Week 3 of Spooky Season and Emily and Rachel are upping the stakes once again. First, Rachel tells us about the Salem Witch Trials. Then, Emily tells the multilayered story of the Amityville Horror; first the annihilation of the DeFeo family and then the haunting of the Lutz family. Hopefully, you’re horrified.
The Salem Witch Trials
Let’s do this thing: We’re talking about the Salem Witch Trials.
But, before we can go to Salem, we have to make a stop in Europe. From the early 1400s to the late 1700s, thousands of supposed witches were unfairly tried and murdered all over Europe. Culturally, people were othered if they were not Catholics (or later protestants, but this is pre Marty Luther), and the pope was all, listen, it’s cool to eradicate people who are into black magic.
Around the same time, from the 1300s until 1860, Europe started experiencing the Little Ice Age. It was colder than a witch’s tit up there. So villages got all sorts of unfortunate weather: Frosts, hail, flooding… and of course that led to plague critters; mice and caterpillars. Crops were not great, and listen, it’s because of those witches.
And in 1689, English rulers William and Mary decided it would be cool to start a war with France and the American Colonies. And as happens during wars, people got displaced… and many of these refugees ended up in Salem. So this puritanical town quickly becomes more of a melting pot, and there is a shit ton of tension between socioeconomic classes. And resources in Salem are strained, because remember, there is a war going on.
Also in 1689 Salem, the first ordained minister was stirring some shit up. His name was Samuel Parris. Apparently, he was a bit of a buzzkill – he was rigid and greedy, and the puritanical population thought that all of the fighting going on was the work of the devil.
Just a quick aside, I cannot stop myself from making Water Boy jokes. Mama always said girls were the devil. I will do my best not to let them get out of control.
So tensions boil for a couple of years. And then in 1692, Samuel Parris’ 9-year-old daughter Elizabeth and 11-year-old niece Abigail started having fits. They screamed, they threw things, they were contorting their bodies in ways that made everyone feel pretty uncomfortable. This also happened to another 11-year-old girl in Salem, Ann Putnam. Of course, Samuel Parris consulted a doctor. And this guy was all *shrug noises,* it’s probably something supernatural.
Obviously we can’t have any of that spooky business in this puritan town. So these two magistrates, Jonathan Corwin and John Hawthorne, pressured these adolescents to tell them who was bewitching them. Eventually, the girls gave three names: Tituba, who was an enslaved woman working for Samuel Parris’s family, Sarah Good, who was a homeless beggar, and Sarah Osborne, who was an elderly woman living in poverty.
Of course, the magistrates interrogated the bajeesus out of these innocent women. Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne claimed innocence. Ironically, Tituba confessed to being a witch. She essentially said that the devil made her do it, and that there were a bunch of witch around who had it out for the puritans. All three of these women were jailed.
I am going to guess that Tituba saying that there were other witch ready to take down puritanical culture was a main factor in how paranoid everybody got. There was a lot of finger-pointing at women, including Martha Corey, who was a member of the church. If she could get possessed, anyone could. The magistrates also questioned a 4-year-old named Dorothy, who was Sarah Good’s daughter. And of course, this poor kid was scared, so the magistrates took her answers as a confession of her mother’s guilt.
Over the next few months, more people were questioned about engaging in witch craft. But shit got real on May 27, 1692. The governor, William Phipps, ordered a special court to rule over the witch trials. The first woman brought in to be tried by this court was named Bridget Bishop. She was an older woman known for being a gossip and for being promiscuous, or as I might call her, someone who sounds pretty fun. She was asked about whether or not she practiced witchcraft, and she said, “I am as innocent as the child unborn.” But according to the courts, she was not innocent. She was found guilty on June 10, and she was the first woman to be hanged as a witch on Gallows Hill, as it would come to be known.
Five days later, a minister named Cotton Mather wrote a letter to the courts asking them not to make decisions based on spectral evidence, essentially, people testifying against the alleged witches because they had a dream or vision about them. But the court was like, “Screw you bro, we don’t have any other evidence.” And multiple women were hanged over the next few months. In October, Increase Mather, president of Harvard and Cotton Mather’s father, was also very upset by the allowance of spectral evidence. He wrote the courts, saying “It were better that ten suspected witch should escape than one innocent person be condemned.”
