The most famous and horrific ghost story of the last century must be that of 112 Ocean Avenue, in Amityville, New York. The terrifying tale has been turned into a best-selling book and successful film, and captured the public’s attention like no other haunting. Indeed, such is its place in the American consciousness that most people assume that it is a real story and that is certainly how it was publicized. There is no doubt that some awful events did take place in the building, but were they really caused by ghostly actions?

The now infamous three-story Dutch colonial house was built in 1924. The owners lived happily in the building for many years, raising a family and leaving the house to their daughter who had such fond memories of her childhood home that she moved her own family into it. In 1960 the building left the care of the original owners” descendants and was bought by a couple who lived in the house until they sold it following their divorce in 1965.

In June 1965 the DeFeo family bought the house. They were an unhappy family and the father, Ronald DeFeo Sr., was known to be abusive. Over a period of nine years the family was not said to experience any type of frightening event other than those inflicted by paternal forces. However that all changed on the night of the 18th of November 1974 when one son, Ronald DeFeo Jr., shot and killed his mother, father, two brothers and two sisters.

Just over a year later, in December 1975, a young couple bought the house. George and Kathy Lutz, and her three children moved in, knowing the building’s terrible history. Almost immediately they began experiencing strange phenomena. Doors and windows would open by themselves, bizarre noises were heard, and a Catholic priest who had come to exorcise the house was ordered to get out by a devilish voice.

Things rapidly grew worse. Blood and sticky goo oozed from the walls, clouds of flies appeared on windows, ghostly hooded apparitions manifested, and one of the children started communicating with a demonic pig called Jodie. One night Kathy Lutz was even thrown from her bed by a supernatural force, and it was famously claimed that the face of the devil appeared in the brickwork of the fireplace.

After 28 days of this horror, the Lutzes moved out. They soon went to the media with their story. In February 1976 two of America’s most famous celebrity paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren, were filmed by a television news team whilst conducting s?ances at the house. The Warrens stated the house was indeed haunted with evil spirits, but other investigators were not convinced.

Dr. Stephen Kaplan, the executive director of the Parapsychology Institute of America, based in New York, initially had great doubts about the story, and discovered some very interesting facts about the Lutzes. However, his studies were ignored, and it transpired that the couple had already collaborated with an author, Jay Anson, and had written a book, The Amityville Horror “? A True Story. An instant best-seller on its release in 1977, a blockbusting movie version of the tale was released in 1979.

As Kaplan suspected, there were some dubious actions and motives behind the Amityville tale. It was revealed that Ronald DeFeo Jr’s defense lawyer had met with the Lutzes before their story was released. Kaplan found no evidence to support many of the claims written in their book, but he did discover that the Lutzes were able to return to the house to hold a garage sale only a couple of weeks after apparently fleeing in terror. Similarly, many investigators noticed that the Lutzes were holding contracts for book and film rights as soon as they decided to publicize their account.

Since the Lutzes left, three different families have lived in the house with no reports of ghostly experiences. Dr Stephen Kaplan’s in-depth report and its subsequent revelations about the house were never viewed with as much interest as the dramatic original story, but his book, The Amityville Horror Conspiracy, was eventually published some years after his death. Many investigators and cynics have been led to conclude that the whole case really revolved around money, rather than the popular perception of paranormal influences. It seems the evil forces in this story have less to do with supernatural unknowns, and more with all too common, base human instincts.