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 COMPLETE BOOK PROPOSAL

 

 

 

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR:

Discovering The Truth

 

By

 

Ric Osuna

 

Based on Materials Provided by George and Kathleen Lutz

 

Introduction by George Lutz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ã 2000 George and Kathleen Lutz.  All rights reserved.


 

AUTHOR’S PREFACE

 

 

“The Amityville Horror” is one of the most controversial paranormal events of all time.  In fact, its notoriety has reached all four corners of the globe.  Most recently, “The Amityville Horror” has found a resurgence on the Internet with numerous web sites devoted to it.  On the Net, old and new fans alike share a common fascination with the famous Dutch Colonial home and it’s captivating “eye-like” windows.

Although twenty-five years have passed, the story is still shrouded in controversy and misinformation.  Let me assure you that this book is 100% non-fiction and offers a pathway for discovering the truth about what really happened to the Lutz family at 112 Ocean Avenue.  It is my opinion that the Lutzes were victims of not only the diabolical force present in their home, but several jealous, unscrupulous individuals.  Hopefully, you feel the same way as I do after reading this book.

          Because the Lutz story is so intricate, this book is broken down into four parts.  Part One addresses the controversy surrounding “The Amityville Horror.”  Part Two focuses on the history of the property before the Lutzes moved in.  Part Three sets the record straight about what really happened to the Lutzes and the investigators who went in after they fled.  Finally, Part Four examines how the story has become a cultural icon in movies, books and on the Internet. 

          It has taken two years to research the thousands of court documents, newspaper reports, books, and interviews used in developing this book.  In fact, many of the visuals in this book have previously gone unpublished.  Moreover, these visuals will serve as supporting documentation to the theories presented here. 

          Since 1979, I have continuously followed the story, reading everything I could.  A few years ago, I was under the misconception that the case had been proven a hoax.  When I began having doubts in the credibility of these hoax theories, I started searching for my own answers to prove or disprove “The Amityville Horror”.  Today, I am convinced that the horror the Lutz family experienced was real. 

          Lastly, the only thing required to read this book is an open mind.  This is the first time in a number of years that George and Kathy Lutz have spoken out.  To this day, speaking about their ordeal is extremely difficult for them.  Their biggest fear is not that they will be called liars, but that recalling their experiences will somehow trigger a recurrence.  For my part, I have taken great pains in ensuring the experiences they experienced in Amityville, New York are related honestly and without dramatic license.  In closing, if you take a trip to Amityville to see the house then please be considerate and don’t bother the current owners.

Ric Osuna


 

 

         

 

 

 

 

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

PART ONE:

The Nightmare Begins

 


 

1 -  DREAM HOME TURNED NIGHTMARE

 

 

A NEW LIFE TOGETHER

 

Married in July of 1975, George and Kathleen Lutz spent most of the summer and fall looking for a home on Long Island’s South Shore in New York.  They wanted a bigger home so they could sell their two separate residences and combine households.  George, 28, was an ex-Marine and a third generation owner of his family’s land surveying business in Syosset, New York.  Prior to marrying George, Kathy, 30, was working full time as a waitress.  Both George and Kathy had been married previously.

Furthermore, George had just become a father to Kathy’s three small children: Danny, 9, Chris, 7, and Missy, 5.  It was something he gladly accepted because of his love for Kathy and his affection for the well-mannered kids.  Kathy recalls, “the children were just as excited about getting a new daddy.”  Another addition to the family was Harry, George’s sturdy half-malamute, half-Labrador retriever that was nothing short of hyper.

          In the midst of their search for a home, the Lutzes contacted realtor Edith Evans of Conklin Realty in Massapequa Park, Long Island.  Knowing of the Lutzes’ stringent requirements, Evans decided to show them a house located in Amityville-a close knit community that proudly boasted of its rich history.  However, the asking price of $90,000 was considerably more than the Lutzes were looking to spend.  

Late on a cool November afternoon, George and Kathy turned off Merrick Road, a busy thoroughfare on the South Shore, onto Ocean Avenue.  With its large homes and manicured yards, the street signified prominence.  In fact, at one time famed Western star Annie Oakley had a home on Ocean Avenue.  Additionally, the houses on the east side of the street had the benefit of sitting on the banks of the Amityville Creek.

A few moments later, the Lutzes’ Ford van pulled up to 112 Ocean Avenue.  “Immediately we were impressed with the immense size of the three story Dutch Colonial Home,” recalls George.  The charming home had dark shingles with white trim and was situated with the front entrance facing the right or driveway side.  Two ominous, quarter-moon shaped windows overlooked the street, giving the impression that the house had eyes.  The oversized lot was 50’ by 237’ with a combination boathouse/garage.  This was a plus for George since he owned both a 25’ cabin cruiser and 15’ speed boat.  Bordering the driveway, a lamppost sign read, “High Hopes”.  Inspired by their first look, the Lutz family climbed out of their van and followed the realtor inside. 

 


 

 

As the Lutzes walked into the marbled foyer, they were mesmerized by an open staircase ascending three floors; it was a sign of the house’s magnificence.  George remembers, “there were no visible signs of disrepair and the quality of the workmanship was so good the price did not make since.”  Eagerly, the family followed Mrs. Evans as she gave them the grand tour.

The (roughly) 4000 sq. foot house had it all.  A living room with an adjoining sun porch.  A large kitchen with breakfast nook.  A finished basement.  Two and a half bathrooms.  Six bedrooms between two floors.  A formal dining room with patio entrance.  Off the patio was a large backyard with heated pool and the combination garage/boathouse. 

Kathy was exuberant, almost hypnotized by the house’s charm.  After seeing Kathy’s reaction to the house, George vowed to himself, “I would do all I could to fulfill my wife’s dream of owning such a fine place.”  For the Lutz family, 112 Ocean Avenue provided more than enough space for their growth.  It had been a quality that Kathy could not find in the other 50 or so homes they had previously looked at.  “All the things that we had talked about were found in one place,” Kathy remembers.

It was while touring the boathouse that George and Kathy finally learned the reason behind the bargain price.  “Only after we fell in love with the house did the realtor reveal that it had been the scene of a grisly mass murder,” says Kathy.  On a cold November night in 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed his parents, two brothers and two sisters while they slept.  At the time the Lutzes first saw the house, the trial for Ronald Defeo Jr. had yet to conclude.   When it did, he was finally sentenced to six consecutive life terms for the murder of his famly.

George and Kathy vaguely remembered the gruesome story, but never had much interest in it.  Half expecting them to voice their dissatisfaction with the property, Evans was surprised at the Lutzes reaction.  “We were not superstitious and believed the property was the best we had seen,” remembers Kathy.  Though tragic, the Lutzes felt the murders would have no bearing on their decision to buy 112 Ocean Avenue.  However, they still planned on speaking to the children about the tragedy before making any lasting commitments. 

That night Danny, Chris, and Missy were told the property’s tragic past.  “We would have never considered buying the Amityville house if just one of the children had voiced opposition to living there,” explains George.  Despite the murders, the children expressed their excitement about living at 112 Ocean Avenue.  Once the biggest hurdle was out of the way, George and Kathy started figuring if the house was in their budget.

 

 

 

 

A DREAM REALIZED

 

“The sale of our two homes provided more than enough for a down payment on the house,” says George.  In addition, George would save $400 each month in mooring charges by using the boathouse at 112 Ocean Avenue instead of the marina.  To save on office rent, George was considering moving his land surveying office into the house’s finished basement.  After a few more visits to Amityville, George shrewdly offered $80,000 for the home.  Because the property had been on the market for close to a year, the estate of the DeFeo family quickly accepted the offer.

Unfortunately, the closing of escrow was delayed by legal issues.  Despite the fact that Ronald DeFeo Jr. had murdered his entire family in the house, as sole survivor DeFeo was still entitled to inherit his parents estate.  “It was decided that since the executors were looking to spend weeks or months in Probate Court deciding the issue, $40,000 would be placed in escrow until a legal deed could be obtained,” says George.

On Thursday, December 18, 1975, the Lutzes drove to the title company to close the sale in a U-Haul truck fully-loaded with their possessions.  They paid close to $25,000 for the down payment, closing costs and some items that they decided to buy from the DeFeo estate.  These items included: two bedroom sets, a dining room set, and a TV chair.  Seven air-conditioners, two washers and dryers and a new refrigerator and freezer were thrown in for free.  “What we did not expect to pay for was a full tank of oil that the DeFeos had ordered for their furnace the previous year,” says George.

After finishing at the title company, the Lutzes rushed to their new home arriving at around 1 PM.  A few of George’s friends had already shown up to help with the unloading.  However, George soon realized that the realtor still had the key at her office.  Less than an hour passed before the realtor arrived with it and the doors to 112 Ocean Avenue were open. 

In a conversation earlier that week, George’s friend insisted that he have a priest bless their new home.  Since George was a non-practicing Methodist, he knew only of a Catholic Ecclesiastical Judge who worked for the Rockville Diocese on Long Island.  George explains, “It was during my first annulment proceedings for my first marriage that I met Father Ralph Pecoraro.”  Father Pecoraro, better known to the family as “Father Ray,” was more than just a counselor to George and later to Kathy.  He was also their friend.