And for the record, spectral evidence was the main evidence brought against people in the Salem Witch Trials. It’s pretty easy to point at someone and say you had a dream about them torturing you, and hard to prove. There was some more *ahem* concrete evidence, like that accused people had certain ointments or books about the occult. Or my favorite evidence, that they had a “witch teat,” which was an odd mole or blemish on their bodies. Rude.
In July, a woman named Rebecca Nurse was accused, tried, and found guilty of witch craft. This woman’s hanging was important, because she was a religious, pious, well-liked member of the community. So much so that people signed a petition for her release; spoilers, it didn’t work. After Rebecca’s execution on July 19, the people of Salem started to wonder how valid the witch trials were.
Throughout all of these witch trials, the afflicted girls, as they had come to be known, AKA the girls who were having the “fits,” were the main accusers of the witch. But some historians think that their parents, namely Thomas Putnam and Samuel Parris, were encouraging the girls to accuse people in the community of being witch because they didn’t like them.
One famous opponent of the Salem Witch Trials was John Proctor. He was a local farmer, and he said the afflicted girls were scamming everyone. So of course, the townspeople were all, “hmmmmmm…. He’s a witch!” They accused John Proctor, and his entire family – including his children and his pregnant wife Elizabeth Proctor – of being witch. John Proctor was hanged on August 19. Thankfully, Elizabeth Proctor was released, but this is 17th century New England… not a great time or place for a single mom.
Another infamous event during the Salem Witch Trials was the horrific torture and eventual death of Giles Corey. Giles was accused of witchcraft in April, when his wife was suspected of it. One thing to note about these witch trials is that accused people didn’t get a lawyer or any sort of consult. They essentially stood in front of the court and just got to enter their plea of guilty or not guilty. Giles refused to enter a plea – he wanted to stall his trial, because if he was found guilty, is estate would be confiscated, and his children would not receive their inheritance.
This was a ballsy move, because there was an English law stating that anyone who refused to plead could be tortured so a plea could be forced out of them. And I’m going to describe the torture, so, trigger warning.
The prisoner would be laid out on the ground naked, with a board placed on top of them. Then, heavy stones would be placed onto the board, gradually increasing the weight on top of their body until the prisoner finally entered a plea… or died. Giles Corey was tortured for three days until he finally died on September 19.
Finally, at the end of October the Governor was like, “okay fine,” but I think it was more due to the fact that his own wife was questioned about being a witch. But he did prohibit more arrests and released a lot of the accused witches. He also dismantled that court. You know, the one that he assembled in the first place? But don’t worry, because he put together a new, better court: The Superior Court of Judicature. This court said, no more spectral evidence. And don’t worry, they only condemned 3 out of 56 potential witches. Governor Phipps did end up pardoning women who were imprisoned on charges of witch craft in May of 1693, but at this point, 19 people had been hanged on Gallows Hill, one man had been pressed to death, and several more had died while imprisoned, and over 200 people had been accused of practicing the devil’s magic.
And even if they weren’t hanged, they were imprisoned. The jails started getting overcrowded, so the alleged witches were kept in Salem, Ipswich, and Boston. And the Salem jail had a dungeon underneath it. Which is just…. Awesome.
People accused of witch craft were considered to be dangerous, so they were kept in the dungeon. And this is really terrible – they were chained to the walls, because the jailors thought this would keep their spirits from leaving the jail and tormenting victims.
I do have a list of the people who were executed: Bridget Bishop, Sarah Good, Elizabeth Howe, Susannah Martin, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Wildes, George Burroughs, Martha Carrier, John Willard, George Jacobs, Sr, John Proctor, Alice Parker, Mary Parker, Ann Pudeator, Wilmot Redd, Margaret Scott, Samuel Wardwell, Martha Corey, and Mary Easty. And of course, Giles Corey was tortured to death. And, in case that wasn’t enough horrible for you, two dogs were also suspected of witch craft, shot, and killed.
Obviously, all of this is tragic, and Salem had a lot of recovering to do from all the trauma. By the late 1690s, some people actually did admit guilt and take responsibility for what happened, including a judge from the special court, Samuel Sewall. Also, in 1697, the court ordered a day of “fasting and soul searching” so that everyone could reflect on what happened during the witch trials. In 1702, the witch trials were declared unlawful, and in 1711, a bill was passed that restored rights and reputations of the accused, and they gave £600 restitution to their families. The state of Massachusetts took a little longer to come around, but they did formally apologize for the Salem Witch Trials in 1957.
