The house is instantly recognizable from every angle. With its dormer windows and clapboard walls, it’s been the setting of thousands of nightmares around the world.
Now, though, this famous building has gone up for sale. But it will take a brave owner to see past its spooky appearance and sinister reputation – the result of marabre historical events.
Featuring five bedrooms, four bathrooms and a formal dining room, the property in Amityville, New York, has all the trappings of a dream home. Potential owners can look forward to sailing out across the water from their own boat house and enjoying life at the heart of a pretty vacation town.
The house, at 108 Ocean Avenue, is on the market for $850,000. It’s a sharp drop from 2011, when the price tag was a whopping $1.45 million. But just what is it about this property that’s attracted the attention of the world’s media? Well, behind its Dutch colonial exterior lies a dark past.
The story began in 1974. At the time the house belonged to the DeFeo family – Ronald, Sr., his wife Louise and their children Ronald, Jr., Dawn, Allison, Marc and John Matthew. And things were about to turn bad in the extreme.
On the night of November 13, 1974, 23-year-old Ronald, Jr. burst into a neighborhood bar and shouted that his parents had been shot. Bobby Kelske, Ronald, Jr.’s best friend, led a group of six men to the house.
What the men found on arrival was grisly indeed. All of Ronald, Jr.’s closest relatives were dead; they had been shot while lying in their beds.
Although he initially suggested that the murders were committed by a hit man, Ronald, Jr. soon confessed to the crimes himself. A year later he was found guilty on half a dozen counts of second-degree murder.
It was during Ronald, Jr.’s trial that the first signs of something else sinister at work in the Amityville house began to emerge. His lawyer claimed that the defendant had heard evil voices and that he’d taken the lives of his family in a deranged act of self-defense. This didn’t stop Ronald, Jr. from being sent to prison, however.
Just over a year after the murders, the house was bought by George and Kathy Lutz. And the property’s macabre reputation meant that the couple picked it up for the bargain-basement price of $80,000.
On December 18, 1975, the Lutzes and their three little ones moved into their new home. They were aware of the tragedy that had unfolded there, too, but the idea of paranormal activity wasn’t something they entertained.
At least not initially. Shortly after Christmas the Lutz family became aware, according to them, of a strange presence within their home. And, apparently, they didn’t like it one bit.
Purportedly, Kathy first began noticing odd noises: inexplicable banging sounds were heard, as were footsteps when everyone was in bed. She also supposedly told George that she felt like something had grabbed her from behind – despite no one else being at home.
George, meanwhile, reportedly heard instruments being played and people strolling around downstairs. Yet when he went to investigate, the scene was silent and empty. Or so it was said.
What’s more, it was claimed that in the DeFeo children’s old bedrooms swarms of flies had gathered, even in the middle of winter. Plus, a hidden room painted bright red was discovered in the basement, with the family dog apparently refusing to get close to it.
Then, one night, George purportedly woke to find his wife transformed: Kathy, who was 29 at the time, suddenly had deep wrinkles, gray hair and tightened lips. And this appearance, the Lutzes reported, apparently lasted for a few hours.
It was, it seems, too much for the Lutz family to take – or so they said. At any rate, on January 14, 1976, allegedly after a particularly horrific night in the house, they left, never to return. Their experiences would go on to form the basis of The Amityville Horror, a book by Jay Anson.
In later years, however, doubt was cast on the authenticity of the story – which went on to inspire several Hollywood movies. William Weber, the lawyer who had defended Ronald, Jr., claimed to have made it up as a money-making scheme in collaboration with the Lutz family; he used his knowledge of the DeFeo murders to add spooky details, he said.
But George and Kathy Lutz have insisted that the story was “mostly true.” And despite the fact that none of the property’s subsequent occupiers have reported any strange goings-on, it remains a legend that captivates audiences around the world.
The latest broker to sell the property has dismissed any claims of supernatural activity. “The only horror about this house,” he told the New York Daily News, “was that a family was murdered.” Would this be enough to encourage you to live in one of history’s most infamous houses?