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The Amityville Horror: History vs. Hollywood

Starring James Brolin, Margot Kidder, Rod Steiger, Natasha Ryan | based on the book "The Amityville Horror" by Jay Anson

James Brolin
Born: July 18, 1940
Los Angeles, California, USA
George Lutz
Born: January 1, 1947
Birthplace: New York, USA
Death: May 8, 2006, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (heart disease)
Margot Kidder
Born: October 17, 1948
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada
Kathleen Lutz
Born: October 13, 1946
Death: August 17, 2004, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
K.C. Martel
Born: September 14, 1967
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Daniel Lutz
Born: October 26, 1965
Birthplace: West Babylon, New York, USA
Meeno Peluce
Born: February 26, 1970
Christopher Lutz
Born: February 23, 1968
Birthplace: West Babylon, New York, USA
Natasha Ryan
Born: May 14, 1970
Los Angeles, California, USA
Missy Lutz
I wasn't really concerned about whether or not it was a true story. It didn't matter to me. I had to create a reality of my own. -Sandor Stern, Screenwriter, The Amityville Horror

Questioning the Story:

How many people were murdered in the real Amityville Horror house?

Six. The Amityville Horror true story reveals that on the night of November 13, 1974, twenty three year-old eldest son Ronald "Butch" DeFeo, Jr. (born September 26, 1951) shot his parents, two brothers and two sisters with a .35 caliber Marlin rifle while they slept. The entire DeFeo family is pictured below.

The DeFeo Family
The DeFeo Family - Parents Ronald and Louise (left, vertical). Children (back row, left to right): John, Allison, Marc. Front Row: Dawn, Ronald, Jr.
The Six Victims Include:
  • Ronald Joseph DeFeo, Sr. - 43
    (born November 16, 1930)
  • Louise Brigante DeFeo - 42
    (born November 3, 1931)
  • Dawn Terese DeFeo - 18
    (born July 29, 1956)
  • Allison Louise DeFeo - 13
    (born August 16, 1961)
  • Marc Gregory DeFeo - 12
    (born September 4, 1962)
  • John Matthew DeFeo - 9
    (born October 24, 1965)

Did Ronald DeFeo testify that voices told him to commit the murders?

Yes. As Ronald DeFeo, Jr.'s defense attorney, William Weber, was trying to establish an insanity plea, DeFeo testified that he heard voices that told him to murder his family. Assistant District Attorney Gerard Sullivan made sure that the insanity plea didn't hold up, eventually convincing all twelve jurors to deliver a guilty verdict. In a 2002 Primetime Live interview that Ronald DeFeo, Jr. gave from prison, he recanted his testimony, explaining that his parents were abusive and he committed the murders while drunk and high on heroin.

What happened to the murderer, Ronald DeFeo, Jr.?

DeFeo and Brolin
To explain the character's emerging dark side, the filmmakers intended Brolin's Lutz (right) to bare resemblance to Ronald DeFeo, Jr. (left).
Ronald DeFeo, Jr. is at Green Haven Correctional Facility in Beekman, New York. On November 25, 1975, he was convicted of six counts of second degree murder and is there serving the six consecutive life sentences he was given.

Were George and Kathy Lutz really newlyweds?

Yes. In researching The Amityville Horror true story, we learned that they had married on July 4, 1975. Both had been married before and the three children were from Kathy's prior marriage. According to Daniel, George insisted that he and his siblings be officially adopted, changing their last names from Quaratino to Lutz. The couple also had two daughters together, Noel and Gabrielle, before they divorced in the late 1980s.

Where is the real Amityville Horror house located?

The real Amityville house was located on Long Island at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York. However, the address has since been changed to 108 Ocean Avenue in an effort to deter tourists from visiting the location. In 2010, the 5 bedroom 3 1/2 bath house was listed for sale, featuring pictures of the interior. You can also check out the current Google Maps Amityville Horror Home Street View.

Did a priest really bless the house when the Lutz family was moving in?