Father Ray was in his early forties, had a trimmed beard and was slimly built.  He arrived to bless the Lutzes’ new home as promised on moving day.  “When he first saw the house, he was glad that I could provide such a big place for Kathy and the kids,” says George.  In a soft, joyous voice, Father Ray greeted George who was busy unloading

 

the U-Haul truck.  George introduced his new family before letting the priest go about his duties.

Once inside, Father Ray began his blessing of the house.  The ritual proceeded without incident until he reached one of the second floor

bedrooms.  While blessing the room, a masculine voice ordered him to, “GET OUT”!  Stunned, Father Ray turned to see he was still alone in the

room.  He continued with the blessing and flicked the holy water until suddenly an unseen hand slapped him across the face.  Unnerved by what had taken place, Father Ray left the room.

          After finishing, the priest rejoined George and Kathy downstairs.  Right away they noticed that the priest’s face had grown pale with exhaustion.  Concerned, George and Kathy invited the priest to stay for dinner.  Citing a previous engagement, Father Ray refused the Lutzes’ offer. 

“As he was leaving, Father Ray inquired about the second floor room which was going to be Kathy’s sewing room,” remembers George.  Kathy adds, “Father Ray calmly informed us not to spend too much time in there and never to use it as a bedroom. Since it was not in the plans to be used as a bedroom it did not phase me.”  As they returned to work, the Lutzes had no way of knowing that a chain of events had just been set in motion. 

 

 

THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS

 

          Right away the Lutz family began experiencing strange phenomenon at 112 Ocean Avenue.  Episodes such as mysterious odors lingering, toilets turning black, green ooze coming from within walls, windows opening and closing by themselves, and swarms of flies appearing in only in the sewing room all seemed to point to one conclusion.  Something was terribly wrong with their new house.  Events slowly escalated over the remainder of December 1975.

The situation deteriorated as one by one the Lutzes entered their own personal hell.  For the first few weeks, a severe coldness kept George in front of the fireplace throughout most of the day.  Unexplainably, he awakened each night at the same time.  “For reasons unknown to me, I kept snapping awake precisely at 3:15 AM with an uncontrollable urge to check the boathouse,” says George.  Unbeknownst to him, this was the approximate time that the DeFeo family had been murdered.  In addition, everyone but George began sleeping on their stomachs.  This was the exact same position that the DeFeos were found in-a position the police referred to as “execution style.”

 

 

 

One day while unpacking, Kathy was shocked to discover her silver crucifix hanging upside down in her closet.  She tried to ignore the event, but soon found it compounded her growing concern with her new home. 

From the first week in the house, invisible touches began tormenting Kathy, says George.  “At first these strange sensations seemed like the reassuring touch of a mother, but eventually grew so harsh they caused me to pass out,” recalls Kathy.  Like George, sleep provided little escape from her problems with the house.  Kathy’s dreams had begun to be filled with vivid images about Mrs. DeFeo’s murder.

Even Danny, Chris and Missy could not escape the effects of the house.  They turned into unruly, misbehaved brats causing George and Kathy to resort to corporal punishment.  George explains, “It was something we had never done prior to moving to the house in Amityville.”  Tensions increased as George lost control after a window inexplicably closed on Danny’s hand, injuring the boy.  Enraged, he went from room to room opening all the windows, ordering peace in his house. 

While living at the house, Missy had befriended what she thought to be an angel.  “I became increasingly worried about Missy’s new friend, Jody, when Missy said it had told her she would always live at the house,” says Kathy.  Regardless, George and Kathy continually reasoned that Jody was the product of a child’s imagination.  Experiencing Jody first hand would eventually change George and Kathy’s views. 

While sitting in the living room by the fireplace, George and Kathy witnessed two red eyes staring through the darkness from the outside.  “I raced through the snow only to find a trail of hoof prints leading away from the house,” explains George.  Later in the month, George and Kathy saw the two red eyes again outside of Missy’s window.  With her motherly instincts in overdrive, Kathy hurled one of Missy’s play chairs at the window.  George insists that “Whatever was outside the window was definitely not a cat because it went squealing into the night.”

Kathy had also began to suffer physically from whatever resided in the house.  One night, while sleeping she turned into a drooling, ninety- year-old hag in front of George.  Even though the transformation was brief, the aftereffects lasted well into the next day.  Throughout the month, Kathy continued to be victimized and eventually began to levitate.  “It was only after I witnessed Kathy levitate off the bed that I finally realized no rational explanation existed for what had been happening to us,” recalls George.    

The situation grew increasingly precarious.  On a later night, George lie awake in bed listening to the sound of the front door open and close repeatedly.  He went downstairs to find Harry sleeping in front of the heavy wooden door.  Normally alert at the slightest sound, the dog had become lethargic since moving to 112 Ocean Avenue.  George’s inspection found the hinges of the front door damaged while outside the metal storm door was bent and on the verge of falling off.

 

By the beginning of the second week in January 1976, the force in the house had grown bolder.  One night while checking on the boathouse, George heard the sound of a band playing in his living room.  The disembodied band immediately ceased playing once George

approached.  “What alarmed me the most was when I saw that all of the furniture had been pushed to one side of the living room,” says George.

Desperate, the Lutzes called Father Ray, unaware that he was besieged with his own terrors from blessing their house.  “Each time the call connected, a loud, crackling static erupted over the line forcing 

us to hang-up,” explains Kathy.  Deciding that something had to be done, the Lutzes took it upon themselves to re-bless the house.  George and Kathy walked from room to room ordering what was there to leave  in God’s name.  They halted when a chorus of voices shouted back, “Will you stop”!  “I searched high and low in that house for speakers believing someone was playing a trick on us,” insists George. “I just was not ready to believe in ghosts or spirits.”

Life at 112 Ocean Avenue continued to worsen.  Knowing the phone at his house could not be trusted, George went to his office to phone Father Ray.  The priest listened intently to George and Kathy’s description of the recent events.  Calmly, their friend advised them to leave the house until things could be sorted out.  Agreeing that some time away was needed, the Lutzes decided to go to Kathy’s mother’s house.  The family began preparations for a short trip after the children returned home from school that day.

“Kathy and I ignored our own needs in a rush to leave before nightfall,” says George.  However, they were able to gather three changes of clothes for the kids and some dog food for Harry.  The house rebelled at the sight of the family’s departure.  George remembers that “The temperature in 112 Ocean Avenue kept fluctuating between hot and cold. Noises similar to the creaks and groans of a ship started coming from the house. All of us were scared and just wanted to leave.”

It was only after they reached the front door did the Lutzes look back in horror at the scene unfolding.  A hooded figure, which could only be described as inhuman, stood on the second floor landing pointing at George.  “At that point we were fearing for our very lives,” says Kathy. 

 


 

2 - FROM FRYING PAN INTO THE FIRE

 

 

GETTING OUT WHILE THEY COULD

 

Fearful for their family’s safety, George and Kathy Lutz and their three children decided that they could not endure another night in their new home.  Late afternoon on Wednesday, January 14, 1976, the Lutz family fled from 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island.  They raced to their van only to discover that it would not start.  “Thankfully, I had installed an ignition system that could be both electronic and standard,” says George. “After switching to standard, the van started.”

In an instant, the van sped down Ocean Avenue away from the hellish home.  The family was in shock.  They couldn’t comprehend abandoning all of their possessions and dreams to whatever evil force resided in the house.  However, George and Kathy had no intention of giving up.  “We wanted to get the house fixed and get on with our lives,” explains George.

The Lutzes headed for Kathy’s mother’s house in Babylon, a town only minutes away.  While driving on the Long Island Expressway, the Lutzes learned that they had not escaped the evil.  Suddenly, an incredible pounding erupted on all sides of the van. “While George struggled to keep the van on the road, I led the children in prayer,” remembers Kathy.  “The pounding eventually lessened the farther we got from the house,” adds George. 

          Kathy’s mother, Joan Conners, was well aware of the horrors that her daughter and family had suffered during their stay in Amityville.  She even witnessed the aftereffects of Kathy’s transformation into a ninety- year-old woman.  It was after that incident that Joan pleaded with George and Kathy to move out of the house.  When the family arrived that night on her doorstep, they looked pale from exhaustion not to mention much thinner.  Remarkably, George had lost over twenty pounds while living at 112 Ocean Avenue.  “Never before had I succumbed to such a sickness as the one I experienced in Amityville,” says George.

          That first night away from the house both George and Kathy tried to rationalize the recent events.  “Our senses were so heightened from fright that we felt almost psychic and needed wine to relax,” recalls George.  After exhaustion finally overtook them, George and Kathy went to bed.  However, they weren’t afforded the good night’s sleep that they had anticipated. 

          While dozing off, George and Kathy began to levitate.  The experience was initially quite pleasurable.  “I know we were not


 

 

 

dreaming because as Kathy and I were floating up to the ceiling we were talking about it”, insists George.  However, their feelings soon turned disconcerting when they realized what was in the house in Amityville had followed them.  Nevertheless, they were confident they would find help for their problem.


