The most famous and horrific ghost story of the last century has to be that of 112 Ocean Avenue, in Amityville, New York. The terrifying tale was turned into a bestselling book and successful movie and grabbed the public's attention like no other haunting. Indeed, such is its location in the American consciousness that most people assume that it is really a story - and that is certainly how it was publicized. There isn't any doubt that some dreadful events did occur at the building, but were they really caused by ghostly actions?
The now infamous three-storey Dutch colonial house was constructed in 1924. The owners lived happily in the building for many years, raising a family and leaving the home for their own daughter who had such fond memories of her childhood home she moved her own family. In 1960 the building left the care of their first owners' descendants and was bought by a couple who lived in the house until they sold it after their divorce in 1965.
In June 1965 the DeFeo family purchased the home. They were an unhappy family and the father, Ronald DeFeo Sr., was known to be abusive. Over a period of nine years the family was not said to experience any sort of frightening event other than those inflicted by paternal forces.
Defeo is an American mass murderer. He was tried and convicted for the 1974 killings of his father, mother, two brothers and two sisters. The case is notable for being the real life inspiration behind the book and film versions of The Amityville Horror.
The victims were car dealer Ronald DeFeo, Sr. (age 43), Louise DeFeo (age 42), and four of their children: Dawn (age 18); Allison (age 13); Marc (age 12); and John Matthew (age 9). All of the victims had been shot with a .35 caliber lever action Marlin 336C rifle at around three o'clock in the morning of that day. DeFeo’s parents had both been shot twice, while the children had all been killed with single shots. Louise DeFeo and her daughter Allison were reportedly the only victims who were awakened by the gunfire at the time of their deaths, and according to Suffolk County Police the victims were all found lying on their stomachs in bed. The murdered members of the DeFeo family are buried in nearby Saint Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.
Just over a year later, in December 1975, a young couple bought the house. George and Kathy Lutz, and her three children moved in, realizing the building's horrible history. Almost immediately they began experiencing strange phenomena. Doors and windows would open by themselves, bizarre noises were heard, and a Catholic priest who had come to exorcise the house was arranged to get out with a devilish voice.
Things quickly grew worse. Blood and sticky goo oozed from the walls, clouds of flies seemed on windows, ghostly hooded apparitions manifested, and one of the children began communicating with a demonic pig named Jodie. One night Kathy Lutz was thrown from her bed by a supernatural force, and it was famously claimed that the surface of the devil appeared in the brickwork of the fireplace.
After 28 days of this terror, the Lutzes moved out. They went to the press with their narrative. The Warrens stated the house was indeed haunted with evil spirits, but other investigators were not convinced.
However, his studies were dismissed, and it transpired that the couple had listened with an author, Jay Anson, and had written a book, The Amityville Horror - A True Story. An instantaneous best-seller on its release in 1977, a blockbusting film version of the tale was released in 1979.
As Kaplan suspected, there were several dubious activities and motives behind the Amityville narrative. It was revealed that Ronald DeFeo Jr's defense lawyer had met with the Lutzes before their story was released. Kaplan found no evidence to support many of the claims written in their book, but he did find that the Lutzes were able to return to the house to hold a garage sale just a few weeks after apparently fleeing in terror. Similarly, many investigators found that the Lutzes were holding contracts for film and book rights as soon as they decided to publicize their accounts.
Since the Lutzes abandoned, three different families have lived in the house with no reports of ghostly experiences. Dr. Stephen Kaplan's comprehensive report and its subsequent revelations about the home were never seen with as much interest as the dramatic, original story, but his book, The Amityville Horror Conspiracy, was finally published some years after his death. Many investigators and cynics have been led to conclude that the whole case really revolved around money, instead of the popular perception of paranormal influences.