Last week, according to an article a friend sent, Ronald DeFeo died in prison. DeFeo was made infamous by the Amityville murders in 1974 that led to the Amityville Horror franchise, a series that I covered in Nightmares with the Bible. Many of the other individuals in that famous haunting/possession have also passed away, including both George and Kathy Lutz, the owners who bought the house and brought it to the public notice. Controversy still surrounds the story with some claiming it was all a hoax and others suggesting that the hoax doesn’t add up to the sum of what happened there. DeFeo and the Lutzes were all considered unreliable narrators—DeFeo because he was mentally unstable and the Lutzes because they made money out of their misfortune. If anything can complicate truth, it’s money.
Academics, of course, won’t touch the story. Claims and counterclaims, all swirling around lucre, fog one’s vision. The story illustrates just how difficult it can be to get at the truth. Even allowing for exaggeration, it seems something happened there. A worldview that dismisses any possibility of spiritual entities—however defined—will necessarily come up negative. No doubt, considerable money changed hands. The franchise is still going with no less than four movies being released last year with Amityville in their titles. Getting at the truth involves decided which human beings you trust. The one Lutz child that has been willing to talk, Daniel, has continued the claims. How can we ever know?
I object to those who claim that such inquiry is a waste of time. If such things as claimed in Jay Anson’s book do happen (even if exaggerated), it may be that they’re exceptionally rare. Rarity of objects in the physical world is seldom in doubt. Ask any auctioneer. Getting into the accounts around the events, however, betrays a list of money-seeking individuals. Just about anyone making a counter-claim had a book deal in mind, and given the phenomenal success of Anson’s original the possibility of getting to the truth after that would always involve wading through greed. No wonder politicians so easily become crooked! Money makes people do strange things. Not surprisingly, those left with questions regarding the truth of the matter are left hungry. It’s clear that Ronald DeFeo killed his family. It’s a matter of record that the Lutz family moved into the house just over a year later and moved out without their belongings less than a month after that. Beyond this what happened is less and less likely ever to be known.