This story begins in a small sleepy village on the south shore of Long Island, New York. A place which was officially incorporated in 1894, though it was the home to Montaukett Indians long before then. In the early 70s, this seaside village was turned on its head and thrust down a road of infamy few residents appreciated.
Our story begins in 1965 when a young family of seven moved into a home in this little village, wanting to escape the hectic pace of life in the big city as so many have done before and since. The parents were second generation Italians from Brooklyn and they named their new home ‘High Hopes’ as a symbol of all they had worked hard to accomplish. They were well liked by many in their neighbourhood and often had other children over to play.
As time passed, however, the oldest son “Butch” became less content than the rest of his family. Just as hot tempered as his father, as Butch grew into adolescence, the two often clashed in very physical ways; most often resorting to fist fights. By the age of 17, Butch was using drugs heavily and, when he was no longer interested in working for his grandfather’s car dealership (where he received a paycheck whether he showed up to work or not), he staged a robbery of the dealership and split the $20,000 boon with a close friend. Butch’s father realized the scam and Butch wanted revenge.
The details about his method of revenge differ. In the Spring of 2005, I was fortunate to watch an episode City Confidential which described the events behind this infamous haunting. In their version of this tale, Butch had been at a bar drinking and snorting cocaine with friends in the wee hours of the morning when he suddenly told his friends he needed to run an errand. Other versions of the story put Butch already at home watching television when he decided that murder was the only answer to his problem. In either case, on the morning of November 13, 1974, Butch murdered the rest of his family in cold blood. He shot both parents as well as his two younger sisters and two younger brothers. Oddly enough, no neighbours ever heard the shotgun blasts that ended six lives. Afterward, he went into the bathroom and cleaned up as best he could and, if the version of the story on City Confidential is to be believed, he returned to the bar where his friends were, saying nothing of what he’d just done.
He went to work as usual later that morning and that night, at around 6:30 PM that night, Butch entered Henry’s Bar, just blocks from his family’s home and informed the patrons that he believed his parents and siblings had been murdered. Butch’s friends were shocked and they returned with him to the family home. After confirming Butch’s story, one of the men there, Joey Yeswit, called the police to let them know there had been a murder. Before long, police and reporters swarmed the house, all shocked by this brutal murder in an otherwise peaceful village.
Being the only survivor of the murders, Butch was questioned by the police. He tried to blame the mafia at first, claiming they had a vendetta against him, but his story changed when the police discovered an empty gun box in his bedroom that matched the murder weapon. When confronted with this new bit of evidence, Butch admitted to killing his parents and siblings. The only question remaining was why all of the bodies were found face down in bed with no signs of struggle as if they’d all been sleeping – or perhaps drugged – when they were shot. According to the autopsy, however, there were no drugs in anyone’s system. Butch’s lawyer believed he could not have acted alone, but that is one mystery that was never solved.
As Butch awaited trial, the media began speculating about the motive for the murders. Some believed he wanted to cash in on his family’s life insurance policies. Others believed he had been pushed over the edge after witnessing too much domestic violence in his family. His history of drug use came out in the trial and he claimed that he heard voices in his head the morning of the murders.
Butch was sentence to six consecutive life terms for the murder of his family. People in the community believed that to be the end of the story. After a year, they could finally put to rest the horrible memories of the morning of November 13th. They couldn’t have been farther from the truth.
A year later, a young couple moved into the house with their blended family. They moved into the home on December 18, 1975 fully aware of the house’s history, but not really bothered by it. A friend, however, suggested they have the house blessed by a Catholic priest because of the negative history of the home.
Soon after moving in, though, the family was plagued by a series of bizarre events. Extreme fluctuations in temperature; foul odours permeated every room in the house; a strange slime appeared on the walls. Noises woke the family in the middle of the night and the youngest daughter became friendly with a ghost called Jodie which apparently haunted her bedroom. As days passed, these occurrences began taking a toll on the family resulting in personality changes. Rather than going out with friends, they always had friends over – mostly to find someone who could validate what was going on in the house.
Despite their friends’ validation of hearing footsteps in the upper floors of the house when no one could have made them, the family remained. That all changed, however, on the night of January 13, 1976. That night, everything changed.
“I was lying in bed and everyone was asleep, and Kathy lifts up off the bed and starts to slide away from the bed and away from me. I feel something get in the bed with us. I’m unable to move, I hear the kids beds continually slamming up and down on the floor and being dragged. We heard these pigeons on the air conditioner top overhead from the master bathroom, and they’re fluttering all night long and yet there are no pigeons there the next morning — or any nest or anything like that. The lights flickered. We brought the dog up to stay right by the bedroom. We tied him right to the doorknob and he’s up, going in circles, and throwing up all night.
The boys came down in the morning absolutely frightened. They were unable to get down to me, and I was unable to get up to them. Missy came in and just asked what was that all about? And Kathy had no memory of much of it. That day we spent trying to get a hold of Father Ray, and he said all the right words.”
The following afternoon, the family left the house for good. They lived in the house a total of 28 days.
Self-proclaimed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren were brought in to investigate the house along with a local news personality to document their findings. Naturally, they found the place a veritable funhouse for demons.
Once again, the home became a national sensation with people wanting to see this demonic house where murders had once occurred. They flocked to the address by the hundreds, even after the family turned ownership back to the bank.
Today there is a family who lives in the house who have never experienced anything unusual, which begs the question…. what was the real horror of Amityville?
It is amazing how this story has stood the test of time. I think a lot of it has to do with so many unanswered questions. I do think that the Lutz’s were spooked by the house, and I think they got caught up in other people’s agendas. Anyone who thought that they lived happily ever after with a buttload of money from a fake haunted house…that was certainly not the case. Their marriage broke down and they both died at young ages. (in their fifties). Others made way more money than they did and fed the fire much longer. I will never think a demon resided in that home at any time..but I do think it is an example of what horror the media can generate.
May the DeFeo family as well as George and Kathleen Lutz rest in peace.