Not So High Hopes: The FAKE Amityville Horror

Surprise! I’ve got a new blog for you! Well, it isn’t new, as it is a follow-up from my previous blog.

So, I wasn’t originally going to cover this part of 112 Ocean Avenue’s history. Mainly because it’s been covered so extensively over the years. And honestly, I think that most of it is a crock of bull. I’m not saying that some things are completely untrue- and that’s because I wasn’t ever there to know for certain. I do believe in ghosts and spirits and I do believe in some cases of reported hauntings, but ‘The Amityville Horror’ is not one of them. 

If you read the last blog, then you’d know that I covered the DeFeo family murders. You would also already know that as part of his defense, Butch DeFeo claimed that he might have been possessed at the time he murdered his entire immediate family. Well… let’s fast forward a tiny bit and talk about Jay Anson. 

Ohhhhh. Jay Anson. Thanks in large part to you, we have a book that led to a span of movies. These movies focused on what Jay initially wrote about, or spun follow-up plot lines for sequels, and prequels that took liberties with what he claimed to have happened at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. On September 13th 1977, Jay Anson published a book titled, ‘The Amityville Horror’. The book was based on the paranormal experiences of the Lutz family while they lived at 112 Ocean Avenue. George and Kathy submitted around 45 hours of tape-recorded recollections to him, which were used as the basis of the book. George and Kathy Lutz had sold the rights (of their experiences) to Anson, who had added to and adapted some of the Lutz’s original claims. This book however, has led to countless controversies and conspiracies- and even lawsuits. 

Let’s rewind a bit, and go back to July of 1975. That was when George and Kathy Lutz got married. Six months later, the newlyweds, along with Kathy’s three children from a previous marriage, moved into a vacant home in Amityville. In the book, Jay writes that George and Kathy Lutz were informed about the previous tenants- that Butch DeFeo murdered six of his own family members in cold blood. Jay continues to detail in his book that Kathy was initially apprehensive about purchasing the house, but eventually George convinced her that it could be their dream home. In reality, it’s uncertain whether or not that George and Kathy Lutz knew about the DeFeo murders before the purchase of the home, but needless to say, they found out about them. 

From Jay’s book, we learn that the Lutz family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue on December 19th, 1975. In the book, real-life priest Father Ralph J. Pecoraro is referred to as Father Mancuso. He changed the name for privacy reasons, but for this blog I’m going to refer back to Father Pecoraro- mainly because he was an actual priest and was claimed to have actually been at the house. Apparently, Kathy Lutz was a devout Catholic- or at least was portrayed as one. Because of what had happened at the house over a year prior, Kathy insisted to George that she wanted the house blessed. So.. enter Father Pecoraro. According to Anson’s book, the Father arrived at 112 Ocean Avenue on or around the same day that the family moved in. He arrived as the family was unpacking, and headed upstairs. He entered the old bedroom that once belonged to Marc and John DeFeo. When he flicked a small bottle containing holy water and began to pray, he heard a masculine voice demand that he “get out”. Obviously, this scared the living daylights out of Father Pecoraro, and he left the house without informing George or Kathy as to what transpired upstairs. After his visit, Father Pecoraro developed a high fever. Around Christmas, the Father phoned George Lutz. Pecoraro told George to stay out of the upstairs bedroom, which now was being used as Kathy’s sewing room. The phone call didn’t last long however, due to static, and the Father’s hands immediately grew large blisters. At first, George and Kathy didn’t note that anything was odd- it was seemingly their dream come true. But as the days went by, things began to change. As the Lutz’s talked about their experiences subsequently, they made a comment that it was as if they “were each living in a different house”.

