History: November 13, 1974: The REAL Amityville Horror!

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A Brief History

On November 13, 1974, the real story of The Amityville Horror began when Ronald DeFeo, Jr. savagely murdered his entire family in the house featured in the popular horror story.

Digging Deeper

The house at 112 Ocean Avenue had been occupied by the DeFeo family since 1965, 2 parents, 2 daughters and 3 sons.  Ronald Jr. was the eldest at age 23 when he used a Marlin Model 336C lever action rifle in .35 Remington caliber to shoot each parent and all 4 siblings, killing them all.

Ronald, or “Butch” as he was called, ran to a local bar (Henry’s Bar) and excitedly announced, “You got to help me, I think my mother and father are shot!”  Patrons of the bar accompanied Ronald back to the house, saw the dead parents and called the Suffolk County Police.  Police quickly found the 4 dead siblings, and took Ronald to the police station for his own safety in case the murderer wanted to kill him as well.

Under police questioning, Ronald first posited that a “mob” hit-man was responsible, but his inconsistent account of events made the police suspicious of his story.  The following day, under continued interrogation, Ronald Jr. confessed to the crimes.  The real story was that Ronald had killed his family, taken a bath, got rid of all the evidence he could (bloody clothes, rifle, ammo, etc) and went to work, before his act at the bar later.

Despite an insanity defense reinforced by testimony that Ronald Jr. was also a drug abuser, he was convicted of 6 counts of 2nd degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life for each count, to be served concurrently (meaning he could be paroled in accordance with rules covering the 25 year part of the sentence).  He remains in jail to this day, parole being denied each time he has had a parole hearing.

Researchers find it odd that all victims were face down, since certainly after the first shots the other victims should have been alerted.  Also, the neighbors did not hear the 8 gunshots (2 per parent, 1 per each sibling).  Plus, no clear motive has been established, as Ronald Jr.’s accounts have changed over the years from the start.  Some of these accounts have DeFeo claiming his sister was his accomplice, eagerly grabbed at by some investigators that think the rapidity of the murders and lack of fleeing or fighting by the victims indicates more than 1 assailant.  The idea that Ronald did it for insurance money stems from his asking a police officer early in the investigation how to make an insurance claim, but this theory is by no means definitive.

The novel, The Amityville Horror, by Jay Anson was published in 1977, and an incredible string of 14 movies about the book and incident (loosely based on the incident, loosely!) and the alleged subsequent haunting of the house have been released from 1979 through (upcoming) 2016.  A staple feature of these fictional book and movies is the premise that the development the house is located in was placed on an Indian (Native American) burial ground (or other such cemetery) which has no basis in fact.  The married couple featured in the book and movie whose family was haunted by the ghosts of the people buried there have since passed on from natural causes (Kathleen Lutz 2004, George Lutz 2006).

Other books have been written about the incident, as well as the alleged haunting of the real house, and several paranormal investigations have taken place.  The Lutz family that was haunted in real life and in the movie really did bring in “demonologists” to study their haunted home.  The real house still stands, but it has been renovated and the address changed to foil curious fans of the books and movies.

Do you believe the house in Amityville is actually haunted?  At least maybe?  Did Ronald DeFeo, Jr. kill his family while possessed with evil spirits from those buried beneath the house?  Let us know what you think about the real story and the fictional ones.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989) (DVD)


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The Amityville Horror (Widescreen Special Edition) (DVD)


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JCU Paranormal Research Group

The John Carroll Paranormal Research Group is a student organization that seeks to find out more about the paranormal while being academically intent and focusing on establishing credibility. Founded in the Fall of 2013 by Eugene Claridge and Raymond Camma, the BooStreaks have held many informative meetings that have included guest speakers, such as Dr. Judith Cetina and Bill Kreji, who appeared on Ghost Hunters in 2009. The group has worked with the Ohio P.I.R.A.T.E.S., a paranormal team out of Akron, Ohio, to learn some of their methods and to hear about their work. The Paranormal Research Group has conducted investigations in the following locations: the Cleveland Agora Theatre, the Ohio State Reformatory, the Russell Rhodes Mansion (a.k.a. the Cuyahoga County Archives), and the Sandy Chanty Seafood Restaurant. John Carroll University has recognized the group both in the Carroll News and most importantly, as the "Outstanding Organization of the Year." Not only has the group been able to explore the paranormal subject and investigated historically important locations in Ohio, but members had the fortunate opportunity to see advance screenings of major motion pictures that feature the paranormal, particularly The Quiet Ones (2013). After one academic year, group membership has risen to about eighty members, who seek further journeys this upcoming year. Please check out our Facebook and Twitter pages!