One of the most famous cases of a haunted house started on the night of November 13, 1974, in a south shore suburb of Long Island in New York. On that fateful night, 23-year-old Ronald “Butch” DeFeo, Jr. shot his parents Ronald and Louise, brothers Marc and John, and sisters Dawn and Allison while they slept peacefully in their Amityville home. After the last bullet was fired, he cleaned himself up, disposed of evidence, and went to work as usual, only to return home and claim that he had discovered his family dead, face-down in their beds. However, after police questioned inconsistencies in his story, DeFeo confessed and was convicted of second-degree murder with six consecutive life sentences.
Meanwhile, the 5 bedroom, Dutch Colonial sat empty for 13 months until December 18, 1975, when George and Kathy Lutz and their three children moved into 112 Ocean Avenue with full knowledge of the home’s dark past. What they could not know was the horrors to come.
As part of purchasing the house, the Lutzes had also bought the DeFeo family’s furniture for an additional 400 dollars. In light of that and the gruesome crime committed there, it is not surprising that they wanted to have the house blessed. Former Catholic court lawyer and psychotherapist Father Ralph Pecoraro arrived while the family were unpacking and quickly got to work blessing each room. However, upon entering the second-floor sewing room, which had been Marc and John DeFeo’s bedroom, he felt an otherworldly chill and heard a guttural voice demanding that he “Get out!” which he did immediately.
Father Pecoraro later tried to warn the family about his experience by phone, but the call was cut off by static, and he even developed blisters on the hand used to hold the receiver.
Around that time, Kathy began having vivid nightmares and noticed large numbers of flies swarming in parts of the house. Meanwhile, the children began sleeping face-down – in just the exact same position as the DeFeo family members had been found dead.
By now, the Lutz’s were terrified of their new home, then things escalated further when George found a small storage room with red walls that had been blocked by shelving in the basement. Although it seemed like a harmless closet, the family dog refused to go near the “Red Room”, and the Lutzes soon began sensing cold spots and strange odors throughout their home.
Their young daughter began speaking with an imaginary friend named Jodie, who she described as alternately a pig-like creature with red eyes or an angel. Unfortunately for the Lutz’s, Jodie was anything but imaginary. George spotted the creature standing with his daughter in her bedroom window, and Kathy saw red eyes staring back at her after closing a window that Jodie had supposedly gone through.
By now the household had become chaotic, with locks, doors, and windows damaged by unseen forces and slime allegedly began oozing from the walls. Kathy was regularly receiving red welts and levitating in her sleep, while George began waking to the sound of music and gun shots at the time of the DeFeo’s murder, 3:15 AM.
It was the final straw, they could take no more, after just 28 days the Lutz family fled the house, never to return.
Paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were among the first to investigate the Amityville Hauntings, the Warren’s came to Ocean Avenue with a Channel 5 New York TV crew, a reporter from local radio channel WNEW-FM, and an infrared time-lapse camera to snap photos throughout the night. The Warrens did capture one strong piece of evidence, although it was not released until 1979 – a black-and-white, infrared photograph of a ghostly boy standing in a downstairs doorway. Was it a demon? Was it the ghost of John DeFeo?
For their part, the Warrens concluded that the Amityville home was one of the most terrifying places they had ever experienced. They felt that it was infested with malevolent spirits and even claimed that the “Red Room” was a portal to hell. This created media frenzy on top of the very active supernatural one.
The investigation came to a close with the Warrens believing they, at last, understood what had caused such violent acts and extreme paranormal activity. After detailed research, they learned the land had been owned by a man named John Ketchem. Commonly believed by locals to practice the dark arts, at his request, Ketchum was buried on the land on which the house would years later be built upon. Earlier still, the Shinicock Indians had once used the land as an enclosure to house the sick and the mad, who were deserted to die alone and in pain.
It was this dark history that the Warren’s concluded that had impacted the lives of the Defoe and Lutz families so grievously. Believing the negative energy acted as a magnet for demonic spirits and the preternatural.
The Lutzes had intermediaries sell the home and all related property at a substantial loss. They would later work with writer Jay Anson on developing their story into the best-selling novel that would then result in the acclaimed 1979 film based on their supernatural experiences.
Many have questioned the validity of their claims, citing both the inconsistencies in their stories and the royalties and licensing fees that came with their fame. However, any profits have been minimal, and the family has continued to struggle financially over time. Furthermore, one of their biggest detractors, an attorney named William Weber, claimed that he had invented the story with George and Kathy Lutz over wine – but only as the film was being released in 1979 and while involved in a legal battle with the family.
By the 1980s, George and Kathy separated, but the lawsuits continued, with over a dozen by 2005, and the supernatural force apparently followed the family to their new homes, albeit in a milder form. To this day, Lorraine Warren defends the Lutzes’ account, but the house itself has seen no further haunting, although the address has been changed to deter tourists.
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