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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Infamous Amityville House- fact or fiction?

      Most people have heard stories of the " Amityville house of horror". If you are a horror buff like I am, you've seen the  Amityville movies, and perhaps read the books. Well, that's not the whole story, and certain parts are very embellished. But I do believe something haunted the Lutzs, and maybe the DeFeos as well.just not to the extreme that Hollywood said. The DeFeo Family moved into the house in 1965. Supposedly strange things started happening as soon as the DeFeos moved in.  Things such as unexplained noises became a regular occurrence.  DeFeo's father had taken to placing statues of catholic saints all around the house. We went as far as to place them in the garden, and the plants all died.
    The police found them dead on November 13, 1974.  The father, mother, and 4 of their 5 children had all been shot and killed execution style; at 112 Ocean Avenue in  Amityville, NY. By 1977, this house would be the center of a haunted house story that experts mostly labelled as a hoax haunting. To start this macabre tale, here is the transcript of the 911 call from the DeFeo House on the evening they were killed.

Operator: "Suffolk County Police. May I help you?"
Man: "Hah?" Operator: This is Suffolk County Police. May I help you?"
Man: "We have a shooting here. Uh, DeFeo."
Operator: "Sir, what is your name?" Man: "Joey Yeswit."
Operator: "Can you spell that?"
Man: "Yeah. Y-E-S W I T." Operator: "Y-E-S-W. .
Man: "Hah?"
Operator: "Y-E-S . .
Man: "Y-E-S-W-I-T."
Operator: ". . . W-I-T. Your phone number?"
Man: "I don't even know if it's here. There's, uh, I don't have a phone number here."
Operator: "Okay, where you calling from?"
Man: "It's in Amityville. Call up the Amityville Police, and it's right off, uh . . ."
Man: "Ocean Avenue in Amityville."
Operator: "Austin?"
Man:  "Ocean Avenue. What the ... ?"
Operator: "Ocean ... Avenue? Offa where?"
Man: "It's right off Merrick Road. Ocean Avenue."
Operator: "Merrick Poad. What's ... what's the problem, Sir?"
Man: "It's a shooting!"
Operator: "There's a shooting. Anybody hurt?"
Man: "Hah?"
Operator: "Anybody hurt?"
Man: "Yeah, it's uh, uh-everybody's dead."
Operator: "Whattaya mean, everybody's dead?"
Man: "I don't know what happened. Kid come running in the bar. He says everybody in the family was killed, and we came down here."
Operator: "Hold on a second, Sir." (Police Officer now takes over call)
Police Officer: "Hello."
Man: "Hello."
Police Officer: "What's your name?"
Man: "My name is Joe Yeswit."
Police Officer: "George Edwards?"
Man: "Joe Yeswit."
Police Officer: "How do you spell it?"
Man: "What? I just ... How many times do I have to tell you? Y-E-S-W-I-T."
Police Officer: "Where're you at?"
Man: "I'm on Ocean Avenue.
Police Officer: "What number?"
Man: "I don't have a number here. There's no number on the phone. "
Police Officer: "What number on the house?"
Man: "I don't even know that."
Police Officer: "Where're you at? Ocean Avenue and what?"
Man: "In Amityville. Call up the Amityville Police and have someone come down here. They know the family."
Police Officer: "Amityville."
Man: "Yeah. Amityville."
Police Officer: "Okay. Now, tell me what's wrong."
Man: "I don't know. Guy come running in the bar. Guy come running in the bar and said there-his mother and father are shot. We ran down to his house and everybody in the house is shot. I don't know how long, you know. So, uh . . ."
Police Officer: "Uh, what's the add ... what's the address of the house?"
Man: "Uh, hold on. Let me go look up the number. All right. Hold on."
Man: "Hello. Hello?"
Police Officer: "Yes."
Man: "One-twelve Ocean Avenue, Amityville."
Police Officer: "One-what?"
Man: "One-twelve Ocean Avenue, Amityville."
Police Officer: "Is that Amityville or North Amityville?"
Man: "Amityville. Right on ... south of Merrick Road."
Police Officer: "Is it right in the village limits?"
Man: "No, it's uh ... you know where the high school is?"
Police Officer: "Yeah."
Man: "It's in the village limits, yeah."
Police Officer: "Yeah. That's the village hmits, right?"
Man: "Yeah."
Police Officer: "Eh, okay, what's your phone number?"
Man: "I don't even have one. There's no number on the phone. "
Police Officer: "All right, where're you calhng from? Pubhc phone?"
Man: "No, I'm calling right from the house, because I don't see a number on the phone."
Police Officer: "You're at the house itself?"
Man: "Yeah."
Police Officer: "How many bodies are there?"
Man: "I think, uh, I don't know-uh, I think they said four."
Police Officer: "There's four?" (They hadn't found the girls, yet)
Man: "Yeah."
Police Officer: "Alright, you stay right there at the house, and I'll call the Amityville Village P.D., and they'll come down."
Man: "Okay."

