Bloody Disgusting’s new podcast looks at the true story behind The Amityville Horror.
Amityville is a small, unassuming village in New York that rests along the water, enjoying beautiful views, lovely beaches, and a reputation as the “friendly bay village.” If you walked through Amityville without knowing much about it, you would never imagine it could be the home to a brutal murder, and one of the most memorable hauntings of all time. But as much as its residents would probably prefer Amityville to be remembered for its beaches and lakes, or its Nautical Park, Amityville found itself in the public eye for that very shocking reason.
On November 13, 1974, the patrons of a local Amityville bar were going about their business as usual: drinking beers, chatting about football, local gossip, and unwinding after a hard day of work. Suddenly, this peace was shattered when a young man burst in, shaking and pale, face slick with sweat. He cried out that his entire family had been shot, and he needed help. This young man was 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr. Several of the bar’s customers agreed to accompany the distressed man back to his house at 112 Ocean Avenue. They arrived at the property, and from the outside, everything seemed fine.
It was a beautiful three-story colonial house, with cream-colored paint and dark shutters, equipped with a deck, a back patio, and a boathouse. It didn’t look like the sort of place where anything bad could happen, but Ronald insisted that the bar patrons follow him inside. There, they found something that was nothing short of horrifying. Ronald’s parents, Ronald DeFeo Sr. and Louise DeFeo, were lying face down, dead from gunshot wounds. A man named Joey Yewsit called the police and told them there had been a shooting. When the operator asked “Anybody hurt?” Joey simply responded: “Yeah, it’s…uh…everybody’s dead.” After talking to an officer and explaining the dire nature of what had occurred, police were dispatched to the location. When they examined the house they found that not only were Ronald Jr.’s parents dead, but the rest of his family had met the same fate.
His siblings, Dawn (18), Allison (13), Marc (12) and John Matthew (9) were all lying face down, dead from gunshots.
The police brought Ronald Jr. down to the station and proceeded to interview him. At first, he insisted that he was innocent, claiming that a mafia hitman had taken out his family. Naturally, the police had a lot of follow-up questions, mainly why a mob hitman would have any interest in this small-town family with no recorded ties to organized crime. Once the police got into the details of the interview, DeFeo’s story began to fall apart. He was unable to maintain a consistent version of events, and the police considered him the prime suspect. By the next day, he had confessed, saying “Once I started, I just couldn’t stop. It went so fast.”
But the story of Ronald DeFeo Jr.’s murders didn’t end there. When he went to trial, things got darker, and much stranger. His attorney, William Weber, insisted that DeFeo was not in his right mind, and could plead not guilty by reason of insanity. DeFeo claimed to have heard demonic voices in the house, urging him to kill his family. A psychiatrist hired by the prosecution agreed that DeFeo was mentally ill, but picked apart the notion of his mental illness as a defense, insisting that he had still known what he did was wrong. The judge agreed, and DeFeo was found guilty and given six concurrent life sentences. Weber still continued to insist that something supernatural had been at play in the house, and that, though DeFeo was not in his right mind, he had been driven there by something not of this world.
With the murderer convicted and in prison, and the only existing evidence of anything supernatural in the house on Ocean Avenue confined to his testimony, it seemed like the darkness was about to recede from Amityville. Unfortunately, that could not have been further from the truth. When George and Kathy Lutz signed the paperwork to purchase the house and give it a new, happier life, it was only the beginning of the Amityville Horror nightmare…
Learn all about the trials and tribulations that’d befall the Lutz family in this week’s episode of Insidious Inspirations! If you like the show, consider subscribing on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.