Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Reflections on Amityville, Part 1--Parnormal Aspects

It's the eve of what is supposed to be a huge snowstorm, and I have been ridiculously tired and hungry all day. Given the wintry feel of things, an amaryllis that I received as a Christmas gift from a co-worker has suddenly and ironically started blooming with beautiful pink flowers. My Christmas cactus has also started blooming, though one might forgive it for believing it's Christmastime right now. My office has already announced that it's closed tomorrow, so it just remains for me to distract myself and not turn into a glutton over the next 24 hours.

Yesterday I promised the first part of a discussion of the Amityville case, the "paranormal" part of the story. The whole story is very confusing, as it is more difficult than usual to separate fact from fiction.

First, the story in a nutshell: in November 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family--his parents, two brothers, and two sisters, in a Dutch colonial house on Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. DeFeo's defense attorney, William Weber, tried a number of tactics to get Ronald off the hook with just a few years by entering an insanity plea. It didn't work--he was found guilty and sentenced to six consecutive life sentences in prison. There were a lot of intense dynamics in the DeFeo family, which I will talk about in Part 2 of my discussion. But for now, the basic story is sufficient.

Thirteen months later the house on Ocean Avenue was purchased by George and Kathy Lutz, who were newlyweds. Kathy had 3 children from a previous marriage, and the family moved into the house in December 1975. 28 days later they fled, leaving all of their personal possessions behind, never to return. They claimed the house was possessed by something evil, that got worse and worse as the days wore on. Attempts at blessing the house seemed to help escalate events. You can read the details of the haunting here.

Once they moved out of the house, things immediately became confusing--I imagine that was even more of a horror than what they lived through, if that was possible. The Lutzes contacted William Weber first, who was interested in what happened as he believed that proving a demonic possession of the house might be able to get his client (Ronald DeFeo) a re-trial. They also contacted investigator Stephen Kaplan to investigate the house. Both Kaplan and Weber disavowed the events described by the Lutzes, claiming it was a hoax. A bestselling book on the event, based on tapes the Lutzes made after moving out of the house, fueled claims that they were trying to make money off the DeFeo murders. As it turns out, the Lutzes never saw any money in connection with "The Amityville Horror" book, and their account was declared a hoax after they had a falling out with both Weber and Kaplan. To complicate things further, demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated the house and claimed it was brimming over with demonic activity. Another psychic who was brought in on the case, Alberta Riley, was apparently so shaken up by what she saw in a deep trance that she never did any work with the paranormal again after that. She said, "I don't want to know anymore." One of the creepiest things that came out of the investigation was this time-lapse video. It is possible it was faked, though I've never heard any confirmation of that one way or the other. In any case, it's creepy:

George and Kathy Lutz are both dead--one died in 2004, the other in 2005--but right up until the end they swore the whole thing wasn't a hoax. However, what makes it questionable is that fact that nothing could really be verified. Subsequent owners of the house experienced no activity. Ed Warren claimed that someone from St. Joseph's Shrine blessed the house when the DeFeos lived there due to frightening activity, but the Shrine has officially stated that no one ever went to bless that house from there. There was talk of a Shinnecock Indian curse on the property, but the Shinnecock tribe says that this is false. Famous ghost investigator Hans Holzer was also on the case, and he believed that there might be a haunting based on past property history, but nothing about that history could be verified.

What hasn't really been addressed is the idea that the area was considered to be some kind of "power spot" by the Indian tribes, even if not necessarily "cursed". Whether this is enough with a combination of other emotional factors to trigger that level of activity is hard to say. My sense is that something DID really happen there, but it's really difficult to separate fact from fiction when there has been so much politics surrounding the case, and so many manipulations and claims by people who had ulterior motives for doing so. But why just the Lutzes? I don't really think the DeFeos were affected by the same phenomena. Kathy Lutz once said that she and George had been practicing Transcendental Meditation at the time, and that this opened them up to the activity, but that's a lot of bunk. While there are a lot of questionable things about TM organizations, it's nothing more than reciting a mantra to focus on a daily basis as a practice. There had to be something else going on in one or more of the family members to draw that kind of activity in. The house may have just been the right conductor for the activity at the right time, if it IS a "power spot" (highly electro- or geo-magnetic), plus the residue of the horrible tragedy that occurred, plus anything going on with any of the Lutzes that acted as a gateway to that activity. A lot of the activity centered around the previous DeFeo murders (family sleeping in the same position as the murdered family, etc.), which could mean they were being affected by the residual energy of that event.

I suppose no one will ever know. But if we give the Lutzes the benefit of the doubt that SOMETHING frightening occurred, I would still suggest it was psychological in origin, released externally under the right environmental conditions. The fact that the activity ceased when they moved--and that they still reported some problems after moving--suggests that it centers around them ultimately, and not the house. An analogy would be a lightning storm--the house could have all the right conditions to be a target/electrical conductor, but doesn't necessarily get hit.

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