     At 6:30pm, Ronald DeFeo Jr., known as "Butch" opened the door to Henry's Bar, a tavern in Amityville.  Falling to his knees, crying hysterically, Butch pleaded for help.  His best friend Robert "Bobby" Kelske ran to his side. Ronald said his parents were dead.

"Are you sure they're not asleep?" Bobby offered.
"No, I saw them up there."
"Come on, then, let's go."
Bobby called for others at the bar to follow him and Bobby back to the house.John Altieri, Joey Yeswoit, Al Saxton and William Scordamaglia, owner of the bar, all piled into Butch's 1970 blue Buick Electra 225. (They couldn't walk a block?) As the men reached the second floor, they were overwhelmed with the stench of death.  Bobby stopped at the doorway to the master bedroom and hit the light switch.  Before him, lay Ronald Joseph Defeo Sr. and his wife Louise Defeo.  They were shot to death, and to reflect this horrible scene was a mirrored wall behind the bed.  Bobby nearly passed out so they led him downstairs. John Alteri remained on the second floor and checked the little boys' room first, they were shot to death in their beds, as were the girls in their room but seeing more than he'd wanted to see, he hurried downstairs to meet the others. Joe Yeswoit called 911.  The girls bodies were found when the police came.

     In the lengthy trial, right before Thanksgiving, DeFeo's defense lawyer William Weber mounted an affirmative defense of insanity. He even went as far as to say that his research showed that the house was built on land owned at one time by John Ketcham. He tried to say Defeo was possessed by this evil spirit that led him to the murders. DeFeo claimed to be possessed and also that he killed his family in self-defense because he heard their voices plotting against him. The insanity plea was supported by the psychiatrist for the defense, Dr. Daniel Schwartz. The psychiatrist for the prosecution, Dr. Harold Zolan, maintained that although DeFeo abused heroin and LSD, he had an antisocial personality disorder and was aware of his actions at the time of the crime. Psychoactive substances, such as large doses of amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, and PCP,  can cause for certain individuals may experience violent outbursts, probably because of pre-existing psychosis.  On November 21, 1975, DeFeo was found guilty on six counts second degree murder. On December 4, 1975, Judge Thomas Stark sentenced Ronald DeFeo, Jr. to six concurrent sentences of 25 years to life. He claimed that DeFeo played a decently convincing actor and acted mentally out of it and "off". Well, he wasn't a good enough actor and was found guilty of killing his father, mother, 2 brothers, and 2 sisters.  Justice Thomas Stark said that the crimes were "the most heinous and abhorrent," and sentenced Defeo to 25 years to life in prison. No other suspect was ever prosecuted for the crime.  Officially, Butch DeFeo acted alone in the gristly crime.  Unofficially, the evidence pointed to a conspiracy.
    Michael Brigante Sr., Ronald DeFeo's grandfather testified at the trial that he did not feel that his grandson acted alone in the crime. Since Brigante believed this, he hired Herman Race, a former New York City supervising police detective as a private detective.  He wanted Race to prove or disprove the case against Butch. Race eventually uncovered evidence that showed that there were multiple gunmen and at least 2 guns used during the crime.  It is a sad example of police work back then, that a private detective had to find basic evidence; for example, how many guns were used. Police work has definitely evolved a bit. Race's findings were corroborated by the prosecutor and the medical examiner, who was astonished that one man had been accused of being the sole gunman in the first place.  Wow, the legal system was a day late and a buck short with this one for sure. Perhaps the police who collected evidence and wrote the reports were related to the police that did the same for the OJ murders? It was definitely a similar quality of police work in both circumstances.

