Subjective Ambiguity– The Power of The Amityville Horror

I am trying to organize my future book projects. Two are in the pipeline and are set: BT II and HorrorScope. But three await prioritizing– Then Came The Dawn (Amelia Earhart); South By Northwest (D.B. Cooper); and Amityville: The Horror in Fact and Fiction.   I still have to do some hunting with D.B. Cooper, so it is likely that Amityville and Earhart will come out before that.

Here is the introduction to Amityville: The Horror in Fact and Fiction. This will give you an idea.

 

Subjective Ambiguity (By Gian J. Quasar)

 

Between December 8, 1975, and January 14, 1976, several unusual events are alleged to have taken place upon the Lutz family residing at their new home of 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, Long Island, New York. In a very true sense of the word the family was haunted. Their actions afterward confirm their dread to return to the house and resume their lives there. The source of this haunting is what has become the fulcrum of the controversy that still surrounds this case in the annals of the preternatural.

Skeptics and believers alike walk the same avenue with one goal in mind: uncover the kernel of truth. As the most lucrative haunted house franchise in the world, “The Amityville Horror” has become an inflated and profitable legend. Yet a chain of events indicates that the Lutz family fled their home in genuine fear for their lives.

At the very least an unusual set of coincidences were set in motion that convinced the family an malevolent “intelligence” was behind the acts that occurred against them within that house, acts which they felt were intended to endanger their lives. Not least of these coincidences is the fact that the previous family, the DeFeos, had been ruthlessly murdered— no less than 6 family members— in their sleep, and the only surviving family member, Ronnie DeFeo Jr., had been convicted of these bizarre crimes upon his own loved ones. He claimed, as was vogue in the 1970s, that the devil made him do it— in other words, he had been possessed.

The house at 112 Ocean Avenue lay vacant for over a year until the Lutzes moved in. The unusual events began with subtle deviations in the family’s routine, especially noticeable in the patriarch, George Lutz. He no longer felt himself and he became obsessed with staying warm in the abnormally cold house rather than going to work. In addition, there were moments in which the wife, Kathy, felt an unseen “presence” and even felt as though she had been touched by someone not there. Accidents also occurred. In one instance, one of the children got their hand stuck in a window and it seemed the window would not let go. These and other events progressed until the family feared for their life and fled one night in terror. In the short 28 days they lived at 112 Ocean Avenue their belief system was shattered and their lives were completely and drastically altered, never to be the same again.

Much has happened since then. Much has been claimed and counter claimed. Allegations of complete hoax were commonly and openly made. Even those who believed in the haunting thought there had been embellishment.

Nevertheless, some facts and sequence of events support that there is a basis in truth to some of the claims the family made. For one, they never returned to 112 Ocean Avenue to take anything but the most personal mementoes (e.g. family photos). George Lutz gave up a third generation and lucrative business and the entire family moved as far from Long Island as they could, ending up in San Diego, California, on the opposite coast of the United States.

Again, at the very least, an equally unusual set of circumstances took place after the family moved out of their home that catapulted them and their experiences to the forefront of American public fascination. Bank and bunk has been made out of it to this day. Yet that narrow window remains in which the family earnestly sought help and even inquired into the house’s background in an attempt to uncover something that may shed light on what they experienced. For that one week in January 1976, before the franchise was born, the truth remained intact. There are enough witnesses to the chain of events to make it possible to establish the kernel of truth.

This book sets out to do that. This is an arduous task. Forty years of fame has gone by. Neither fame nor hyperbole favors objectivity. They create an antagonist/protagonist world. In such formulae pros and cons are stark and set in motion one by the other.

I am one of the few who is neither an eager believer in such things, nor a scoffer. From middle ground I seek only the truth, in the context that it happened. For indeed, indeed, truth is not a factoid, it is not a single angle; it is the body context of the event. So must every witness swear on the stand to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.” My goal is to make this an objective account of the events leading up to the “haunting,” a vivid window during the haunting, and thereafter a document of those events that have so successfully clouded the issue. The goal, of course, is to then place in one tome the actual events, so that there is one reliable record of this entire affair at the reader’s disposal.

An example of how tricky this may prove to be can be found in the varying opinions expressed by the main protagonists. George Lutz, the often-vilified patriarch of the family, said the house was not haunted. “We don’t think there is anything wrong with the house.” Rather George Lutz believed there was possession by an evil force. Is that not a haunted house? His wife, Kathy Lutz, believed that their transcendental meditation made them aware of the evil that resided there, but that the blessing of the house by the priest started it all, so that, logically, we must accept that she believed there must have been resident evil there, limited and exclusive to that house. After decades of silence, the two boys, Daniel and Chris, expressed their strongly worded views that George was invoking demons through his TM. Transcendental Meditation was frequently practiced in the faddish and quirky 1970s, and it did not lead to a myriad of haunted houses. This may reflect mere boys’ understanding of their stepfather’s practices, but then we do not know what names George Lutz was chanting to practice his TM.