Let’s talk about some of the theories about what caused the mass hysteria in 1692, shall we? In 1976, a psychologist, Linda Caporael, hypothesized that the “fits” the girls had been having were due to a fungus, ergot, which can be found in wheat. Some symptoms of eating foods contaminated with ergot include: delusions, hallucinations, muscle spasms, and vomiting.
Some other theories are epilepsy, Lyme disease, unusually cold weather, and family rivalries, which I thought was especially interesting. Also, people were super religious and genuinely scared of the devil.
It’s important to remember that a lot of the people who were targeted were already othered in the community, either because they had different religious beliefs, or they were “promiscuous,” or just disliked. Also, when people were found guilty, they lost their estates. So some people, like Giles Corey, may have been targeted because they had some wealth and accusers wanted to get their dirty little hands on it.
Now, there is a Salem Witch Trials Memorial located where the old dungeon was. It is 20 granite benches and surrounded by a low stone wall. There are stone stabs in the entry t hat are inscribed with victim’s protests. The inscriptions say: “For my life now lies in your hands,” “On my dying day, I am no witch,” “God knows I am innocent,” “Oh Lord help me,” “I am wholly innocent of such wickedness,” “If I would confess I should save my life,” and “I do plead not guilty.”
Black locust trees are planted around the memorial, which are the type of trees the many witch were hanged from.
And that is the horrible story of the Salem Witch Trials.
Today I’m going to tell you the story of the Amityville Horror. The true story. This all begins with the DeFeo family. A family of seven, the DeFeos had a somewhat troubled history.
The patriarch of the family was Ronald Joseph “Big Ronnie” DeFeo, Sr. who was born on November 16, 1930, to parents Rocco and Antoinette DeFeo. When he was younger, Big Ronnie was thin, handsome, and charming. With his nice face, he was able to attract the attention of Louise Marie Brigante.
Louise was born on November 3, 1931, to Michael and Angela Brigante and apparently, she was also a hottie because she wanted to pursue a modeling career. Apparently, she rubbed elbows with legendary singer Mel Torme at some point, so her dream was probably actually realistic. Of course, love got in the way – as it does, because after a very brief courtship, Big Ronnie and Louise got married.
This thoroughly pissed off Louise’s parents. They actually cut all ties with the couple… but they just couldn’t quit them after Louise birthed their first grandchild, Ronald Joseph DeFeo Jr. on September 26, 1951. Growing up, they referred to Ronald Jr. as Butch – and he had a tough life.
His father expected a lot from him and frankly, he wasn’t afraid to discipline Butch using cruel and unusual punishment. In particular, he probably gave the kid love whiplash – one minute, he would hug Buth; the next minute, he would literally throw him across the room.
Apparently, family members reported later that they had seen Ron smash Butch’s head into the wall once. Head wound anyone? It didn’t help that Butch was extremely overweight as a kid, and would remain so until his later teenage years when he began using drugs. Unfortunately, that made Butch’s school life miserable. Bigger kids would make fun of him, calling him names like, “the blob,” “Bucky Beaver,” and “pork chop.” Kids are ruthless.
Then, on July 29, Louise gave birth to a daughter, Dawn Theresa DeFeo. A few years later, on August 16, 1961, Louise gave birth to Allison Louise DeFeo, and then again on September 4, 1962 to Marc Gregory DeFeo. Last but not least, on October 24, 1965, the family’s third son, John Matthew DeFeo, was born.
Around the time of John’s birth, the family moved from their Brooklyn apartment to the affluent Long Island South Shore community of Amityville. They bought a big ole house, that seemed a little bit like it might have been more pricey than what they could afford, but people suspected that Big Ronnie could afford such a lavish home on a car dealer’s service manager’s salary thanks to his father-in-law, Michael Brigante, Sr.
So the family settled in, but as Butch got older, his temper became worse than his father’s. He and his father had fisticuffs frequently and Butch was described as unpredictable – or as Charlie Kelley would say WILD CARD BITCHES. Basically, his temper would flare for absolutely no reason – to the point where his parents sent him to a psychiatrist, which wasn’t super common back in the 60s. Unfortunately, psychiatry failed and they resorted to just straight up giving Butch whatever he wanted (always a great plan) – these treats for being a jackass included a speedboat.