 

 

 

FINDING HELP      

 

After settling in at his mother-in-law’s, George called Father Ray to inform him of the latest events.  It was the first time the two men could talk without being afraid that their conversation would be cut short by the mysterious static.  After hearing about the force’s manifestation during their departure, Father Ray explained to George that he and his family could not return until the proper people looked into the matter.

          Knowing that George and Kathy were not superstitious, Father Ray appealed to their rational side in order to get them safely out of 112 Ocean Avenue. “I don’t think anyone else but Father Ray could have convinced us to leave. If he had not be gentle in his assertion that we should leave then we would have stayed because it was our house, our stuff,” says George.  Today, the Lutzes credit Father Ray with saving their lives.  George and Kathy believe if they would have stayed at 112 Ocean Avenue then they would have died in a futile attempt to fight the evil force inside their home. 

          In the weeks following their departure from Amityville, Father Ray educated George and Kathy about the occult.  Books and other paraphernalia were scattered throughout Kathy’s mother’s house as the Lutzes quickly learned what they were up against.  They were turned from staunch skeptics into firm believers of the paranormal.


 

George and Kathy remember Father Ray telling about the time he had approached his superiors about their problem.  “Father Ray had told us about a time when he was sitting in his Chancellor’s office discussing the possibility of helping us,” says George. “Even though the radiator was still working, a sudden chill came over the room followed by a deafening silence and a pungent odor.”  With that, the Lutzes contend the Catholic Church limited their involvement and referred them to the Psychical Research Foundation (PRF) located on the campus of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

After being contacted by George Lutz, the PRF assigned the preliminary investigation to George Kekoris, their representative assigned to Amityville.  On January 24, 1976, George Kekoris conducted a lengthy interview with both George and Kathy Lutz.  It was from this interview that the PRF stepped-up its involvement in the case.  George and Kathy were confident that they had found the people that could fix their home. 

 

They would continue to reside at Kathy’s mother’s house until they were given every assurance that the house in Amityville was once again livable. (Note to Agent/Publisher: A later chapter will provide an in-depth look at the complex scientific investigation into 112 Ocean Avenue.)

 

 

DIGGING DEEPER

 

          Believing that there were more to the murders than originally thought, George and Kathy began to seek out information about the previous owners.  “We learned that during his trial Ronald DeFeo Jr. reported hearing the voice of God in the house,” says Kathy.  The next step the Lutzes decided to take was to contact DeFeo’s attorney, William Weber.

          Through mutual acquaintances, George and Kathy met William Weber in late January 1976 at Kathy’s mother’s house.  The Lutzes hoped Weber could offer additional information about the DeFeos that might coincide with their own experiences.  George and Kathy also suspected the force in the house had influenced Ronald DeFeo Jr.’s actions the night of the murders.  Therefore, contacting Weber also meant providing the attorney with information that might help get his client counseling.

           After an hour or so of exchanging pleasantries, George and Kathy felt comfortable enough to begin relating their experiences to Mr. Weber.  They recounted some of the strange and terrifying experiences that had led to their abandonment of the home on Ocean Avenue.  “The initial meeting concluded well after midnight with Weber agreeing to return within week or two,” says George.

          Accompanying William Weber to the second meetings was Paul Hoffman.  “Hoffman was introduced to us as a criminologist working on the DeFeo case. It was not until later that we learned Hoffman was actually a journalist,” insists George.  Also attending the second meeting was Bernard Burton, a law partner at the firm Weber had worked at.  Again the meeting stretched into the early morning hours as the Lutzes recounted their experiences to the group.  Because he wanted an accurate account of all that was said, George tape recorded the meeting.

          During the month of January, George and Kathy Lutz had sat down and tape recorded all of their experiences.  The believed that talking about the happenings in the house would serve as therapy.  “It was at that time that we learned the extent of each other’s individual experiences,” explains George.  When it was done, approximately thirty 45-minute audio cassettes served as an oral record of their twenty-eight day ordeal.

         

 

In the early days of February 1976, tragedy struck the Lutz family.  William H. Parry, George’s grandfather and founder of George’s land surveying business in Syosset, passed away.  To make matters worse, when they returned home from the funeral, the Lutzes were informed by a reporter that their story was no longer a secret.  “We were not sure how, but someone had leaked the story to the press,” says Lee.  “We now suspect that someone as being Weber,” adds Kathy.

 

 

THE FRENZY BEGINS

 

On Saturday, February 14, 1976, a subtitle appeared in the table of contents of Long Island’s Newsday.  It read: “Bad Vibes-The house is a luxurious, three-story colonial near the water in Amityville, and the Lutz family paid $40,000 for it.  But they moved out in ten days after feeling strange vibrations and detecting other weird phenomenon.  It’s the DeFeo house, where six persons were shot to death in 1974.  Page 6.”

          Page six’s headline read: “DeFeo Home Abandoned; Buyer Calls It Haunted.”  The article went on to describe how the Psychical Research Foundation was contacted to investigate the house.  It continued with an anonymous friend of the Lutzes reporting they had moved out because of problems with the heating system.  Even Amityville Police Officer Sgt. Pat Cammarato was dragged into the story.  According to this article, Cammarato had been called to the property by the Lutzes and had experienced “strange vibrations.”  Also included in the article was a photo of the Lutzes’ storm door hanging off its hinges.

George and Kathy Lutz were in shock to say the least.  Not only had their story been made public, but the story that appeared in the paper was so full of inaccuracies they found it to be almost comical.  They feared the article would only serve to create hysteria, which was the last thing they wanted. 

Those fears soon became reality.  On Monday, February 16, 1976, another Newsday article about the Lutzes was printed, this one entitled: “The Curious Haunt The DeFeo House.”  It described how the Valentine’s Day article had kept the Amityville Police Department busy ensuring that none of the curiosity seekers became trespassers.  The article also quoted Stephen Kaplan, self-proclaimed head of the Parapsychology Institute of America.  Kaplan stated that he hoped to investigate the house and warned that the amateur “should not mix into these things because they do not know how to handle a hostile spirit.” 

          With the added pressure of the press, George Lutz was in a rush to fix his home and get on with his life.  “At this point, I was willing to listen to anyone who claimed to know about the paranormal because I wanted my house fixed,” reasons George.  He became interested in Stephen

 

Kaplan’s Parapsychology Institute of America after reading about the organization in the Newsday article.  Feeling he had nothing to lose, George contacted Mr. Kaplan. 

George Lutz remembers Kaplan as being “extremely excited” about being contacted about the case.  “I remember Kaplan spouting off his credentials and references like it was a sales pitch,” states George.  Regardless of his misgivings about Kaplan’s credentials, George took Kaplan up on his offer to investigate.  However, George’s one stipulation was that Kaplan could not speak any further to the press about his involvement in the case.  “Kaplan had agreed not to speak to the press. If he had not then that would have been it for Kaplan right then and there,” adds George.

 

THE PRESS CONFERENCE

                  

Earlier on February 16, 1976, Kathy received a call from William Weber.  Weber had informed her that she and George were to attend a press conference later that day in his office in Patchogue, New York.  Reluctantly she agreed after Weber informed her that reporters would show up at the children’s schools if they did not participate in the press conference.  “Not wanting to involve the children in any publicity, we reluctantly went to William Weber’s office to participate in our first interview,” says Kathy.

          The interview began with Weber introducing the Lutzes and clarifying that he presently only represented Ronald DeFeo Jr.  Weber went on to explain that the facts supplied by the Lutzes favored his client’s appeal and contended that he had not had adequate time to prepare a case for his client’s defense.

 

The following is an excerpt from the transcriptions of George Lutzes’ tape recording of the interview of the February 16, 1976 press conference.

 

Reporter:

Why did you decide on DeFeo’s house?

George Lutz:

We really liked the house.

Will Weber:

The fact that DeFeo...[had murdered his family]

George Lutz:

...that had no bearing on it at all.  At this point we couldn’t care less.  That wasn’t something that would bother us.

 

Reporter:

Was that in the back of your mind?

 

George Lutz:

 

Oh no.

 

Reporter:

And you actually only stayed in the house 10 days?

George Lutz:

No, we moved out January 14.  We were there 28 days.

Reporter:

What happened...

George Lutz:

Probably the easiest thing to do would be to tell you what didn’t happen.  No objects thrown around, no wailing noises, no hearing ghosts,...nothing that would associate with or think out of a ghost story, that type of thing.

 

Reporter:

Why did you move out?

Reporter(2):

Then what did happen?

George Lutz:

Let me put it this way.  We moved out of the house mainly because of the concern for our own personal safety.  We felt threatened.

 

Reporter:

Was it a threat from the outside or a threat that went to all of the others???

 

George Lutz:

I don’t know if I can answer that in the way that you asked.

 

Reporter:

Let’s talk physical beings.  You say the first personal safety of the family.  Did you feel that if you stayed there, somebody would do something?  Some person would do something....

 

George Lutz:

Some persons in the family would do something to someone else?

 

Reporter:

Or some person within the family would do something to someone else.

 

George Lutz:

No.

Reporter:

What did you feel threatened by?

