Since 1977, a lake house in Amityville, New York, has been the subject of multiple books, television programs, and almost 15 movies. However, the real story of the "Amityville Horror" is rarely told in the films, which focus more on a fiction based around the Lutz family and their alleged haunting. One of the most interesting facts about the Amityville case is that the hauntings have been debunked numerous times. The defense lawyer who initially represented mass murderer Ronald Defeo, Jr. has stated in multiple court documents that the entire haunting was a hoax. Still, the mythology of the Amityville home lives on.
As you read through this examination of the fact and fiction of the Amityville case, you’ll see that much of what takes place in the 1979 film, The Amityville Horror - and its subsequent sequels - is either a beefed up version of what actually happened to the family who lived in the house or a complete fabrication of a few people who were trying to make a few bucks. What you believe of these Amityville facts is up to you, and they are presented here next to their film counterparts to help you decide the truth.
What Happened in the Movie: The Amityville Horror presupposes that the Lutz family home is haunted because a Satanist named John Ketcham lived in the house before they did. As a result, demonic spirits were conjured into the home, subsequently causing a series of unfortunate events.
What Happened in Real Life: What really happened is way worse than an alleged Satanist turning his basement into a demonic dungeon. In 1974, the Amityville house was the site of a sextuple homicide, where 23-year-old Ronald "Butch" Defeo, Jr. shot his mother, father, and four brothers and sisters. This occurred in the middle of the night, and Defeo went to work the next morning as if nothing had happened.
What Happened in the Movie: In the 2005 remake of The Amityville Horror, Ronald Defeo ends the lives of his family members after spooky voices tell him to. In this adaptation, funny man Ryan Reynolds portrays George Lutz, the new Amityville homeowner following the Defeo family's passing.
What Really Happened: Nobody knows the true story of what motivated Defeo to go after his entire family in cold blood, but Defeo circulated about nine different stories as to how and why he did. In some stories, he implicated a demon in a black hood that gave him the weapon and instructed him to attack his family. In others, he maintained that "the voices from the house made him do it." Reportedly, Defeo was heavy into LSD and heroin, and he later recanted that he heard the demonic voices, blaming is actions instead on his inebriation.
What Happened in the Movie: In the 1979 film The Amityville Horror, George Lutz keeps waking up at 3:15 am - the actual time when the Defeo tragedy took place on November 13, 1974 - with an intense feeling to check the remote Long Island property's boathouse.
What Really Happened: This is one of the statements made by George Lutz that he never backed down on, so according to the former homeowner, this depiction is accurate.
What Happened in the Movie: If you've seen any version of The Amityville Horror then you know flies play a huge part of the overall horror. The scariest part about the flies is that they shouldn't be present in Long Island during the winter.
What Really Happened: During a 1979 interview with Good Morning America, Kathy Lutz maintains that they did experience unexplainable and ferocious swarms of flies after moving into the former Defeo home. One of the Lutz children, Christoper, later confirmed this in a 2005 interview.