Due to his behavior, Butch was asked to leave Amityville High School at age 17 and since his parents didn’t seem to want to do anything but baby him, that was like providing him a free ride to just do whatever the hell he wanted. So, of course, he began to use LSD and heroin and his behavior became increasingly unpredictable and violent. There was one instance where he was on a hunting trip with friends and Butch aimed his rifle at one of his friends. The man, rightfully freaked out, up and left in a hurry and when Butch saw his friend later that day, he was like “dude why did you leave so early??” Apparently completely oblivious to how freaky that would be.
At age 18, he began working (and I say working pretty loosely) for his father, aka he was not actually showing up for work but was being given a weekly paycheck. When he did show up, he worked in the service department doing oil changes, tune-ups, and washes
In his free time, he was pretty much drinking with friends at bars and being a seemingly normal guy other than the fact that every once in a while he would lose it and throw a bar stool or pool cue.
Another instance of his temper was shared by Sherry Klein, his girlfriend at the time, who recalled an incident when Butch went to her apartment with some friends. They became very rowdy and when she tried to calm Butch down, he shoved her across the room. She reportedly climbed through a window and went to her parent’s house to get away from him.
Then, in about October of 1974, Butch threatened his father with a gun during an argument – which I’m like, who the EFF gave this guy a gun?? But, the reason was because his father had trusted him with making a $20,000 deposit for the dealership and Butch said that the money was stolen and his father didn’t believe him. When police questioned Butch about the robbery, he was described as being uncooperative and even violent.
Just a few weeks after this event, in November of 1974, when Butch was 23-years-old and still working for his father he had another trashy human episode. At this point he was on probation after pleading guilty to having a stolen outboard motor. He even brashly admitted that he kept the job at the dealership because he could come and go as he pleased and still satisfy his probation officer.
On November 13, Butch left early for work, stopped at a luncheonette to pass the time as he waited for the dealership to open. He left work early to meet his girlfriend, Sherry Klein. He also met with a friend named Bobby Kelske.
He complained to both throughout the day that he wasn’t able to get in touch with his family. He said that all the cars were in the garage but that no one was answering the phone. Seems sus that he didn’t just go inside and see what was going on… but he didn’t. At some point he even called home in front of his girlfriend. By 6 PM, he was sitting in Henry’s Bar which was not too far from his house. He tried to call home again and complained loudly to friends about getting no answer. “Ughhhh my stupiiiddd family won’t answer their phones!”
So, suddenly a valiant human being, he said that he was going to go home and break into the house through a window. Just 30 minutes later he burst into the bar screaming about how his parents were dead and he found them shot to death! A group of his friends left the bar with him. They went to the house and discovered that not only were the parents dead but all four of his siblings were also dead. A friend of Butch’s, Joseph Yessir, called the police.
Shortly after this phone call, the police arrived and discovered the bodies of Butch DeFeo’s entire family. They were all dead, lying in their beds still dressed in their pjs. Deputy Chief Medical Examiner, Howard Adelman, would later determine that the DeFeo family bled to death in their beds due to gunshot wounds. The murder weapon was a .35 caliber Marlin rifle. The parents were shot twice and each of the children once.
Because we’re the morbid curious, here are the dirty details:
- Ronald DeFeo Sr., age 43, was shot twice in the lower back. One bullet exploded into his kidney and exited his right nipple onto the bed. The other entered the base of the spine and was lodged in his neck. DeFeo Sr. could’ve been alive a few seconds to several minutes after being shot. The waistband of his shorts was pulled down a bit indicating that he had moved upward as he died.
- Louise DeFeo, age 43, also was shot twice. The bullets entered her right flank and chest. One bullet landed on the mattress and the other came out of the middle of the chest, reentered her left breast, and wrist. The bullets shattered her rib cage, splintered bone, and destroyed most of her right lung, diaphragm, and liver. Although face down, her chest was slightly raised from the bed and her body was turned to the right. The medical examiner said that she could have been alive for several minutes after being shot (perhaps as many as 10). Her position indicated that she may have woken up, raised her upper body off the bed, and possibly looked toward the bedroom doorway in the killer’s direction.
- Mark, age 12, and John, age 9, were both shot in the back at close range. The medical examiner determined that the killer stood between the beds less than two feet away. The bullets penetrated the liver, diaphragm, lungs, and heart of each. The bullets went through the boys’ mattresses and into the box springs. John’s spinal cord was severed which may have caused involuntary twitching in the lower body.
