Anyone who has access to a TV or the internet has seen or even just heard of The Amityville Horror. I mean, get Ryan Reynolds to play the main character and you’ve got some notoriety and a box office smash hit. However, behind the lights and red carpet premieres, the story of what happened in Amityville might be a little dramatised for the big screen, but what happened before the Lutz’s reports is nothing short of horrifying. And what disturbs me most about this case is that even without the ghosts and demonic possession, this is a horrible tale of murder and disturbed being. This is the story of the real Amityville Horror.
112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York. December 19, 1975.
George and Kathy Lutz and their three children, Daniel, Christopher and Missy, move into their new home, “High Hopes”, on Ocean Avenue, in the affluent village of Amityville, New York. The furniture from the previous owners is included for only $400 more, thinking this was a steal, the Lutz’s happily give the furniture a second life. The following 28 days was nothing short of terrifying, as the houses horrid history became more than reality for George and Kathy Lutz.
Henry’s Bar, Amityville, New York. November 13, 1974. 6:30pm.
23-year-old Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. runs screaming from his home at 112 Ocean Avenue to Henry’s Bar. He throws open the bar’s door and yells to the patrons “You got to help me! I think my mother and father are shot!” (imagine all quotes in a Long Island accent, it makes the story much more entertaining). A small group of men, including Robert “Bobby” Kelske, along with Joey Yeswit, John Altieri, Al Saxton and William Scordmaglia and Butch, get into Butch’s 1970 Buick Electra 225 and drive one block to Butch’s home. One of the men, Joe Yeswit, makes an emergency call to the Suffolk County Police after finding Butch’s family all dead inside the home. The bodies of 43-year-old Ronald Sr., 42-year-old Louise, 18-year-old Dawn, 13-year-old Allison, 12-year-old Marc and 9-year-old John Matthew were all found facedown on their beds. They had been shot with a .35 calibre lever action Marlin 336C rifle at around 3am that day.
Butch was beside himself. He sobbed uncontrollably, slamming his hands down on the police car. The police tried to get him to come back inside to discuss what happened but he refused, screaming “I’m not going to go back in that house!”. Eventually, police were able to calm him and bring him into the kitchen of High Hopes to get his side of the story. Butch denied any knowledge of the slayings, claiming that the family, who had ties to the Mob, had been victim to a mob hit carried out by a man named Louis Falini. However, Falini was cleared due to being out of town at the time of the killings.
Butch DeFeo was taken into custody for his own protection and on November 14, he confessed to the murders of his family. Butch had given multiple different accounts as to what happened at 3:15am on November 13, and still gives a different version of events every time he is interviewed.
Some versions include:
Louise killed the children, Dawn killed Louise, then Butch killed Dawn.
Dawn killed the children, Butch killed the parents, after finding out she killed the children Butch struggled with Dawn for the gun and it accidentally went off, killing her.
Butch killed the entire family by himself while they slept after watching TV in a drug-induced haze, when a dark hooded figure approached him, handing him the rifle and urged him to commit the murders.
Satan made him do it.
The truth was, Ronald DeFeo Sr. was a bit of a dick. He ruled his family with an iron fist, beating his wife and children before showering them with money and gifts. The psychological hold Ronnie Sr. had over his family had a profound effect on his children, Butch especially. Butch was heavily into drugs such as LSD, marijuana and Heroin, he was also a heavy drinker (consuming a bottle of Scotch a day) and used these substances to cope with his life. Although the DeFeo’s had money, they were not happy. It also came out that Dawn wasn’t exactly happy with her home life either, after both her parents refused to allow her to go live with her boyfriend, William Davidge, in Florida.
Ronald “Butch” DeFeo’s Trial. October-December 1975.
On October 14, Butch and his defence attorney, William Weber, present their claim of Insanity at DeFeo’s trial. Butch claims he heard voices that told him to kill his family. He tells the story about the black hooded figure with black hands who gives him the gun to kill his family. However, their efforts are wasted. It is proven that Butch has an anti-social personality disorder, but that doesn’t mean he’s insane. He is still held responsible for the murders.
On November 21, Butch is found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder.
On December 4, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo is sentenced to six concurrent sentences of 25 years to life. He is currently being held at Sullivan Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison in New York. As of present day, all of his parole appeals have been denied.
Many theories have been thrown around regarding the murder of the DeFeo family. A lot of the theories work around the idea that the type of gun used to kill the family was not exactly a silent killer. The rifle had a decibel reading high enough to wake not only the inhabitants of the home but of the entire street. So it was strange that no-one in the family heard the gunshots and managed to escape. The idea of a second shooter is often put forward.