George Lutz:

Force.  A very strong force.

Reporter:

What shape of form did it take?  Was it a moving form?

 

George Lutz:

 

I don’t think we can go into that.  We just told what form it did not take.

      

          During the press conference, the Lutzes also denied ever having called Sgt. Pat Cammarato to investigate their home.  However, they did confirm that the “proper people and organizations”–referring to the Psychical Research Foundation–were investigating the matter.  “We had set the record straight and played down our own experiences in the hopes that the press would lose interest in the story,” says George.  Contrary to what George and Kathy Lutz wanted, the press conference  did not negate interest in their story. 

 

         

THE TRUTH UNFOLDS

 

On Wednesday, February 18, 1976, Sgt. Cammarato addressed allegations of his involvement in a Long Island Press article entitled  “Ghosts Chased: Cop pours cold water on haunted house tale.”  Sgt. Cammarato stated, “There is no documentation, and no official investigation [by the police] into this area.”  He added that he personally knew of no other tragedy other than the DeFeo murders that took place at 112 Ocean Avenue.

          George and Kathy Lutz were both glad to see the erroneous report finally cleared up.  However, they were not pleased when Stephen Kaplan began speaking to the press about his upcoming investigation.  Especially when George had been adamant that he was to avoid the press.

          On Thursday, February 19, 1976, the Long Island Press carried a story entitled: “Ghost Hunt: Expert to probe forces in DeFeo house.”  In this article, Kaplan “sympathized with the Lutzes not wanting to stay in the house another a night.”  Kaplan went onto to state that he and his staff planned on investigating the house in the near future.  Angered by the article, George Lutz called Kaplan to cancel his upcoming investigation. 

“Kaplan told me that Channel 7 was going to make him a star if he let them film his investigation,” recalls George. “Kaplan said he found it ridiculous to turn down their offer for the privacy of researching.”  Feeling that he could no longer trust him, George severed all ties with Kaplan and his organization.

          The very next day, the Long Island Press carried a story entitled “Ghost Hunter Smells A Hoax.”  In the article, Kaplan was quoted as saying, “If he (Lutz) does not invite me to the house, then I would have to believe the possibility that a hoax was being presented.”  Irresponsibly, Kaplan implied that the Lutzes knew Ronald DeFeo Jr. and their story

 

was an attempt to get him off the hook.  Kaplan rationalized his exclusion by saying, “I am bowing out because I don’t like the set-up.” However, the article fails to mention that Kaplan and his organization had been excluded by George Lutz from investigating 112 Ocean Avenue.  For Kaplan, this was the start of what the Lutzes claim was twenty-year vendetta against them that lasted until Kaplan’s death in 1995.

 

 

ENTERING THE NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT

         

          The Lutzes’ story didn’t remain a local story for long.  During the week of February 16, 1976, New York’s Channel 5 News reporter Steve Bauman broadcast a special report in front of the house in Amityville.  To

make matters worse, the report was just erroneous as the first newspaper accounts.

          In addition to the typical inaccuracies of before, the Channel 5 report added a few new ones.  Bauman’s report suggested that when Kathy Lutz levitated she “drifted towards a mysterious closet that had not been on any blueprint.”  The report was referring to the Red Room, which was nothing but a pipe access in a storage closet in the basement.  Nevertheless, the Lutzes had experienced odd feelings about the small room that had frequently smelled of raw sewage.  Even Harry, the Lutzes’ dog, refused to go near it.  “It was odd that the room did not appear on the set of blueprints we obtained. According to the plans, there appeared to be a well or cesspool underneath the foundation near the room,” says George.

The biggest inaccuracy of the Channel 5 report was Bauman’s statement that “the Catholic Church planned on sending two emissaries from the Vatican’s Council of Miracles.”  Regardless, the Catholic Church had no official role in the investigation and had already referred the Lutzes to the PRF at Duke University.  George and Kathy had never even heard of the Council of Miracles until the TV report and were never certain whether or not it actually existed.

          The Lutzes were quickly losing hope that their story would ever fade out of the media spotlight.  Not only did their story received increased coverage, but it had taken on a life of its own.  “Luckily, the Channel 5 news report did bring Laura DiDio into our lives,” states Kathy.  At the time, DiDio was a news assistant working for Channel 5.  Her objectivity and sympathy towards the Lutzes proved invaluable at gaining the couple’s confidence.  For George and Kathy, DiDio was willing to take her time and get the story straight rather than reporting more inaccuracies.  (Note to Agent/Publisher: A later chapter will focus on DiDio’s extensive involvement with the case.)

 

 

THE PLOT THICKENS

 

          Because of the experiences George and Kathy Lutz had related, William Weber wanted a new trial for Ronald DeFeo Jr. based on the grounds of “possession”.  The Lutzes did not have a problem with Weber trying to do what was best for his client.  “What we didn’t feel comfortable with was the business partnership Weber had proposed to us in late February/early March 1976,” recalls George.  Weber had wanted George and Kathy to join him in his book project. 

The partnership would also include Paul Hoffman,  Frederick Mars and Bernard Burton.  Both Mars and Burton were senior partners at the law firm at which Weber practiced.  In fact, Hoffman, Weber, Mars and Burton had signed an earlier contract dated February 14, 1976, forming a partnership for the proposed book.  Because of the media attention the

Lutzes’ story was getting, the group annulled the first contract so as to include the Lutzes in their partnership. 

The focus of the proposed book was the DeFeo murders.  At the end, the reader would be able to choose the most probable of the three scenarios.  Whether Ronald DeFeo Jr. was legally insane, whether he was a cold-blooded killer or whether he was possessed by evil forces.  The Lutzes’ story would be saved for the epilogue.  “What bothered us most about this book proposal was that Weber had signed an agreement dated February 27, 1976, with Ronald DeFeo Jr.,” says George.  The convicted mass murderer was to receive a share of the gross receipts of any book involving his story.

          After learning of DeFeo’s financial involvement in the proposed book project, George and Kathy Lutz no longer wanted to associate with Weber or his partners or to be involved in any of their ventures.  They also felt they had been lied to about Paul Hoffman’s involvement, who had been introduced to them as a criminologist working on DeFeo’s appeal, not as a journalist assigned to write the book about DeFeo’s life and crimes.  The Lutzes contend that the reasons they went to William Weber and later confided in Paul Hoffman were that they wanted to get help for DeFeo and get information to help them fix their house.

Moreover, George and Kathy could not condone involving Ronald DeFeo Jr. in any project in which he would profit from the story of killing his family.  Furthermore, George and Kathy Lutz questioned why Mars and Burton were involved.  They also felt that their story couldn’t be told properly as an epilogue to a book that focused on the crimes of a convicted mass murderer.

After wrestling with the issue, George and Kathy finally decided that a book could set the record straight after the dozens of news stories that had misquoted them and given erroneous accounts of their experiences.  “We also believed that any book we did would serve to help

 

others who were experiencing the same horrors as we had,” explains Kathy.  A friend who lived near the New Jersey offices of Prentice Hall-a major publisher in the 1970’s-took it upon himself to see if there was any interest in a  book about the Lutzes’ experiences in Amityville.  He was referred to Tam Mossman who was an editor for Prentice Hall specializing in publishing books on the occult.

 

 

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR IS BORN

 

Tam Mossman was intrigued by the Lutzes’ story and told their friend that he would like to meet with them.  In March 1976,  George and Kathy visited him in his office and proceeded to tell him of their twenty-eight day ordeal.  Impressed with the couple’s story, Mossman asked

screenwriter and friend Jay Anson to listen to the couple’s story.

          At the time, Jay Anson was introduced as a documentary writer working for a Manhattan-based company called Professional Films.  Conveniently, Anson was renting desk space in the same office as Mossman.  Mossman looked to Anson to be the determining factor in whether the Lutzes story should be turned into a book.  A few years prior, Anson had worked on a documentary on the making of William Friedkin’s landmark 1973 horror film “The Exorcist” based on the novel by William Peter Blatty.  It was on the set of “The Exorcist” that Jay Anson became knowledgeable in matters of the occult through his association with the production’s technical advisor, Reverend John Nicola-a Catholic priest.   

Deciding that their story needed more corroboration, Anson interviewed Father Ray.  After this interview Anson believed that he had a commercial project on his hands.  In April of 1976, he set out to write the Lutzes’ story.  However, instead of interviewing the Lutzes, Anson used only the audio tapes that George and Kathy had made to help them make sense of their experiences.  “In addition to our audio tapes, we turned over the house’s blueprints and all of our research into the history of 112 Ocean Avenue,” says George.  Over the next few months, bed ridden from a heart attack, Anson wrote two chapters a week until his work was completed.  Events surrounding the book’s conception were just as mysterious as the story it described.

In a March 1979, Writer’s Digest interview, Jay Anson explained some of the misfortunes that befell those involved with the book’s development.  A friend of Anson’s took some of the early chapters home to review and that night her and her two children suffocated in a fire.  The only item not damaged was the manuscript.  After Anson completed

the book, his editor picked up the manuscript and put in his trunk.  He later drove through what he thought was a mud puddle; it turned out to

 

be a 12’ hole.  Even though the car was completely immersed, the manuscript remained dry.

