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For many, buying a new house symbolizes a fresh start. For first time home owners, it may be a sign of self fulfillment and accomplishment. But what if your dream home had a violent and tragic past? What was once the start of something great, turned into a terrifying nightmare? The Amityville Horror misfortune and haunting depict just that. The families that have lived there endured torment and hell, their stories becoming a legend over time.
The DeFeo family were the first inhabitants of the infamous Amityville house. Ronald DeFeo, nicknamed “Big Ronnie”, and his wife Louise were newlyweds who decided the make a family. The first born was Ronald Joseph DeFeo Jr, nicknamed “Butch” on September 26, 1951. As a child, Butch was overweight and a loner. He was constantly teased at school, and his home life was no better. Big Ronnie disciplined Butch with no mercy. Hot tempered, Big Ronnie often took out his frustrations on Butch, and was seen as a man of authority, not to be reckoned with. Later in his teen years, Butch began using amphetamines, losing most of the weight and becoming bigger, leaner and stronger. His school issues were better; however his life at home continued to be the same, with him and his father fighting relentlessly, sometimes resulting in physical fights. (Osuna, 2003). On one occasion, during a heated argument, Butch pointed a 12 gauge shot gun, with the intention of shooting him. However, the gun did not go off. Some say this foreshadows the upcoming events. (“The True Story of the DeFeo Murders”, n.d.).
On July 29, 1956, Louise DeFeo gave birth to a daughter, Dawn Theresa DeFeo. Then, on August 16, 1961, Allison Louise DeFeo was born, followed by Marc Gregory DeFeo on September 4, 1962. The last child to be born into the family was John Matthew DeFeo on October 24, 1965. Fed up with living in Brooklyn, New York, the family decided to look for a new home. They eventually settled on a lavish house on 112 Ocean Ave in Amityville, Long Island. The dutch colonial, built in 1925, had two stories, six bedrooms, attic, basement, a gamble roof, an in ground swimming pool, and a boathouse that sat at the edge of Amityville creek. The house was long and narrow, the front showing the half-moon windows, looking somewhat like eyes, overlooking the street. The inside of the house was quite regal. The interior walls were covered in red velvet texture. In the dining room, a luminous crystal chandelier hung over the long dinner table, which seated 6. After moving in, the family decorated the living room with statues and paintings, which were in the living room. In the midst of it were a beautiful large fireplace and a baby grand piano. There were also self portraits made for everyone in the family, which was strung along the walls leading up the stairs to the second floor. (Osuna, 2003). It was seemingly the perfect house to raise a big family and dog, Shaggy. The family even placed a sign that read “high hopes” that hung on a lampost on the property, signifying the new beginning. (Anson, 1977; “The True Story of the DeFeo Murders”, n.d.).
Though the DeFeo’s had their dream house, the violence still persisted. Butch began using hardcore drugs such as heroin and LSD. He also started committing petty theft. All the while, he was working with his father at Big Ronnie’s car dealership. Not satisfied with the amount he was being paid, Butch devised a plan to gain more. Given the order to deposit $1,800 in cash and $20,000 in checks into the bank by a staff member, he fabricated a lie, being said he was robbed on the way to the bank by an acquaintance in on the deal. He would then split the money with him. Around 12:30 pm, the two set off for the bank. Two hours later, the men came back to the dealership and declared they had been “robbed” at gun point. Big Ronnie was enraged and called the local police. After their arrival, they questioned Butch, who immediately became edgy and ill-tempered. He soon became violent with the allegation of lying. A few days later, Butch was summoned to the police station to point out the possible thief. After agreeing, Butch eventually backed out at the last minute. After hearing about this, Big Ronnie became livid, and came to his own conclusion about the incident, and Butch was to blame. He confronted his son at work and belittled him with insults and threats. (“The True Story of the DeFeo Murders”, n.d.).
In the early evening of November 13, 1974, at a nearby bar called Henry’s, which was located down the street from the Amityville house, neighborhood friends gathered for drinks ad conversation. Around 6:30 p.m, Butch raced in, face flushed, beads of sweat running down his forehead, and out of breath. Trembling, he yelled that someone had shot both of his parents. Butch’s best friend, Robert Kelske ran over to his friend to console him. Robert rallied up patrons at the tavern and they all packed in Butch’s 1970 blue Buick Electra 225, heading towards the house. Though it was merely down the block, Robert sped down the street, arriving in seconds. (Osuna, 2003).
