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The Amityville Horror: History vs. Hollywood

Starring Ryan Reynolds, Melissa George, Chloë Grace Moretz
based on the book "The Amityville Horror" by Jay Anson

Ryan Reynolds
Born: October 23, 1976
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
George Lutz
Born: January 1, 1947
Death: May 8, 2006, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA (heart disease)
Melissa George
Born: August 6, 1976
Perth, Australia
Kathleen Lutz
Born: October 13, 1946
Death: August 17, 2004, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA
Jesse James
Born: September 14, 1989
Palm Springs, California, USA
Daniel Lutz
Born: October 26, 1965
Birthplace: West Babylon, New York, USA
Jimmy Bennett
Born: February 9, 1996
Seal Beach, California, USA
Christopher Lutz
Born: February 23, 1968
Birthplace: West Babylon, New York, USA
Chloë Grace Moretz
Born: February 10, 1997
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Missy Lutz
Brendan Donaldson
Ronald "Butch" DeFeo, Jr.
Born: September 26, 1951
Birthplace: Amityville, NY, USA
The only thing that [Hollywood] got right is that our family moved in that house and we left. - Christopher Lutz (Inside Edition, 2005)

Questioning the Story:

Was the real house used in the 2005 remake?

2005 Amityville Movie House vs. Real Life House
2005 Amityville movie house (left) vs. the actual house at the time of the DeFeo murders (top) and post-renovations (bottom).
No. As you can see from the map linked below and the photos on the right, the house in the 2005 Amityville Horror remake has a similar shape and a waterfront location, but it is somewhat different from the actual home on Long Island. The address of the home that was used for the exterior shots in the movie is 27618 Silver Lake Road, Salem, Wisconsin (See Google Maps Street View of the House). The filmmakers decorated the house with the infamous eye-style windows that had been the trademark of the original Amityville house.

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

Yes. In an effort to establish an insanity plea, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. testified to hearing voices that told him to kill his family. However, in researching the Amityville true story, we discovered that during a 2002 Primetime Live interview from prison, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. recanted his testimony and explained that he committed the murders because his parents were abusive and he had been drunk and high on heroin at the time.

How many people were shot during the DeFeo murders in the Amityville home?

Six. On the night of November 13, 1974, eldest son Ronald "Butch" DeFeo, Jr., 23, murdered his parents, two brothers and two sisters using a .35 caliber Marlin rifle. He shot them while they slept and then showered and left the home. He wrapped his rifle and bloody clothing in a pillow case and disposed of it in a storm drain in the Brooklyn suburbs. The six victims of the Ronald DeFeo, Jr. murders are pictured below.

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

What became of Ronald after the DeFeo murders?

Ronald DeFeo, Jr. was convicted of six counts of second degree murder on November 25, 1975 and was sentenced to twenty-five years to life on all six counts. He is serving his sentence at the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Beekman, New York.

Buy The Amityville Horror T-Shirt that displays the legendary house. The shirt was inspired by Disney.
Does the actual Amityville Horror house still exist?

Yes. The real life Amityville Horror house that was the site of the DeFeo murders was located on Long Island at 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, New York. In an attempt to discourage tourists from visiting the location, one of the home's subsequent owners changed the address to 108 Ocean Avenue. The home's iconic eye windows were also replaced. The new address is reflected in the Google Maps Street View of the Amityville home. It was listed for sale in 2010. View the Amityville house interior photos that were used to showcase the home. Unlike what is stated in the movie, the house was built in 1927, not 1692.

Was the real Kathy Lutz a widow?

No. The Amityville true story reveals that unlike what is stated early in the movie, Kathy's former husband, Sebastian, was not dead. The pair had divorced, but according to son Christopher Lutz, the kids still saw their birth father regularly on Sundays. George did insist on their adoption though, at which point their last names changed from Quaratino to Lutz.

Did a priest really bless the Lutz's Amityville home?

Following the release of the original 1979 movie, the investigative television show In Search of aired an episode on October 4, 1979 that featured an interview with a man who they claim is the real Amityville Horror priest (Watch the Priest Interview Here). He says that the Lutzes informed him that the DeFeo murders took place in the home and asked him to come by to bless the house. However, his visit supposedly took place on the day the family was moving in (similar to the original 1979 movie), not after they had been in the house for some time.

Real Amityville Horror Priest
The real Amityville priest (right) conceals his identity during a 1979 interview. He was never swarmed by flies like actor Philip Baker Hall in the movie (left).
"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."

