112 Ocean Avenue was a six-bedroom Dutch Colonial style house built in 1924. The best known feature of the house was, at one time, its pair of quarter circle shaped windows on the third floor attic level, which gave it an eerie, eye-like appearance. These windows have since been removed and the house renumbered to keep tourists away. The image above is the house as it appears today.
The original house will be no stranger to people who love horror movies. It is the house on which the film The Amityville Horror is based.
On November 13, 1974, 23-year old Ronald DeFeo, Jr. fatally shot six members of his family at the house. During his murder trial in 1975, he claimed that voices in his head had urged him to carry out the killings. He was found guilty and is still in jail in New York.
In December 1975, George Lutz and his wife, Kathy, found the house for sale at the knockdown price of $80,000. They snapped it up and moved in with their three children.
However, after just 28 days they left the house in fear, claiming to have been tormented by paranormal phenomena while living there.
The family experienced demonic voices, foul smells, faces at the windows, screams, moving objects, and all manner of bizarre phenomena.
The Lutzes tried to bless the house with prayer themselves, but their efforts had no effect. Finally, they were subjected to events that terrified them so badly, they knew they had to get out. The Lutzes never disclosed all the things that happened on their last terror-filled night, but among the phenomena were bangings and a menacing hooded apparition that appeared on the stairs and pointed at George.
They left the house on January 14, 1976, and went to the home of Kathy’s mother in Deer Park, New York. In their haste to leave, they left most of their belongings behind and sent a mover to collect them later.
After the house was vacated, Demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren were contacted and met with the Lutzes and Father Pecoraro. On their first visit, they brought with them a television anchorman, a professor from Duke University, and the president of the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR). The Warrens determined that the phenomena fit the characteristics of a demonic possession, which the Lutzes, who knew nothing of demonology, could not have fabricated.
The Warrens took numerous photographs, including one purporting to show the face of the demon boy peering out from a bedroom. Hans Holzer was another investigator present at the time.
The Lutzes soon wondered if the house itself might have influenced DeFeo to commit the murders. They contacted William Weber, DeFeo’s attorney. Weber was already weighing book offers about the DeFeo murders, and he found the angle of a malevolent haunting to be appealing. For several hours, they discussed ideas for such a book.
The Lutzes decided not to work with Weber however. They especially did not like Weber’s intention to give a share of profits to DeFeo. The Lutzes moved to San Diego, California, where they struck a deal with author Jay Anson. Anson’s nonfiction account, The Amityville Horror, was published in 1977. He never visited the house, but based the book on 45 hours of taped interviews that the Lutzes provided him. The book was adapted to film in 1979.
The case became a media sensation. Anson’s account was immediately controversial, and skeptics began claiming the entire haunting was a hoax. Discrepancies in Anson’s story, which may have been embellished for the purposes of dramatization, were highlighted.
For example, there was no snow in Amityville on the day that cloven hoofprints were supposed to have been seen. The assertion that part of the problem was due to the house’s location on a place where Shinnecock Indians had once abandoned mentally ill and dying people was refuted by Native Americans.
Father Pecoraro said he did not go to the house to bless it; the Lutzes always asserted that he did.
Many more points of controversy surfaced. Even the Warrens and George Lutz acknowledged that Anson’s book was not entirely accurate, but attributed it to Anson’s lack of familiarity with demonology and not due to any deliberate acts on the part of George Lutz. Among the skeptics were Jerry Solfvin of the Psychical Research Foundation, Karlis Osis and Alex Tanous of the ASPR, all of whom visited the house but conducted no investigations, opining that the phenomena were subjective, not paranormal.
For years, the case was repeatedly debunked, validated, debunked, and validated. One later skeptic was Stephen Kaplan, a self-styled vampirologist of Long Island, who wrote a book, The Amityville Conspiracy (1995), basing his claims of hoax on inaccuracies in Anson’s book.
He declined to produce evidence that he stated he had in his possession. He later apologized publicly to the Warrens, admitting that he had fabricated his hoax story. Kaplan died of a heart attack shortly after publication of his book.