Quickly, the men ran inside. The house was quiet. Not a single sound was heard except the barking of Shaggy. The men hurried up the staircase, Robert leading. He knew exactly where the master bedroom was located, for he was an avid visitor to the DeFeo residence. Upon arriving to the second floor, the men were instantly greeted with a foul stench, the smell of death. Bracing himself, Robert opened the bedroom door and flipped the light switch. In the bed lay Big Ronnie and his wife Louise. At first sight, it was clear to see a bullet hole in the back of Big Ronnie DeFeo’s back. Pools of blood surrounded the couple. Dried blood had formed and ran from the wound. Louise DeFeo’s wounds were not easily seen, for she was snuggled beneath the comforter, however it was clear that she was not sleeping. (Osuna, 2003)
Feeling lightheaded, Robert, started back downstairs, taking in what he had just discovered. Another member of the group, John Altieri, began to search the remaining rooms, which belonged to Butch’s brothers and sisters. The first room to be checked by John, was that of John, 9 and Marc DeFeo, 12. John DeFeo lay lifelessly in his bed, his Knicks jersey devoured in blood. Lying in a neighboring bed was Marc, face down on his stomach. On his back was bullet wound, indicating how he was slain. (Osuna, 2003). The next to be found was Butch’s sisters, Allison, 13, and Dawn, 18. Both were found in bed, dead via gunshots. Gruesomely the girls were shot in the head, though it was difficult to pinpoint the exact entrance wound; there was too much blood to know. Dawn was shot in the face in which half of it was splattered around the innocent girls’ bedroom wall. After these horrible murders were discovered, the police was called. By 7:00 p.m., the DeFeo residence was infested with officers and investigators. Instantly they looked to Butch for answers, seeing as how he was the sole survivor. (“The True Story of the DeFeo murders”, n.d.)
Detectives Gasper Randazzo, Gerard Gozaloff, and Joseph Napolitano were assigned to interrogate Butch. When first asked what might have happened to his family, Butch’s answered that the mafia was to blame. Louis Falini, an infamous hit man was the person to shoot and kill his family. Butch had said the hit man committed these crimes out of revenge for a fight the two of them had. Butch feared for his own life, and the police decided to take him back to the station for protection. In his written statement, Butch declared that he had went to bed at 2:00 AM that night. Then, at 4:00 AM, he reportedly heard the toilet flush in the upstairs bathroom, and that his family members were still alive and well. After tossing and turning, Butch decided since he could not fall back asleep, he would head into work early. He went on to say that he left work early and hung out with friends, all the while trying to reach his family, but failing. After returning home, he claimed to have slipped through the kitchen window and then discovered his parent’s bodies. That is when he raced to the bar. (“The True Story of the DeFeo Murders”, n.d.)
The motive did not hold well for long. After intense examination of evidence in the home, it was apparent that the ammunition used in the murders, was that of Butch’s .22 and .35 marlin rifles. Also, through the questioning of Robert Kelske, police found out of Butch’s gun infatuation and the rocky relationship between him and his father. At 8:45 a.m., November 15, Butch was read his rights. After hours upon hours of questioning, and evidence pouring in that Butch was in fact inside the house during the murders, his story began to change. Now he was insisting that Louis Falini had held him at gunpoint around 3:30 a.m. and took him to each of his relatives’ room and to watch them be murdered. However, there were more holes in his story that Swiss cheese. Soon the truth came out. There was no mafia hit on the family. No one was to blame but Butch, who confessed he was the murderer in this statement, “It all started so fast. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.” (“The True Story of the DeFeo Murders”, n.d.)
The truth was, on the night of the murders, around 3:00 a.m., Butch casually walked into his parents room and shot and killed them. He then proceeded to do so with his brothers and sisters. It was estimated the killing spree took just 15 minutes. He then cleaned himself up and hid the evidence (gun, bloody clothing, etc). Eerily enough, after the killings were done, he continued his daily routines and went about his day. He went to work, and hung out with friends, as if he hadn’t just murdered his entire family. (Eblin, 2007; “The True Story of the DeFeo Murders, n.d.)