On December 18, 1975, the day that the real Lutz family was moving into their new Ocean Avenue home in Amityville, a Catholic priest allegedly came by to bless the house, supposedly at the request of Kathy Lutz. On October 4, 1979, a little more than two months after the release of the movie, the investigative television program In Search of featured an episode that included an interview with who they claim is the real Amityville priest. He wanted to remain anonymous, so his face was kept hidden. Watch the Amityville Priest Interview

Amityville Priest
The real Amityville priest (right) hides his identity for a 1979 interview. Left: Actor Rod Steiger is swarmed in a moment of fiction in the Amityville Horror movie.
"I was blessing the sewing room," says the priest. "It was cold. It was really cold in there. I'm like, 'Well, gee, this is peculiar,' because it was a lovely day out, and it was winter, yes, but it didn't account for that kind of coldness. I was also sprinkling holy water, and I heard a rather deep voice behind me saying, 'Get out!' It seemed so directed toward me that I was really quite startled. I felt a slap at one point on the face. I felt somebody slap me, and there was nobody there."

Unlike in the movie, the priest never mentioned encountering flies in the home. At some point after his visit to the Lutz's home, the In Search of episode reveals that he discovered unexplained blisters festering on his hand. The priest was later revealed to be Father Ralph Pecoraro, and like most things related to the Amityville haunting, his story became shrouded in controversy as well, mainly due to various contradictory claims he made regarding his involvement with the Lutz family, specifically when he testified in the Lutz vs. Weber trial.

Did flies really swarm the priest who blessed the home?

No. "They [the filmmakers] could have just as easily had done the flies the way they really happened," says George Lutz, who laughed at the movie's portrayal of flies attacking the priest (Rod Steiger) (The Real Amityville Horror). Jay Anson's book The Amityville Horror mentions the swarms of flies showing up in a second-floor room in the winter, but it doesn't mention them attacking the priest.

The Amityville Horror Book Jay AnsonThe Amityville Horror by Jay Anson introduced the story of the alleged haunting to the public in 1977.

Could George and Kathy Lutz afford the Ocean Avenue home?

According to son Christopher Lutz, George and Kathy did not have trouble paying the mortgage. Due to the history of the home, it was listed well under market price at $80,000. During an interview with Spooky Southcoast, Chris says that George and Kathy were able to make a large down payment with the money they got from selling his mother's house as well as George's house. By moving into such a spacious place on the water, George was able to cut a number of costs, enabling them to afford the mortgage. He intended to move his family's land surveying business into the basement, and he was able to eliminate mooring costs for his two boats since the property had a private boathouse. In his documentary My Amityville Horror, brother Daniel agrees that money for the house was not an issue as portrayed in the movies.

Was the real Amityville house used in the movie?

1979 Amityville Movie House vs. Real House
1979 Amityville movie house (left) vs. the real house at the time of the 1974 DeFeo murders (top) and in its more recent renovated state (bottom).
No. Although the exteriors in the 1979 Amityville Horror movie look similar to the real Long Island home, the house used for the movie is actually located at 18 Brooks Road, Toms River, New Jersey (See Google Maps View). A superstructure was built around the outside of the home to make it look more like the actual Amityville house just over 120 miles away. -New York Post

How long did the real Lutz family live in the home?

With regard to The Amityville Horror true story, it is widely known that the Lutz family spent twenty-eight days in the home. George, Kathleen, Daniel, Christopher and Missy moved in on December 18, 1975 and fled on January 14, 1976.

Did the priest really get static on the phone when he tried to call and warn the Lutzes?

Yes, at least according to the TV program In Search of and their 1979 interview with who they state is the real Amityville priest (Watch the Interview). Noise interference prevented any phone communication and he could never get through to warn the family.

Was Kathy's aunt really a nun?

No. According to Jay Anson's book The Amityville Horror, Kathy's Aunt Theresa was formerly a nun. She was no longer a nun when the events took place. She already had a family of her own by the time her niece moved into the home.

