Amityville. The name ought to conjure up an image of an affluent New York town, full of quaint shops and charming beaches. Instead, it’s impossible to hear it without thinking of the Amityville Horror.
Perhaps the most famous haunted house in America, the Long Island home was the site of a brutal murder in 1974. That alone would have been enough to make it noteworthy, but it’s what happened after the killings that cemented the Amityville Horror house in our darkest imaginations.
On November 13, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. killed six members of his family. His parents, Ronald DeFeo Sr. and Louise DeFeo, and their four children–Dawn, Allison, Marc, and John Matthew–were all found dead. The bodies were positioned face down in their beds. The adults had been shot twice, and each of the children were shot once.
Initially, 23-year-old DeFeo insisted that he had come home from work to find them all dead. He claimed that a mob hitman had killed them, but eventually he confessed.
“Once I started, I just couldn’t stop. It went so fast,” he told police. During the investigation and trial, DeFeo’s history of mental illness and drug abuse came to light–as did the dysfunctional family dynamics in their home. He was sentenced to concurrent jail terms of 25-to-life for each of the killings.
DeFeo is still serving his time at the Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York and has been consistently denied parole.
The year after DeFeo was convicted, newlyweds George and Kathleen Lutz moved into the home where six people had been brutally murdered the year before. The Lutzes took the precaution of having a Catholic priest bless the home, but it didn’t seem to do any good.
The family claims to have been terrorized by bizarre, horrifying, and sometimes disgusting phenomena. The Lutzes and their three children ended up fleeing the home after a series of traumatic events. Although their story has been deemed a hoax by many, the Lutzes maintained their story until their deaths.
The couple divorced in 1988. Kathleen passed away in 2004, and George died in 2006. Both of them died from ordinary diseases–no hint of a demonic influence there.
Ed and Lorraine Warren, the famous psychics who inspired the “Conjuring” franchise, investigated the home not long after the Lutz family abandoned it. Lorraine claimed that the home was rife with sinister psychic energy–and that at least some of it was there before the DeFeos were murdered.
“Amityville was horrible,” she said while doing press for “The Conjuring.” “It was absolutely horrible. It followed us right straight across the country … I will never go in the Amityville house ever again.”
During their investigation, she and her husband (along with a camera crew) took the infamous photo of a boy with glowing eyes.
Writer Jay Anson interviewed the Lutzes extensively for his book, ‘The Amityville Horror.” He reportedly had over 45 hours of taped interviews with the couple, which he used to write his fictionalized account of the haunting.
Strangely, Anson chose to devote very little time to the murders. Instead, he focused on the 28 days that the Lutzes survived the house. The central question remained: Was the house haunted because of the killings… or did DeFeo kill his family because of the house’s influence on him?
Although the book was incredibly popular, the 1979 film based on Anson’s work took things to another level. Starring Josh Brolin and Margot Kidder, the movie remained the highest-grossing independent film at the American box office for over two decades.
The Amityville franchise went on to spawn numerous sequels and reboots over the years, including the most recent in 2005. That version starred Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George. It’s arguable that Ryan Reynolds’ facial hair is the real horror here. Regardless, the updated film failed to capture audiences the way that the original did.
The real Amityville Horror house is now located at 108 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York. (Yes, they changed the original address.) According to real estate site Zillow, the home has 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms. Originally built in 1927, it’s had plenty of upgrades and renovations over the years. But nothing can erase the fact that it’s a notorious haunted house.
The main difference you’ll notice is that the iconic curved windows at the top of the house have been replaced by simple rectangles. Frankly, it looked better before–but perhaps the owners didn’t want the home to look quite so recognizable.
The haunted home was put on the market in May 2010. Originally listed for $1.15 million, it eventually sold that September for $950,000. The owner, Caroline D’Antonio, decided to sell after her husband passed away in 2015. (No word on how exactly he died.)
Mrs. D’Antonio put the house on the market at the bargain price of $850,000 in 2016. “There’ve been four owners since the murders, and none of them ran out of the house screaming, and there were no strange experiences,” Gerald O’Neill of Coldwell Banker Harbor Light told AOL at the time.
Despite reassurances that there was nothing wrong with the home, she eventually pulled the home from the market when it failed to sell that year. Eventually, it was bought for just $605,000 in March 2017.