 

                  

A SHATTERED DREAM

 

          By Easter week 1976, the Lutzes concluded that they could never again live at 112 Ocean Avenue.  Disappointingly, the psychic investigators were unable to “fix” the house.  After consulting with Father Ray, they asked a few of their closest friends to enter the house and prepare what they could for the Salvation Army.  “They were warned by Father Ray that the only time they could enter the house was during Holy Week and only while it was daylight,” recalls George. “They were also to say a special prayer prior to entering the house and stay no longer than one hour.”  During the time they were there, a special mass was being said by Father Ray. 

          Doug Capra, knew George Lutz for at least six years prior to moving in to the house in Amityville.  Capra owned a garage that serviced vehicles belonging to George’s land surveying business.  Once Capra arrived at the house in Amityville, he went right to work.  He began pulling out a slew of clothing, which he estimated to be worth at least $3,000.  Most of the clothing went to the Salvation Army, while several other items were to be auctioned off at a later date.  “We had been warned by Fr. Ray that we could not take these items out of the house. Doing so would be detrimental to us,” says Kathy.

          Capra had reported to the Lutzes of seeing broken glass pointing to a break-in.  However, as much glass was on the inside as the outside also denoting a break-out.  While there, Capra hastily repaired a leak in the basement.  He later told George how odd it was that the first floor felt much colder than the other parts of the house.  The most convincing thing for Capra was not that George had  turned to religion over the last few months, but seeing him give up all of his possessions.  Even Capra’s father was astonished because he knew George as a “penny pincher.”

At around noon George’s other friend, Benny, arrived to help.  After already staying longer than they were supposed to, Capra and Benny carried out a cedar chest-the only thing the Lutzes were allowed by Fr. Ray to reclaim.  Kathy points out. “The cedar chest was a heirloom handcrafted by George’s grandfather. Father Ray had said the cedar the chest was made from would shield it against any negative energies trying to infest the items inside.”  The small chest contained a few of the family’s picture albums and important documents. During the hour

Benny was there, his girlfriend stayed in the car refusing to go in the house.  However, she eventually wandered into the garage where the two men had been checking on George’s speed boat.  “I was told she

 

complained about feeling uneasy and returned to the car,” says George. “A week later she was arrested for murdering Benny.”

Later that spring,  the rest of the Lutzes’ items were auctioned or given to charity.  These items included George’s three Harley Davidson Motorcycles, the family’s cabin cruiser and speedboat and the remaining items left inside the house.  After paying off the cabin cruiser, the Lutzes netted less than $2000 from the auction.  “It was not until much later that I found out that some of the people that bought items at the auction had suffered misfortunes,” says George. 

On Mother’s Day 1976, the Lutzes left New York.  George had sold his family business to the first person who responded and to the first offer.  He received less than $30,000 up front for a business worth $250,000.  The buyer would paid an additional $20,000 over the next three years.

George and Kathy simply wanted to get as far away from the house as possible.  They eventually settled on the opposite side of the country near San Diego, California.  To make ends meet, the family had to live on food stamps and George and Kathy had to go door to door delivering Reader’s Digest magazines.

In August of that year, George and Kathy voluntarily gave the house in Amityville back to the bank, thus forfeiting any equity they had tied up in it.  “In good conscience, we could not sell the house to another family because we could not eradicate what was there and did not want to be responsible for passing it on,” says Kathy.  Unfortunately, it was a bitter end to the Lutz family’s shattered dream of turning 112 Ocean Avenue into a happy home.

 

 

A PUBLISHING SUCCESS

 

In the fall of 1977, Jay Anson’s  “The Amityville Horror” hit bookstores.  Almost overnight the book became a success and remained a bestseller for years.  Little did anyone know that the book describing the Lutzes’ ordeal would sell over two million copies. 

          “The Amityville Horror” took the public by storm.  The house at 112 Ocean Avenue with its eye-like windows had suddenly gone from a house of tragedy to an international icon of terror.  Almost immediately, the village of Amityville became ground zero for an invasion of tourists  who came in search of  the infamous house.  In an attempt to thwart the tide of “AH’ers”, the nickname given to the tourists, the village proclaimed the story to be a hoax. 

          Of course, very rarely does Hollywood turn a blind eye toward a book that is such an overwhelming success.  By 1978, the movie version of “The Amityville Horror” was in production.  Actors James Brolin and

 

Margot Kidder had the challenge of playing George and Kathy Lutz.  Since Amityville refused to allow the production company to film in the village limits, an alternate location had to be found.  A Dutch Colonial house in Tom’s River, New Jersey, was finally chosen.  The “ominous movie house” was perfect for inspiring fear in the audience.

          On July 27, 1979, “The Amityville Horror” opened in theatres across the nation.  However, unlike the book, the subtitle of “A True Story” was missing.  Though the movie became a success, it failed to capture the same story Jay Anson’s book had.  In fact, due to time constraints the Lutzes’ twenty-eight day stay in the house was shortened

in the movie.  In addition, many events in the film were sensationalized to shock and terrify audiences.  Even Lalo Schifrin’s rejected score for “The Exorcist” was used as the music in the film and went on to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Although the movie was a box office success, it sparked even more controversy over its inaccuracies.  To the best of their ability, George and Kathy Lutz tried to stand by the validity of their story, citing that the movie was strictly a Hollywood adaptation.  “Although I was hired as a creative consultant, I was barred from the set and had no creative input in it,” says George. “The only creative pull I had on the film was used up when I insisted that the producers edit out a few inappropriate scenes of the movie involving Margot Kidder. Otherwise, I nor Kathy would help promote the movie.”  Since the scenes were removed, George and Kathy did help promote the movie.

Many of the newspapers that had been covering the Lutzes’ horrifying ordeal had now switched gears and also began calling the story a hoax.  Unknowingly, it was these same critics and reporters with their conspiracy theories who kept the story in the public spotlight for over two decades.  The debate about “The Amityville Horror” has lasted well into the 21st Century.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

3 – DEBUNKING THE DEBUNKERS

 

 

CLEARING UP MISCONCEPTIONS

 

         

           The Lutzes’ critics called Jay Anson’s book “preposterous,” citing many of the inaccurate dates of weather patterns and meteorological events.  Since Anson had to work from the Lutzes’ audio tapes, he tried to compile the information in a way that could not only be entertaining, but make sense.  Even though much of the book was written in a chronological fashion, the Lutzes never stated the specific dates at which events transpired.  “Often we wish we had kept a log, that we had written down everything when it happened. There was no idea that such a thing would be something we wanted to do or ever wanted a record of,” explains George.  Anson addressed the mistakes in his book in a March 1979, Writer’s Digest interview by excusing himself for “being human.”

An example of the dramatic license Anson incorporated in the story involved the front door.  In ”The Amityville Horror,” Anson wrote that George Lutz had “awakened to find his 250lb. front door hanging by one hinge.”  “The truth of the matter was that I discovered the front door slightly damaged and the storm door left hanging on one hinge,” says George.  According to the Lutzes, the storm door weighed approximately  forty or fifty pounds-not a 250lb. monstrosity.  During the summer, the storm door could even double as a screen door after its heavy glass was removed.

Anson also inaccurately wrote that Sgt. Cammarato of the Amityville Police Department came to the house, even though the Lutzes had already publicly stated otherwise.  In later editions of the book, the name “Zammataro” appeared in place of “Cammarato” after the police officer sued to have his name removed.  Because the subtitle, “A True Story” appeared on the cover of  the book, the Lutzes’ claims were heavily scrutinized.  Self-proclaimed “debunkers” of the story used Jay Anson’s dramatic license as proof that George and Kathy Lutz had concocted a hoax.  These outspoken critics publicly challenged the couple to “get their story straight.” 


 

In August 1977, one month before “The Amityville Horror” hit bookstore shelves, George and Kathy Lutz finally signed a contract with author Jay Anson.  The time frame provided little opportunity for the couple to enforce the changes they had made to the galleys.  Today, it is unclear what has become of these galleys since Anson succumbed to a fatal heart attack in the early 1980’s.  Regardless, George and Kathy Lutz never would have publicly supported the book if they did not feel it closely described their ordeal.  In their eyes, the inaccuracies in the book

 

were nothing more than semantics.  “Overall, we felt that Jay Anson had done an accurate job of describing life at 112 Ocean Avenue,” says George.  Because “The Amityville Horror” was an overwhelming success, George and Kathy Lutz have been accused of capitalizing on a tragedy.

 “Any monies we received from Jay Anson’s book were downright necessary to keep the family going,” explains Kathy. “They might have replaced some of our material possessions, but nothing could replace our loss of innocence at the house in Amityville.”  George adds. “We did not get filthy rich off Jay Anson’s book and quite a bit of the first book’s profits were immediately put back into developing a second book about all the things that happened to the other people that were involved in this case.”  Regretfully, the project fell apart when the author the Lutzes had hired disappeared.  Nevertheless, the Lutzes’ critics used the success of “The Amityville Horror” as a soapbox to shout hoax.