The 1979 movie rendition of Jay Anson’s book that stars James Brolin (Josh Brolin’s father) and Margot Kidder, details that George Lutz began to get more sullen and angry over a perceived cold in the house, and obsessed with splitting logs and keeping the fireplace stoked. Before Kathy’s brother’s engagement party one night, $1,500 which was to be used for the caterer inexplicably goes missing in the house. Meanwhile, the babysitter watching Amy (Kathy’s daughter’s real name was Missy) for the evening is locked inside a bedroom closet by an unseen force. Further unexplained incidents occur- for instance, one of the two boys suffered a crushed hand when a sash window fell on it, and Amy having an imaginary friend, Jody, who seems to be of a malevolent nature. At one point, Kathy caught a glimpse of two red, swine-like eyes outside her daughter’s second-story bedroom window. Even the family dog, Harry, obsessed over a secret room in the basement. George’s land surveying business begins to suffer with his lack of attendance, and his partner grows concerned. His business partner’s wife, who is very sensitive to the paranormal, is both repulsed and intrigued by the things she feels when at the house. While in the basement of the house, Carolyn begins demolishing a wall with a hammer, revealing a small room behind the wall. Discovering the damage, George takes down the rest of the wall, observing a small room with red walls. Carolyn, in terror, shrieks that they have found “the passage… to hell!” – only her voice now sounds like Father Delaney’s voice. (Father Pecoraro was renamed Father Delaney) Throughout the strange incidents, Kathy observed George’s persistent waking up at 3:15 a.m. She also had nightmares, in which she was given details about the killings of the home’s prior family. Research at the library and county records office suggested that the house is built atop a Shinnecock burial ground and that a known Satanic worshipper named John Ketchum had once lived on the land. She also discovered the news clippings about the DeFeo murders and noticed Butch’s striking resemblance to George. Finally, the paranormal events culminated on a stormy night. Blood oozed from the walls and down the staircase; Jody, appearing as a large, red-eyed pig, was seen through a window; and George attempted to kill the children with an axe, but regained his wits after Kathy disrupted him. After falling through the basement stairs into a pit of black sludge while rescuing Harry, George and the rest of the family drove away, abandoning their home and belongings. A final intertitle reads: “George and Kathleen Lutz and their family never reclaimed their house or their personal belongings. Today they live in another state.”

The book has gone on to sell over 10 million copies, but was/still is heavily criticized by residents of Amityville, and by the media. 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 1970’s, Father Pecoraro stated in an 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 episode of ‘In Search of…’, a documentary series hosted by Leonard Nimoy. Father Pecoraro’s face was obscured during the interview to preserve his identity. 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. The claims of physical damage to the locks, doors and windows were rejected by Jim and Barbara Cromarty, who bought the house for $55,000 in March 1977. In a television interview filmed at the house for ‘That’s Incredible!’, Barbara Cromarty argued that they (locks, door and windows) appeared to be the original items and had not been repaired. The ‘That’s Incredible!’ Show also detailed that the “Red Room” was a small closet in the basement and would have been known to the previous owners of the house (Lutzes) because it was not concealed in any way. The claim made in Chapter 11 of the book that the house was built on a site where the local Shinnecock Indians had once abandoned the mentally ill and the dying was rejected by local Native American leaders. The claim of cloven hoof prints in the snow on January 1st, 1976 was rejected by other researchers because weather records showed that there had been no snow in Amityville on that date. Neighbors reported nothing unusual during the time that the Lutzes were living there. Police officers are depicted visiting the house in the book and in the 1979 film, but records showed that the Lutzes did not call the police during the period that they were living on Ocean Avenue. Critics including Stephen Kaplan have pointed out that changes were made to the book as it was reprinted in different editions. In the original hardcover edition, Father Pecoraro’s car is “an old tan Ford” and he experiences an incident in which the hood flies up against the windshield while he is driving it. In later editions the car is described as a Chevrolet Vega, before reverting to a Ford.

In May 1977 George and Kathy Lutz filed a lawsuit against William Weber (the defense lawyer for Butch DeFeo at his trial), Paul Hoffman (a writer working on an account of the hauntings), Bernard Burton and Frederick Mars (both alleged clairvoyants who had examined the house), along with Good Housekeeping magazine, the New York Sunday News and the Hearst Corporation, all of which had published articles related to the hauntings. The Lutzes alleged misappropriation of names for trade purposes, invasion of privacy and mental distress. They claimed $4.5 million in damages. Hoffman, Weber, and Burton immediately filed a countersuit for $2 million alleging fraud and breach of contract. The claims against the news corporations were dropped for lack of evidence, and the remainder of the lawsuit was heard by Brooklyn U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein. In September 1979, Judge Weinstein dismissed the Lutzes’ claims and observed in his ruling: “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.” In the September 17th, 1979 issue of People magazine, William Weber wrote: “I know this book is a hoax. We created this horror story over many bottles of wine.” This refers to a meeting that Weber is said to have had with George and Kathy Lutz, during which they discussed what would later become the outline of Anson’s book. Judge Weinstein also expressed concern about the conduct of William Weber and Bernard Burton relating to the affair, stating: “There is a very serious ethical question when lawyers become literary agents.” 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 polygraph test relating to their experiences at the house. The polygraph tests were performed by Chris Gugas and Michael Rice who, at the time, were reportedly among the top 5 polygraph experts in America. The results, in Mr. Rice’s opinion did not indicate lying. In October 2000, The History Channel broadcast ‘Amityville: The Haunting’ and ‘Amityville: Horror or Hoax?’, a two-part documentary made by horror screenwriter/producer Daniel Farrands. 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.” 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 American folklore. The various owners of the house since the Lutz family left in 1976 have reported no problems while living there. James Cromarty commented: “Nothing weird ever happened, except for people coming by because of the book and the movie.” 

