Haunts & Jaunts: Just a good scary story?

A 2013 street view of the home. An address change and notice…no quarter round windows. Photo by Rick Hinton

   When the Lutz family fled their home on Jan. 14, 1976, after only 28 days, the Amityville residence made its mark on the infamous register of haunted houses. A 1977 book written by Jay Anson—supplied with 45 hours of tape recorded recollections from the Lutzs—and a 1979 movie about the event only sealed the deal. There are those that take the story as the gospel truth. However, there are others that remain skeptical.

   It is claimed the book was a fictional account concocted by William Weber (defense lawyer for Ronald DeFeo Jr.) and the Lutzs. “I know this book’s a hoax,” he told People Magazine in 1979 as the movie made its rounds. “We created this horror story over many bottles of wine.” Paul Hoffman, in a Good Housekeeping article, noted quite a few discrepancy’s between the book and the film. Then came the courtroom. The Lutzs sued Weber, Hoffman, a couple of clairvoyants, and the Hearst Newspaper Corporation for invasion of privacy and mental distress. There were countersuits. It went before a judge.

   Brooklyn U.S. District Court Judge Jack B. Weinstein heard the testimony. He threw out the Lutz claim, stating “Based on what I have heard, it appears to me that to a large extent the book is a work of fiction, relying in large part upon the suggestion of Mr. Weber.” George Lutz, until he died, maintained that his family had experienced the paranormal, and events in the book were “mostly” true. The couple divorced in the late 1980s. Kathleen Lutz died in 2004 of emphysema. George in 2006 of heart disease.

   The house sold for $55,000 in March 1977, just a year after the Lutzs departure. In 2010, with an asking price of  $1.15 million, it sold for $950,000 to a local resident. There have been four owners since the Lutzs. No strange experiences… no running into the night screaming. For years the house was a tourist attraction. It still is. The house has been renovated to discourage sightseers. The address was changed. The famous quarter round windows have been removed.

   Paranormal investigators Hans Holzer and Ed and Lorraine Warren (whom I respect and admire) found validity in Lutzs claims, suggesting the house is occupied by malevolent spirits due to its history. This makes me scratch my head. I don’t understand. Could they have been duped?

   I believe ‘something’ happened to this family. What it was, I don’t know. Homes with horrific histories often become haunted. There is a fascination factor—combining real estate and crime, though most are creeped out at the prospect of residing within the walls of a violent past. How do you feel?