 

 

THE LIE DETECTOR TEST

 

        On June 19, 1979, George and Kathy Lutz went to the offices of Professional Security Consultants in Hollywood, California to take a lie detector test and prove their critics wrong.  The test was conducted by two qualified examiners: Chris Gugas, member of the American Polygraph Association and Michael Rice, member of the California Academy of Polygraph Science.  Both examiners reviewed a copy of “The Amityville Horror” prior to administering the test. 

Pre-test interviews and stimulation tests were given to both George and Kathy to determine if they were suitable subjects for the polygraph.  During the polygraph test, a stoelting polygraph instrument was used

to record blood-pressure, hear rate, respiration and electrodermal resistance.  For further accuracy, George and Kathy were tested separately. 

         

The following five questions were asked by Chris Gugas to George Lutz to determine if he had been telling the truth. 

 

1.     Are the details you gave me on your frightening experiences at the Amityville house true?

2.     When you fled your Amityville house, were you in fear of your life and the well being of your family?

3.     After leaving Amityville did you and Kathy both levitate at your mother-in-law’s house?

4.     During your 28 days in Amityville, did you experience unexplained flies and disturbing odors on several occasions?

 

 

5.     At the Amityville house, did you hear what sounded like a marching band tuning up in the middle of the night?

 

George Lutz answered YES to all of the five questions. 

 

The following five questions were asked by Michael Rice to Kathy Lutz to determine if she had been telling the truth.

 

1.     To the best of your ability did the events of that Amityville house as recorded on your tapes actually happen?

2.     Are all the events discussed in your interview today true and correct?

3.     While in the Amityville house did you actually see yourself as an old woman?

4.     While in the Amityville house were you embraced by an invisible being?

5.     While in your Amityville bed did you actually feel the presence of an invisible being over you?

 

Kathy Lutz answered YES to all of the five questions.

           

          After the tests were concluded, the examiners evaluated the Lutzes’ charts.  Both Chris Gugas and Michael Rice proclaimed in their report that the results showed George and Kathy Lutz were telling the truth.  On July 24, 1979, The Star reported these results in an article covering two full pages.  Regardless, the tests did not satisfy the Lutzes’ critics. 

The tests were wrongfully criticized and labeled a publicity stunt performed by The Star.  The skeptics also failed to learn the qualifications of either Gugas or Rice before making their accusations.  At the time, Gugas and Rice were considered experts in their fields and were asked to perform similar examinations on other famous individuals.  Together they performed examinations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassin James Earl Ray and actress Terry Moore, who claimed she had been married to Billionaire Tycoon Howard Hughes.

In his book “The Silent Witness,” Chris Gugas made a strong case for the polygraph’s accuracy in deciphering the truth.  Later in his career he served on the board of several well known polygraph organizations and eventually founded the National Polygraph Association.  Throughout his career, Chris Gugas had been instrumental in getting many domestic and foreign government agencies to adopt the use of the polygraph.  “We could not have asked for a better examiner,” says George.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE VAMPIROLOGIST

 

One of the most vocal disbelivers in the validity of the Lutzes’ polygraph test was Stephen Kaplan-the alleged expert George Lutz had previously fired.  Kaplan called the test a sham and Chris Gugas a “Ringer”.  These kinds of baseless accusations were typical of Kaplan, who in twenty years never provided any documented proof to substantiate his allegations that the Lutzes had created a hoax.

Kaplan took it upon himself to be the biggest critic and debunker of the Lutzes’ story.  The day after George Lutz excluded him from investigating the Amityville house, Kaplan was quoted in the now defunct Long Island Press as saying, “a hoax was being presented.”  “As best I can determine, Kaplan did this in response to me excluding him from any official investigation into 112 Ocean Avenue,” explains George.  “This was the start of a vendetta against us and many of the people who had helped us.”

Kaplan’s vendetta against the Lutzes became a public sparring match between him and  Ed and Lorraine Warren-the first psychic investigators ever to enter 112 Ocean Avenue with the Lutzes’ permission.  The Warrens concluded that an inhuman force was present in the home and to this day continue to support the Lutzes’ claims.  For years, Kaplan proclaimed the Warrens to be frauds and the cases they worked on to be bogus.  Countless times the husband and wife team debated with Kaplan on radio and TV programs.  “We publicly offered Kaplan a $3000 reward if he could substantiate his claims that the Lutzes’ story was a hoax. Kaplan was never able to provide any such evidence,” recalls Ed Warren.

The Warrens were finally vindicated in 1982 on the Joel Martin Show where Stephen Kaplan apologized to them.  Here is an excerpt from the radio show on WBAB in New York.

 

Joel Martin:

How do we want to clear this up?

 

Ed Warren:

If Dr. Kaplan would simply write their newspaper a letter that the Warrens are not charlatans.  We do not go out to hood-wink the public.  This would satisfy us.

 

Joel Martin:

 

Is this agreeable to you Dr. Kaplan?

 

Stephen Kaplan:

Sure. I will tell them.  In fact I will write them a little more information about a Mr. Karl Roshell not the university of St. John’s.  I don’t want to mention the gentleman a plug... Again you and I don’t agree on

 

that point.  If a guy wants to be a witch then fine as long as you don’t hurt anyone.

 

Joel Martin:

Okay, the Warrens are not interested in your vampire research and will not impugn his reputations I understand.  Is that correct you don’t care about his...?

 

Ed Warren:

We have never talked about Dr. Kaplan on any programs unless we have been directly attacked.

 

Joel Martin:

Okay what about this business of alleged threats made by each other?

 

Stephen Kaplan:

I think it was a misunderstanding.  I think we are both nervous of each other because we are in strange fields.  I get a feeling people think I cohort with vampires.  Maybe the Warrens cohort with fighting against demons and bringing with them.  I think there were a lot of nervousness involved.

 

 

Joel Martin:

Okay have we performed an exorcism tonight?  Are all the bad spirits and bad feelings gone?

 

 

Ed Warren:

Well, I want to thank you very much Joel for bringing us together...

 

Joel Martin:

I don’t want thanks...

 

Lorraine Warren:

Well you deserve thanks for clearing the air.

 

Stephen Kaplan:

I am here because I think you folks were wrongly criticized very wrongly and I think it ought to been corrected.

 

Joel Martin:

Alright I hope for the future you work together or don’t work together as the case may be, but with no impugning or derogatory remarks about reputations.

 

Stephen Kaplan:

 

The forces of Evil are stronger in terms because they are more united than we are.  It would not shock me that in the future somewhere that Ed and Lorraine Warren and I get together on certain cases if need be against if forces which have hurt the public and the people.

 

Joel Martin:

 

Is the animosity over?

 

Stephen Kaplan:

I have no animosity to the Warrens.

 

Joel Martin:

Is the misrepresentations over?

 

Stephen Kaplan:

I feel happy that it is over that the frustration is over.  That my obsession with the truth because sometimes that truth is not truth is over.

 

Notwithstanding his public apology, Stephen Kaplan went on to write “The Amityville Horror Conspiracy” which was published weeks after his death in 1995.  The book proclaimed “The Amityville Horror” to be nothing but a hoax and its participants conspirators in a well-documented lie.  Most of the theories in “The Amityville Horror Conspiracy” were supported by misinformation reported in the press and on TV.  Looking back on it, George explains, “We did not have control over many of things that were reported in the media, but nevertheless we were the ones who were blamed for the inaccuracies.”

          At the height of the media frenzy in 1976, Laura DiDio was a news assistant working for Channel 5 News.  She had recorded many of her conversations and thoughts about the Lutzes’ story in her notebook.  According to her notebook she thought Kaplan was a “nut.”  Furthermore, she wrote:

 

I continued to contact Weber and Burton throughout the following week-February 16-and no the Lutzes still were not talking. Weber did have something new to report however, and that was that a Dr. Steven Kaplan, who taught a course in parapsychology and billed himself as an international celebrity in the field of Vampirology, was going to lead a group of white witches into the house to conduct an exorcism on Saturday, February 28. Channel  7’s Eyewitness News had been invited to film an exorcism. Weber said that Channel 5 could go also. From what I know about the occult-the whole thing seemed strange. Exorcisms were performed by priests, not witches. A call to Kaplan did nothing to allay my suspicions that such a foray into the house would be little more than a three ring circus.

 

Kaplan wrote in “The Amityville Horror Conspiracy” that in April of 1976, he pretended to be George Lutz’ friend and bluffed his way past the auctioneer preparing the family’s belongings for sale.  “Because at the time we still owned the house and Kaplan had no proper authorization to

 

 

 

be inside, he was trespassing,” responds George.  Although he had gained admittance into the house, Kaplan brought no scientific equipment to conduct tests.  “Kaplan admitted on the air on the Ronnie Gans Show that he didn’t even know the names of the instruments he claimed he had used in his so-called scientific investigation of the house,” says Ed Warren.

