This is probably a story that most people are familiar with from some adaptation or another, but upon seeing the old copy of this book on my friend’s shelf recently, I realized that I have neither seen nor read a single one? Which on the one hand makes sense because I don’t ever really read horror, but at the same time my friend has gotten me into watching horror movies within the last few years so this almost seems like a bit of an oversight! No time like the present, though! And I know that while this is said to be a true story, there are some questions as to the validity of it: was it all a scam? Is the tale an exaggerated account of the real paranormal (or parapsychological) events that happened in the house? Why would a family just up and leave to pitch a tale that could possibly make them money but possibly not, in particular after spending so much money on the place to begin with? I don’t know, but the idea of this being a true experience for this family really did add to the level of spookiness I felt while reading it. And WHY did I choose to read most of it before going to bed one night? A fool, I am!
But let’s consider The Amityville Horror as a story in and of itself, without the question or context of it being the Lutz family’s account of true events. If you are not already aware of the basic premise, this tale begins with the Lutzes, a family of 5 moving in to a newly purchased house on 112 Ocean Avenue of Amityville in Long Island: this house was purchased for far-below it’s value at the time, due to having previously been the site of the murders of 6 of the previous tenants by their own family member. Soon after moving in, however, the Lutzes start to experience strange happenings: cold spots, changes in mood, visions of people and animals, sensations of being touched, physical ailments, damage to the property, visitors being uncomfortable for some unknown reason, among others. Their story is also interwoven with a priest who had come to the house to bless it, and afterwards finds himself suffering from physical ailments as well. The Lutzes and the priest continue to be in contact, and the shifting between the two separate but connected tales works well to show how things happened in relation to one another, but also I couldn’t help but wonder if as much information as provided on the priest was really necessary to the story. In any case, after just under a month in the house, the Lutzes flee as they have reached their breaking point, and the question then becomes did this all really happen, or was something else going on?
I will admit that this book was very creepy for me, despite it being almost a little perfunctory in nature at times in recounting the information given. However, it made me laugh quite a bit as many chapters were concluded with little surprise pieces of information and connection that I couldn’t help but read in my brain with a Jonathan Van Ness inflection like, CAN YOU BELIEVE?? Also despite knowing that the family left the house at the end of the story, I still felt like it was wrapped up in a very effective way that makes you think that the story really isn’t over, and I almost want to know more now! There is a little wrap-up with some info on further investigations that took place, but boy this book did a good job in fostering some serious curiosity in me.
Now again, perhaps some of the creep-factor comes from the knowledge that this is being told as a true story: or at least, it is their truth as they tell it. And I know some facets sounded unbelievable to me, but also, I can’t be sure that it’s totally a hoax. I mean,I hate to think that Ed and Lorraine Warren (who are featured in the epilogue’s investigations at the end) are just con-artists taking advantage of people. Perhaps I just don’t like to think of people as inherently fraudulent, even though a lot of my experiences at work should tell me to think otherwise (call me naïve!). But also, I sometimes feel things, hear things, and sense things, which may indeed just be my brain over-processing stimuli. So I can’t just write it off: perhaps they did experience some of what happened but then their minds ran away with them a little bit? Honestly, I like to have an open mind, and I truly think that some people and places are indeed conduits for metaphysical things to happen. I think, specifically about when I was studying art therapy (man, I bring that up a lot in reviews, huh?) at a small school which had such a spiritual foundation that lots of strange, but positive, things happened when I was attending. Yeah, okay, maybe some of them were coincidences, but I also vividly remember a classmate of the Cree First Nations, and strange coincidences or things of the like just seemed to happen around her way more than anyone else. She also would tell us stories of her experiences that logically shouldn’t be possible, yet I felt what she was saying was the truth, because the way she told it, you could tell it was real to her. And I believed her.
So I guess maybe it’s not whether or not this story is true that really matters (though again, it did mess with me a bit to think of it like that after I’ve been having some weird experiences lately, too). Because at the end of the day, if it was indeed a con, good job on them; it’s become a story that has endured in the cultural mindset, even after so many adaptations and revisits. And even with my basic knowledge of The Amityville Horror before going into it this time, it was still an enjoyable read, and even enthralling at times to see what would happen next.
CBR10 Bingo Square: Not My Wheelhouse