The identity of the priest was later discovered to be Father Ralph Pecoraro (now deceased). During the Lutz vs. Weber trial his story became shrouded in controversy after he contradicted himself with regard to his involvement with the Lutz family.

Did flies really swarm the priest?

No. The Lutz family has acknowledged on numerous occasions that although hundreds of flies did allegedly appear in the home, they did not swarm the priest. "They [the filmmakers] could have just as easily had done the flies the way they really happened," says the real George Lutz, who found the movie's take amusing (The Real Amityville Horror). In Jay Anson's 1977 Amityville Horror book that provided the basis for the movie, the house is plagued by swarms of flies, which show up in the dead of winter. However, they don't swarm the priest. In the book, the priest tells George that the family shouldn't go back into the second-floor room where the flies are appearing.

Jay Anson Amityville Horror BookJay Anson's Amityville Horror Book provided the basis for the movie.

Did they see ghosts of the DeFeo children and family?

No. Chris Quaratino Lutz has said, "I saw no children running around that were you know, no dead children. Like what you see in that last 2005 movie, I thought was a disgusting display of Hollywood." The movie prominently displays the ghost of a young girl who the characters refer to as Jodie, stating that she was one of the slain children from the DeFeo murders. -30 Odd Minutes Interview

Was there a girl named Jodie DeFeo killed on the night of the DeFeo murders?

No. There was no sister or other relative named Jodie DeFeo killed on the night of the DeFeo family murders. However, according to the real George Lutz, Missy did have an imaginary friend named Jodie, but it was not a ghost of one of the children slain during the DeFeo murders. It was an entity that presented itself to Missy in different forms, including as an angel and a pig. Below on the left is a drawing that Missy Lutz supposedly drew of Jodie when Missy was a child. Jay Anson's novel The Amityville Horror describes it as a pig running through the snow.

Amityville Horror Jodie the Pig
Left: Missy Lutz's drawing of Jodie in pig form running through the snow. Right: Jodie in the 2005 movie is fictionalized to be the ghost of a murdered DeFeo child.

Is the babysitter based on a real person?

No. The Amityville Horror babysitter, Lisa (Rachel Nichols), is not based on a real-life individual, nor does she appear in the book. The idea for the babysitter character came from the mind of screenwriter Sandor Stern, who wrote the screenplay for the original 1979 Amityville Horror. Scott Kosar, the screenwriter for the 2005 remake, reinterpreted the character and gave her much more sex appeal.

Is there any evidence of paranormal activity in the Amityville house?

Amityville Ghost Child
(Click to Enlarge)
The face and white eyes of the alleged Amityville ghost child can be seen peering out of a doorway.
Yes, but its validity is debatable. The real Amityville ghost photo is pictured on the left (click here to enlarge). It was supposedly taken in 1976 when paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren, along with their team, were investigating the home. Gene Campbell, a professional photographer, set up an automatic camera to shoot off black and white infrared film during the night.

The real George Lutz revealed this photo on The Merv Griffin Show three years later in 1979, the same year that the original movie was released. Many have wondered why the photo of the Amityville ghost child wasn't revealed earlier, prompting speculation that the image was faked to help promote the book that George Lutz was working on, which also included the photo. As to who the ghost might be, one theory among fans and researchers is that it resembles John DeFeo, the younger of the two DeFeo boys who were murdered in the home.

Others believe that the figure in the Amity ghost photo is that of Paul Bartz, one of the investigators working with the Warrens who was there that night. His white eyes could have been caused by the infrared film.

Did the father really kill the family dog with an axe?

No. During our exploration into the Amityville true story, we discovered that George Lutz did not kill their dog, Harry. In the documentary My Amityville Horror, son Daniel Lutz claims that their dog, which was kept in a pen behind the house, went ballistic once and tried to jump the fence. The dog's chain wasn't long enough and it was left hanging over the fence by its neck, its paws unable to reach the ground. Daniel made his way over and rescued the dog from nearly hanging itself. He believes that the dog had been alarmed by a poltergeist of some sort that haunted their boathouse. Even the controversial book, The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson, did not claim that George ever harmed or tried to kill their half breed Malamute.

My Amityville Horror Daniel Lutz DocumentaryMy Amityville Horror is a documentary starring son Daniel Lutz, who recounts his version of the haunting.

Was there really a hidden room in the Amityville home's basement?

Yes, but it was actually a small storage space under the stairs which the DeFeo family had used to store toys. The 2005 Amityville Horror remake greatly exaggerates this hidden room, showing it as a large torture area/dungeon where native Americans were mutilated and held captive. In the picture below on the left, Patty Commarato, who was a former friend of Allison DeFeo, reveals the small red room during a segment for a 1980 episode of the TV show That's Incredible (Watch the Red Room Video).