   During a November 30, 2000 meeting with Ric Osuna, author of "The Night the DeFeos Died," Butch DeFeo finally confessed that he had not acted alone in these grisly crimes.  He, along with his sister, Dawn DeFeo and one of his friends, they actually committed the murders out of desperation.  This was confirmed by a letter written by Burch DeFeo, in his own handwriting. Butch wrote, " was cold blooded murder. Period. No ghosts, no demons. Just three people in which I was one."  How nice of him to finally confess, 26 years later. Really?  During this same interview, the details of the hours leading up to the 6 killings emerged.  The DeFeo household had been in a frenzied state during the evening of November 12, 1974.  According to Butch, his father routinely abused his family. Which is ironic, since he was the one placing catholic saint figurines everywhere for protection. When his family only needed protection from him. Did he feel God or saints would protect an abusive father? After that evenings frightening tirade had settled down, Butch, his 18 year old sister Dawn, and 2 of Butch's friends proceeded to get high in the basement. Butch and Dawn were both worn down from years of physical and mental abuse from their father. Dawn snapped when her dad wouldn't let her go join her boyfriend in Florida. She had probably just been desperate to escape a cruel and sadistic father. But Butch was his father's favored target, and he received the brunt of his father's abuses of all the children.  Butch was overweight and broody, and he was not popular with the other children and he was often bullied. His dad, typical of the times, tried to toughen the boy up by urging him to fight back , but such backbone was not to be displayed on the home front when dad was in a rage. So it was a double edged sword.  DeFeo was an authoritarian figure in the house, and he tolerated no disobedience or sass from his children or Louise. The boy bulked up as he grew, and the relationship between him and his father was increasingly combative.  Angry shouting matches turned into bouts of boxing. Butch decided  he would no longer submissively accept his father's abuse. Ronald, Sr., not recognizing his own psychological problems , decided
     As for the claim that DeFeo's lawyer had made about John Ketcham; while the Ketcham family did own land in Amityville, and there is a Ketcham Avenue in the town, claims of a direct link with 112 Ocean Avenue remain controversial. Some believe that they were descendants of John Ketcham.  They were the family of Zebulon Ketcham, who would later become a major player in  Amityville.  Ketcham Avenue is near Ocean Avenue and is named for Zebulon, not his ancestor, John, who was linked to witchcraft supposedly long before.  The surviving members claim no link to witchcraft.  In the movie, they tied John Ketcham as a sadistic madman who tortured native Americans. This was not true. It was Hollywood being, well, Hollywood.
     The legend goes, that the Montaukett Indians used the land to imprison their tribal enemies and those possessed by evil spirits.  These unfortunates were left to die on the land and then buried face down.  Some believe these cursed spirits are the source of the problems.  According to some, the spirit of an angry Indian chief is the source of the trouble. I guess he didn't appreciate being buried face down. The Native Americans were people of honor. Being left to die and buried face down was far from an honorable death or burial.

