Bizarre Hoaxes: The Amityville Horror

The Amityville house haunting is a multifaceted hoax involving both facts and fiction. The facts themselves are horrific enough. The hoax that followed capitalized on that horror. That in itself is not bizarre. It is a common enough occurrence, as disgusting as that may be. What is bizarre is that people continue to believe the hoax to this day, largely due to the novels and films that have come out of the story. That, and the fact that the confession of this hoax goes ignored by horror and film fanatics, not to mention those who are still capitalizing on it.

The story behind the Amityville house-haunting hoax began in November of 1974. One evening in November of that a year, a man called the local police and told them that he was inside 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. He said that four people had been shot. He had been led to the house by a young man who entered a local bar and said, "His mother and father are shot," in the words of the caller. That young man was Ronald DeFeo, Jr. or "Butch."

The caller was wrong; there were six people dead inside the house. Every member of Butch's family was dead. His mother and father were shot dead in bed, as were his two younger brothers, aged 9 and 12 and his two sisters, aged 13 and 18. The murders had occurred around 3 a.m. that morning, more than 12 hours earlier. Butch went to work that morning, visited with friends and eventually went home. All the while, he made a show of calling home and receiving no answer. As it turned out, he knew damn well why he was not getting an answer. He had gone from room to room in his family home, shooting his entire family while they slept. How the whole family slept through the shootings is still a mystery. Butch used no suppressor.

The house at 112 Ocean Avenue lay empty through Butch's questioning. He was originally not a suspect. He simply talked so much that he implicated himself and eventually admitted to the murders. Eventually, it became clear that no DeFeo's were returning to the house. The house was sold to the Lutz family about a year after the murders. They later claimed that they were terrorized in the house for nearly a month. Demonic entities, unseen forces breaking doors, oozing slime, swarms of insects, cold spots, etc., you name it, they claimed it happened in 112 Ocean Avenue. They collaborated with a writer who told their story in "The Amityville Horror."

In later years, it became clear that some of what they said made no sense. A priest -- Father Pecoraro -- whom they said blessed the house, but was forced out by a demonic voice, said that he saw and heard nothing unusual at the home. The nail in the horror hoax's coffin came when Butch DeFeo's lawyer came out and said that he and the Lutzes concocted the story together. For the Lutzes, it was a way to make money, and make money they did. For William Weber -- the lawyer -- it was a means of getting a retrial for Butch. Butch is still in prison.

Next time you watch an Amityville movie or read an Amityville horror story, don't add to the bizarre factor of this story. Instead, think about how much better the words "based on a true story" sound than "based on a made up story."