Amityville Hidden Room in Basement
Left: A childhood friend of Allison DeFeo kneels in the real red room under the basement stairs. Right: Actor Ryan Reynolds explores the movie's fictional basement dungeon.

Did blood really run down the walls?

No. As the real George Lutz stated in The Real Amityville Horror documentary from 2005, blood never ran down the walls of the home.

Did George Lutz try to kill his family?

No. The real George Lutz never tried to kill his family like the Ryan Reynolds character does during the climax of the film. This includes trying to kill his wife Kathy with the outboard motor of their boat and chasing the family with a shotgun. George also never built coffins for his family and they never had to tie him up with rope like they do in the movie. -Long Island Newsday

Was the Indian torturer Jeremiah Ketcham based on a real person?

Jeremiah Ketcham Amityville Horror
The movie's Jeremiah Ketcham (above) is almost entirely fictional, though there was a Ketcham who came to Long Island from an area near Salem.
Yes, but the connection is loose at best. The real Jeremiah Ketcham is most likely a man by the name of John Ketcham (as he appears in Jay Anson's novel). There is no record of him ever having tortured American Indians, nor was he a Reverend like in the movie (right). John Ketcham was born in 1622 in Cambridge, England and came to America by ship with his father Edward, arriving in Ipswich, Massachusetts, a town not far from Salem. John married Susanne Payne in 1646 and eventually settled in Southhold, Long Island, New York. He was appointed constable in 1662. There is no record of him committing suicide when he died in 1697 in Newtown, Queens, New York, where he had served as a deputy. There is also no history of him having any connection to witchcraft, as supported by the Ketcham family who have done extensive research with regard to their genealogy. Ketcham was a common name in the Long Island area and other John Ketchams are also on record as having lived there, including but not limited to one of John Ketcham's sons who was also named John, in addition to a carpenter who resided in the area in the 1800s.

Did George Lutz fall off the roof of the house?

No. As George Lutz stated in a Long Island Newsday interview from 2005, he never fell off the roof of the house, nor did any events take place on the roof of the house. This includes the fictional movie scene where the daughter (Chloë Grace Moretz) is lured onto the roof by the ghost of Jodie DeFeo (also fictional), who promises her that she will be reunited with her deceased birth father (her birth father was still alive in real life).

Did the Lutzes flee the house in their boat?

No. Although they did have a boat, they left in their van which correlates more with what is shown in the original 1979 movie. After leaving the house, they went and stayed with Kathy's mother, Joan Conners, before finally relocating to San Diego, California.

Do actors Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George believe that the story is true?

George and Kathy Lutz vs Melissa George and Ryan Reynolds
Actors Melissa George and Ryan Reynolds (right) believe that George and Kathy Lutz (left) were telling the truth.
Yes. Unlike actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder, who starred in the original 1979 version, both Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George have indicated that they believe that there is a significant amount of truth to the Lutz's story. "I believe that houses definitely have residual energy in them," says actor Ryan Reynolds. "In a case such as the Amityville house, having six murders take place quite brutally, I think there is a profound amount of malevolent and dark energy that was still lingering in the house when George and Kathy Lutz and family moved in there. So, I think that they were driven out by this malevolent energy and that was our opportunity to showcase that in the movie."

"Before doing this movie, I believed that there is a lot of truth in what the Lutzes went through, and afterwards, my opinion stays the same. I was just playing a role. I never got too involved in the supernatural in the house that we were filming in. My opinion stays the same in that is if they said it happened, then I believe it happened."

Have any of the Amityville home's subsequent owners reported experiencing anything paranormal?

No. As of the posting of this page in October of 2013, no subsequent owners of the Amityville home have reported experiencing anything paranormal.

Amityville Horror Interviews and Related Video

Watch a rare 1979 interview with George Lutz and his wife Kathy regarding the Amityville true story. Also, view a 2005 interview with their son Christopher Lutz, who offers his opinion on Hollywood's interpretation of the events.

 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".

 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.

 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.

 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.

 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.

 The Amityville Horror Trailer (2005)

The Amityville Horror movie trailer for the 2005 remake starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George as husband and wife George and Kathy Lutz. Chloë Grace Moretz portrays their daughter Missy Lutz. The movie is a fictionalized account of a family's paranormal experiences in a haunted house from the time they moved in until when they left, 28 days later.

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