One of the scariest novels I ever read is based on a true story.

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On October 14, 1975 a sensational trial begins. Ronald DeFeo Jr. goes on trial for the killings of his parents and four siblings in Amityville, New York. The family’s house was later said to be haunted and served as the inspiration for the Amityville Horror book and movies.

The real house in Amityville, New York

The real house in Amityville, New York

As a side note, when my husband and I were hunting for our first home, we refused to look at any houses that were what I think are called a Dutch Colonial as they reminded us of the Amityville house in the film.  It is like it has eyes 🙂

On the evening of November 13, 1974, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. entered an Amityville bar and told people his parents had been shot inside their home. Several bar patrons accompanied DeFeo back to his family’s home, at 112 Ocean Avenue, where a man named Joe Yeswit called Suffolk Country police to report the crime. When officers arrived, they found the bodies of Ronald DeFeo Sr., age 43, his wife Louise, 42, and their children Dawn, 18, Allison, 13, Marc, 11, and John, 9. The victims had been shot dead in their beds. Ronald DeFeo Jr., 22, initially tried to say the murders were a mob hit; however, by the next day he confessed to committing the crimes himself.

There are actual crime scene photographs found through google images.  I will not be including any of those in this post.

Schematic of DeFeo home and locations of the victims

Schematic of DeFeo home and locations of the victims

One aspect of the case that puzzled investigators was the fact that all six victims appeared to have died in their sleep, without struggle, and neighbors didn’t hear any gunshots, despite the fact that the rifle DeFeo used didn’t have a silencer.

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When DeFeo’s trial began in October 1975, his attorney argued for an insanity defense; however, that November, he was found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder and later sentenced to six consecutive sentences of 25 years to life in prison. DeFeo, who gave conflicting accounts of his story over the years, later claimed his sister Dawn and two other accomplices were involved in the murders.

defeo family

The DeFeo house was sold to George Lutz, who moved in with his wife and three children in December 1975. The new owners resided in the house for 28 days, before they fled, claiming it was haunted by the spirits of the DeFeo family.

George & Kathy Lutz

George & Kathy Lutz

Critics accused George Lutz of concocting the story to make money, but he maintained he was telling the truth. In 1977, Jay Anson published a novel titled The Amityville Horror. The book became a best-seller and inspired a 1979 movie of the same name, as well as a 2005 remake.

Trailer for the 1979 movie, The Amityville Horror

Did you know….

  • The house known as 112 Ocean Avenue still exists, but it has been renovated and the address changed in order to discourage sightseers from visiting it.
  • The famous quarter round windows have been removed, and the house today looks considerably different from its depiction in the films.
  • The house in Toms River, New Jersey used as the location for the first three films has also been modified for the same reason.
  • For the 2005 film version, the house was renamed 412 Ocean Avenue.
  • The 2005 film remake says that the basement of the Lutz home was built in 1692, but 112 Ocean Avenue – also known as High Hopes – was built around 1924 for John and Catherine Moynahan.
  • The local residents and authorities in Amityville, New York are unhappy with the attention that The Amityville Horror brings to the town and tend to decline requests to discuss it publicly.
  • The website of the Amityville Historical Society makes no mention of the murders by Ronald DeFeo, Jr. in 1974 or the period that the Lutz family lived at 112 Ocean Avenue.
  • When the History Channel made its documentary about The Amityville Horror in 2000, no member of the Historical Society would discuss the matter on camera.
  • The episode of CSI: NY first broadcast on October 31, 2007 was a Halloween edition based on The Amityville Horror.  It was titled “Boo” amd features a house in Amityville where a family has died in circumstances similar to the DeFeo murders.
  • One of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Peter O’Neill, lived in the house from 1987 to 1997.
  • Actress Christine Belford lived in the house as a teenager from 1960 to 1965. Her parents sold the house to the DeFeos.
  • In May 2010, the house was placed on the market with an asking price of $1.15 million. In August 2010, the house was sold to a local resident for $950,000. On August 21, 2010, the departing owner held a moving sale at the house, and hundreds of people turned up for the event. They were allowed to go inside the house, but not to visit the upstairs rooms or the basement.
The real Amityville Horror House today.

The real Amityville Horror House today.

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