- Allison, age 13, was shot once in the face from less than two feet away. She may have turned around and saw the muzzle of the gun. The bullet entered her left cheek and moved to her right ear. It then tore into her brain and damaged her skull. The bullet exited, ripped through the mattress, hit the back wall, and ricocheted to the floor.
- Dawn, age18, was shot at the back of the neck from two and a half feet away. The bullet entered just below her left ear and blasted through the left temple onto her pillow. The left side of her face collapsed. Brain particles mixed with the blood saturating her pillow.
Obviously, the police immediately were like, sooooo Butch, let’s talk. But, Butch told police he stayed home from work the day before with an upset stomach. He said that he watched a late-night movie (Castle Keep starring Burt Lancaster) and fell asleep at around 2 AM in the TV room. He awoke at 4 AM with pains in his stomach and said that he saw his brother Mark’s wheelchair outside the bathroom door (his brother broke his leg playing football). He said that he saw the bathroom light on from under the door and heard the toilet flush. He also said that he was well-rested from the day before so despite it being 4 a.m. he decided to go to work. Seems like a very suddenly ambitious guy! Then, of course, he ate at a luncheonette, went to work, left early, and saw his girlfriend and some friends. A perfectly normal day. Uh huh.
So, what the hell happened? The police asked Butch if he had an inkling about who had done this.
At first Butch claimed the murders had to have been committed by a man named Louis Falini (which is a pseudonym), who Butch said was a mafia hitman. He said that a few years ago, Falini and his wife had lived with his family for a little while after their house burned down in Brooklyn. He said that Falini had a key to the house and a violent temper. Apparently Falini and Butch had a big fight apparently because Falini had criticized a paint job that Butch had done for the dealership. And apparently, when Ron senior found out he was furious and said that Falini was a hit man and now he was going to have to watch out for “Ma and the kids” because he was sure Falini would come after them all.
Of course, as they spoke more, Butch let a bit slip about how much criminal activity he had in his past. He admitted to burglarizing a neighbor’s home with a friend to steal antiques to sell. He also admitted to using heroin and told them about being on probation. When he was asked about how he was getting away with using drugs on probation, Butch told them that Dawn was providing him with urine samples. He prefaced his confessions by saying that he wanted to be completely honest with them. He kept emphasizing this, meaning that if he’s willing to admit all of these things to the police then he must be telling the truth about the murders.
Next the police called up Butch’s grandfather, Michael Brigante Sr. who arrived on the scene to defend his grandson. Not only did Brigante say that Butch was a wonderful grandson that he is proud of, but also that he knew who Falini was and thought he was a great guy. He said that he didn’t think it was possible for Falini to commit the murders.
Obviously, the DeFeo’s relatives weren’t much help so the police decided to search the DeFeo home. They found the .35 caliber Marlin rifle. It wasn’t among the firearms in Butch’s room but in a separate box with a .22 caliber rifle. Investigators also learned that Butch was a gun buff and that, in the weeks leading up to the murders, he was looking to purchase a silencer.
After finding the murder weapon, police focused their investigation on Butch DeFeo. When police questioned him again, Butch continued to insist that they needed to find Falini. When he was asked if he ate dinner with the family that night, they found Butch’s attitude toward his family wasn’t that of a grieving son and big brother. Butch said that he didn’t eat dinner with his family that night because his mother Louise was a lousy cook and that she made some brown shit in a bowl for dinner that he wasn’t going to eat.
When asked about his family, he had nothing nice to say. He described his brothers, Mark and John as fucking pigs. He said that he shared a bathroom with them and that they left it a mess usually with toilet paper hanging out of the toilet and shit on the back of the seat. When asked about Dawn, he described her as a fat fuck who played her music too loud. He said that when he yelled at her to turn it down, his father would intervene and hit him. He also had nothing nice to say about Allison. When asked about his grandfather Michael Brigante Sr., Butch called him a “cheap bastard” and said that he took advantage of him and stole from him any chance he got by coming in late to work or leaving early. Which, to me… sounds more like what Butch did than what the grandfather did.
He said all this… and his family had just been killed!
Police told him that they had found the murder weapon and the ammo. They also said that his family was determined to have been killed between 3 and 4 AM so they could not have been killed while Butch was at work.
