This is the book that inspired a sometimes mediocre, sometimes interesting horror movie franchise, none of which I have actually seen. I’m not a massive horror buff. I enjoy some horror movies, but I can probably list all the horror books I’ve read on one hand. However, I do love true crime books and I was amazed when I was browsing through my local library to see this book, a cult classic, in the true crime section. I mean, really? This is what constitutes true crime?
Release date: September, 1977.
Synopsis: This book follows the “real” life experiences of the Lutz family, who move into a house in Amityville, Long Island, New York in 1975. The same house where Ronald Defoe Jr. murdered his entire family the year before. There, the Lutz family experiences a paranormal haunting.
Since this book is supposedly based on a true story, I am not going to divide my review into non-spoiler and spoiler section. Instead, I’m going to give my thoughts on the book and then talk about the “real” story.
The synopsis I gave pretty much describes the entire book. George and Kathy Lutz move into a mass murderer’s old house, and they’re haunted until they move out after living there only four weeks. That is the entire story…it is as boring as it sounds.
This book is the slowest burn I have read since The Shining by Stephen King (which I gave up reading after 50 pages because I was so bored). Most of this book is pretty much the family going about their new lives and getting angrier at each other (probably due to lack of sleep. Seriously, these people got very little sleep for the entirety of this book) and once in a while seeing, hearing, or feeling something weird.
I won’t go through all their experiences, but most are commonly associated with hauntings. For example, it was impossible to heat the house because it was so cold. Kathy would have a lot of nightmares. She would feel someone touch her. Things would be moved around in the house. Shadowy figures might be seen in the boathouse at 3:15 A.M. (often when George would unexplainably wake up), which was also the time Ronald Defoe killed his family. Though, I will say my favorite scene was when green slime started to leak down the walls. Slime fight! Also, when the band struck up downstairs when they were asleep. Why be afraid? Just join the ghosts in their party!
As this is supposedly based on a real story, I didn’t expect things to be closed in the end or a lot of things to be explained, because that just isn’t real life. However, nothing could prepare me how boring the ending was. The haunting did increase as the book continued (extremely slowly, but at least it did increase), but the ending is simply them leaving the house only to realize whatever was haunting them might have followed them. Only the last fifty pages were even a bit scary.
So, basically, the book was okay. The characters weren’t really interesting, the haunting was typical, and nothing about this book screamed ‘classic’ or ‘terrifying’ to me. I remember reading The Exorcist a few years ago, and boy was that terrifying. This one, not so much.
However, out of curiosity, I wanted to see how true this story might be. So I did a little research.
Ronald Defoe Jr. did indeed murder his father, mother, two brothers, and two sisters on November 13, 1974, using a lever action rifle. All victims were found lying on their stomachs, as described in the book. Though I know little of that case, all the evidence presented about it in this horror book seems to line up with what actually happened. And, fun fact, Defoe is still alive and serving six consecutive life sentences in Sullivan Correctional Facility, Fallsburg, New York. He is now (as I’m writing this review) sixty-six years old.
This is where the lines of reality and fiction become blurry. There are certain things that make me believe this book is more fiction than reality. For example, the people who bought the house after the Lutz family said they never experienced anything supernatural and denied any damage to the house that the Lutzes claims happened. Even on Jay Anson’s (the author) Wikipedia page, it says Anson “added to and adapted some of the Lutz’s original claims.” This means maybe they experienced some minor things and Anson amped it up into a horror.
It is certainly possible that the Lutz family experienced some sort of haunting, but what is in this book is most certainly partial fiction, considering Anson would have no way of knowing the dialogue of the persons involved.
I take this book as mostly fiction, and a really boring horror book.
Have you read this book or saw any of the movies? What are your thoughts about them? And their claim to reality? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness, and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,