The Real Amityville Horror: A Look Back at the Defeo Murders

November 14, 2016
By: Catherine Townsend

Photo by: Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Many of us associate the iconic “Amityville Horror” house with a book about hauntings, but the real-life “Amityville murders” that took place there were worse than any scene from the slasher films that followed.

November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr., shot and killed six members of his family at 112 Ocean Avenue, situated in the picture-perfect suburban neighborhood in Amityville on Long Island, New York.

Cover of The Amityville Horror book by Jay Anson [Wikimedia Commons]

Cover of The Amityville Horror book by Jay Anson [Wikimedia Commons]

Lutz, who claimed that voices told him to kill his family, was convicted of second-degree murder in November 1975.

One month later, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into the five-bedroom Dutch Colonial house, which they had bought for $80,000.

The couple fled just 28 days later after claiming that they had been terrorized by paranormal activity. They claimed that Father Ray, the Catholic priest they asked to bless the house, heard a masculine voice telling him to “get out” when he flicked the holy water.

In the book, the family also alleged that they saw mysterious hoof prints in the snow, red demon eyes, slime pouring from the walls, and a hanging crucifix revolving and reversing direction.

Ronald DeFeo, Jr. mug shot [Suffolk County Police Department]

Ronald DeFeo, Jr. mug shot [Suffolk County Police Department]

In mid-January 1976, the family fled the house with their dog Harry.

They later submitted around 45 hours of tape-recorded recollections to author Jay Anson, who used them as the basis for the book The Amityville Horror.

The couple’s ghostly ordeal may have been over, but their legal troubles were just beginning.

The house’s new owners, Jim and Barbara Cromarty, said they experienced nothing paranormal, but sued publisher Prentice-Hall and Jay Anson for invasion of privacy, and received an out-of-court settlement.

The Lutzes were also sued by Father Ralph Pecararo for distorting his involvement in the “haunting” and invasion of privacy. William Weber, who was Ronald DeFeo, Jr.’s, defense attorney, sued the Lutzes for a share of the profits from the book and original movie, claiming that he came up with the idea for a book with George Lutz. The couple filed their own suit against Weber, which stated that the book was true.

I know this book is a hoax,” Weber told People magazine in 1979. “We created this horror story over many bottles of wine.”

On September 10, 1979, Judge Weinstein dismissed the Lutzes’ suit and said, “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.”

Since the Lutzes left, the house has had four owners — and zero reported hauntings. The home was listed for sale in June of 2016 with a price tag of $800,000.

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