The history of The Amityville Horror began with a best-selling novel. A book entitled The Amityville Horror: A True Story, written by Jay Anson, was published in 1977 and quickly scaled the sales charts. This is the story of America's most shocking haunting.
The story behind the story began on 13th November 1974, when six members of the DeFeo family were killed. The parents, Ronald and Louise DeFeo, were shot in bed while they slept, along with their two sons and two daughters. The sole remaining family member, Ronald Jr. ("Butch"), was arrested for the crime, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
The strangest thing about the murders was that all of the bodies were found face down in bed, as if something had held them there while they were shot. Not one of the family appear to have been woken by the sounds of the gunshots, even thought the high powered rifle that was used can normally be heard up to a mile away when fired.
With the family dead, the house went up for sale. The horrific nature of the massacre unnerved the otherwise quiet Long Island neighbourhood.
The following year, a new family, the Lutzes, moved into the house. George and Kathy Lutz, along with their three children, said that shortly after they moved in, their six-bedroom abode became a Hell house. It seemed that perhaps the demons that drove Butch to slaughter his family were not in his head but in the house.
An unseen force ripped doors from hinges and slammed cabinets closed, noxious green slime oozed from the ceilings, a biblical-scale swarm of insects attacked the family, and a demonic face with glowing red eyes peered into their house at night, leaving cloven-hoofed footprints in the morning snow. Locked windows and doors would open constantly by themselves. George Lutz would wake up every night at 3.15 am, the exact time that the DeFeo murders took place. A priest was called upon to bless the house, but was driven back with painful blisters on his hands, and was told by a demonic voice to "Get out!".
After 28 days the family fled the house, never to return. They left all of their possessions in the house which were never collected. They quickly went public and told of the horrors that that tormented them in the house.
The DeFeo Family
The horrific carnage that prefaced the story of the "Amityville Horror" began one dark autumn night in 1974.On the evening of November 13, police officers were called to 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, Long Island, where they found six members of the DeFeo family had been killed whilst sleeping peacefully in their beds.
The victims were Ronald Sr. his wife Louise, their two young sons, Mark and John, and two daughters, Dawn and Allison. Their other son, Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Junior, survived the incident unscathed. The victims had all been shot with a .35 caliber Marlin rifle at around three o'clock in the morning.
The local community were devastated. The DeFeo's were a well known family within the community. Their children attended the local schools with the other children of Amityville. Locals watched with horror as Ronald DeFeo Jr. was taken away by police. He was later tried and convicted for all of the murders.
In June of 1965, Ronald DeFeo Sr. purchased a 3 story Dutch Colonial home at 112 Ocean Avenue, equipped with a boathouse on the Amityville River and plenty of rooms for his wife and four children. It was the American dream: beautiful house, happy family, and money to spare. The DeFeo's even placed a sign in the front yard that read "High Hopes" as a symbol of the family's good fortune and dreams for the future.
Behind the success and happiness, Ronald Sr. was an angry man, prone to outbreaks of rage and violence. He and Louise often fought and he was a threatening figure to his children.
As the oldest child, Butch often bore the brunt of his father's expectations and bad temper. He was an overweight, sullen boy who was often picked on in school. His father harassed him to stand up for himself - but never at home. Ronald Sr. had no patience for disobedience or backchat.
As Butch got older, he grew stronger and larger and was no longer as tolerant of his father's abuse. By the age of 17 Ronald Jnr. or "Butch" as he was called by his friends, was using serious drugs and dabbling in petty thievery. He was expelled from school because of his drug use. His behaviour had also become more erratic and his violent outbursts more psychotic.
His temper had grown as hot as his father's, and when he reached adolescence they often succumbed to fist fighting matches. Even Ronald Sr., with his own anger issues, began to realize that his son's temper and violent behaviour were not normal.
Even though he was well looked after by his family, landing an easy job at his grandfather's car dealership where he received a weekly allowance whether he turned up to work or not, Butch was growing more angry and resentful of his father's supposedly stingy ways.
Ronald Sr. and Louise arranged for Butch to visit a psychiatrist but it did not help. The Butch insisted there was nothing wrong with him and refused to work with the psychiatrist. In the absence of any other solution, the DeFeo's began simply buying Butch whatever he wanted in order to placate him. At the age of 14, his father gave him a $14,000 speedboat to cruise the Amityville River. Whenever Butch needed money, he only had to ask and it was given to him.
The altercations with his father grew more frequent and more dangerous. One night a fight started between Mr. and Mrs. DeFeo and to settle the matter, Butch took a 12-gauge shotgun from his room, placed a shell into the chamber and went downstairs. He walked into the room, pointed the gun at his father and pulled the trigger. Strangely though, it did not go off. Ronald Sr. sat frozen in his chair and watched as his son lowered the gun and walked out of the room. Butch seemed completely unconcerned that he had nearly killed his father in cold blood. The fight was over but Butch's reaction was an indication of events to come.
