April 1, 2014

Blogging From A to Z Day One: A is for Amityville Haunting

For the month of April I will be participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Learn more about the challenge by clicking here. Each day (except Sundays) I will be posting a theme based on each letter of the alphabet. This blog is covering paranormal topics for the month. To read my automotive blog posts for the challenge, click here. 

Just about everyone has heard of the Amityville Haunting. It was a story that captivated the nation at the time (or so I've heard, since I wasn't alive back then). There were several elements that made the haunting particularly phenomenal: the horrific way the previous owners of the house were murdered (by their own son/brother), the media frenzy that surrounded The Exorcist (which was released the previous year), and the televised investigation of the house (which to my knowledge had never been done before). Even today the story generates quite a bit of interest, making it one of the most famous hauntings in history.

As with any haunting that has been publicized, there have been critics of the event. All kinds of wild theories have been generated about what really happened at the house, ranging from Ronald DeFeao (the previous owners' son) having been possessed by demons, to the angry spirits of Native Americans exacting revenge on the white men, to the whole thing being a fraud that was brainstormed by the Catholic Church.

Having investigated some hauntings myself, as well as other paranormal phenomena, I have to admit that I have some serious doubts about the veracity of the Amityville Haunting. First off, George and Katy Lutz were recorded talking to William Weber, who was the defense attorney for Ronald DeFeao, about how they could play up the details of the haunting. Weber had an agreement to write a book about the family's purported experiences. Add to that the fact that there were some inconsistencies in how the Lutz family described the events, coupled with their intense eagerness to talk to the media, and the story really becomes suspect. Then you add in their claims that there was a hidden Red Room in the basement that might have been used for Satanic rituals, a claim that was proven to be outright false by multiple witnesses, and the story really starts to reel. Later, George and Katy even admitted that at least some of the events described in the book about the haunting were trumped up or completely fabricated.

This is the problem when dealing with the paranormal: there will always be those who are looking for gain through sharing their supposed experiences. Some people just want attention. Other people are looking for financial gain. My experience has been that most people are almost embarrassed to tell anyone about an experience they had. Often times when they do share their story, they preface it with something like "I'm not crazy, but..." because they know the stereotypes. These people often think long and hard about alternative explanations. The Lutz family did not react this way. While I cannot say for one hundred percent certainty what happened in that house in Amityville, I can say that I strongly doubt anything paranormal occurred.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I remember seeing a documentary a year or two after the first movie. The teen daughter showed them the red room, which was just a brick alcove painted red. Something happened, but who know what.

Lexa Cain said...

I read the book when it first came out and it scared the heck out of me. Sure, it's fiction, but it's so much fun imagining all the creepy stuff! I fan'd you on FB! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The first movie scared me, although now it looks really, really bad. Still a freaky story, even if half of it's untrue.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

Just the name of the town Amityville sounds creepy.

Robin said...

I tend to agree with you Steven. Most people who have experienced a paranormal event are a bit reluctant to share it. They fear that their friends (and strangers) will think they are nuts.

Of course, I did blog about this dream I had of my dad after he died, which I am certain actually happened... and just recently submitted it as an Inspiring Story. But, I guess I don't care what they naysayers believe. And if it helps someone move past the death of a loved one, it is worth it to me. I can't prove that my dream was REAL. I just believe it was.

Sharon Himsl said...

I can't watch these movies. They give me nightmares. Members of my family tell ghost stories that are pretty believable and I've had a handful of interesting dreams. Who knows? I try not to a naysayer.

randi lee said...

I was absolutely petrified of Amityville when I was a pup. We had a house in our neighborhood that looked like the one in the movie and my prankster big brother had me convinced it was the real thing. I turned 12 and realized he was full of it--but he had me seriously going for a while there!!

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Interesting! I like your logic but I'm an "anything is possible" person. :)

Glenda said...

I hate to say it but I have not heard of this as I do not do Horror movies.

VR Barkowski said...

Interesting, Steven. I never considered that someone's reluctance to discuss a paranormal event might make for a more convincing argument. In so many paranormal movies, we see characters who try to pretend the events around them aren't happening. While we in the audience sit in judgment, thinking about how crazy they are to stay in these bizarre, sometimes threatening, situations. Ironic, given that their hesitancy is likely a very honest reaction.

VR Barkowski

Steven said...

Diane, There have been many documentaries since, and the subsequent owners have said there has been zero activity in the house. I know that's not conclusive evidence, but coupled with everything I mentioned and more, it casts serious doubt on the story.

Lexa, Thanks for the FB follow!

Alex, the old movie is pretty cheesy by today's standards.

Karen, agreed.

Robin, it's a generalism, but it often holds true. I think it's a good thing you have the bravery to share your experience, because many do not.

Sharon, my job is to analyze and weigh phenomena, but I usually avoid passing a final judgment unless something is clearly a hoax.

Randi, nice brother!

Jess, I think anything is possible, but have learned to be cautiously skeptical.

Glenda, that's surprising since it made international news back when it happened. Glad I can educate.

VR, it's something I've gathered with experience. Mind you, some con artists pick up on this and leverage it to their advantage, so there are some other red flags I use in my bag of investigative tricks. But yes, it does shed light on horror story tropes.