Butch obviously panicked and shifted gears. He now said that, ok ok, actually I was there but it wasn’t me. Actually, Falini and an accomplice murdered his family but they forced him to watch! Investigators then asked if he was forced to take part in the murders. They asked if the two men forced him to get his hands dirty, so to speak, and kill one of his family members. Butch put his head in his hands and told the investigators to give him a minute. He then said that Fellini and the accomplice weren’t there that night and that it didn’t happen that way. It was then that he confessed to murdering his family.
He broke pretty easily when he realized that his stupid lies were all mixed up and made no sense.
So, the trial began and can you guess what defense he went with? Insanity!
DeFeo claimed that he heard voices that told him his family was plotting against him. He also claimed he was possessed. At one point, he was shown a picture of his mother and claimed that he didn’t know who she was. He also claimed that he killed them in self-defense.
Here’s the thing… his behavior shows organization and planning. He was cognizant of what he’d done and got rid of the evidence, called home in front of people he knew and made sure everybody he saw that day knew that his family was not answering the phone and that he didn’t have keys to get in the house.
Luckily, the jury wasn’t have anything to do with this nonsense claim and DeFeo was found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder in November of 1975. He was sentenced to six sentences of 25 years to life. DeFeo filed many appeals and requests to the parole board which were all denied.
And he was still fighting to get out of the consequences of his actions. Over the course of the years, he’s said that his mother committed the murders and that he didn’t want to upset his grandfather by saying it out loud. He also said that a demonic female figure with black hands wearing a black hood (aka Kim Kardashian West at the Met Gala) handed him the murder weapon. He admitted he was under the influence of drugs in the TV room at the time. DeFeo also eventually admitted to drinking a fifth of scotch daily in addition to the drugs. He described his behavior around the time of the murders as “out of control.”
He then went from blaming his mother to saying that his sister, Dawn was the killer and that he killed her in self-defense. In a prison interview, DeFeo said that the entire family wasn’t supposed to be killed. He said that his father was the only one who “had to go,” and that he told Dawn that if she wanted to kill him to just go ahead and do it. He got her the weapon and told her that it was all ready to go…just pull the trigger. He said that she shot both their parents and that he left the house. When he came back, he said he found their siblings dead. When he confronted Dawn, she pointed the gun at him. He said that he fought with her and that he shot her in self-defense. Interestingly enough, they did find gun residue on her nightgown which indicated that it was possible that she fired a weapon that night!
There are many versions of what happened in Amityville on the morning of November 13, 1974. Ronald DeFeo Jr. has come forward with stories ranging from it being a mob hit, admitting that it was him, to female demons and voices heard in a drug-induced fog, to his mother snapping and killing the family, to his sister Dawn being the killer and him having to kill her in self-defense. Through the years it’s been questioned how six people were killed in their beds by loud shotgun blasts. Was the family drugged? Did DeFeo have an accomplice? He said in a prison interview that he doesn’t know why no one believes his stories. How is it that they think that he acted alone? Forensic evidence indicates that the family was asleep, their time of death determined between 3 and 4 am, no drugs were present in their systems, and there was no sign of a struggle. The medical examiner determined that they were all shot at close range and that Louise DeFeo did wake up and turn around just before she was shot. This indicates that the shots fired on her husband did wake her.
Whatever happened that night was taken to Ronald DeFeo Jr.’s grave. He actually passed away THIS YEAR on March 12, 2021, at the age of 69.
BUT, as we all know thanks to the Amityville Horror movie(s) the tale of the Amityville house did not end with the DeFeo house. Because, the house… oh, the house… it apparently held on to a few of the horrible happenings so it seems.
Just thirteen months after the DeFeo murders a lovely little family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue, the Lutzes. The Lutz family was made up of George and Kathy, newlyweds, and Kathy’s three children from a previous marriage: Daniel, Christopher and Missy. George was a writer and he and his wife were known for dabbling in the occult. So, when they saw that the High Hopes Murder House was on sale for just $88,000 they jumped at the opportunity; especially because “It had everything we wanted,” said Lutz, “a swimming pool, lots of room, a full basement, and it was close to the water with a boat house for my cabin cruiser.. On December 18, 1975 they moved in and they even asked to keep the furniture that was still in the house from the DeFeo family for an easy $400 extra bucks.
