You’ve seen The Amityville Horror, right? It’s a jolly good time, with furniture crashing about and demons yelling “Get out!” and glowing red eyes in the window. It’s also a complete and total sham.
Believe it or not, not everyone knows that it’s been more or less officially revealed that the whole Amityville phenomenon was a hoax. It was an elaborate gag concocted over spirits (of the alcoholic kind) by people looking to get rich and famous (and they did). But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
The saga of The Amityville Horror, like a lot of good ghost stories, began with a best-selling novel. Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror: A True Story (sheesh!) was published in 1977 and soon became all the rage. It should be noted that Anson was simply a professional writer hired to tell the tale — not a resident, former or otherwise, of 112 Ocean Avenue.
The “prequel” to the story, as it were, involved the shocking and seemingly inexplicable murders of the members of the DeFeo family on November 13, 1974. The parents, Ronald and Louise DeFeo, were shot in their beds, along with their two sons and two daughters. The sole survivor, Ronald, Jr. (“Butch”), was arrested for the crimes and the house went up for sale.
And the truth more or less stops there.
A year later, George and Kathy Lutz moved in with their three children, and 112 Ocean Ave soon became a house of horrors. Supposedly, whatever evil entity took hold of Butch and forced him to kill his entire family now had its sights on poor George Lutz, who was so driven to madness that his beard became even more formidable.
It’s a great story. It’s no wonder it’s lasted in the public consciousness for so long, spawning several movie sequels and a 2005 remake starring Ryan Reynolds and his beard. People still visit 112 Ocean Avenue to this day, even though it’s been remodeled to the point of being almost completely unidentifiable. And despite big claims and small details in the story being refuted by eyewitnesses and just skeptics in general over the years, the Lutzes stuck by their claim that the house was Satan’s playground.
However, everyone seems to forget that in the September 17, 1979 issue of People, Butch DeFeo’s lawyer, William Weber, stepped forth and claimed that he, along with the Lutzes, “created this horror story over many bottles of wine.” Jay Anson further embellished the tale for his book, and by the time the movie came out, it was its own phenomenon spun out of control. While the Lutzes got rich from the story, Weber had planned to use the haunting to gain a new trial for Butch.
Up until his death in May 2006, George Lutz insisted that the events that took place in the house were “mostly true,” even taking a lie detector test and passing. After all, the truth never gets in the way of a good story.
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