Why I'm An Amityville "Expert"
Ian Plummer for LittleThings
I was born on Long Island and have lived there for all 22 years of my life.
Growing up, Amityville wasn’t really a topic of conversation, and I didn’t even see the movie until I was in high school. At that point, I knew Amityville was on Long Island, but had no idea exactly where it was, or how to get there.
As I grew up, I started to become more intrigued by the story behind Amityville. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that one of America’s most famous haunted houses was just minutes away from my own — so I started doing research to learn some more about it.
What I learned was interesting — and revealed that what I thought I knew before was totally wrong.
The most important thing to remember about the Amityville case, I think, is that it is truly a tragedy before anything else. There may be an interesting “ghost story” involved, but the true story involves the tragic lives and deaths of a real family. Six people were killed in Amityville on November 13, 1974, and four of them were innocent children. The man who killed them was a son and a brother who was struggling in his life as well. I sometimes think that fact gets forgotten in all the chaos surrounding the idea of a haunted house, but I’d like to make sure we remember the DeFeo family respectfully.
What People Think They Know About The Amityville Horror House
Most people’s knowledge of The Amityville Horror comes from the movies.
There have been quite a few films made about this incident, but the two most popular are the the 1979 and 2005 versions, both called The Amityville Horror.
The story those movies tell is pretty basic, and it’s the story most people accept as true.
If you’ve never seen them, allow me to summarize.
On November 13, 1974, a 23-year-old man named Ronald DeFeo Jr. killed his mother, father, and four younger siblings in their family home in Amityville, New York. The story goes that Ronnie was influenced by ghosts or demons that possessed the home.
Shortly after the murders occurred and Ronnie was put in jail, another family moved into the DeFeo home. That family was made up of George Lutz, Kathy Lutz, and Kathy’s three children. But within days of moving in, the Lutz family started to experience some frightening stuff, from disembodied voices screaming “GET OUT!” to green slime oozing from their walls. After a failed attempt to bless the house (and after their daughter began talking to a creepy imaginary friend), the Lutz family abandoned the Amityville home in the middle of the night, leaving everything behind. They had lived there just 28 days.
That story is presented in both Amityville movies, and I think it’s the most popular version of the story. But very little of it is actually true.
What The Movies Got Right
The movies didn’t get everything wrong. Ronald DeFeo Jr. was convicted of murdering his family, and was given six consecutive life sentences. The Lutz family did move into the home just over two months after the murders, and did abandon it 28 days later.
But everything that happened in between? More than likely, it’s all made up.
Here are some facts about the house in Amityville you might not know.
8 Facts About The Real Amityville House
If the movies present so little truth, then what actually happened? Here’s what I’ve put together, through research and local knowledge.
1. A Book Came Out Before The Movie
In 1977, a book called The Amityville Horror started the whole story. The book was written by Jay Anson. The movies that followed were adaptations of the book, not of the true story.
2. Timing Was Really Important
The fact that The Amityville Horror became such a big phenomenon has a lot to do with when it happened.
The original The Exorcist movie had come out just a year before the murders, in 1973. The Exorcist was the first “real” horror film, and because of that, it captivated audiences everywhere. By 1977, when The Amityville Horror book was published, the public was desperate for a scare just as good as The Exorcist. That’s exactly what the story of Amityville provided. The 1970s were also plagued by real horror happening on the streets when news of the Zodiac killer reached mainstream media.
3. People Were Murdered There, But The House Is Not Haunted
In the eyes of the law, Ronald DeFeo Jr. did murder his entire family that night in Amityville. He is now serving jail time for that crime.
But in 1979, William Weber, Ronald’s attorney, called the book “a hoax.” He told People magazine that he, along with the Lutz family, had made the whole thing up themselves.
Many people believe that this story was made up to help Ronald’s defense. He tried to plea insanity to avoid jail time, and used the demon storyline as part of his story. It didn’t work.
4. A Family Currently Lives In The House
Gwendolyn Plummer for LittleThings
After the Lutz family abandoned the home, someone else bought it.
The idea of buying a reportedly haunted house where four murders occurred may seem off-putting to some, but plenty of people don’t mind at all! According to The Washington Post, the house on Ocean Avenue has been owned by four families since 1974.
The house is located at 112 Ocean Avenue, although one of the families who later moved in actually requested a change of address because so many people were trying to take pictures of their home. The house is now numbered 108, and there is no 112 on Ocean Avenue anymore.
Still, if you put 112 Ocean Avenue into your GPS, it’ll take you to the right place.
5. But The House Looks Drastically Different Than It Does On Screen
The real house on Ocean Avenue is actually turned on its side.
From the street, you can only see the side of the home, most of which is blocked by a large tree. You can’t see the front door well at all, because it faces the driveway. This is a little added privacy for the family that lives there now.
One of the most iconic features of the house is attic windows that look like “eyes.” Those windows, which showed up in both movies, have since been replaced by regular square-shaped windows.
6. The House Sold For $850,000 — And That's A Serious Markdown
Gwendolyn Plummer for LittleThings
In November 2016, the house on Ocean Avenue sold for a whopping $850,000, as reported by Long Island’s local newspaper, Newsday.
The family who sold the house had bought it in 2010 for $950,000, a markdown from the $1.15 million that it was originally listed for.
7. It's Not Really A Tourist Attraction
Because there is a family living in the home, you can’t just stop by and visit. And you definitely can’t go inside.
I’ve heard plenty of people say that the homeowners would make a ton of money if they opened it up for tours on Halloween, but there seems to be no interest in that. Out of respect for the DeFeo family, I think that’s a good choice.
8. But People Visit Anyway
There’s not much to see, but people take trips to Amityville to catch a glimpse of the legendary home anyway.
I have driven past the home three times. Once, I was with family friends from out of town who wanted to take a look. I parked on a side street (Ocean Avenue is actually a pretty busy road) so they could get a look. I stayed inside the car, but when my family friends came back inside they told me they’d met someone else who’d come from another state just to see the house. This is not uncommon, although I’m sure the people who live there now aren’t too happy about it.
9. The House Is Actually Waterside In A Rich Town
Gwendolyn Plummer for LittleThings
Amityville itself is a peaceful, wealthy, sleepy suburb of New York City. There’s a gorgeous town center nearby, and plenty of stunning houses and cute, treelined streets to stroll down.
According to Newsday, the house is a five-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bath home. It is 5,000 square feet, and sits on .27 of an acre. It even comes with a boathouse and a slip, as it backs right onto the Amityville River.
All in all, it sounds like a lovely place to call home.
The story behind The Amityville Horror has captivated audiences for over three decades now. Even if not all of it is true, it still makes for quite the ghost story.
Still, for the sake of the victims of the Amityville murders, I think it’s important to remember what’s true and what’s just a story.
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