That fateful day… November 13, 1974

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article-2213078-15592C8F000005DC-404_634x347Forty years ago today in a quiet seaside village on Long Island in New York, a tragedy would occur which would be popular long after the ‘players’ were dead.

On the night of November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo, Jr entered the family residence and shot his entire family where they slept. His father: Ronald DeFeo, Sr; his mother: Louise DeFeo; his two younger sisters: Dawn & Allison; and his two younger brothers: Marc and John Matthew.

But it was not the subsequent investigation, trial and imprisonment of Ronald DeFeo, Jr which truly caught the eye of the American public, but the events at the same house nearly a year later which captured our imaginations.

Nearly a year after the gruesome events at the hands of Ronald DeFeo, Jr, George and Kathy Lutz moved into the house at 112 Ocean Avenue with their three children. They remained residents for a whopping 28 days before fleeing the home for good. Why? They claimed the house was haunted by a demonic presence.

It was this story which would overshadow the DeFeo murders and come to haunt the American psyche, especially after author Jay Anson published his book The Amityville Horror in 1977. In the book, Anson lays out all of the claims the Lutzes made regarding the house at 112 Ocean Avenue. Famed demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren were also brought in in 1976 to investigate the claims made by the Lutzes. Their opinions are also covered in the book.

I will admit that when I first heard this story many years ago, I too fell under it’s fearful spell. But then I discovered a website about the Amityville Hoax and after a thorough reading of that website, followed by a later viewing of an old crime investigation series City Confidential which covered in great detail the DeFeos and their subsequent murders, I became convinced that it was, in fact, a hoax.

I think what happened to the Lutzes was that despite initially stating that they’d have no problems living in a house where mass murder had taken place would be no problem, I think it got to them. There’s also the fact that a large portion of the DeFeo family furniture was still in the house; part of the deal of the sale. I know from personal experience that objects in a home which bring to mind negative memories can greatly affect you psychologically. I think it simply became too much for the couple to handle and they fled. Further adding to this is the fact that no one who has lived in the house since the Lutzes fled has ever experienced anything resembling paranormal.

This is the site which convinced me of the truth of the hoax: The Hoax in Amityville

Unfortunately, I am unable to find the City Confidential episode on YouTube.

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Murderous May: Dating Game Killer

In 1968, a 25 year old Rodney Alcala was convicted of the rape and attempted murder of an 8 year old girl in California. He had taken her off the street, brought her back to his apartment and sexually assaulted her.  Then he hit her over the head with a metal pipe, intending to kill her.  Luckily, before he could make sure the gruesome job was finished, the police came knocking at his door.  A concerned citizen had seen the young girl getting into a car with unmarked tags and had followed them to the apartment building and called the authorities.  Police found the child in a pool of blood. Continue reading

The Infant Murder that Rocked America

The year was 1927, in a decade that history would later dub the Roaring Twenties, but would come crashing down a mere two years later. It seems fitting that America’s greatest pilot – after the Wright Brothers of course – would step into the spotlight in such a period of history. His name is one familiar to any American today: Charles A. Lindbergh. He is most famous for his prize-winning trans-Atlantic flight in May of 1927 from New York City to Paris, France. However, there is another infamous story to which he is linked that fewer people are aware of: the kidnapping and murder of his 20 month old son.

Charles Lindbergh Sr. beside his world famous plane Spirit of St Louis

Charles Lindbergh Sr. beside his world famous plane Spirit of St Louis

The “Crime of the Century,” as the press of the day referred to it, occurred on the evening of March 1, 1932 when 20 month old Charles Lindbergh, Jr. was discovered missing from the family home outside the tiny hamlet of Hopewell, New Jersey. The kidnapping was discovered by the child’s nurse, Betty Gow, around 10 PM that evening and immediately reported to his parents – Charles and Anne Lindbergh. A search of the room and land immediately surrounding the house yielded only a ransom note discovered on Charles Jr.’s bedroom window sill, demanding a $50,000 ransom. The local police were called and the New Jersey State Police soon took over the case.

