Paranormal Pop Culture: The Amityville Horror

A promotional image from the 2005 re-imagining of the 1979 film.

A promotional image from the 2005 re-imagining of the 1979 film.

Author Jay Anson released his book The Amityville Horror in September of 1977, less than two years after the Lutz family moved out of the DeFeo murder house.  The book detailed the reported experiences of the family during their short residence in the now-famous house in Amityville.  Since then, at least fifteen movies have been made surrounding the property, with the most famous arguably being the 1979 The Amityville Horror, and its 2005 remake of the same name. 

The book and subsequent movies have been derided for decades by critics who claim the franchise is cashing in on the credulity of its audience.  Skeptics have noted a number of discrepancies between reality and the events' pop culture portrayal over the years.  The role of the priest who purportedly blessed the house is unclear, since he once swore in an affidavit in the late 1970s that his only communication with the Lutz family came over the telephone, yet later in a 1980 episode of In Search of... he admitted to having heard a voice say "Get out," being slapped by an invisible hand, and experiencing strange blistering on his hands after blessing the house.  Subsequent owners of the house refuted claims of damage to locks and door handles, and investigators have pointed out that at the time cloven hoof prints were said to have been found on the property, the snow they were supposed to have been found in did not exist.  In addition, changes to minor details in further editions of the book, such as the make and model of the priest's car, have left researchers skeptical.

George and Kathy Lutz filed a lawsuit in 1977 against those they saw as their biggest detractors, including William Weber, Ronald DeFeo Jr.'s defense lawyer; Paul Hoffman, a writer covering the haunting; Bernard Burton and Frederick Mars, alleged clairvoyants who investigated the phenomena; and Good Housekeeping magazine, the New York Sunday News, and the Hearst Corporation--all of whom had written stories about the reported haunting.  

The case was dismissed in 1979 by a Judge Weinstein, who stated "Based on what I have heard, it appears to me that to a large extent the book is a work of fiction, relying in a large part upon the suggestions of Mr. Weber." 

William Weber stated in an article in People magazine that he had collaborated with George and Kathy Lutz to invent the haunting in a meeting where they discussed an outline for Anson's book.

 "I know this book is a hoax," said Weber.  "We created this horror story over many bottles of wine." 

For their part, the Lutz family maintained the veracity of their experience as reported, and George and Kathy passed a polygraph test in 1979.  

George Lutz later reemphasized in an October 2000 documentary for the History Channel that he did not partake in any hoax.

"I believe this has stayed alive for 25 years because it's a true story," said Lutz.  "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."

Lutz's statement seemed to imply that he was willing to admit certain elements surrounding the events may have been embellished, but ultimately the truth remains obfuscated by the conflicting testimony of those involved.

George Lutz died in 2006 of heart disease.



Tobias Wayland