Is there any evidence that the real Amityville house was haunted?

Amityville Ghost Child
(Click to Enlarge)
The alleged Amityville ghost peers out from a doorway on the second floor landing.
Yes, but it has been shrouded in controversy. The debate over the alleged Amityville ghost image displayed on the right (click to enlarge) has been going on ever since George Lutz first revealed it during an interview on the Merv Griffin show in 1979. It had been taken three years earlier in 1976 by Ed and Lorraine Warren's team of paranormal investigators, namely a professional photographer by the name of Gene Campbell.

Campbell had set up a camera equipped with black and white infrared film to shoot automatically during the night. Numerous rolls of film were used, with only one suspicious image being captured. The Amityville ghost image shows a figure with white eyes peering out of a doorway. Some believe that it is a demon or possibly the ghost of the murdered DeFeo boy, John. Others have concluded that it is likely one of the investigators, in particular a man named Paul Bartz. They cite that his white eyes were possibly due to the infrared camera film.

Did a swarm of flies appear in the home?

Yes. During an interview with Inside Edition in 2005, Chris explained that, "There was definitely a lot of flies but nothing again like Hollywood is portraying it." His brother Daniel also mentioned issues with flies in his documentary My Amityville Horror, although he claims there were many more.

Were there cold spots in the real Amityville Horror house?

Yes, at least according to most of the people involved in the story. This includes son Daniel Lutz and Father Ralph Pecoraro, the priest who allegedly blessed the home. The strange coldness is why the movie depicts George Lutz constantly chopping wood and burning the home's fireplace. Son Daniel Lutz gives his account in the documentary My Amityville Horror, released in 2012.

My Amityville Horror Documentary Daniel LutzMy Amityville Horror is a documentary in which son Daniel Lutz gives his account of the haunting.

Did the toilets overflow with a black sludge?

No. At least not according to what George Lutz said during the 1979 Good Morning America interview. He states that it was the porcelain toilet bowls themselves that turned black, not the water.

Did Missy have an imaginary friend named Jodie?

Our exploration into The Amityville Horror true story revealed that according to George Lutz, Missy did have an imaginary/paranormal friend named Jodie (spelled "Jody" in the film). The entity would present itself to his daughter in different forms, including as an angel and as a large pig. In the movie, George (James Brolin) sees Jodie in pig form in an upstairs window. Earlier, his wife Kathy (Margot Kidder) sees Jodie's glowing red eyes through a window in the darkness. A drawing that the real Missy Lutz allegedly did of Jodie is featured in Jay Anson's novel. The creature in the drawing looks more like a cat than a pig. However, the book describes it as a drawing of a pig walking through the snow.

Amityville Horror Jodie the Pig
Left: Missy Lutz's drawing of Jodie running through the snow. Right: George (James Brolin) sees Jodie the pig in an upstairs window in the 1979 movie.

Did Daniel get his hand smashed in a window?

Yes, according to Daniel Lutz, he did get his hand smashed by the window. In real life, Daniel says that the window smashed his hand "skin on skin", emphasizing the initial severity of his injury. In his documentary My Amityville Horror, he holds his hand up in front of the camera to demonstrate that his little finger is still bent from the injury. Moments later, he contradicts himself somewhat by saying that his hand had magically healed just minutes after the injury. In the movie, the parents take their son to the hospital and are eerily amazed that there are no broken bones in his hand.

Was there really a secret red room in the basement?

Yes, but the red room was exaggerated in the movie and book. In reality, the red room wasn't all that secret. It was part of a storage space under the basement stairs. Patty Commarato, a former friend of the murdered DeFeo daughter Allison, revisits the real Amityville red room (pictured below) during a 1980 episode of That's Incredible (See Video of the Red Room). She says that the DeFeos used to store toys in the small red space.

Amityville Secret Red Room in Basement
A former friend of Allison DeFeo sits in the real Amityville house's red room (left). Right: Actor James Brolin sees a familiar face in the movie's secret Amityville basement room.

