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Amityville: Horror or Hoax?

The Amityville house.

The Amityville Horror is one of the most successful books based on a reportedly true account ever published. The same goes for the feature film adaptation. It is the only one of those cases to spawn a lucrative franchise in both publishing and film alike. There have been twelve feature films and over ten books — both fictional and non-fictional — about the case to date. The original novel by Jay Anson was a massive bestseller, leading of course to a very successful motion picture. It saw the Lutz family move into 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island with very little prior knowledge of the murders that had been committed there. As soon as they moved in, strange things began to occur. The Lutz family only lasted a grand total of 28 days before moving out in the middle of the night and leaving all their belongings behind.

Many, many people have claimed to have debunked the Amityville haunting over the years and many others still swear the story is true. It’s hard to completely debunk any paranormal account. To say that these people were lying about the things they saw when compared to other paranormal events would be acknowledging the existence of the paranormal. This means that every time we talk about whether any kind of ghost encounter, we’re stuck in an infinite loop because the discussion has to be had without confirming or denying the existence of ghosts. Whether or not the events at the Amityville house happened the way the Lutz family suggests, it’s a pervasive story, even now. Films are still being made about the house to this day. For our purposes here, will be focusing only on the supposed facts.

The Lutz family have long-since admitted that things in the house did not play out like they did in Jay Anson’s book. They have always insisted that things happened in the house, but not the way they were depicted. And that’s understandable to some extent. You have to give a book a three-act structure and make things exciting for the reader. The same goes even more so for a feature film. But it’s a little harder to believe the Lutzes and the story they are telling when they’re telling you how much of it wasn’t true.

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Still, the family saw almost none of the proceeds from the film based on their time in the house. And they have always insisted that something happened, whatever it was. There are puzzling details in the facts as well, even before the family moved in. A young man picks off his entire family with a high-powered rifle in the middle of suburbia. Not only did nobody on the street hear a single shot but the family members were all shot face down in their beds. They were all in the same position and none of them woke up after the first shot was fired. Ronnie De Feo went from bedroom to bedroom and nobody woke up. While all of that is strange, it doesn’t automatically signify that something supernatural was at work.

After all, the Lutz family’s story has plenty of holes in it. They’ve admitted that things didn’t happen the way they were depicted  but when the book was first released they were telling s slightly different story. There’s also the very important fact that nobody that lived in the house after the Lutz family had any particularly noteworthy experiences. A few people have felt a presence, but nobody experienced anything like what the Lutz family went through.

The house was investigated shortly after George and Kathy Lutz moved out by renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens declared that the house was undeniably haunted and that cemented Amityville as a place of horror in the court of public opinion. After all, Ed and Lorraine Warren were and still are two of the biggest names in the field of paranormal investigation. But the Warrens themselves have come under almost as much scrutiny as Amityville over the years. In fact, they were a topic of discussion on the site last week. People they’ve helped have come forward claiming to be scammed by the couple. It’s possible that their investigation of the house was concocted for fame and attention. It’s possible that the entire Amityville horror in general is nothing more than that. But what if it wasn’t?

The truth is that we may never know exactly what happened in Amityville, Long Island in 1974. Whatever really happened has been lost to time. It comes down to what it’s always come down to: whether or not we’re willing to believe the Lutz family and their story. That decision is ultimately left up to the reader who looks over what is known about both cases and arrives at his or her own conclusion. It’s easy to write off everything paranormal as nothing more than a delusion or a hoax. But I think Amityville has always been more than that. Even in the paranormal field it’s the subject of much debate. People are either willing to believe it or they’re not. Which, in the end, is what any situation like this comes down to.

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Written by Nat Brehmer
In addition to contributing to Wicked Horror, Nathaniel Brehmer has also written for Horror Bid, HorrorDomain, Dread Central, Bloody Disgusting, We Got This Covered, and more. He has also had fiction published in Sanitarium Magazine, Hello Horror, Bloodbond and more. He currently lives in Florida with his wife and his black cat, Poe.
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