Unfortunately no credible evidence was discovered at the house. Police – and for a short time reporters – were allowed to wander freely around the property and there was no real adherence to any procedure we might be familiar with today. The foot prints finally noticed just beneath the bedroom window were indistinguishable and therefore ignored. There were no fingerprints found in the room nor was any blood discovered anywhere – inside or out.

On March 6th, a second ransom note was received by the Lindberghs increasing the ransom amount to $70,000. Police and other officials met to discuss procedure and the Lindbergh’s lawyer, Colonel Henry Breckenridge, hired private investigators to help.

A third ransom note was delivered two days later indicating that whoever had been chosen as mediators between the kidnappers and the Lindberghs was not acceptable. Shortly thereafter, a retired school principal, Dr John F. Condon, took an ad out in the local paper offering to act as a go-between and would add an additional $1,000 to the ransom monies. This the kidnappers apparently found acceptable. Charles Sr. also approved the use of Dr Condon in the role as go between.

The fifth and sixth ransom notes were delivered to “Jafsie” (the code name created for Dr Condon) himself directing him first to a vacant stand near a subway entrance where a new note would give him further instructions. His final destination would be Woodlawn Cemetery where he would meet and ultimately speak to a man simply known as “John”.

A total of twelve ransom notes – some merely directing Jafsie to another location – were received before the child’s body was discovered on May 12, 1932.

…the body of the kidnapped baby was accidentally found, partly buried, and badly decomposed, about four and a half miles southeast of the Lindbergh home, 45 feet from the highway, near Mount Rose, New Jersey, in Mercer County. The discovery was made by William Allen, an assistant on a truck driven by Orville Wilson. The head was crushed, there was a hole in the skull and some of the body members were missing. The body was positively identified and cremated at Trenton, New Jersey, on May 13, 1932. The Coroner’s examination showed that the child had been dead for about two months and that death was caused by a blow on the head.

Charles Lindbergh Jr. 1930_1932, son of American pilot Charles Lindbergh, celebrating his birthday prior to his kidnapping.

Charles Lindbergh Jr. 1930_1932, son of American pilot Charles Lindbergh, celebrating his birthday prior to his kidnapping.

With the determination that the body found was indeed that of Charles Lindbergh Jr, the investigation quickly moved into high gear. Banks and retailers in New Jersey and New York were instructed to keep an eye out for any money encountered with the serial numbers from the ransom money. The New Jersey State Police would head the investigation with support from the Bureau of Investigation (now the FBI) and cooperation on the part of the New York Police. A reward of $25,000 was offered to anyone who could provide the investigation direction. This naturally brought out all sorts of people, interested in the money, but not the truth. A lot of police and BI manpower was wasted following every tidbit of information given, because nothing could be left to speculation. Other people linked to the Lindberghs were also victims of con artists wanting to make a few bucks. Not difficult to believe since the world was in the iron grip of the Great Depression.

On May 2, 1933, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York discovered 296 ten-dollar gold certificates, and one $20 gold certificate, all Lindbergh ransom notes. These bills were included among the currency received at the Federal Reserve Bank on May 1, 1933, and apparently had been made in one deposit. Immediately upon the discovery of these bills, deposit tickets at the Federal Reserve Bank for May 1, 1933, were examined. One was found bearing the name and address of “J.J. Faulkner, 537 West 149th Street,” and had marked thereon “gold certificates,” “$10 and $20” in the amount of $2,980. Despite extensive investigation, this depositor was never located.