For the Amityville movie scene pictured above on the right, the filmmakers recruited the real-life brother of actor James Brolin to portray the face/entity that Brolin's character sees in the secret basement room. They needed someone who looked like Brolin and when given a beard and mustache, his brother easily fit the part.

Did the window in the Amityville house really break?

No. Not only was there never any physical evidence of a window breaking, in a 2011 interview, son Christopher Lutz confirmed that no Amityville house windows broke. -Spooky Southcoast

During a 1980 Amityville episode of the TV show That's Incredible, Barbara Cromarty, who purchased the home with her husband Jim after the Lutzes moved out, allowed the cameras inside the home to demonstrate that the upstairs eye window had never shattered like in the movie, noting that the window frame still showed the old paint and putty from when the house was built in 1927.

In a 2011 interview with 30 Odd Minutes, Christopher Lutz clarified that even though one of the Amityville home's infamous eye windows never shattered, this element of the movie was in fact inspired by the windows having opened on their own. "That was my bedroom...Those two windows are one bedroom and that used to be Ronald DeFeo's bedroom, and when we moved in the house my brother and I shared that room. That window opened many times, but rather than display it like it happened, they showed it absolutely shattering. It didn't shatter the glass. The window opened. The thing swung open."

Did the front door really get ripped off?

No. In The Amityville Horror movie, demonic forces cause the wooden front door to explode outward. "It did not get ripped off," said son Christopher Lutz during a 2011 interview (Spooky Southcoast). It should be noted that mother Kathy Lutz had previously stated that the door did blow outward, leaving police and repairmen dumbfounded. However, no physical evidence has ever surfaced to validate Kathy's claim.

Did blood drip down the walls?

No. In the 2005 documentary The Real Amityville Horror, the real George Lutz said that blood never dripped down the walls.

Did George Lutz really fall through the basement stairs into a hole filled with black sludge?

No. During the 2005 Christopher Lutz Inside Edition interview, he says that the exciting scene at the end of the film when James Brolin's character falls through the basement stairs into the sludge-filled hole never happened in real life.

Do actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder believe that the Lutz's story is true?

George and Kathy Lutz vs James Brolin and Margot Kidder
Actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder (right) never believed in the story told by George and Kathy (left).
No. Actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder, who portray George and Kathy Lutz in the 1979 movie, have indicated in interviews that they don't believe that The Amityville Horror is based on a true story. "George is a good salesman," says actor Brolin. "You know, a charmer. You had to believe him, I mean his story, the way he'd tell it was great, but he was such a good salesman you'd realize he could be sellin' you sand. ... So, there was a lot of doubt there. And when you would talk to the family and the kids and I would ask them questions, they would not go, 'Well, uhm...' They'd have the answer right now [snaps his fingers], like they'd been schooled. And that was my take. I walked away going, 'I don't know, I don't believe in all this stuff, but ... Why am I not sure?'"

"I didn't by that this really had happened," says costar Margot Kidder, who recalls that the actors did visit the real town and the house, accompanied by a pack of press. "I was being actually quite naughty in not fully committing to the notion that this was all true. I really should have, had I been doing my work in a more serious vane, I suppose, I don't know."

Did anything paranormal happen on The Amityville Horror set?

No, at least not according to the movie's two main stars. "I watched with great amusement as the studio's publicity machine went into action concocting these terrible things that were happening on our set, which weren't really," says Margot Kidder, who portrays Kathy Lutz in The Amityville Horror movie.

Actor James Brolin recalls with amusement, "We're being asked, 'Is there weird stuff goin' on?' and we're goin', we're lookin' for stuff now, you know, cause we'd like to tell 'em, 'Awe, yeah, you wouldn't believe what happened yesterday.'"

Is the Amityville story a hoax?

