Was Amityville's house of horror a hoax? All you need to know about what really happened all those years ago
Ronald DeFeo Jr might have died in custody on March 12, 2021, in a hospital in Albany, New York, but questions remain about the terrifying Amityville House
Amityville's house of horror has long aroused curiosity and terror in people. The chilling murder story of killer Ronald DeFeo Jr acquired new significance after his house in Amityville, Long Island, was occupied by its new owners George and Kathy Lutz in 1975. They bought the 'murder house' because it came at a bargain price. But they would eventually flee within a month after experiencing the horrors of the house. Their tale of demonic possession would go on to inspire the 1977 book 'The Amityville Horror,' a hit 1979 movie of the same name, and several sequels, including a 2005 remake.
Ronald DeFeo Jr might have died in custody on March 12, 2021, in a hospital in Albany, New York, but questions remain about the terrifying Amityville House. The most pertinent one being -- was the Amityville House of horror just a hoax?
Ronald DeFeo Jr's bloody past
What Ronald DeFeo Jr did, has never been a secret. If anything, it was the grist for horror pop culture, what with the book and the movies. Yet, for the unversed, in 1974, DeFeo used a rifle to kill his father, Ronald DeFeo, Sr, his mother, Louise, his two sisters, Dawn and Allison, and his two brothers, Mark and John Matthew. The entire family sparing the one were found in their beds at the family’s home in Amityville, a town on the South Shore of Long Island, on November 13th, 1974.
The following year, DeFeo was convicted on six counts of second-degree murder after confessing to the killings and was sentenced to 25-years-to-life at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, New York.
"Once I started, I just couldn’t stop," he had told investigators. At the trial, he and his defense lawyer William Weber made an insanity plea, supported by the psychiatrist for the defense, Daniel Schwartz. But Dr Harold Zolan, the psychiatrist for the prosecution, maintained that, although DeFeo was a heroin and LSD user, he had an antisocial personality disorder; he was aware of his actions at the time of the crime.
The Lutz family
A month after DeFeo was convicted of the murders, in December 1975, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into the house. They had all been warned of the murders that were committed there at the hands of DeFeo. But since the large waterfront property, which came with its own boathouse and a heated swimming pool, was available for $80,000, they grabbed the opportunity.
But they ended up living there for only 28 days before apparently fleeing with nothing on them but their clothes, terrified of the horrors they had experienced. According to them, they hadn't even started unpacked their belongings before a plague of flies appeared, which was hardly usual for December. The day they moved, the couple had a priest bless the house.
But George Lutz claimed the holy man felt an unseen hand slap him in the sewing room and heard a voice say "Get out." Things got worse when the family started noticing odd things happening around the house -- doors being ripped from hinges, slime oozing out from the ceilings among other inexplicable events.
"There were... odors in the house that came and went,” George Lutz had told ABC News in 2006. "There were sounds. The front door would slam shut in the middle of the night. I couldn’t get warm in the house for many days." He claimed that he used to wake up mysteriously at 3.15 am every day, which was around the same time that DeFeo committed the murders.
In addition to that, George Lutz claimed that his wife was physically transformed into an old woman and once levitated. One night, he apparently heard his children’s beds “slamming up and down on the floor” but couldn't do anything because an invisible force was paralyzing him.
Collaboration with Jay Anson
The Lutzes went on to collaborate with author Jay Anson. The book Anson wrote would end up being a best-selling one and the inspiration behind countless adaptations, but the family never signed a contract with him. But according to reports, the tome and the successful film spin-offs earned them around $300,000.
There were already doubts doing the rounds about the Lutzes' account of what went on inside the house. These became even more serious when DeFeo's defense attorney, Weber, admitted that he and the Lutz couple came up with the tale over several bottles of wine.
"We took real-life incidents and transposed them," Weber reportedly said on the TV program 'A Current Affair' in May 1988. "In other words, it was a hoax." Other reports, also mentioned that Weber, who had fallen out with the couple over money, said that he had passed details about the murders that they spun into the "hoax".
"I told George Lutz that Ronnie DeFeo used to call the neighbor's cat a pig," he said. "George was a con artist; he improvised on that and in the book he sees a demon pig through a window."
George Lutz, who died in 2006, stuck to his version of the story but admitted that some parts of the account were exaggerated. At the same time, he blamed most of this exaggeration on the retelling in the book and original film. The Lutzes would go on to sue Weber for an invasion of privacy. George Lutz had reportedly said, "We're tired of being called liars." Weber countersued them for fraud and breach of contract.
DeFeo also changed his story
In a 1992 newspaper interview, Defeo claimed Weber had pursued the insanity defense against his wishes - and he’d done so claiming that insanity at his trial would make the story more attractive for possible book or film deals. "William Weber gave me no choice," DeFeo told The Times. "He told me I had to do this. He told me there would be a lot of money from book rights and a movie. He would have me out in a couple of years and I would come into all that money. The whole thing was a con, except for the crime."