Monday, January 9, 2017

The Amityville Horror

Some truly awful things happened in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue, including the murder of six. After just 28 days in what was supposed to be their "dream home," the George Lutz family fled what they said was a house of evil.

BY Chris Stevens from Unsolved Mysteries.

Think of a famous address and you might come up with the following`-1600 Pennsylvania   Avenue or 10 Downing Street or 11 Wall Street. But in the mid-to-late 1970s, particularly on the East Coast near New York City, there was no address more famous — or infamous — than 112 Ocean Avenue.

Its location? Amityville, Long Island.

The reason for its notoriety? Murder and mystery. And just plain weirdness.

Events surrounding the deaths of six members of the DeFeo family in 1974 were, in fact, largely unknown to most across the United States. This was decades before the Internet and even before the explosion of cable TV, which made news immediate and seemingly reported non-stop.

Eventually, though, media coverage of these killings would soon change. In particular, the spotlight turned to the nearly 4,000-square-foot Dutch colonial home where the murders occurred.

It's an intriguing mystery that is rich in speculation and debate. Numerous books have been written about it. Scary movies have been made because of it. Lawsuits have been filed over it.

This tragic, but captivating story begins in the early-morning hours of Nov. 13, 1974, when 23-year-old Ronnie DeFeo gunned down six members of his family as they slept. DeFeo went from room to room, first killing his father, Ronnie Sr., and then his mother, Allison. From there, he would enter the bedrooms of his siblings, fatally shooting his brothers (Mark and John) and sisters (Dawn and Allison).

The first shot from his high-powered rifle was reportedly fired at 3 a.m. Fifteen minutes later, six life-less bodies were inside the home.

DeFeo, whose nickname was "Butch," was the oldest sibling in the family. He and his father had a long-standing volatile relationship that grew worse as Butch grew older. Butch had a deep, abiding anger toward his father, who he felt was verbal-ly abusive and unkind to him throughout his life. Finally, Butch, who battled emotional and sub-stance abuse problems, snapped and carried out the murders of all of his family members. He was convicted of the killings in November 1975, exactly one year after they occurred.

For 13 months, the house remained empty. Then, in December 1975, George and Kathleen Lutz, who married in July of that year, bought the 50-year-old house for $80,000, an exceptional bargain-tinged price for such a large home in a prime location.

The Lutzes - along with their three young children (Kathleen's children from a previous marriage) - moved into the house at 112 Ocean Avenue on Dec. 18, 1975. Inside the house was much of the DeFeo family's furniture.

George and Kathy Lutz
Before moving in, though, a friend of George Lutz's insisted that divine intervention needed to take place because of the home's violent and bloody history. The house, he said, needed to be blessed by a local priest, Father Ray Pecoraro.

"[Pecoraro] showed up shortly after we were in the process of moving in," Lutz told author Jeff Belanger during an interview in 2005, a year before Lutz died. "I waved, he waved, and he went on in the house and went about blessing it. When he was done, I tried to pay him but he wouldn't take money. He said, 'No, you don't charge for this, and you don't charge friends for this.' I thought that was a very kind thing to say, and then he said, 'You know, I felt something really strange in that one upstairs bedroom,' and he described the bedroom. And we said that's what we were going to use as a sewing room. We weren't going to use it as a bedroom. He said, 'That's good, as long as no one sleeps in there, that's fine.' And that's all he said, and he left."

The Lutzes lived in the house for exactly 28 days. When they fled they left behind clothes in their closets and food in the refrigerator.

Day after day, night after night, the Lutz family claimed they had experienced weird, wild and even demonic events inside the house. Finally, to preserve their sanity and possibly even their lives, they fled the home, shaken, but alive. Lutz described it as a "subtle" progression of paranormal events.