In the weeks before the murders, the relationship between Butch and his father reached a breaking point. He was unhappy with the money that he "earned" from his father and planned a fake robbery with a friend while he was on the way to the bank to deposit $20,000 from the dealership, splitting the "stolen" cash with his friend. Ronald Sr. exploded into a rage when he heard Butch's story, berating the staff member who had entrusted him with the money in the first place. When Ronald Sr. exposed his sham, Butch wanted revenge.
The police were called who interviewed Butch. Instead of devising a fictional story about the robbery, he became tense and irritable with them. He soon became violent when they began to suspect that he was lying. Butch started cursing them and banging on the hood of a car to emphasize his rage. The police backed off for the moment, but Ronald, Sr. had already come to his own conclusions about his son's behaviour. He knew that he had stolen the money.
On the Friday before the murders, the police had asked Butch to look at some mug shots on the chance that he might be able to identify the thief who had allegedly robbed him. He agreed to do this but then backed out at the last minute. When he father heard this, he confronted Butch and demanded to know why didn't want to help the authorities. The two began shouting at one another and then Butch ran to his car and drove away. This fight had not turned violent, but that was coming.
The DeFeo Murders
The night of Wednesday, November 13th was a cool one in Amityville. The streets were quiet and so was the house at 112 Ocean Avenue. Everyone had gone to sleep with the exception of Butch, who was brooding in his room. The more that he simmered in his thoughts, the more determined he became to solve his problems once and for all. Butch left the second floor TV room armed with his .35 calibre Marlin Rifle from some storage space were he kept several weapons and started off, silently but purposefully, toward his parent's bedroom.
He entered his parent's bedroom, instantly killing his father Ronald DeFeo with two shots to the lower back. The first shot ripped into Ronald Sr.'s back, tearing through his kidney and exiting through his chest. The second shot, again fired into his back, pierced his father's spine and lodged in his neck.
His mother was now awake but had no time to react before Butch fired at her too. He shot her twice, shattering her rib cage and collapsing her right lung, and then left her to die.
Since the bodies of his four younger brothers and sisters were all found in their beds, it appeared that they were not awakened by the shots. Butch left his parent's room to continue the massacre.
His two younger brothers, John and Mark, were his next victims. Standing between their beds in the room the two young boys shared, he fired one shot at close range into each of their bodies. Mark was killed instantly, while John, whose spinal cord was severed by his brother's attack, twitched for a few moments and then lay still.
Again, the shots had not roused the remaining members of the family. Finally, he entered the room of his sisters Dawn and Allison. As Butch walked into the room, Allison stirred and looked up just as he pointed the rifle at her face and pulled the trigger. His youngest sister was killed instantly. Butch aimed his weapon at Dawn's head as well, blowing off the left side of her face.
The police reported that all six victims were found on their stomachs with their heads resting on their arms.
It was just after 3:00 a.m. In less than fifteen minutes, Ronald "Butch" DeFeo, Jr., had brutally killed every member of his family in cold blood. Butch calmly showered, trimmed his beard, and dressed in jeans and work boots. He then gathered his bloody clothing and the rifle, wrapped them up in a pillowcase, and left the house in his car. Butch drove into Brooklyn, and threw the pillowcase and its contents into a storm drain. He then returned to Long Island, and reported to work at his grandfather's Buick dealership.
Butch DeFeo's Trial
Butch tried to blame a Mafia hit man whom he claimed had a vendetta against him. The detectives grew suspicious when they found an empty gun box in his bedroom that matched the murder weapon. His story came apart after hours of interrogation. "It all started so fast. Once I started, I just couldn't stop. It went so fast," he confessed.
When asked during his trial why he had done such a thing Butch replied, "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 defence 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."
DeFeo was put on trial for the killings and attempted a defense of insanity, which was supported by his psychiatrist, Doctor Daniel Schwartz. The psychiatrist for the prosecution, Doctor Harold Zolan, maintained that although DeFeo had an antisocial personality disorder and was an abuser of heroin and LSD, he was aware of what he was doing at the time of the crime.
DeFeo was convicted on six counts of second degree murder on November 21, 1975 and is currently serving a 25 years to life sentence at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Beekman, New York. The court found that Ronald DeFeo Jnr.'s motive for murdering his family was the US$200,000 insurance that was payable to him.
Even though Butch was found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder, many questions still remain about what really happened on that tragic night in November. Why didn't the children run after hearing the first shots? Why were the victims all found lying on their stomachs? Why didn't the neighbours hear the shots?
It was said that he drugged the family at dinner time so they would not awaken as he moved from room to room shooting each one with the rifle, although the autopsies discredited this theory. The police believed that the house muffled the sound of the shots, however, many people who have been in the house reported that street noise could be heard from inside.
According to gun experts, the sound of a .35 Marlin Rifle can be heard from a mile away, yet neighbours claim that the only sound they heard was the barking of the DeFeo family dog.
To this day Butch continues to change his story. Being a habitual liar, it is still unclear what role he played in the murders and whether he acted alone. For many, the truth remains to be told and investigations are in progress that may shed light on the validity of his story.