Two years after the kidnap and discovery of the infant’s body, investigators were able to zero in on one man: Bruno Richard Hauptmann. The use of various gold certificates known to be part of the ransom monies were reportedly used by Mr Hauptmann and he was summarily arrested. Samples of his handwriting were taken to compare with the writings of the numerous ransom notes. Mr Hauptmann was identified by two individuals as using gold certificates which were part of the ransom money. The first “witness” was a gas station attendant who identified Mr Hauptmann as the individual who paid for gas using a $10 gold certificate. The attendant was suspicious of the use of the gold certificate so he noted the license plate number of the car the man drove. The second “witness” was a young woman working at a Greenwich Village movie house who claimed Hauptmann handed her a folded bill from the ransom money to pay for a movie ticket on his birthday.**

On the morning of September 19, 1934, after a night of surveillance, police arrested Bruno Richard Hauptmann for the crime of kidnapping and murder of Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. Mr Hauptmann was a German immigrant who had been living in the United States for 11 years. He was married with one child, a son. His primary means of employ was as a carpenter, though he had partnered with other immigrants in an illegal fur trade. Despite his claims of innocence, a $20 gold certificate was found on his person at the time of arrest. A search of his home yielded a further $13,000 which had been hidden in various compartments in his garage. Hauptmann claimed that the money was being held for an old business partner who had returned to Germany, ill, and subsequently died there. Money was owed to Hauptmann by this man and when Hauptmann discovered the stash of money, he felt entitled to it.

Hauptmann was indicted in the Supreme Court in Bronx County, New York for the crime of extortion, as that’s where the money was exchanged between Jafsie and “John” and where it was later discovered to be in Hauptmann’s possession. Days later he was indicted for murder in Herndon County, New Jersey. The murder trial for Bruno Richard Hauptmann began on January 3, 1935 and lasted five weeks. The case against him was based solely on circumstantial evidence, yet he was found guilty of murder in the first degree on February 13, 1935. While his defense team appealed, it was to no avail.

Bruno Richard Hauptmann was electrocuted on April 3, 1936 at 8:47 PM.

Sources:

Charles Lindbergh ~ Wikipedia
The Lindbergh Kidnapping ~ FBI Files
Charles Lindbergh: An American Aviator

** This information is not provided by any of the internet sources relied on for this story, but was learned while reading Noel Behn’s Lindbergh: The Crime

American Murder House: The Morris-Jumel Mansion – New York City, NY

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Morris-Jumel MansionWas he pushed?  Was it murder? Was it coincidence that after his death his wife became one of the richest women in New York City?  The mysterious death of Stephen Jumel has caused whispers and rumors through three centuries, but no one living really knows the truth.  What is said about Stephen and his wife Eliza is sordid enough for a modern day soap opera…imagine what post-revolution society may have thought and said about them if even half the claims were true! Continue reading

Zombie Proofing & Ghost Busting Your Home!

I love ThisOldHouse.com during October.  They have the best articles!  The following articles I am linking to are favorites of mine:

Ghost Busting your home: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20539548,00.html

Zombie Proofing your home: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20487392,00.html

13 Murder Houses: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20151524,00.html

Award Winning Pumpkin Carving: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20314743,00.html

Enjoy!

Haunted Long Island: The Milleridge Inn

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The Milleridge Inn: Jericho, NY

The Milleridge Inn in Jericho is one of Long Island’s most picturesque restaurants.  The original part of the restaurant was built as a two room house back in 1672 by the Willets, a Quaker family. The house grew along with Long Island. It was used to quarter Hessian and British soldiers prior to (and perhaps during) the Revolutionary War.  The home witnessed the winds of war and the onset of independence.

Continue reading

10 Haunted Houses for Your Enjoyment

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If you’re the adventurous sort and are interested in finding a good (man-made) haunted house to visit this year, we offer the following list of haunted houses. Please note that these were randomly chosen from searching online.

1. Cutting Edge (Ft. Worth, TX) 2009 World Record Holder for being the biggest haunted house

2. The Niles Haunted House Scream Park (near Michigan/Indiana border off US 31)

3. Netherworld Haunted House (Norcross, GA)

4. Headless Horseman Hayrides & Haunted Houses (Ulster Park, NY)

5. Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride (Gradyville, PA)

6. 13th Gate (Baton Rouge, LA)

7. Twisted Woods (Myakka, FL)

8. Basement of the Dead –  (Aurora, IL) Voted #1 haunted house in the Chicago area in 2008

9. Chambers of Fear (Surprise, AZ)

10. Reign of Terror Haunted House (Thousand Oaks, CA)