Troy Taylor authored the book, "Amityville... Horror or Hoax." On his website, dedicated to crime and supernatural events, Taylor summarized the alleged events inside the home: "Almost from the moment that they moved into the house, the Lutz family would insist they noticed an unearthly presence in the place. They began to hear mysterious noises that they could not account for. Locked windows and doors would inexplicably open and close, as if by invisible hands. George Lutz, a sturdy former Marine, claimed to be plagued by the sound of a phantom brass band that would march back and forth through the house. When a Catholic priest entered the house, after agreeing to exorcize it, an eerie, disembodied voice told him to "GET OUT!"

Taylor's website continued: "After the aborted exorcism, the events began to intensify. The thumping and scratching sounds grew worse, a devilish creature was seen outside the windows at night, George Lutz was seemingly "possessed" by an evil spirit and green slime even oozed from the walls and ceiling. The family was further terrified by ghostly apparitions of hooded figures, clouds of flies that appeared from nowhere, cold chills, personality changes, sickly odors, objects moving about on their own, the repeated disconnection of their telephone service and communication between the youngest Lutz child and a devilish pig that she called 'Jodie.' Kathy Lutz reported that she was often beaten and scratched by unseen hands and that one night, she was literally levitated up off the bed."

Once leaving the house, George Lutz was doing a lot of thinking about the events that he personally experienced, and he began to wonder if convicted-killer Ronnie DeFeo was demonically influenced to murder his family. At his trial, DeFeo pled not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that he had heard voices in the house, urging him to kill.

Lutz contacted DeFeo's attorney, William Weber, and the two set up a meeting. Weber already had been receiving book proposals about the murders, so he felt that the Lutz's 28-day experience inside the home made the potential for a successful book that much greater. Before a book deal was secured, however, a friend of Weber's, Paul Hoffman, ended up writing a piece for Good Housekeeping — without the Lutz family's permission, according to George Lutz.

When the magazine hit newsstands, interest in the Lutz's story exploded.

"In March of '76, a news crew, a number of psychics including Mary Downey, Ed and Lorraine Warren [paranormal investigators], a photographer, [some] representatives from what we thought was Duke University's psychical research center, and others came at different times during the day, and most of them stayed overnight in the house, and they did a full investigation and a number of seances - or at least one while they were there," Lutz said in his interview with Belanger. "The consensus of opinion from the experts was that whatever it is there never walked the face of the earth in human form. They said they could not cleanse the house, that they could not fix it, and that if the house was to be fixed it would require an Anglican or Roman Catholic priest to come and say Mass there."

Now that the story was fully disclosed to the public, the Lutz family and Weber secured their book deal. The book project ended up being one of the most popular books ever written about paranormal experiences.

Author Jay Anson's book, The Amityville Horror: A True Story, was released in September 1977, and would quickly become a best seller, and eventually appear on the big screen in the 1979 film The Amityville Horror with James Brolin and Margot Kidder starring as George and Kathy Lutz. To date, roughly 10 million copies of the book have been sold.

Through the years, many books have been written about the events inside 112 Ocean Avenue, some of which strongly refute the claims made by the Lutz family. In response to the accusations, George Lutz launched his own website to answer his critics in the early 2000s.

During an interview on the History Channel in 2000, George Lutz, who years earlier had passed a polygraph test, said this about the allegations that the story was a hoax: "I believe this has stayed alive for 25 years because it's a true story. It doesn't mean that everything that has ever been said about it is true. It's certainly not a hoax. It's real easy to call something a hoax. I wish it was. It's not."

It should be noted that the house has had several owners since the Lutz family fled in 1976. None of the residents ever experienced anything out of the ordinary with the home, other than the curiosity seekers that regularly passed by after the original film was released.

The Lutzes divorced in the late 1980s. George Lutz died in 2006, while Kathy had passed away in 2004.

Today, roughly 40 years later, the mystery is still very much alive. Was it a hoax? Was it a haunted house?

One thing, however, has changed. No longer is there the address of 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island.

The address was changed years ago to protect the privacy of the new home owners, who grew tired of gawkers, thrill-seekers and the curious who drove past the house.

But it didn't stay secret very long. The new house number is 108 Ocean Avenue. It just doesn't have the same mysterious ring to it, does it?

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