The Amityville Horror – Jay Anson (1977)

1 December 18, 1975, George and Kathy Lutz moved into 112 Ocean Avenue on December 18. Twenty-eight days later, they fled in terror.

The Story

On February 5, 1976, the Ten O’Clock News onNew York ‘s Channel Five announced it was doing a series on people who claimed to have extrasensory powers. The program cut to reporter Steve Bauman Twenty-four-year-old Ronald DeFeo had taken a high-powered rifle and methodically shot to death his parents, two brothers, and two sisters. DeFeo had subsequently been sentenced to life imprisonment. “Two months ago,” the report continued, “the house was sold for $80,000 to a couple named George and Kathleen Lutz.” The Lutzes had been aware of the killings, but not being superstitious, they had felt the house would be perfect for themselves and their three children. They moved in on December 23. Shortly thereafter, Bauman said, they had become aware that the place was inhabited by some psychic force and that they feared for their lives. “They talked of feeling the presence of some energy inside, some unnatural evil that grew stronger each day they remained.” Four weeks after they moved in, the Lutzes abandoned the house, taking only a few changes of clothes. At present, they were staying with friends in an undisclosed location, But before they left, Channel Five stated, their predicament had become known in the area. They had consulted the police and a local priest as well as a psychic research group. “They reportedly told of strange voices seeming to come from within themselves, of a power which actually lifted Mrs. Lutz off her feet toward a closet behind which was a room not noted on any blueprints.” Reporter Steve Bauman had heard of their claims. After doing some background research on the house, he discovered that tragedy had struck nearly every family inhabiting the place, as well as an earlier house built on the same site.

“aware that certain houses could be built or constructed in a certain manner so as to create some sort of electrical currents through some rooms, based on the physical structure of the house. Again, the scientists said they ‘are investigating that, to rule that out.’

And after they rule out all reasonable or scientific explanation, then it’s going to be referred over to another group at DukeUniversity, who will delve into the psychic aspects of the case.” The report concluded by saying that the Catholic Church was also involved. Channel Five stated that two emissaries from the Vatican had arrived in Amityville in December, and were reported to have told the Lutzes to leave their home immediately. “Now the Church’s Council of Miracles is studying the case, and its report is that indeed 112 Ocean Avenue is possessed of some spirits beyond current human knowledge.” Two weeks after the telecast, George and Kathy Lutz held a press conference in attorney William Weber’s office. The DeFeo lawyer had met the couple three weeks before through mutual friends. George Lutz stated to reporters that he would not spend another night in the house, but he was not planning to sell 112 Ocean Avenue just then. He was also awaiting the results of some scientific tests to be conducted by parapsychologists and other “sensitive” professional researchers of occult phenomena.

My take on it

I really liked the book, even though the writing seemed epistolary at times. The horror scenes are described in detail – even sometimes with a hint of sensationalism mixed in. What really gave me the creeps was the pig demon in the girl’s room with the red eyes – Jodie – which was talking about a boy who died there and how the kid would be his playmate soon.

Kathy and her husband are going through intense physical and psychological terrors – from feeling threatened to loosing their tempers with each other. All this psychological stress couldn’t have helped more to induce a state of susceptible belief.

Kathy tried to open her mouth to say something to her husband. She couldn’t. She couldn’t even tear her eyes away from the demon with horns and a white peaked hood on its head. It was getting larger, looming toward her. She saw that half of its face was blown away, as if hit with a shotgun blast at close range. Kathy screamed.

The toils of Father Mancuso are also peppered through the story, the timeline jumping from the family to the priest – as he was tortured by the unseen entity.

He realized it when he stood by the windows in the lobby and looked across to his apartment in the Rectory, remembering one of the lessons he learned in demonology-the odor of human excrement was always associated with the appearance of the Devil!

Again, it’s written with a very tabloid approach and explains some pretty “well-known” facts to horror fans. Hooves, strong smells, drops in temperature, mediums, knocking sounds, apparitions – they’re all in the book and made appearances to everyone visiting the house.

What I found really confusing was the lack of communication between partners. I mean, if you wake up in the middle of the night and see your spouse levitating, wouldn’t you want to share the info? Wouldn’t you want to move the hell out of the house?

Fear of her being alone in the bedroom galvanized George. He raced back up the steps two at a time and into his room, turning on the light. There, floating two feet above the bed, was Kathy. She was slowly drifting away from him toward the windows!

“Kathy!” George yelled, jumping up on the bed to grab his wife. She was as stiff as a board in his hands, but her drifting stopped. George felt a resistance to his pull, then a sudden release of pressure, and he and Kathy fell heavily off the bed onto the floor. The fall awakened her. When she saw where she was, Kathy was incoherent for a moment. “Where am I?” she cried. “What’s happened?” George started to help her up. She could hardly stand.

“It’s nothing,” he reassured her. “You were having a dream and fell out of bed. That’s all.”

Kathy was still too dazed to question George any further. She said, “Oh!” meekly got back into bed, and immediately fell back into a deep sleep.

When everyone was telling them to move out, they stubbornly ignore them and continue living in a place that at best is inhospitable and at worst, dangerous. Even when they tried to leave and the car wouldn’t start, they go back into the house and then eventually to bed instead of trying to get out at different intervals.

The Church’s take on this was more grounded:

“In investigating cases of possible diabolical interference,” Chancellor Ryan went on, “we must consider the following: One, fraud and deception. Two, natural scientific causes. Three, parapsychological causes. Four, diabolical influences. And five, miracles. In this case, fraud and trickery don’t seem plausible. George and Kathleen Lutz seem to be normal, balanced individuals. We think you are too. The possibilities therefore are reduced to psychological, parapsychological, or diabolical influences.” “We’ll exclude the miraculous,” Father Nuncio broke in, “because the Divine would not involve itself in the trivial and foolish.”

“True,” said Father Ryan. “Therefore the explanation would seem to include hallucination and autosuggestion-you know, like the invisible touches Kathy experienced-and when George thought he heard that marching band. But let’s take the parapsychological line. Parapsychologists like Dr. Rhine, who works at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, define four main operations in the science. The first three come under the general heading of ESP-extrasensory perception. They are mental telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition, which could explain George’s visions and ‘picking up’ information that seems to coincide with known facts about the DeFeos. The fourth parapsychological area is psychokinesis, where objects move by themselves. That would be the case with the Lutzes’ ceramic lion-if it did move,” he added.

All in all, I believe there was definitely something fishy going on in the house but I expect it was caused by a member of the family (seeing how the phenomenon carried with them when they left). I believe Father Mancuso was suffering from psychosomatic stress induced colds and sores and was pretty much a coward – refusing to go – even accompanied – to the haunted house, his refusal taking on a physical state in form of rashes whenever having to deal with the Lutzes. I think the husband showed classic symptoms of sleep paralysis and possibly hallucinatory psychosis with strong mood swings that would indicate an imbalance in his psyche.

All in all, a good horror which could have been made more interesting by adding a few psychological evaluations of the family members afterwards and a full sweep of the house.

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