The Amityville Horror: Book Review

Back at the beginning of this year, I found a copy of The Amityville Horror at our local library. Like most people, I knew the story of what supposedly happened at the house in Amityville, New York named High Hopes. I knew of it from various paranormal shows and the wide variety of movies that came out on the subject. From those movies and shows, I thought I knew a lot about the hauntings but the book really opened my eyes to some of the things left out of those programs.

Just in case I have a few readers that may not be familiar with the events that happened at the house, let me give a brief overview. On November 13, 1974, Robert Defeo Jr. went from room to room in the house on Ocean Avenue killing his parents and his four siblings as most of them were sleeping. His mother and one of his sisters, Allison, were said to be awake during the shootings. All his family members were found shot face down in their beds. Defeo is said to have used a .35 caliber lever action Marlin 336C rifle to kill his family members. This is not a quiet gun and should have woken everyone up with the first shot. Defeo claimed that he heard voices telling him to kill his family members because they were plotting to kill him. Some people claim that these voices were paranormal and the fact that the family didn’t wake up or attempt to flee while he was committing the murders, proves that outside forces (possibly demonic) were helping Defeo to kill his family.

In December 1975, the Lutz family purchased the house. George and Kathy Lutz knew of the events that happened 13 months previously in the house from their realtor. The history of the house didn’t bother them since it helped lower the price of the house to something they could afford. However, 28 days after they moved in with Kathy’s three children, they would be driven away by the spirits that haunted the property. The Lutzs claim that during their 28 days in that house they experienced a wide variety of different paranormal events. George claimed to be woken up every night at about 3:15am with the need to go check on the boathouse. Kathy claimed to be hugged by an entity several times. She wasn’t afraid of this entity because it seemed loving in nature. The family would often find cold spots with no logical reason why the cold spot was there. The family also experienced smelling horrible smells of sweat or excrement throughout the house without finding the source of the smell. Both George and Kathy saw the face of a demon with half its face blown away as if from a shotgun blast at close range. George also claimed to hear doors slamming and marching bands parading through the house at night but nothing would be out of place when he went downstairs to check on the noise. Kathy would wake up with welts on her chest. She also claimed to have been levitated above her bed. George claimed that a 4-foot high china lion statue moved on its own causing him to trip over it and that he received a bite mark from the statue on his ankle in the procoss of tripping over it. The lion is also said to have reappeared in the living room even after George had moved it upstairs to Kathy’s sewing room. Kathy and George reported seeing a green gel-like substance leaking from the walls in the hallway and from the lock of the playroom door on the third floor. The children refused to play in the playroom due to how cold it was no matter how hot the main part of the house was. Even though it was the middle of winter, the house seemed to be plagued by flies. 

Reading the book really opened my eyes to a lot of what the movies left out. One of the first things that surprised me in the book was that George Lutz was a Marine. Well, the book calls him an ex-Marine but my husband, Jeremy, pointed out that once a Marine, always a Marine. Knowing that George was a Marine surprised me and made me realize how bad the haunting had to be run him from his home. I’ve seen how Marines react to hauntings and the only time I have seen them flee was when we were at Aokiogahara last year (Japan’s Suicide Forest). 

Another thing that I was surprised to read about was that both George and Kathy practiced transcendental meditation. One of the things I have noticed over the years is that people who meditate regularly, seem to experience more paranormal activity than the average person. Looking back, I wonder if their practice of transcendental meditation helped increase the amount of activity in the house. Even in the book, Father Mancuso mentioned to George that he thought the transcendental meditation was making him and Kathy susceptible to the hauntings. This is a topic I really want to look more into. A future blog post perhaps? 

One of the things I read in the book that I don’t remember ever being mentioned in the movies or tv shows is that George and Kathy admit to beating Kathy’s children. In the book, it states “Ever since the move, they [the children- Daniel (9), Christopher (7), and Melissa (Missy 5)] seemed to have become brats, misbehaved monsters who wouldn’t listen, unruly children who must be severely punished.” Also in the book, it claims that on day four of living in the house, Kathy and George ended up beating the children with a strap and a large, heavy wooden spoon. Was this a normal thing in their household or was something similar that caused Defeo to kill his family? This book was written with the help of Kathy and George Lutz. Whether this was a normal thing or not for the family, I don’t think I would want people to if I beat my children or not. It was so casually mentioned in the book and not mentioned again nor had any reference to voices telling them to do it, that it made me wonder if beatings like that were normal. I pray for the children’s sakes that it wasn’t normal and just a one-time event.

In the movies and the paranormal tv shows, I had always heard that Missy had an imaginary friend named Jodie at the house. Missy was often seen playing or talking with her imaginary friend. In the movies and tv shows, it was implied or outright told the audience that Jodie was one of Defeo’s siblings. In the book, however, Jodie is a pig. Although Jodie was supposed to be an imaginary friend, both George and Kathy claimed to have seen Jodie. On Christmas night, George also saw the face of a pig with glowing red eyes behind his stepdaughter, Missy, one night while he was looking up at her window. When he ran upstairs to check on her, Missy was asleep in her bed but the rocking chair in the corner of her room was rocking back forth on its own. At one point, Kathy had gone to shut the window in Missy’s room and was greeted with a pair of red glowing eyes peering at her through the window. Missy claimed that Jodie told her that Jodie was a pig who was also an angel. Missy also claimed that Jodie told her that she would live in the house forever to play with a little boy who use to live in her room. 

I was pleasantly surprised to learn of a connection I have with the story while reading this book. I didn’t realize it but they reached out to what would become the Rhine Research Center for help. They were the ones that sent a field investigator to the house to investigate the Lutz’s claims of paranormal activity. In the book, they called it the Psychical Research Institute in Durham, North Carolina. It didn’t take much research to learn that the author of the book changed the name of the institute. For those of you who have been following this blog for a while, you’ll remember that I first received my training as a paranormal investigator through a paranormal team at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina. I love odd coincidences like that.

The book is by Jay Anson, who wrote it with the help of Kathy and George. Reading the book definitely gave me more insight into the supposed hauntings at the home. Reading the book also made me question a lot of the events that seemed to happen. I can’t say for sure if these events really happened or if they have logical explanations. Some things seem like they could have been blown out proportion such as when George tripped over the china lion. To me, that seemed like a natural klutzy situation that was exaggerated to make it seem paranormal. I have read articles that stated that many people think that the Lutzs made the experiences up in order to get out of the house and maybe make some money. After reading the book, this seems more plausible than I had thought previously. Kathy and George Lutz have passed lie detector tests but I’ve learned from all the true crime shows, books, and podcasts that follow that it is actually kind of easy to get false positives on those tests. There have been no more reports of hauntings at that location. So either the last blessing truly cleaned the house or there was never a haunting there and the Lutz made it all up. Which do you think it is? Let me know in the comments below.

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