried 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 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. The Lutzes declined to give a full account of the events that took place on this occasion, describing 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. They claimed that the phenomena followed them there, with the final scene of Anson’s book describing “greenish-black slime” coming up the staircase towards them. On January 14, 1976 George and Kathy Lutz, with their three children and their dog Harry, left 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.

The The Amityville Horror was written after Tam Mossman, an editor at the publishing house Prentice Hall, introduced George and Kathy Lutz to Jay Anson. The Lutzes did not work directly with Anson, but submitted around 45 hours of tape-recorded recollections to him which were used as the basis of the book. Estimates of the sales of the book are around ten million copies from its numerous editions. 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.

Criticisms

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 displayed on the front cover states: “A fascinating, frightening book… the scariest true story I have read in years”, while the tagline at the bottom 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 box office success and had received generous media coverage. Many of the incidents in the book recall the style of The Exorcist, and this is one of the reasons why it has aroused suspicion.

In the afterword of The Amityville Horror Jay Anson states: “There is simply too much independent corroboration of their narrative to support the speculation that [the Lutzes] either imagined or fabricated these events”, but some people remained unconvinced. Almost as soon as the book was published in September 1977, other writers and researchers began looking into the events at 112 Ocean Avenue, and the conclusions that they reached were often at odds with those that had appeared in Anson’s book.

The role of Father Pecoraro in the story has been given considerable attention. During the course of the lawsuit surrounding the case in the late 1970s, Father Pecoraro stated in an affidavit that his only contact with the Lutzes concerning the matter had been by telephone. Other accounts say that Father Pecoraro did visit the house but experienced nothing unusual there. Father Pecoraro gave what may have been his only on-camera interview about his recollections during an edition of In Search of… broadcast in 1980. In Search of… was a series of half-hour television documentaries about the paranormal, and was narrated by Leonard Nimoy. Father Pecoraro’s face was obscured during the interview to preserve his anonymity. In the interview, he repeated the claim that he heard a voice saying “Get out”, but stopped short of giving it a paranormal origin. He also stated that he felt a slap on his face during the visit, and that he did subsequently experience blistering on his hands. As with many areas of The Amityville Horror, the inconsistent accounts given by Father Pecoraro about the extent of his involvement with the Lutz family has led to more questions than answers.

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