Father Ray Pecoraro, the priest who blessed the house, and who has become a pivotal character of the story, admitted that when he was blessing the house a deep voice told him to “Get out!” and then he was slapped on the face. This would suggest a resident evil already there, one for which TM was not necessary to reveal. However, Father Pecoraro’s public views remained ambiguous. He upheld the teaching of the Catholic Church that houses cannot be possessed, only people. He did not believe that George and Kathy Lutz were possessed, he said, so he would not recommend exorcism. This public statement mutely reflects that George Lutz did present this fear to the priest. Since Lutz had contact with the priest over a phone conversation and perhaps shortly thereafter in person we know this was one of George Lutz’s first beliefs, that the house was possessed by demonic forces, and if not that then it must be he himself. What would make George believe in a possession rather than a haunting?

Father Pecoraro would not budge, but he did believe “something was there” in the house. Father Pecoraro spoke out on his own only once, for the late great In Search of . . . His explanation for what he felt was “there” was cut off in editing, so that today we do not know what he clarified. The raw footage has not been located. Thus we do not know to what extent the priest qualified a statement that was turned into something quite dramatic by TV editing. Nevertheless, he was an ecclesiastical judge. From this we can get a fairly good understanding of what he believed was “there.”

The answer to the inconsistencies and ambiguities is simple: nobody really knows what inspired the actual events at 112 Ocean Avenue for those 28 days the Lutzes were in residence, not even the Lutzes themselves. They only hold dear their own theories. The haunting can only be understood visually, not theoretically. I hope to make the reader of this book a witness anew to the actual events, as I have been able to piece them back together. Only a superficial examination of the main protagonists would allow one to be certain that the inconsistencies are indications of fraud. Actions speak louder than words. And this work is based on a recreation and examination of the actions. This will reveal that chronologically the story remains largely coherent, though embellished.

The evolution of opinions over “The Amityville Horror” was always over the cause. Irony and not scorn should have been the result. For in this the most famous “haunting” no one was truly sure what or who was haunted.

All hauntings are subjective. That is why they are so frightening. They are the cumulative result of the interpretation of events the participants feel are unusual; the more unusual the more they will be interpreted as naturally impossible. There can be no other interpretation to the naturally impossible but to believe that it is supernaturally possible— to be explicit, an intelligence is behind the haunting. With this we have now tread into the theory of the supernatural as the explanation.

If true hauntings were like their movie personas there would be little to fear. If ghosts were easy to see moving about a home in their routine, they would soon be nothing more than a botheration. If Sir Percy carried his head under his arm nightly while moaning in the passageways one would grow tired of him. There would be no fear. It would simply get to be too much. Fear would long have been vanquished and replaced by irk at the inconvenience of it all. We’d pack our traps and move out in a huff.

An unseen enemy or potential enemy is what we fear. Fear is in the present. It can be dealt with. Anxiety, however, is over the future. It grows more intense. We do not fear what we do not know as much as we fear what might possibly be. Fear of what is will eventually subside. But fear of what is to come is what truly haunts us.

By no means am I minimizing a haunting. Nor is this an endorsement that hauntings are caused by supernatural forces. I am underscoring that the interpretation of the effect and not the cause is the source of the haunting within us. Whether the effect was set in motion by an unknown natural phenomenon or, indeed, by a supernatural entity, there is no difference. We are left to interpret otherwise ambiguous but abnormal effects. And it will be our interpretation that sets us on edge.

Knowledge builds upon knowledge. In all things, data adds to the interpretation of more data. The human mind cannot stop the process. A few strange sounds in an old house might be unnerving, but when added to yet more unexplained events— cupboards found open, doors that slam on their own— and we begin to ponder and try to add it up. Based on our personality, our conclusions will drive us to action.

For the haunting at 112 Ocean Avenue in 1975-76 the same can be said. The Lutz family’s belief in the haunting occurred only after Christmas 1975. It was only in retrospect that they looked back at their first two weeks in the house and then interpreted events from day 1 as bearing on their current predicament. This only added to the fear and, of course, heightened the anxiety as to what might happen next.

In this volume we will try and get to the bottom of it all. This is not a book of theories. This is a vivid reliving of the 28 days in 112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, Long Island. Events and their chronology are put back in place as best as I am able. I trust no one source. I do not blithely accept a pure motive for any single statement. Everything must be weighed in the greater context in which the claim has been made. This book has no agenda to convince the reader to believe in supernatural forces or to dissuade them. Plainly put, the purpose of this book is to haunt you with the same haunting. We will see what interpretation you place upon the events.

*         *          *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

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One thought on “Subjective Ambiguity– The Power of The Amityville Horror

  1. A few years ago the History channel’s show History’s Mysteries dedicated a show to the Amityville Horror and interviewed the Lutz family. And for the first time I believed there experiences were real. It was a very good episode.

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