Wednesday, January 27, 2016

And You Know What They Said? Well None of It Was True

I agree that this one "will scare the hell out of you" as per Kansas City Star but like any rational sane person must disagree with that tagline "a true story." Yes, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his family in the house at 112 Ocean Drive; the "supernatural" aspect invented by others remains a disgusting exploitative stain on an already tragic event. But that photo-negative of the house on the 1978 Bantam paperback is one of the iconic horror images of that entire decade, and I can't say it didn't terrify me as a kid.


10 comments:

georgeatcase said...

It's certainly a good story, even if, as you point out, it's mostly a fabrication. I guess 112 Ocean Avenue is the Regan Macneil of Long Island real estate. PS Did you ever notice the interior frames of the upper windows look kind of like Baphomet goats? Or am I reading way too much into this?

Will Errickson said...

I dunno exactly but for whatever reason those are the most sinister windows ever!

Griffin Calhoun said...

The Amityville Horror is basically the Blair Witch project of the 70's, a phony story passed off as real that managed to fool and scare the public.

Lou said...

1978? I would have been 10 or 11 when I read it then. My parents were awesome.

Wallace Stroby said...

In a Writers Digest interview back then, Jay Anson (who, by the way, wrote most of those "making of" featurettes that played on TV during rain delays in the 1970s), said his job was to tell the Lutz's story, not prove or disprove what they said. In other words, "I didn't make up this BS. I just wrote it down."

Zwolf said...

This was one of the first hardbacks I bought with my own money. I think it was only like $8 or something, but that seemed like a fortune when I was 10, and paperbacks were around a dollar at the time. But I'd read an article on the story in a National Enquirer a friend of mine had (we were both freaked out and mildly obsessed by the article), and wow, there was a whole BOOK about it. No way was I not going to buy that. I don't know how many times I re-read that thing. Scared the hell out of me.

Of course, it was all bullshit (although one of the Lutz kids still tries to claim it wasn't - the documentary My Amityville Horror is pretty fascinating), but thinking it was real when I was a kid made it work. I still like the movie, too.

matthew. said...

The paperback you highlight here is the same version I bought as a preteen from a used bookstore with a substantial horror section. I remember tearing through the slight tome in a single evening, a feat I had never previously achieved with an "adult" book. Anson certainly knew how to pace.

3Fs said...

I really find this an endlessly fascinating story: tragic, bizarre crime shocks small community. Subsequent residents of the home where crime occurred attempt to capitalize on ‘70s middle-class belief in the supernatural by making up story about the house being haunted. Their fabrication spawns a cultural phenomenon, launching b-movie and horror-paperback franchises that outlive them. Meanwhile, subsequent-subsequent residents of the house have to remodel it just to deter curiosity-seekers, and the perpetrator of the murders that started it all gives interviews from prison… and now, there are myriad books and documentaries that address the fundamental question of “The Amityville Horror”: how did it get this far?

P.S.
I dig Stephen King’s theory in “Danse Macabre” that the AH story (or at least movie) is actually a metaphor for buying a money pit of a house… recently I happened upon the original AH on cable, and watched a few minutes. As a kid I thought the scariest scene was the ghost in the “red room”… as an adult homeowner, however, I now realize the most frightening scene is when George Lutz sees his family struggling with a plugged toilet and, wondering how severe the problem is, goes to another toilet to test it by flushing—and watches the bowl promptly fill with black bile… now that’s some scary shit right there!

matthew. said...

@3Fs

If you dig King's theory, then you should search out Anson's subsequent novel 666, which practically literalizes the "money pit" theory. It's definitely a horror story that takes the mortgage crisis of the 1970s to its logical conclusion.

3Fs said...

@matthew

Thanks for the recommend. I think there's a copy of "666" at my local used store (I remember 'cause that second cover always stuck in my mind: the one where the reptile-with-antlers creature looks to be getting a bit rapey with the wife).