Wednesday, January 18, 2017


I recall when the original novel came out, my first exposure to "The Amityville Horror" story, was borrowing a hardcover book from a good friend in Junior High School in early 1980.  I realize now in hindsight, that the book had actually been published back in September, 1977, but in those days word of mouth traveled slower. The film came out in July of 1979 and this of course fueled further sales of the book.   I recall the cover, black with a flies on the cover and the title in white and red lettering. "Have you read this yet?  This is a true story and very scary." This was the same comment I had heard from a number of other kids my age. I had the chance and I began to read the novel, believing everything, even before I began reading.  On the cover alone it told me in red letters "A True Story," so it must be.

I have a strong memory when I was reading this novel, not until May 1980, of sitting on a large rock after school, located in a playing field behind the school itself.  It was May 19, 1980.  A few people here and there, not sure why I was there reading and not at home, maybe waiting for someone or something around school.  I was well into the novel, and could not put it down, I had to know what was terrifying this family in Long Island, New York, a place that seemed a world away to me.

Off in the distance I could see a large black cloud of ash and smoke that was growing closer and larger, from Mt. St Helens, that had erupted earlier that day in Washington State.  I had no idea it would travel this far, but it was and it was engulfing the skies above me.  Not affected from my standpoint, I continued reading the novel.

     I had so many questions after reading the book, what could make walls bleed?  How does a marching band vanish in the house in the middle of the night, much less appear out of nowhere.  The psychology of George Lutz and his mood swings that shifted the longer they lived in the house were very well documented and fascinating.  Jodi, the playmate of Missy the little girl, this was a terrifying image, surely induced nightmares.  I was done reading it quickly and wondered how a family could flee from their house, leaving all their possessions behind in the night.  What about all those flies in the sewing room?

 I wanted to know more, and then discovered another book on the subject by Hans Holzer, called "Murder In Amityville," which covered the story before the Lutz's moved in, with Ronald DeFeo, who shot and killed his entire family one night and claimed the voices told him to do it.

The film followed and made the rounds soon after, which I found disappointing in comparison to the book.  Maybe all of the claims the Lutz's made seemed more plausible and believable in the novel and just didn't translate to the screen.  The one thing that does stand out is Jodi the pig and those glowing red eyes through the upstairs window.

George and Kathy Lutz also had issues with the film and the changes that were made for the film version (1979) and was based on a script from a television writer, since the studio rejected the one written by the book's author, Jay Anson.  You sign on the dotted line to adapt your "True Story" into a film, you must have some idea that if might not come out as you would expect.

 The film did very well (the critics hated it but it was the most successful independent film at the time) and of course a sequel was made, "Amityville Horror II: The Possession" (1982), which was a prequel of sorts as it covered the DeFeo murders in the house.  The film was not all that good and again, didn't seem to resemble the true crime that did occur with that family.

The third film came out "Amityville 3-D" (1983) and was absolutely terrible, and involved Tony Roberts moving into the house and horror hilarity ensues (flies attacking, whatnot, hole in the basement to God knows where).  The story was weak and the 3-D was possibly the worst that had ever been made for any film in history.

Since the third film was such a letdown, the possibilities continued instead on the small screen, in the form of a TV Movie called "Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes." Items are sold from the famous house in a yard sale, and Patty Duke buys a strange tree-shaped lamp and takes it home, horror hilarity ensues.  What can one expect from a haunted lamp and Patty Duke on television?

The films based on this original story are still coming out to this day with the latest being "Amityville: The Awakening."  Family moves into the house and are haunted in dreams and discover they are in the infamous "Amityville Horror" house, and like with all these sequels, haunted hilarity ensues.

One thing I did find interesting, for those that question if the original Lutz story had any reference of truth, might think about this one sentence: Due to a lawsuit between the Lutz family and Dino De Laurentiis over the story line which did not involve the Lutz family, Amityville 3-D was not called a sequel.  It seems, even though Part 3 was not based on their story in any way, they were still negotiating for money and rights well beyond their own adapted saga.

 Even in 2005 with the remake of "The Amityville Horror" starring Ryan Reynolds, it seems George was still involved in some capacity: George Lutz described the 2005 remake as "drivel" and sued the makers for defamation, libel, and breach of contract. He objected particularly to the scene in the film where the male lead – named as George Lutz and played by Ryan Reynolds – is shown killing the family dog with an axe. The film also shows the George Lutz character building coffins for members of his own family. The defamation claim was dismissed by a Los Angeles court in November 2005, while other issues related to the lawsuit remained unresolved at the time of George Lutz's death.

Other interesting facts about the rights of the story found on Wikipedia:

George Lutz registered the phrase The Amityville Horror as a trademark in 2002, and it is referred to as The Amityville Horror™ on his official website. Lutz claimed that the film producers embellished or fabricated events portrayed in the 1979 version and the 2005 remake. He also claimed that the producers of the 2005 film did not involve his family, and that they used his name without permission.

Who is to say how long the world will endure endless films and television series and specials, based on this house in the future.  One has to ask when does fact end and fiction pick up, or is the line blurred when people recounted their stories, one man's small experience could become another's terrifying ordeal when retold to another.

What do I believe on the Amityville Horror case? Tune in tonight to Ecto Portal to find out!

Anthony Anderson

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