One that sticks out to me is that Dawn DeFeo too was an avid user of LSD and had some arguments with her family. It is possible that she and Butch had conspired to kill their parents. It is believed that Dawn used to wear a dark hood, and a witness claimed to see Dawn leaving the home with a rifle on the night of the murders wearing her dark hood. Some people theorise that the dark-hooded being Butch claimed to see was, in fact, Dawn and that in his drug-fuelled haze, he was unable to determine it was her. Butch did have a history of violence. Maybe Butch was too drugged up to go through with their plan at the time and Dawn took it upon herself to murder the family. When Butch saw that she had killed them, he became upset and killed her too. Another theory is that Butch and Dawn were involved in an incestuous relationship and the family found out. The children were “mercy killings” by Dawn and Butch didn’t agree.
The truth may never really come out as to why the murders took place, it is all just theory and speculation. Butch’s stories continue to change, so it is unlikely that we will ever know the actual events of that night.
The Hauntings, Fact and Fabrication.
Humour me with the supernatural for a while. When it comes to haunted houses and strange goings-on, there are two main “types” of haunting that are likely to be going on. The first is residual, a play-by-play, if you will, of a previous event that left the deceased traumatised and trapped in the home reliving what happened to them. These hauntings are usually considered terrifying, but not harmful to those in the home. They were human and probably have no idea that they are actually dead. The other type is that of demonic possession, which is when an entity which was never human takes up residence in a home and possesses those who inhabit it.
According to George and Kathy Lutz, their new home in Amityville was possessed. They claimed many strange, supernatural things happened in High hopes over the 28 days they lived there, and although I myself may believe in the supernatural, I also truly believe the Lutz’s were full of shit.
Some of the claims include:
George waking up at 3:15am every night (that was the suspected time of the murders)
Kathy feeling someone embrace her
Their daughter Missy said she had an imaginary friend called Jodie, who was a giant pig with glowing eyes
Cloven hoofprints were found in the snow outside the house, they were attributed to a giant pig. Except, the weather record for that day showed no snow in Amityville.
George saw Kathy transform into a 90-year-old woman. He said, “the hair wild a shocking white, the face a mass of wrinkles and ugly lines, and saliva dripping from the toothless mouth.”
A Crucifix, which was hung in the living room by Kathy, revolved until it was upset down on the wall and smelt terribly
Lutz children began sleeping on their stomachs, just like how the DeFeo family were found.
Kathy began having vivid nightmares about the killings, the order in which they occurred and the rooms where the bodies were found.
On January 14, 1976, George and Kathy Lutz and their kids fled 112 Ocean Avenue, leaving all their belongings behind (a mover came the next day and gathered the things to send to them).
Butch DeFeo’s lawyer, William Weber, was approached by George and Kathy Lutz. They said they felt sorry for Butch, claiming they believed he was truly possessed by a demonic entity. But Weber later told a different story. He said “We created this horror story over many bottles of wine… It is a hoax.”.
The book, The Amityville Horror was written by Jay Anson and published in September 1977. The book became a bestseller and gained worldwide notoriety. It was the inspiration for the 1979 Horror film of the same name. It may seem far-fetched now for journalists and the general public to believe a story of a house possessed by demonic entities, but this was the 70’s. The Exorcist was a box office smash only years previous to the events in Amityville and the US was in the infant stages of the Satanic Panic. The Lutzes and Anson took advantage of this interest, overshadowing the terrible thing that actually happened within the walls of High Hopes in November 1974.
Even though George and Kathy Lutz both took lie detector tests, and passed, there have been no reports of odd activity in 112 Ocean Avenue by any of the owners after them. James Cromarty, a resident of the home for 10 years after the Lutzes, said the only weird thing about that house was all the visitors due to the book and movie.
I believe that the Lutz family took full advantage of the situation and exploited the murders for their own gain, and it worked. That’s not to say that they’re bad people or what they did was wrong. We all want to believe in the dark, mysterious and macabre. It is human nature to be fascinated by things that are taboo. We love a scandal, we love true crime and things that go bump in the night. We love to read and write about the dark crevices of the human psyche. We love to be terrified and scared. Sometimes a mass shooting of an innocent doesn’t press the buttons enough. We are becoming desensitised more and more to extreme violence and horror. Someones we need more. And we are all like Butch DeFeo, who once said himself, “Once I started, I just couldn’t stop,”.
Last Podcast on The Left. Episode 175-176. https://open.spotify.com/episode/6YicC7xN3ttykJR59QERWw