   George and Kathy Lutz and Kathy's three children moved into family moved into the house December 19, 1975. The same home where the Defeo's were murdered in their sleep,only a little over a year before. According to interviews,the Lutz's knew before buying the home that the famous murder had taken place there. They moved out 28 days later, claiming a great "evil, a demonic entity" was present in this house and had driven Ronald Defeo to murder his family. They claimed to have been terrorized by paranormal phenomena while still living there. They said that 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. They were pestered 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. Kathy would feel a sensation as if "being embraced" in a loving manner, by an unseen force. As the days progressed, Kathy Lutz aged in an unnaturally fast way at one point. The house, it seems, affected everyone differently. There were cold spots, odors and excrement in areas of the house where no wind drafts or piping would explain the source.The Lutzes' five-year-old daughter, Missy, developed an imaginary friend named "Jodie," a demonic pig-like creature with glowing red eyes. George realized that he bore a strong resemblance to Ronald Defeo and began drinking at "The Witches' Brew," the bar where DeFeo was once a regular customer. A very odd reaction to such strange news. He found out he looked like the murderer of the previous family and decided to go drinking at DeFeo's old hangout? Clearly George was not in his right mind. When closing Missy's window, which Missy said Jodie climbed out of, Kathy saw red eyes glowing at her. 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 hoof prints attributed to an enormous pig appeared in the snow outside the house on January 1, 1976. Green gelatin-like 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 the living room by Kathy, revolved until it was upside down and gave off a sour smell.George tripped over a 4-foot-high Chinese Lion statue 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." Missy would sing constantly while in her room. Whenever she left the room, she would stop singing, and upon returning, she would resume singing where she left off.
     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 asking them “Will you stop?!”  Another odd occurrence is that when they had the house blessed by their priest,he told them not to use the one room on the second floor as a bedroom. He told them that he had a strange feeling in there,and that they could use the room,but to leave the door open,and not to sleep in there. The priest did not tell them at the time,but the day after,he suffered unexplainable welts and blisters on his hands. Also,he has confirmed in an interview that a very deep voice yelled from behind him to "get out". One reason he may not have told them right away is that they had a hard time communicating with the priest. Any time that they tried to contact him by telephone,the call would be ruined by static.
     One day Kathy discovered a small room that was painted red and located behind the bookcase, in the basement. She was working in the basement and she was putting things away in the living room and she went to see if this bookcase was movable. It was never shown to them when they first saw the couch. The Lutzes obtained the original house plans, but the hidden room was not there. Lutz described the space as big enough for two very friendly people to sit together. But there was something else about this space. “The room had odors coming out of it,” Lutz said, “and they weren’t always there, and there was no pipe access for sewers or anything like that. We took Harry [their dog] down there, and he just wouldn’t go in. He backed away. It’s the only time I can recall him ever cowering from something. ”
     In a later interview, George Lutz said, "There came a point when we would invite people over to see whether we were crazy or not. Because when our friends sat in the kitchen, they could hear the people walking around upstairs after the kids had been put to bed. We’d all go up and find the kids fast asleep. There was no way it was the kids - and when your friends confirm that for you, you almost want to break down and say out loud, ‘I’m not crazy. They hear it too!’ That is such an emotional moment when someone else confirms for you what you’re hearing and that it’s not just you hearing it -- it’s not your imagination.”
Though friends could offer some confirmation that the things the Lutz family was hearing were real, they couldn’t help everything in regards to the family’s sanity. George described thoughts that came to his head -- thoughts that couldn’t have come from himself. “You know that these thoughts were not your own,” he said. “This is not how you ever thought about things, or other people, or events. These are not nice things; this is not nice stuff to talk about.
    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." George Lutz explained they didn't know they'd never return to their house when they left. He also said that whatever was in their house followed them to Kathy’s mother’s house. Both George and Kathy experienced levitation at her mother’s house, their children’s sleep was tormented with nightmares, and even their dog seemed plagued by the unseen force. But they were out of the house -- and once outside, they began to think more clearly. The Lutz family needed help, and they wanted their house fixed.  The Lutzes arranged a meeting with Ronald “Butch” DeFeo's attorney to discuss what kinds of things may have happened in 112 Ocean Avenue before. “There was no doubt in our minds that he [DeFeo] was influenced by what was in that house,” Lutz said. “He told us a number of strange stories about the housekeeper for the DeFeo family, and different events that had taken place over the years that he had heard. He brought back a criminologist -- a guy that was supposedly a criminologist -- he turned out to be a writer -- his name was Paul Hoffman, who eventually wrote an article about us in "Good Housekeeping" magazine, of course without our permission.” After the "Good Housekeeping" article, the Lutzes’ story was out, and the media was getting a lot of interest in the house and in the family.
      The Lutz family went public with their story because they were “outed” at this point by the media. There were many people who tried to attach themselves to the Amityville case. Unscrupulous psychics and researchers held press conferences in front of the house without the Lutzes’ permission, and the media frenzy escalated. The Lutz family sought a publisher to be able to tell their own story, which is how they came in contact with author Jay Anson. They decided it was their story, is what happened, and they were going to stand up and say this happened. Then came the book and the movie. Followed by more books and movies, claiming to be based on the true story.  The Lutz's deceased now, stuck to their story until the end of their lives.       