Even today, Stephen Kaplan’s credentials as a parapsychologist are still debated.  Kaplan graduated from a city college in New York with a Bachelor’s degree in sociology and later earned a Master’s degree  in communication skills.  In “The Amityville Horror Conspiracy” Kaplan

himself acknowledged his doctorate came from a “university without walls.”  It is not clear if this is the same doctorate that he admitted to being “strictly honorary” on the Long John Nebel talk radio show in the late 1970’s.  Where Mr. Kaplan received his training in parapsychology is still unclear, yet anyone who refers to himself as a “professional vampirologist,” according to the Warrens and the Lutzes, hardly has the credentials – or the credibility – to call “The Amityville Horror” a hoax.

Throughout his career, Stephen Kaplan espoused a belief in  modern day vampires and founded The Vampire Research Center of America in Elmhurst, New York.  An Associated Press article described that part of Kaplan’s research included “sleeping in coffins and drinking

blood.”  In the 1977 book, “What It Costs,” Kaplan stated, “We [The Vampire Research Center of America ] authenticate whether a vampire exists or not by investigating both primary and secondary sources.”  Kaplan’s typical fee for his vampirology services?  $500.

As stated in Kaplan’s book, even the next owners of the Amityville house, the Cromarty’s, were reluctant to give him permission to investigate.  Finally, they allowed Kaplan to take a few pictures of the house during a costume party on Halloween Night 1979.  It was definitely not the appropriate circumstances to conduct an investigation into the house. 

“Evidently, since I did not contribute to helping him become famous, the only other way for Kaplan to become famous was to call the whole thing a hoax”, insists George.  Indeed, the case that Stephen Kaplan is most notorious for is “The Amityville Horror.”  However, much of Kaplan’s theories in his book, “The Amityville Horror Conspiracy,” are based on nothing more than misquoted newspaper articles, and of course the dramatic inaccuracies in Jay Anson’s book.

It is a fact that in journalism errors happen.  Even Kaplan’s book, “The Amityville Horror Conspiracy,” contained flaws.  For example, Kaplan wrote the date of Marvin Scott’s televised coverage of the seance in the house was February 24, 1976.  But, the people that were present say it was March 6, 1976.  In fact, even the news report had the date “March 6, 1976” flash on the screen.  Another one of Kaplan’s errors

 

 

concerned the lawsuit brought against the Lutzes by the Cromarty’s.  In “The Amityville Horror Conspiracy”, Stephen Kaplan reported the lawsuit was settled out of court for half a million dollars.  In reality, the suit was settled for less than a $100,000.

          Although Kaplan proclaimed that he was a parapsychologist, he never backed up the claims in his book that supernatural forces were never present at 112 Ocean Avenue with quantitative and verifiable scientific data.  Even the most basic element of any paranormal investigation was missing: a first person interview with George and Kathy Lutz to determine their credibility.

 

WILLIAM WEBER

 

        In a People magazine article dated September 17, 1979, William Weber was described as a “whistle blower” and “a man with his own axe to grind.”  In the article, Weber charged, “We created this horror story over many bottles of wine...George was a con artist.”  “I'm sure when we met with Mr. Weber there were some bottles of wine on the table. It was a hard time for us,” remembers George. 

          Today, Weber insists that the Lutzes perpetrated a hoax that he helped create.  He claims he never believed in the prospect of Ronald DeFeo Jr. being possessed and admits to wanting to write a book about the murders.  At the end of  his own never-realized book,  Weber planned to leave it up to the reader to decide whether Ronald DeFeo Jr. was mentally ill, a cold-blooded killer or possessed by some diabolical force.  Weber still contends that the Lutzes’ story was planned as a fictional addition to the epilogue of his book.  “It makes no since that Weber would accuse us of concocting a hoax with him and then make us swear on a contract that he wanted us to sign that we were telling the truth,” remarks George.

          Indeed the 1976 contract that Weber and his partners (Hoffman, Mars and Burton) wanted George and Kathy Lutz to sign stated otherwise.  The second page, third clause reads:

 

G & K Lutz represent and warrant that the experiences which they have related and will relate in connection with their ownership and occupancy of the premises formerly owned and occupied by the DeFeo family at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York, are true

and that all records, tapes or artifacts now in their possession which pertain to these experiences shall be held solely and exclusively for the use of the company, and G & K Lutz further

 

 

 

represent and warrant that they each are willing to undergo a polygraph (lie detection) test conducted by a competent and experienced operator and otherwise swear to the truth of their statements when same shall be in the best interests of the COMPANY, and so requested by the COMPANY and that their participation and equity in the COMPANY shall depend upon the results of such test and their willingness to cooperate with the media as determined by the COMPANY from time to time, and they further represent and warrant that they will not conduct any interviews, make any appearances or issue any statements concerning these experiences, except in the best interests and sole benefit of the COMPANY.

 

The third page, fifth clauses defines what the book will be:

 

The shareholders herein individually agree that the purpose of the COMPANY is to promote the publication of the DeFeo story as well

as the events which occurred at the DeFeo house and the history of the property as experienced by G&K Lutz.  Such publication is meant to be inclusive of all forms and involving all known media sources.

 

          The Lutzes chose to turn down the offer and not sign Weber’s contract because they felt it was not in their best interests.  “After Weber proposed his book deal to us, we came to the conclusion he was someone we could not trust nor wanted to spend any more time with,” says George.  Furthermore, Ronald DeFeo Jr. stood to gain financially from Weber’s proposed book. “I felt that maybe Ronald DeFeo Jr. could get some counseling, get some help if we went to Weber and related our experiences in the house”, recalls Kathy.  For George and Kathy, the prospect of Ronald DeFeo Jr. now profiting from killing his entire family could not be entertained. 

          On a March 12, 1981, William Weber testified in a deposition in a lawsuit against the Lutzes, Jay Anson and Prentice Hall.  It was filed by the Cromarty’s.  They cited Jay Anson’s book was an invasion of their privacy and reportedly sued for over two million dollars.  The suit was eventually settled out of court.  The following is an excerpt from a sixty-two page deposition given under oath by William Weber.

 

(Page 15)

Examiner:

You just stated this afternoon that they [Lutzes] recounted some of their experiences to you at this first meeting at Mrs. Connor’ house.

 

 

Weber:

Yes.

 

 

 

Examiner:

Could you recount any of those experiences as they were related to you as to what transpired in the house during the time they occupied it?

 

 

Weber:

Basically, they were talking about the change in themselves and in their children and their relationships with each other during the period of time they lived in the house, and how they could offer no other excuse but to say there were certain forces acting upon them in the house.  That was basically what they were talking about.

 

[Page 21]

Examiner:

 

Did the Lutzes, on that occasion and during the course of  those several hours, make any statement indicating that they had told of their experiences in that house at 112 Ocean Avenue to anyone prior to talking to you?

 

Weber:

They told me they told the priest.  They told me that their mother-in-law, Mrs. Connors, was there in the house one or two times when certain things happened to them, and that they told her the rest.

 

 

Examiner:

What incidents had they told you had occurred while Mrs. Connors was present at 112 Ocean Avenue?

 

 

Weber:

I specifically remember that when he was describing that Kathy had changed into an eighty year old woman, that Mrs. Connors had seen the aftereffects.  She was there the day or two afterwards, and she reiterated at her home that Kathy was improving, but she still looked very, very old and didn’t look herself.

 

 

[Page 30]

Examiner:

Did the Lutzes tell you at this first meeting what they wanted from you during the this two and a half or three hour meeting?

 

 

Weber:

They wanted as much information as possible about DeFeo and his family, because they wanted to see in what way their experiences in the house coincided with whatever information I could give

them.

 

 

[Page 31 - 32]

Examiner:

Did the subject of a commercial project ever get mentioned during the first meeting?

 

 

Weber:

It did, but lightly.

 

 

Examiner:

Who raised it?

 

 

Weber:

I think I raised it.

 

 

Examiner:

Could you recount what you said to them?

 

 

Weber:

I think I told them we were about to retain someone -– a writer who had an agent – who might look in the possibility of a book, and since they

had been living in the house, maybe their story might be part of it as an epilogue.

 

 

Examiner:

They had told you their story already?

 

 

Weber:

No. They didn’t really tell me any great story, other than the change in their living patterns, and the fact that Kathy had become an eighty year old lady, and they had heard voices there, and there were so many strange things going on.  When they finally decided to go to the priest, the priest told them to get out of the house right away, and they didn’t know at that point what was happening or

what had happened.  They said the priest was slowly going to educate them, because he felt that if he just came out and told them all at once, that he might adversely affect them.

 

 

Examiner:

After you raised this possibility of a commercial project, what did they say to you?

 

 

Weber:

They hedged.  They did not say we want to participate, they did not say we don’t want to participate.  They said they will have to see.

 

 

Weber claims that the information he gave to the Lutzes concerning the DeFeo family helped them construct “The Amityville

Horror.”  One direct example is Missy’s friend, Jody.  Weber said he told George and Kathy about a neighbor’s fat cat called Evinrude.  Weber told the couple that Ronnie DeFeo used to call the cat a pig because it used to sit on the window seal and look into the house.  In the 1979 People

 

article, Weber said, “He [George] improvised on that and in the book sees a demon pig through the window.”