Nearly every aspect of what is seen in The Amityville Horror movie has been the subject of controversy and debate. The family almost unanimously agrees that the movie is an exaggeration, but to what degree we may never know. The real George Lutz admitted that as of 2005, he had been involved in no less than fourteen Amityville-related lawsuits. In an interview with People magazine, George Lutz emphasized that the lawsuits were to protect his family's story, rather than being about money. Each member of the real Lutz family (except for Missy who refrains from interviews) has at some point contradicted one or more of the other family members. These particular members of the family have also on one or more occasions attempted to profit from their own take on the real Amityville house haunting. None of these facts mean that the entire story is a hoax, but they do allow room for doubt. Perhaps the only fact that is indisputable is that Ronald DeFeo, Jr. was convicted of murdering his family in the Amityville house prior to the Lutzes moving in.

In 1979, many people believed that the truth behind The Amityville Horror had been revealed when attorney William Weber came forward and said that he had gotten together with George and Kathy Lutz one night, and they had come up with the story over many bottles of wine. However, the impact of Weber's revelation was short-lived when it was discovered that he was emblazoned in his own legal battle with the Lutzes at the time and may have had motive to purposely discredit their story.

Have any of the subsequent owners had any paranormal experiences in the Amityville house?

No. As of 2013, no subsequent owners have reported anything paranormal taking place in the house.

Amityville Horror Interviews and Related Video

In the list of videos below, be sure to watch the 1979 Good Morning America interview with the real George Lutz and his wife Kathy, who are accompanied by actor James Brolin. Also, don't miss the real Amityville Horror priest talking about his experience in the house and watch video of the red room in the basement.

 George and Kathy Lutz Interview

George Lutz and his wife Kathy are interviewed on Good Morning America in 1979. They discuss the hordes of flies that invaded their home, the movie's green slime, and various other paranormal events that occurred which they claim to be true. They are joined by actor James Brolin who portrays George Lutz in the original film. Brolin says that he does not believe the book in its entirety. However, in the presence of George and Kathy, he says that he does believe them. Years later, he contradicted this by saying that George was a good "salesman", calling the Lutz's story a "gizmo".

 Amityville Priest Interview

The priest involved in the Amityville haunting is interviewed in 1979 for an episode of the In Search of TV show that investigated mysterious events. The alleged, real Amityville priest describes his experience when he went to bless the Lutz's Ocean Avenue house in December of 1975. Later revealed to be Father Ralph Pecoraro, his story eventually fell under scrutiny as he often contradicted himself, leading some to believe that he was part of a hoax.

 Real Amityville Red Room in Basement

Patty Commarato, who had been friends with Allison DeFeo (murdered), revisits the Amityville House where she used to play as a child. In this video footage from a 1980 episode of That's Incredible, Patty takes viewers into the secret red room in the Amityville house's basement. Located under the stairs, Patty offers her thoughts as to whether the real secret room is anything like the one in the 1979 Amityville Horror movie.

 The Real Amityville Horror - Documentary

Watch a 50-minute UK TV documentary titled The Real Amityville Horror that aired in 2005. The true story is explored through real Amityville Horror photos and interviews with George Lutz, neighbors, local journalists and psychics. See excerpts of a rare 1994 Ronald DeFeo Jr. interview, the mass murderer who killed six of his family members in 1974, setting up the foundation for the Lutz's story.

 Christopher Lutz Interview

Christopher Lutz, the son of George and Kathy, tells Inside Edition in 2005 that he was "absolutely disgusted" with regard to what he saw as he watched Hollywood's take on his family's story. He discusses the accuracy of various scenes in the original and the remake, as he revisits the real Amityville house that he lived in with his family for 28 days.

 The Amityville Horror Trailer (1979)

James Brolin and Margot Kidder portray George and Kathy Lutz in the original film adaptation of Jay Anson's bestselling 1977 novel that is itself based on the alleged Amityville true story, as purported by the real George and Kathy Lutz. The family moves into a new home that had been the site of a gruesome mass murder. They begin to witness paranormal events in the home and turn to Father Delaney (Rod Steiger) for help.

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