Any good paranormal investigator will tell you that historical research is one of the most important tools in their arsenal. Ghost hunters use it learn about the locations they are investigating, and why a certain spot may have paranormal activity. Murders, suicides, and other tragedies such as horrific conditions at medical facilities seem to become the focus of hauntings years later. UFO researchers are constantly on the lookout for patterns, or “flaps,” that occur in certain locations. Bigfoot (and other cryptid) hunters research local legends and ancient myths, just to see how far back the sightings may really go. History and the paranormal just go hand in hand. Most of the members on our paranormal team have accounts with Ancestry.com and other archival sites, allowing us to pull obituaries, newspaper articles, and other pertinent documents we may need while doing our research. But, being that my interests do expand beyond the paranormal, I have used my Ancestry account to work on my own family tree, and have connected with lots of long-lost family members (hi Brian, Cheryl, Maureen, Cat, and anyone else who reads my blog!). It’s been interesting for me to realize, as someone who grew up around family members who are into the paranormal, that even relatives who I am just now meeting are also into the paranormal. I guess it runs in the family. Anyway, I was talking to a new-found cousin of mine recently about the subject, and she had an interesting little tidbit to share with me.
My cousin Caterina was telling me about how her grandfather (I believe he would be my 2nd great uncle) used to live out in Amityville, New York. Yes, the same Amityville as the infamous Amityville Horror case. For those who may not know, The Amityville Horror was a book written by Jay Anson. It was the account of the alleged paranormal experiences of George and Kathy Lutz, and Kathy’s three children, after moving into 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York, in December of 1975. Prior to moving in, the home was owned by the DeFeo family. On November 13th, 1974, one of the sons, Ronald Defeo Jr., shot and killed 6 members of his family in the home as they slept. DeFeo was convicted of second-degree murder, and to this day is incarcerated at the Sullivan Correction Facility in Fallsburg, New York. The murders themselves were more than a little bizarre in their own right, with some details still left unexplained. But that’s a blog post for another time. The Lutz’s knew about the murders when buying the home, and had the house blessed once they moved in. The Lutz’s would later claim that the house was the epicenter of disturbing paranormal activity, experiencing (among other things) swarms of flies, cold spots, foul odors, slamming doors, cloven hoof prints found in the snow, and demonic voices saying “Get out!”
Now, while it was a terrifying book and an iconic horror movie, the Amityville Horror has all but been proven to be a hoax. The book didn’t hold up well to scrutiny, and many details in the story didn’t add up or couldn’t be verified. For example, the book tells of visits to the home by local police on multiple occasions, but the police have no records of ever visiting the Lutz’s at 112 Ocean Avenue. The cloven hoof prints allegedly found in the snow on January 1, 1976 couldn’t have existed, because weather data shows that there was no snowfall on the ground in Amityville on that day. People also started noticing that different versions of the book had changing details from one edition to the next. Perhaps the most damning pieces of evidence come from people who were directly involved in the case. William Weber, who was DeFeo’s defense attorney, stated to People Magazine, “I know this book is a hoax. We (Weber, George Lutz, and Kathy Lutz) created this horror story over many bottles of wine.” And George Lutz later on admitted that the events in the book were only “mostly true,” which leaves lots of room for interpretation. Lastly, pretty much every resident to occupy the homes since the Lutz’s moved out have reported that there is nothing paranormal or demonic going on in the home. So at best, it was a greatly exaggerated account of some unusual events, and at worst, an outright hoax to sell a book (and a subsequent movie with many sequels).
The interesting part of my family connection to the Amityville Horror goes a little deeper, though. My uncle apparently told his granddaughter (my aforementioned cousin Cat) that one time, while he was out boating, some young kid drove by recklessly on his boat, with the waves from his wake rocking my uncle’s boat, which caused him to lose his balance and fall. He had to go to the hospital due to his injuries, and the boy’s parents ended up paying for his hospital bills. That boy’s name? Ronald DeFeo Jr.
Unfortunately, we don’t have many more details about this story. This incident would have taken place in the early ’70s, and my uncle died in 1980, a little over 5 years after the murders. My cousin Cat was also told that he had been in the DeFeo house a few times prior to the murders. He lived in town with them and knew them, even if just casually. Ronald DeFeo Jr. apparently sent some letters to Cat’s mom, but those have sadly been lost to time. Nobody back then could have foreseen the horrors that would visit the house in the form of the DeFeo murders, or the paranormal circus that would descend upon the house and town once the Lutz’s moved in and had their story published. There’s very little evidence to support the Lutz’s claims of the house being haunted, and actually a lot more evidence pointing to the entire supernatural affair as being a hoax. But to this day, people still visit the little village of Amityville in hopes of feeling a connection to the events that happened there. Little did I know that I already had a connection to it, a Stroming who was right there as the incidents unfolded.