Nearly a year after the murders, Butch finally went to trial on October 14, 1975. William Weber was assigned to be Butch’s defense attorney. His defense was that his client was not in his right mind when he committed these murders and offer to plea insanity. After questioning on the stand, Butch gave even more bizarre stories on how is family was murdered, going as far as saying his sister Dawn was the one who killed, not him and he killed out of self defense. He also claimed he heard voices from inside the house telling him to murder his family. When shown a picture of his family members, and asked if he had killed him, Butch answered, “As far as I’m concerned, if I didn’t kill my family, they were going to kill me. And as far as I’m concerned, what I did was self-defense and there was nothing wrong with it. When I got a gun in my hand, there’s no doubt in my mind who I am. I am God.” (“The True Story of the DeFeo Murders”, n.d.). After weeks of trial, the jury spent two weeks deliberating the fate of Butch DeFeo. The question was, was he the victim of insanity, or a cold blooded murderer? The results were in; the vote was 12-0. On November 21, 1975, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr was found guily of 6 accounts of second degree murder, and sentenced to 25 to life on each case. Till this day, Butch’s home is the New York State Department of Corrections. (Eblin, 2007; “The True Story of the DeFeo Murders”, n.d)
The house remained vacant for 13 months after the murders. George and Kathy Lutz, also newlyweds, wanted to start afresh. The two had sold their own properties, in order to purchase one they can share together along with Kathy’s children from her first marriage, Daniel, 9, Christopher, 7, and Melissa “Missy”, 5, and their Malamute/Labrador mix named Harry. The couple came across the Amityville home from an ad in the newspaper. Like the DeFeo’s, the Lutz fell in love with the house. The realtor had told them about the horrible incident that took place there, for which gave the couple their reservations. However, after discussing the fact amongst themselves and the children, the Lutz decided to ignore the negative past, in hopes of starting a brighter future. (Anson, 1977; Belanger, 2005)
The Lutz bought the house at a price of $80,000, considered to be a bargain. The family moved in on December23, 1975. The DeFeo’s furniture remained in the house, which some may consider creepy, but for the Lutz, it was a bonus to have the elegant furnishings. A friend of George insisted of blessing the house upon hearing about its history. Having no qualms, George decided it would bring no harm and agreed, seeking out Catholic priest named Father Ralph J. Pecoraro (Father Ray). When Father Ray started his blessing on December 23, after flicking holy water and beginning to pray in an upstairs bedroom, he heard a low masculine voice demand “get out” .Leaving the house, Father Ray did not inform the Lutz of what he heard, instead telephoning George the day after to advise him to stay clear of the room in which he heard this voice. As it may, the upstairs room, intended to be a sewing room, had formerly been Marc and John DeFeo’s bedroom. (Anson, 1977; Belanger, 2005)
At first, the Lutz noticed nothing unusual about the house. There were cold spots throughout the house, but they insisted it was just a draft. Thinking nothing out of it, the Lutz continued to make a home in the Amityville house. However, through the days to come, strange occurrences began to take place. George describes hearing doors slam in the middle of the night. “I’d be lying in bed and I’d hear the front door slam shut,” Lutz said. “It’s an unmistakable sound in that house — you absolutely knew that was the front door. I’d go downstairs and the dog would be asleep at the door, nothing would be disturbed, and the door would still be locked. So you start questioning yourself.” He also describes hearing what he thought to be a clock radio going off downstairs, sounding like a marching band, with hard footsteps. After running downstairs to check the noise, nothing was present, just their sleeping dog. (Belanger,2005)
Kathy Lutz was having her own experiences in the house. One night, Kathy and George awoke and found Kathy to be 40 years older than what she was, “the hair wild, a shocking white, the face a mass of wrinkles and ugly lines, and saliva dripping from the toothless mouth.” George describes. By morning, her looks returned to normal. Kathy had also recalled having the feeling of being embraced by someone, even smelling perfume. However, she insists this did not feel threatening, but comforting. More days went by, and the paranormal activity became worse each day, hearing more mysterious footsteps throughout the house. One day, Kathy came across a hidden room. It was painted red, and was hid behind a massive bookshelf. The realtor had not told them about this room, so they decided to see the original house structure. The room had not been on it. George explains the room as being big enough for two people to sit. He goes on to say, “The room had odors coming out of it, and they weren’t always there, and there was no pipe access for sewers or anything like that. We took Harry down there, and he just wouldn’t go in. He backed away. It’s the only time I can recall him ever cowering from something. That was just one of those discoveries in the first few weeks of moving in.” The room soon became to be known as “The Red Room” (Belanger, 2005; Anson, 1977)