Basically, the realtor was like GET THIS SHIT OFF MY HANDS.
But, it wouldn’t be off his or her hands for long, because – despite the fact that on the day they moved in, a priest came over and blessed the house – the Lutzes only lasted in the Amityville house for 28 brief but traumatic days.
They maybe should have known this was coming… because the priest himself experienced some spooky events while he was on the premises. Here’s a quote: “I was blessing the sewing room,” says the priest. “It was cold. It was really cold in there. I’m like, ‘Well, gee, this is peculiar,’ because it was a lovely day out, and it was winter, yes, but it didn’t account for that kind of coldness. I was also sprinkling holy water, and I heard a rather deep voice behind me saying, ‘Get out!’ It seemed so directed toward me that I was really quite startled. I felt a slap at one point on the face. I felt somebody slap me, and there was nobody there.”
Things were downhill after that. The Lutzes were very big about sharing their story so we have some intimate details, told by the Lutzes themselves about their experience. Here’s what they reported.
It began with the heating system. Although it had been checked out multiple times, it hovered at 50 degrees and would never get any warmer.
Then, Kathy would be in the kitchen and feel somebody touch her. Light at first, then as time went on it would become harder until it would cause her to pass out.
There was the smell of cheap perfume. Doors would open and close. Whatever you did in a room would be undone when you came back to it. If you made the bed, it would be pulled apart when you came back, and objects would move around.
Also, remember the priest from before? Once when he was driving home from the Lutz’s house he felt like his car was being pulled to the right as he drove down the highway. Then, all of a sudden, the hood flew off his car! He had to call another priest to drive him home to the rectory.
Eventually, the Lutz’s bought a tape recorder to try to keep track of everything happening.
There would be voices, music, even a strange green Jell-O-like substance that oozed out of the walls and floor.
Then Missy began to play with an invisible pig named Jody.
And then George started to wake up every night at 3:15 in the morning on the dot – which, if you remember, just happened to be right around the time that the police said the DeFeo’s were murdered. Plus, Kathy would have terrible pain in her back and head.
When they finally went to the police and started detailing these crazy things, the police were floored. No one except the police knew about the 3:15 a.m. murder timeframe or that the mother had been shot in the back and head where Kathy felt the pain.
Other paranormal activity: A nearby garage door opening and closing; an invisible spirit knocking a knife down in the kitchen; a pig-like creature with red eyes staring down at George and his son Daniel from a window.
Then, things really took a turn. One night George woke up and looked at Kathy, who was still asleep, and according to him, she began to change into an old lady with gray hair and all. Then she began to raise up into the air. She was just floating there for a while. Then she woke up and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and began to scream.
At that point, levitation became commonplace in the house along with manifestations of a little boy asking for help, a hooded figure, the entity named Jody, a cheap perfume smell and a mass of flies in the sewing room.
Soon, beds were actually banging up and down on the floor, furniture was sliding around and drawers were flying back and forth.
Finally, 28 days later, on Jan. 14, 1976, the Lutzes literally ran to their van, leaving behind all their clothes, furniture and possessions.
Apparently, even leaving didn’t fully make a difference! They fleed to Kathy’s mother’s home but the couple would still wake up wake to find themselves levitating.
So, why did they stay for 28 full days? How did they let 28 days pass until things were SO bad. As George Lutz said… “The house had a strange comfort to it. Once you were inside, you did not want to leave. It was, after all, our home. Yet it affected everyone who entered it.”
So is it all true? Well, there are definitely some question about the validity of the Lutz’s story even though after pass a lie detector that monitored them while they told their story.
The couple was bogged down in legal and financial issues, which prompted skeptics to believe they had the motive to create a fantastical story to sell to the public (and they DID sell it, believe me).
The Lutzes told their story in a book titled “The Amityville Horror” and it sold a quarter of a million copies and was eventually made into a movie.
As Lutz says, “The book tells it pretty much the way it happened, although we asked that some things be kept out. There are some things that happened which we won’t tell anyone about. The movie is also based on our experiences. Some things are done for effect, of course, but all the emotions are there. Then, too, some of the happenings were worse than the movie.”
Since the Lutz’s left, it has been on the market three additional times. It was last listed in June 2016 and sold in March 2017 for $605,000, according to property records. The couple that lives there currently has no issues – other than lookie-loos like us driving by regularly to get a photo.