The Lutz Family
Just over a year after the DeFeo's murders, a family of 5 moved into the DeFeo's old house, 112 Ocean Avenue, on the 18th December, 1975.
George and Katy Lutz, together with her 3 children from a previous marriage, Daniel, Christopher, and Missy moved into the sprawling house which had cost them just $80,000, and they loved it.
George Lutz said that the house was a dream come true. Even though the house had been the scene of a horrific multiple murder a little over a year before, when 23-year-old Ronnie DeFeo went from room to room methodically shooting his parents and his four brothers and sisters in their beds. The Lutzes sat down with their three young children and agreed the family could handle it.
Just to be on the safe side, the day the Lutzes moved in they had a priest, Father Ray Pecoraro, bless the house. While the priest was blessing the house as the family move in, a strange masculine voice clearly said to him "Get out!". Then, Lutz says, Pecoraro became ill with flu-like symptoms and his hands began to bleed.
As he drove back to the rectory, the bonnet of the priest's car flew open, smashing against his windscreen. One of the welded hinges tore loose. The right door flew open. The car stalled. The priest summoned a friend for help. Later the windscreen wipers, began to fly back and forth like crazy and couldn't be stopped.
The family moved in anyway, but within days they began to notice strange phenomena. The Lutz family lived in the house for only 28 days, before they fled one night claiming it was haunted. They never returned to the house for their possessions and have not been back to this day.
Every time the family priest, Father Ray Pecoraro, would attempt to help the Lutzes, bleeding blisters would erupt on his hands. Telephone calls between the Lutzes and the priest were continually interrupted or cut off by loud noises and eerie sounds, making it impossible for them to talk.
There were strange odours in the house that came and went. The Lutzes said there were lots of strange sounds. The front door would slam shut in the middle of the night, even though it had been locked shut. George Lutz couldn't get warm in the house for many days. George kept the fireplace burning day and night in a futile attempt to stay warm.
Windows were constantly opening by themselves, then slamming closed. Doors were often torn off their hinges. In the house windows flew up and down slamming shut and doors were repeatedly ripped off their hinges in the house even though they were securely locked.
Mrs. Lutz would often feel invisible hands grabbing her. She once found red marks where the hands had been.Mrs. Lutz continued to feel invisible hands gripping her and one day found flaming red welts covering her body, like she had been burned by a hot poker.
A sticky substance often oozed from the ceilings, stairs and the door edges. The insides of the toilet bowls in two upstairs bathrooms turned absolutely black, as though someone has painted them from the bottom to the edge just below the rim. Mrs. Lutz had scrubbed both bowls with Clorox but could not remove the substance.
A white-hooded figure with its face half-blasted away as if by a gun appeared in the living room fireplace. Its image was permanently burned into the fireplace wall.
Just 28 days after they moved in, the Lutz family fled the house, leaving their clothes in the closets and food in the refrigerator. If the family had not left, Lutz said he believed that something horrible would have happened.
Lutz claims that he mysteriously woke at 3:15 a.m. almost every night, around the same time the DeFeo murders were believed to have happened. One night, , he heard his children's beds slamming up and down on the floor above him but he was unable to do anything because he was held in his bed by an unseen force. Later that night, he woke to see his wife levitating and moving across the bed. Kathy Lutz levitated about 30 centimetres above her bed on several occasions.
On one occasion, she began levitated and floated toward the open window. When her George tried to pull her down, her 30-year-old face transformed into that of a 90-year-old, toothless woman. Her hair was wild, a shocking white, and her face was a mass of wrinkles and ugly lines and saliva dripping from the toothless mouth.
In the dead of winter, hundreds of buzzing flies materialized in one of the upstairs rooms on the first floor of the house. A crucifix that Kathy had hung on a wall in a closet revolved until it was upside down, and had been leaking a strange black liquid. The liquid gave off a horrible sour smell.
Lutz discovered a small secret room in the basement, a room that appeared in no blueprints of the house. It was painted solid red - and had the smell of blood. In one of the red walls, Lutz saw a vision of a demonic face. He later recognized the face was that of Ronald DeFeo, from newspaper photographs.
A bartender who had worked at a party in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue when the DeFeo's had lived there told Lutz that he had found the secret red room in the basement. He stated that he had nightmares about it for years. He told him that sometimes he'd dream that people were killing dogs and pigs in there and using their blood for some kind of ceremony."
While standing outside the house one night, Lutz saw the face of a pig with glowing red eyes in the window of his daughter, Missy. Missy began to continually talk of "my friend Jodie, the biggest pig you ever saw."
One night, Missy pointed out of the windows at two red eyes that were staring in. She told her mother that it was Jodie, and he wanted to come inside. Mrs. Lutz then threw a chair through the window. She reported that there was a cry like that of a wounded animal, a long squealing.
The eyes appeared later by the window near the staircase. When George Lutz ran outside, he noticed tracks in the snow in front of the window. No man or woman could make such a mark. The prints were made by something like a giant pig.