On the night of March 6th, 1976, the house was investigated by Ed and Lorraine Warren, a husband and wife team self-described as demonologists, together with a crew from the television station Channel 5 New York and reporter Michael Linder of WNEW-FM. “The very first night that Ed and I went into that home I was fearful, but I didn’t know what I was fearful of,” world-renowned clairvoyant Lorraine Warren said of her maiden trip inside 112 Ocean Avenue. “As I was going up the stairs, I reached the point where it felt as if a force of water was coming against my chest, almost like a waterfall,” Lorraine said, explaining her initial feeling inside the home. “It was the worst feeling. I stopped on the landing and held tight to the relic that was in my hand and asked for strength and direction in going forward. It felt ominous to me.”

During the course of the investigation Gene Campbell took a series of infrared time-lapse photographs. One of the images allegedly showed a “demonic boy” with glowing eyes who was standing at the foot of a staircase. Ed and Lorraine, and their team are adamant that no one else was in the vicinity of where the picture was taken, and are equally adamant that there were no children present at the time of the investigation. (Just like George and Kathy, Ed and Lorraine’s claims of a malevolent and ominous presence inside 112 Ocean Avenue is often called into question and is frequently looked at as being false.) 

George and Kathy Lutz had two daughters- Noel and Gabrielle, before divorcing in 1988. However, the couple remained close. In 2004 at the age of 57, Kathy Lutz died from emphysema. Just two years later, in 2006, George Lutz died from heart disease.

In 2005, Christopher Quaratino (Kathy’s son from her first marriage) gave an interview to the Seattle Times. An article details Christopher’s accounts of living in Amityville. In the article, Christopher says, “So far there’s been three representations of what happened in that house, and not one of them- not the book, not the movie, nor the remake released last month is accurate.” The article states that Christopher was just 7 when he moved into 112 Ocean Avenue. Christopher claims in the article that the haunting wasn’t a hoax- but that his step-father brought the troubles on himself by mixing with the occult, and then amplified what paranormal incidents did occur to profit off books and movies about the house. Christopher says of George, “He’s a professional showman, in my opinion. I just feel as though we’re being exploited.” According to Christopher, when the family moved into the house in 1975, George was “extremely curious of everything paranormal” and that he tried to summon supernatural beings by chanting. “I don’t know what I’d call it black magic, but it was… a way to call up spirits.” But Christopher insists that he did have run-ins with the paranormal, including a time he saw a presence “as definite as a shadow” in the shape of a man that moved toward him and then dissipated. Christopher said that he wanted to set the record straight from his step-father’s claims. Christopher goes on to say in the article, “He (George) points his finger at the house and says there’s something evil there. Fingers should be pointed at what he had done. He’s a perpetrator and an instigator.” 

In 2012, a documentary titled, ‘MY Amityville Horror’ was released, only this time it was centered around a now grown up 47 year old Daniel “Danny” Quaratino-Lutz. Danny maintains that while living at the house, he was spiritually and emotionally abused by phantoms. He blames his stepfather for the hauntings because, as Danny (and brother) claim, George dabbled in the occult. He recounts with rock-solid certainty that he watched his step-father practice telekinesis in the garage, and accused his step-father of using recreational drugs. Danny also claims that he was possessed by a spirit a la “The Exorcist”. But, even this documentary raises flags because Danny refuses to take a polygraph test. What is irrefutable is that Danny endured some sort of emotional- and psychological pain, though it’s cause may never become clear.  

