Based On True Events: The Amityville Horror

Posted: August 30, 2014 in Fact Or Fiction?, Reviews
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Fact Check: Are These Horror Films Really "Based On Actual Events"?

The Amityville Horror (1979)

What they claimed was real: The movie (based on Jay Anson’s 1977 book The Amityville Horror: A True Story) was supposed to be based on the real experiences George and Kathy Lutz. In the film, the house is blessed by a Catholic priest, but the priest has trouble blessing the house and becomes gravely ill, eventually losing his faith. The family experiences a series of paranormal events, like seeing red eyes glowing in the dark, the discovery of a secret room, ooze coming out of the walls, and nightmares about a family who was killed in the home. The Lutzes eventually learn that the house was built on a tribal burial ground and was once home to a devil worshipper.

The Facts: A year before the Lutz family moved into their home in Amityville, New York, it was the site of a brutal murder. Ronald DeFeo, Jr. had shot and killed six members of his family there. And many of the supposed paranormal phenomena in the film are described in Anson’s book: the glowing eyes, the nightmares, the ooze, the secret room. In the book, a priest (Father Ralph J. Pecoraro, called “Father Mancuso”) blesses the house, and hears a voice telling him to get out.

However, the book itself was probably fabricated. William Weber, the defense attorney for Ronald DeFeo, Jr., told People Magazine in 1979 that he and the Lutzes created the story “over many bottles of wine.”

The Verdict: While the events in the film do come largely from the story that the Lutzes told Jay Anson, the story itself was probably invented by Weber and the Lutzes to cash in on the DeFeo tragedy.

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