     In the afterword of "The Amityville Horror", Jay Anson, author of "The Amityville Horror," 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 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 a 1980 documentary series about the paranormal.  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 have led to more questions than answers.  Jay Anson,  had a heart attack while he was writing the last chapter of the book. He recovered from his heart attack but had a second, fatal heart attack while writing his second book, "666" on the anti-Christ. These are only two of the many "coincidences" that plague the Amityville story.
      George Lutz maintained that events in the book were "mostly true" and denied any suggestion of dishonesty on his part. In June 1979, George and Kathy Lutz took a lie detector test relating to their experiences at the house, which they both passed. In October 2000, The History Channel broad casted "Amityville: The Haunting and Amityville: Horror or Hoax?", a two-part documentary made by horror screenwriter/producer Daniel Farrands to mark the 25th anniversary of the case. George Lutz commented in an interview for the program: "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.
James Brolin, George and Kathy Lutz during an interview on "Good Morning America" marking the launch of the first film version in July 1979

      The debate about the accuracy of The Amityville Horror continues and, despite the lack of evidence to corroborate much of the story, it remains one of the most popular haunting accounts in America. The various owners of the house since the Lutz family left in 1976 have reported no problems while living there. James Cromarty, who bought the house in 1977 and lived there with his wife Barbara for ten years, commented: "Nothing weird ever happened, except for people coming by because of the book and the movie.The actual house still stands today,but many changes have been made since the time of the haunting. The famous windows that looked like eyes have been removed. The pool is no longer there,and the house has been painted. It also is rumored to have been remodeled drastically on the inside. Even the address has been changed,but it still does not deter people from trying to get an up close look at the famous Amityville home.

    There were many paranormal investigations during the "haunting" and after.  Ed and Lorraine Warren were 2 of the 9 people who investigated the home. They first became involved when they met with Father Pecararo and the Lutzes when they were first called in to investigate the paranormal occurrences in 1976. Despite rumors and controversy, the Warrens saw the house for themselves, and experienced some of the phenomena which occurred. They have photographs and reports which show remarkable proof of the existence of very remarkable phenomena in that house.
          They believe this photo to be of John, one of the DeFeo children that was murdered.

I do believe that the  Amityville house is haunted and the Lutz's may have truly gone through 28 days of pure hell. It was just another case of authors and Hollywood taking over and embellishing details.  There may be some angry Native American ghosts haunting the place they were buried, face down. I'd be mad too. I think there may have been some supernatural occurrences during the time the DeFeos lived there, but the Lutzes got most of it. After all, the DeFeo family had been murdered right before they moved into their house. The Lutz's triggered the supernatural occurrences when other families had not, and supposedly no one else had a problem with ghosts after the Lutzes. I'd imagine the DeFeo family might haunt their house. Maybe just the mother and children? Are the children lingering, confused as to what happened, and why? Are they angry? Is Dawns vengeful spirit lurking? I'm sure she would have wanted revenge on her brother for betraying her. Even though their father is dead, do the wife and children still hide in fear of their abusive father? We may never know. I do know that it's not really possible to visit it and tour.  But I still want to visit and at least drive by. What a fascinating house with a crazy and tragic history. I have to go there and see it for myself.


  1. Do you know who owns the house now, and if they allow visitors?

    1. The latest news I could find is that it was put up for sale in 2012. And whoever owned it before didn't like visitors and they tried to move past the house's past, so you could really only drive by. But if it's still for sale maybe you can visit. I wish I could give you a better answer. I'm sorry. Thank you for your interest in my blog :)