Soon, George and Kathy were not themselves. They rarely left and had no desire to leave the house. George seldom went to work, and began to lose weight. Instead of going out with friends, they invited them over. It was in these instances when not only George and Kathy heard mysterious noises, but so did their company. A fact that both made the Lutz happy for not thinking they’re crazy, but also horror because it was the evidence that what was happening was real. (Belanger, 2005)
Night after night, George would wake up at 3:15 am, always having the urge to check on the children and the boathouse. Numerous times George had locked the boathouse doors, and within returning to his room, the doors were already swinging open. Coincidentally, this was the estimated time the DeFeo family was murdered. He would be awoken by the front door slamming on occasion, only to find the door tightly shut with the dog asleep in front of it. He also began drinking at a bar called The Witches’ Brew, a bar that which was Butch DeFeo’s favorites and a regular customer. Kathy would have horrible nightmares about the murders of the DeFeo’s nearly every night. They were so detailed, Kathy could pinpoint the exact sequence and how they were murdered. The children also began sleeping on their stomachs, the position in which the bodies of the DeFeo children were found.
Missy, their youngest child, began talking frequently about an imaginary friend, “Jodie”. Missy said Jodie could take on any form, but was often seen as a pig like creature with red glowing eyes. She told Missy her and her family was going to live there forever. One night, while checking the boathouse, George had seen a pair of red eyes glaring at him from Missy’s bedroom window. It was suggested that this was Jodie. Huge cloven footprints outside the house in the snow had also been found. (Anson, 1977;” The Real Amityville House: Seperating Fact From Fiction”, n.d.)
It was not only the family that was becoming different, but so was the house. Many times, the family would notice an odd, black substance dripping from the keyholes on the door. Jello-like substances were also being found scattered on the floors on the house. There were still immense cold spots, once recording to be a 40-50 degree difference from what the thermostat indicated. Flies had started to infest the house, despite the fact it was the middle of winter. Hundreds of flies were always found in one room; the sewing room, and there was no use in killing them, because they repeatedly came back. And on some nights, Kathy and George even experienced being levitated right off their bed. (Anson; 1977; “The Real Amityville House; Seperating Fact From Fiction”, n.d.)
After decided enough was enough, they decided to bless the house themselves on January 8, 1976. While in the process, George held a silver crucifix and the two spoke the words of the Lord’s Prayer. In the living room, George could hear a group of voices telling them “Will you stop?!” By mid January, the Lutz had their final night in the house. The Lutz claims the events of that final night was too terrifying and they have no wish to speak about it. They decided to pack a few belongings, rallied up the kids and dog, and head to Kathy’s mother’s house. But even then the phenomena did not end. George and Kathy recalled “slime” coming up the staircase towards them and also claims they levitated again. The Lutz did not return back to the house, even for their possessions. It had only been 28 days since they first moved in. (Anson, 1977; “The Real Amityville House; Seperating Fact From Fiction”, n.d.)
The Lutz moved to San Diego and say they were finally freed from the presence inside the house. They stayed married until the late 1980’s until they divorced. In 2004, Kathy died of emphysema, and George died in May of 2006. The two still remained close until their deaths. The house still stands today. It was newly renovated, with a new address and new owners. The new owners claim they have not experienced any kind of paranormal occurrences since they have been living there. The intensity of this story has been the base of many books and movies depicting the events that took place in this house. Because of the numerous movies made, most popular question asked if it the haunting was real or a hoax. However the Lutz participated in a polygraph test, in which they both passed with flying colors. (Anson, 1977; “The Amityville Horror Official Website”, n.d.)
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