CLASSIC HOAXES: The Amityville ‘Horror’ Lie

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The Amityville Horror story originally gained notoriety when it was made into a book. George Lutz contacted Prentice-Hall, the company who published The Exorcist (which had already been well received) and Prentice-Hall commissioned author Jay Anson to write about the horror which supposedly happened in the house. It was a jaw-dropping story indeed…

In 1975, just-wed George and Kathy Lutz moved in to 112 Ocean Drive in Amityville, New York with their three children. The fully-furnished house was bought at the low price of $80,000. Why so low? Well, the previous occupants of the house had been murdered. The Lutz’s were told about the history of the house and the killings. The ‘murderer’, Butch DeFeo, supposedly killed his 4 siblings and parents. He said that there were voices that told him to murder his whole family. Or at least, that’s what his confession apparently said. Many people believe that the family’s deaths were the result of a mob hit, due to Butch’s dad’s connections.

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Because of their knowledge about the fate of the former occupants, the Lutz’s sought out a priest to bless the house. When he arrived, the priest heard a loud angry voice telling him to get out the house. Afterwards, he developed blisters on his hands that would later be depicted as similar to stigmata. That was just the start of weird goings-on inside the house…

– Information came to light that the location was used by an Indian tribe as a prison for the mentally ill.
– One of their children gained an imaginary friend, a pig. This pig is not your regular “Babe” but a pig with red smoldering eyes.
– The lion house décor reportedly came to life and bit George.
– They captured a photograph of a demonic boy who appeared before them.
– Kathy experienced being in a “loving embrace” by someone she could not see. There were red marks left on her neck and chest. She was even levitated about 2 feet above her bed.

All of these events escalated until the final night when they left their house. They never returned. That’s the story that the book depicts, anyway. But not everyone was convinced.

Amityville

Most who grew critical of the story delved into the history of the house beyond The Amityville Horror book. There were many inconsistencies. The priest who was reported to have “blessed” the house said that nothing unusual happened during the time he was there, but he was also interviewed on TV and described how he was driven from the house by a frightening demonic voice. This interview did not present any credibility since the “priest’s” face was hidden to “protect him”.

The couple also contacted Dr. Stephen Kaplan, a paranormal expert. Dr. Kaplan called it a hoax, an elaborate prank. As he feared that the couple would capitalize on their scheme, he wrote a book to counter the events described in The Amityville Horror story. His purpose was to protect the reputation of the paranormal community. After the book was published and the successful movie was made, many lawsuits that came about. This resulted in a Court Case and a Judge declaring the book as a “work of fiction”.

Amityville

The Lutz’s “escaped” with their lives and did not return. They hired the services of a mover who gathered their possessions left at 112 Ocean Drive. The mover did not report any paranormal activity. The Lutz’s had stayed at the house for only 28 days. A book was made out of their experiences. A few years later, a movie was made. Both were financial successes. And even after 40 years the story has not lost its urban legend reputation. As proof of the story’s durability, another Amityville movie will be coming out this year.

George and Kathy Lutz asserted that everything that happened was true. Ed and Lorraine Warren (of the Annabelle haunting and the Conjuring fame) backed up their claims. The courts declared the book as fiction. Box office returns said it was successful. 1 book and 12 movies later, was it a hoax or a wise business investment?