Here is a complete list of every movie that has been made detailing 112 Ocean Avenue- and it’s supposed hauntings. ‘The Amityville Horror’ (1979); ‘Amityville 2: The Possession’ (1982); ‘Amityville 3: The Demon’ (1983); ‘Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes’ (1989); ‘The Amityville Curse’ (1990); ‘Amityville: It’s About Time’ (1992); ‘Amityville: A New Generation’ (1993); ‘Amityville Dollhouse’ (1996); ‘The Amityville Horror’ (2005 remake with Ryan Reynolds); ‘The Amityville Haunting’ (2011); ‘The Amityville Asylum’ (2013); ‘Amityville Death House’ (2015); ‘The Amityville Playhouse’ (2015); ‘Amityville: No Escape’ (2016); ‘Amityville: Vanishing Point’ (2016); ‘The Amityville Legacy’ (2016); ‘The Amityville Terror’ (2016); ‘Amityville Prison’ (2017); “Amityville: The Awakening’ (2017); ‘The Amityville Murders’ (2018); ‘The Amityville Harvest’ (2020). And I don’t want to forget to mention that there’s countless documentaries analyzing either the DeFeo murder case, or the “hauntings” to the Lutz family. 

In the end, there are only the facts: That on November 13th 1974, Butch DeFeo murdered all six members of his immediate family while they slept in their beds at 112 Ocean Avenue. Then, in December of 1975, an apparently stable family moved into their dream home, then just 28 days later, ran screaming from their new home and never returned. They abandoned their comfortable lives and fled to the other side of the country with three children in tow with no money, no employment prospects and no plans. But why!?!? 

There are only three *possible* explanations. 1.) This previously sane- and assuming couple risked their kids (and their livelihoods) on a bizarre get-rich-quick hoax, and the plot failed. 2.) The entire Lutz family fell victim to some previously undiagnosed case of mass hysteria or group delusion, though there was no previous history of mental disorders, and no reported use of drugs or alcohol that would suggest such behavior. 3.) The family was plagued by some unknown and unseen force that slowly drove them all to the brink of insanity and ultimately forced them to flee- never to return. Then, this same entity followed them from Amityville, across the country which caused the Lutz family to never recover. 

The reason why I don’t believe any of George and Kathy’s claims is because of their actions after the book and movie were released. The fact that they tried to sue for 4.5 million really shows me that they concocted up their paranormal experiences. When they began to get called out, that’s when they went on the defense. If George and Kathy actually experienced what they said, then other people would have come forward to back up their claims- and that just didn’t happen. What bothers me the most about all of this, is that the DeFeo murders have been overshadowed by the Lutz family’s claims of paranormal activity. I truly think that George and Kathy listened to Butch’s trial, then turned around and used his claims of being possessed as evidence to their own (made-up) experiences.  

Here is what I do believe. I believe that when a vicious murder occurs somewhere, something stays behind. Whether it’s a feeling or a spirit, I truly believe that in the space where a violent offense occurred, that space is affected. With that being said, because Butch DeFeo senselessly murdered six members of his family, all in the same night, I think that 112 Ocean Avenue did become a place where some phenomenon took place. I don’t think that the DeFeo’s ghosts are literally walking the halls, or that some demonic force is making the walls bleed. I’m talking about maybe a picture randomly falling off the wall for no reason, a door being unlocked when it was previously locked, or maybe a light going out with no explanation. Things that could be explained away. I’m talking about a feeling (like dread or apprehension) you might get if you walk into one of the rooms, or you suddenly feel like you walked outside when you’re actually inside.

But what do you believe? Or don’t you?

The version of the book that I had- and read.
Author Jay Anson on the cover of Writer’s Digest for the March 1979 issue.
The 1979 official movie poster, starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder.
The 2005 official movie poster, starring Ryan Reynolds.
George and Kathy Lutz, shortly after they fled from Amityville.
Christopher Quaratino- who was only just 7 years old at the time of the supposed hauntings- which is depicted from the picture on the left. On the right, is a current picture of Christopher, as he stands across the street from the house.
Danny Quaratino-Lutz. The top image is what he looked like at the time of the supposed hauntings, and the bottom picture is a still from ‘MY Amityville Horror’- a documentary released a few years ago.
Ed and Lorraine Warren.
The now infamous photograph taken inside 112 Ocean Avenue during Ed and Lorraine’s investigation. Notice “the boy with glaring eyes” by the staircase. Ed and Lorraine are adamant that there wasn’t a boy standing there when the picture was taken.

Published by caitiejobug

I’m a SAHM of one, a loving wife, daughter, and sister. Reading and writing are my favorite hobbies, along with watching true crime documentaries.

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