          Not so, says Missy Lutz who is now thirty-years-old.  She laughs at the notion that Jody was simply a cat.  When asked recently, she described Jody as an “evil entity trying to gain control over her actions.”  Missy recalls that Jody had the ability to be whatever it wanted to be and at what ever size it wanted.  Sometimes Jodi gave her a choice: a little boy or a pig.  “Since I was only five, I chose the pig,” explains Missy.  

          In the November 9, 1982 issue of The National Examiner, Dr. Hans Holzer, noted parapsychologist, stated that he was approached by William Weber in the fall of 1976 to investigate 112 Ocean Avenue.  Dr. Holzer concluded that the force in the house was resulting from a desecrated Indian burial ground.  More important than Holzer’s involvement was the fact that Weber himself called upon a parapsychologist to investigate the house that the Lutzes fled-a story that Weber claimed was a hoax.

          Furthermore, Betty Carrington, William Weber’s former legal secretary, wrote a book entitled “Judicial Carousel.”  Carrington went to work for Weber immediately following Ronald DeFeo Jr.’s conviction.  In her book, she described her days working for William Weber and had some pretty interesting stories to tell about her former boss.  Regarding the Amityville case, Carrington wrote about a time (presumably after “The Amityville Horror” had already come out) in which Weber allowed a warlock and a medium to come to his office to conduct a seance.  During the seance, the medium claimed she discovered that an evil force was residing in the house.

          Carrington believed in the possibility of something residing at the house in Amityville.  She wrote, “I know I personally would not care to have resided at 112 Ocean Avenue if the place was given to me.”  She also revealed that during an interview with Weber, Ronald DeFeo Jr. spoke of changes in his personality after moving to the house.  He also added that his family felt “someone might be hiding in the house” and that he had heard the disembodied screams of men and women there. 

According to Carrington, Ronald DeFeo Jr. told Weber that his father felt the devil lived in the house and had even brought a priest there to sleep.  Carrington never discovered the results of the priest’s stay. 

          Later, Paul Hoffman went on to publish an unauthorized article about the Lutzes and their twenty eight days.  The article appeared first in the New York Sunday News on July 18, 1976.  Later, Good

Housekeeping carried the article in the April 1977 edition of its magazine.  What is interesting is that Hoffman, a partner in Weber’s proposed book, portrayed the article as a work of non-fiction. 

          Even though the Lutzes felt that Hoffman’s article was more or less an accurate depiction of the events that transpired during their twenty-eight days in the house, they had not given Hoffman permission to

 

publish it.  Since “The Amityville Horror” had yet to be published, Prentice Hall forced the Lutzes to sue William Weber and Paul Hoffman out of fear that more unauthorized articles would be printed.  Also named in the suit was Hearst Publications, owners of Good Housekeeping, Weber’s law partners, and New York Sunday News

On September 10, 1979, the case finally proceeded to the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, New York.  The Lutzes case was dismissed almost immediately because Judge Jack Weinstein believed the articles were not an “invasion of their privacy.”  However, the judge allowed Weber’s counter-suit to continue, which was eventually settled out of court for an unspecified amount. 

          Although the Lutzes did not win their case, Prentice Hall published the book and the rest is history.  Since the movie version of “The Amityville Horror” was a summer hit in 1979, the newspapers had a field day.  The press reported that Father Ray testified he heard a voice say, “get out.”  Additionally, the press reported that Father Ray refuted most the afflictions that befell him in Jay Anson’s book. 

According to Judge Weinstein, the proceedings were closed and Father Ray’s testimony was sealed because of “priest-penitent” privileges.  “Father Ray never denied any part of the book or his afflictions in court, but he was not as forthcoming as he should have been,” says George. “I can not understand why the newspapers reported what they did.”

In fact, in a 1980 episode of ABC’s Television’s That’s Incredible, host Kathy Lee Crosby addressed the claims of the house’s new owners “that Father Ray was a charlatan and had admitted under oath that the book was false.”  It was implied the producers had gotten hold of a transcript of Father Ray’s testimony because Crosby cautioned that “the record of Father Ray’s testimony neither proves nor disproves the story.”

Moreover, in October 1976, Father Ray appeared on the show In Search of hosted by Leaonard Nimoy.  To protect his privacy, the producers interviewed Father Ray in silhouette.  Nevertheless, Father Ray gave a very descriptive account of what happened to him in Kathy’s

sewing room at 112 Ocean Avenue.  Even though his reputation was presumably on the line with the Church, he backed the Lutzes’ claims on national TV.

 

         

THE CROMARTY’S

 

        On March 18, 1977, Jim and Barbara Cromarty bought 112 Ocean Avenue for $55,000.   Two weeks later, on April 1, 1977, Jim and Barbara moved in with their three children: Meryl, Joyce, and David Roskind, Barbara’s son from a previous marriage.  A week after arriving, Paul Hoffman’s article entitled “Our Dream House was Haunted”

 

appeared in that month’s edition of Good Housekeeping.  Immediately, they were besieged with visitors who wanted to see the horrors inside.  To try and confuse the curiosity seekers, they changed the address to 108 Ocean Avenue, which it remains to this day.

          Throughout their tenure in the house, the Cromarty’s contended that the biggest horrors they suffered were at the hands of the tourists, nut cases and trespassers who camped outside their door waiting for a glimpse of the supernatural.  They blamed all the unwanted attention on the success of Jay Anson’s “The Amityville Horror.”  At the height of the story’s popularity, they put the house on the market and moved away allowing a friend to housesit.  Regardless, the Cromarty’s continued to fight off the story’s success by calling it a hoax and the Lutzes liars.  Eventually they moved back in after they could not find a suitable buyer.

          Even the Cromartys’ own relatives believed that something was strange about the new house.  At seventeen, Donna Yancosik, niece to Jim Cromarty, attended Massapequa High School just minutes away from the house.  “As part of a class assignment, I chose to conduct an interview with my Uncle Jim, thinking that it would be fascinating to hear his perspective on what is was like to live in the famous Amityville Horror house,” recalls Donna.  Donna and her friend arrived with tape recorder in hand and proceeded to follow Jim Cromarty around the house.  Jim Cromarty led the girls through each room assuring the girls that the story was a hoax and that the house was not haunted.  After finishing the interview, the girls returned to school.

“To complete our assignment, we played the interview in front of our class,” explains Donna.  The girls had not reviewed the tape before hand, so they had no way of knowing how the interview came out.  “It is a day that I will never forget because a growling appeared on the tape,” says Donna,  “but it only appeared each time my uncle proclaimed the story a hoax. We were all horrified.”

          In addition to the onslaught of tourists, the Cromarty’s had suffered their own tragedy while living at 112 Ocean Avenue.  Barbara’s oldest son, David Roskind who had lived in the third floor bedroom

which Ronald DeFeo Jr. had occupied, died.  The circumstances of his death are undisclosed since death certificates are not public record in New York State.  In 1987, the Cromarty’s finally sold the house to

another family, but proclaimed they had been driven out by tourists and not demons.

 

 

THE VILLAGE OF AMITYVILLE

 

          The word Amityville means “friendly village.”  Unfortunately, this is not the case once any well-meaning visitor to the South Shore village

 

asks about the Amityville Horror house.  Amityville wants tourists to come for the history and beauty of the community.  Established originally as part of Huntington Township in the 1600’s, the name eventually changed to Amityville in 1846.  The village historians proudly boast of the community’s former residents.  People like Will Rogers, Annie Oakley, and notorious figures such as Al Capone vacationed in the area.  In 1790, George Washington even passed through.

In the late 1970’s, Amityville became synonymous with horror after Jay Anson’s book “The Amityville Horror” became a best seller.  The official Amityville Village response to the story is that it was all a hoax.  Often unaware of the facts, many residents claim the Lutzes had a book deal before moving to the property.  Another theory posed is the Lutzes were part of a ploy to get Ronald DeFeo Jr. out of prison and never actually moved into the house.  Regardless of official sentiment, there are those in Amityville who will describe “off record” of having strange experiences in the house. 

On Friday, June 16, 2000, Long Island’s Newsday ran an article entitled “Still Haunted by Amityville Horror-Village declines to help TV show.”  The article described the village having refused to cooperate with the production of a documentary produced by The History Channel concerning the 25th anniversary of the Lutzes’ horrific tale.  In this article, Amityville Mayor Peter Imbert stated, “We don't see it as a positive thing for the community."  The two part episode, which aired in October 2000, examined the long-standing dispute over the Lutzes story.  Perplexed, the show’s producers insinuated in the Newsday article that Amityville was hiding something.

Some of Amityville’s leaders believe that the village should capitalize on the story much like Salem, Massachusetts has chosen to cash in on its ignominious reputation stemming from the  Salem witch trials of the late 1600s.  There are those who believe the village should buy the house and turn it into a bed and breakfast.  However, when presented with the idea, Amityville village trustees have constantly voted against it.  As generations change, the possibility increases that someday Amityville will accept its fate. 

Twenty-five years ago “The Amityville Horror” put the Village of Amityville on the map.  It is conceivable that in another twenty-five years, tourists will still be travelling down Ocean Avenue to see the “horror” house.  If at that time the house does not exist, then the visitors will be travelling to see a vacant plot of land where the house formerly known as 112 Ocean Avenue once existed.