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Amityville Horror House: Unveiling the True Story Behind the Legend

June Steele
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Getty Images / Colorized by
Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Getty Images / Colorized by

The Amityville Horror House has become synonymous with paranormal terror, captivating the imaginations of millions around the world. This iconic property in Amityville, New York, has a dark history that transcends the boundaries of reality and legend. Let’s delve into the true story behind the property and explore the tragic events that transpired within its walls, the controversies that surround it and its lasting impact on popular culture.

The DeFeo family met a tragic end at the Amityville Horror House

Exterior of the Amityville Horror House.
Amityville Horror House, where Ronald DeFeo murdered his family, 1974. (Photo Credit: Stan Wolfson / Newsday RM / Getty Images)

On the night of November 13, 1974, the DeFeo family met a tragic end within the walls of their own home. Six members were found brutally murdered, each having been shot while they slept. The crime scene was chilling, setting the stage for the dark events that followed.

The discovery of the DeFeo family’s bodies shocked the town of Amityville. Their eldest son, 23-year-old Ronald, later confessed to the murders, claiming that voices in the house compelled him to commit the heinous acts. What’s more, he was the one who raised the alarm over what had happened, running into a local bar and yelling, “You got to help me! I think my mother and father are shot!”

This event laid the foundation for the ominous reputation of the Amityville Horror House.

The haunting experiences of the Lutz family

George Lee and Kathleen Lutz sitting on the floor, surrounded by newspapers.
George Lee and Kathleen Lutz later became the owners of the Amityville Horror House. (Photo Credit: Tony Korody / Sygma / Getty Images)

Despite the tragic history, the Lutz family moved into the Amityville Horror House just over a year after the DeFeo murders. Not long after, George and Kathy, along with their three children, embarked on what ultimately became a harrowing experience that forever linked their names to the paranormal.

The Lutz family claimed to have experienced a barrage of supernatural phenomena, including mysterious noises, odors and even physical encounters with unseen entities. Things got so bad that the family left the residence after only 28 days. Their terrifying experiences sparked a media frenzy, drawing the attention of paranormal investigators and the public. It also served as the basis for the 1977 book by Jay Anson, The Amityville Horror.

The property has a dark history

Two stands featuring information about the Funeral Mound of the Mississippians, located just in front of the mound itself.
Funeral Mound of the Mississippians at Ocmulgee Mound National Historic Park in Macon, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jeffrey Greenberg / Universal Images Group / Getty Images)

Before the DeFeo and Lutz families, the Amityville Horror House had a history steeped in darkness. Reports suggest the property was once the site of a Native American burial ground, adding an extra layer of mystique to its already foreboding presence.

This theory only worked to increase the lore surrounding the area, despite being largely speculative. It’s since been proven to be a myth, with the people alleged to have called the land home, the Shinnecocks, having never actually lived in the area, nor did they use it as a burial site.

Controversies surrounding the Amityville Horror House

James Brolin and Margot Kidder posing in front of a house.
The Amityville Horror, 1979. (Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Getty Images)

The Lutz family’s accounts of supernatural events within the Amityville Horror House sparked skepticism and accusations of a hoax. Some claimed the entire story was fabricated for financial gain, adding a layer of controversy to the already enigmatic tale.

That being said, the statements the family gave to the media show true terror at what they allegedly experienced, with George Lee Lutz telling ABC News in 2002, “I try not to think about it,” when asked about what could have happened if they remained in the residence.

Regardless of the controversies, the house became a cultural phenomenon. Its influence on popular culture, including books, movies and documentaries, has forever ensured its place in the annals of horror lore.

Paranormal investigators offer insight into the phenomena

Lorraine and Ed Warren sitting together.
Lorraine and Ed Warren. 1980. (Photo Credit: Russell McPhedran / Fairfax Media / Getty Images)

Several paranormal investigators have investigated the Amityville Horror House, each bringing their unique perspectives and findings. Their work has added layers to the mystery, with some supporting the Lutz family’s claims of paranormal goings on.

Renowned investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were among those to delve into the case. Their involvement further fueled the mystique surrounding the house, with Lorraine telling The Express-Times following their investigation that the stories were not false and that there was some truth to what the Lutz family had experienced.

Impact on films and literature

Still from 'The Amityville Horror'.
The Amityville Horror, 1979. (Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Getty Images)

The Amityville Horror House has left an indelible mark on the horror genre, inspiring countless books, movies and television adaptations. As well, its influence can be seen in the proliferation of haunted house narratives that followed in its wake.

From Jay Anson’s bestselling book to the iconic 1979 film adaptation and subsequent sequels, remakes and spin-offs, the story has captured the public’s imagination. The original film earned well over its production budget at the box office and was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Score, while the 2005 remake brought in a whopping $107.5 million when it was shown in theaters.

The current state of the Amityville Horror House

Exterior of the Amityville Horror House.
Amityville Horror House, 2005. (Photo Credit: Paul Hawthorne / Getty Images)

After the Lutz family left the Amityville Horror House, several owners came and went from the property. However, there were no reports of any problems, except for unexpected visitors stopping by over the allure of the story. Presently, the residence remains a private home, with the current owners maintaining a level of privacy and choosing to distance themselves from its haunted past.

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The Amityville Horror House serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of critical thinking and skepticism. While the events surrounding it are undeniably eerie, the influence of sensationalism and the media on the story cannot be ignored. Its enduring legacy also underscores the psychological impacts of legends and urban myths, and shows the power of storytelling coupled with human fascination.

June Steele

June Steele is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News