A colonial house with a Dutch aesthetic in the core of the village of Amityville, nearby Long Island, New York, rising in Ocean Avenue, 112. With an enchanting and relaxing outlook, the mansion renamed High Hopes was instead hiding blood, horror and mystery withing its walls.
Below: picture of the house in 1974 by BrownieCharles99 shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 3.0
It was the 1965 when the family De Feo bought the house in Ocean Avenue for 100,000 dollars. The group of people included the couple Ronald and Louise and their children Ronald Junior of 22 years old, Dawn of 18, Allison 13, Mark 11 and John, the youngest, 7 years old.
From the outside the family seemed happy, the house was big and bright, with a private little dock facing a wide canal and a huge yard. Nothing seemed to threat their serenity even though Ronald Jr’s character got worse in Amityville.
The boy soon got involved with the Police: in 1973 he got arrested for having stolen on an outboard boat while the following years he was reported for drug possession. For his behaviour, his relationship with his father Ronald, willing to fix his own son, got more tense to the point of warning the police.
On the 13th November 1974, Ronald Jr came up with another one of his stunts: he pretended he had incurred a theft and tried to deposit in a nearby bank 17,900 dollars which instead he had taken from the family business. After work, Ronnie (Butch for his friends) went to the pub where he spent some time in company. At some point the boy realised to not have the house keys with him, so he said goodbye to his friends and left the place for heading back to High Hopes.
It was approximately 6:30 PM when Ronnie came back to the pub in an evident state of shock. He said to have entered the house through the window and once inside to have found all the members of his family brutally killed by a rifle. Once the authority had been called and Ronnie had been taken back to High Hopes at 7:00 PM, the police officers discovered the corpses of all the members as reported, all laying on their respective beds face down in a pool of blood.
the murder weapon was a 35 gauge shotgun
Immediately, the detectives got suspicious: the story of Ronnie seemed lacking and didn’t match the reality, so he soon became the 1st suspect.
Below: police and forensics on the evening of the 13th November 1974 in the crime scene. Source
The house did not show any sign of a break-in, hence the killer had been welcomed in either by his residents or had a way to enter without prying the door open. Furthermore the rifle used for the slaughter was recovered in a brook nearby the house.
Ronnie’s position worsened when he mentioned his unsolved issues with his father Ronald Sr and the local mafia, trying to move the investigation towards other directions. The attempts of Ronnie continued: first he tried to blame his sister Dawn, killed as well, and then a mysterious unknown killer.
Also the victims appeared to have been killed several hours before, between 3:15 AM and the late morning.
the weirdest detail is that none of the neighbours seemed to have heard any gunshot
It is after the find of the rifle that Ronald Jr confessed to have killed, but only his brother Mark. In 1975 the trial to Ronnie began and his defense attorney William Weber tried to use the insanity plea; Ronald cooperated to this strategy, defining himself as the “secret agent of God”, stating to have killed guided by the voices in his head.
Below: mugshots of Ronald Jr De Feo. Source
Despite the complex ramification of the trial, the reason of the slaughter of the family De Feo was never discovered for real even though everything suggests an economic motive: the continuous thefts of the guy, the fake robbery, the arguments with his father Ronald for money did not leave room for any other supposition.
On the 19th of November, Ronald Jr De Feo received the maximum penalty in the state of New York, a life sentence to serve in the penitentiary of Dannemora.
the tragedy of what happened in Amityville was unbelievably not over. Instead it seems like the worst had yet to come
On the 18th of December 1975 a new family bought High Hopes, unaware of the previous massacre. The new family counted the ex marine soldier George Lutz, his partner Kathy and their children Daniel, Christ and Missy.
Below: George and Kathy Lutz. Source
Family Lutz bet a record amongst the ones living in the house of Ocean Avenue: they lived there for only 28 days, leaving it behind without grabbing their belongings either on the 14th January 1976. What follows is the version obtained by the family Lutz interviewed several times throughout the years but never officially verified.
During the moving, the Lutz had a priest visiting them; the man was blessing the house, ready to welcome the new residents. He entered the room previously belonging to the siblings Mark and John De Feo, and then he halted. A bodiless voice spoke to him and said:
The priest, visibly shocked, reached the couple Lutz and warned them, without mentioning the episode that he had just experienced, to never sleep in that specific room. Unaware of the reason, the two followed the advise without asking, turning the room into a sewing room. From the first night in the house, the family noticed weird sensations. George was the first one noticing strange noises and shivers down his spine. Every night he would wake up, exactly when the clock struck 3:15, time when Ronnie De Feo had committed the massacre.
Some days went by and George started feeling strange; he stopped shaving his beard and began to neglect himself. His mood was gloomy and his sleeping a long gone memory. Kathy followed shortly after and her health became unstable. The worst signs though appeared to little Missy. Always locked in the loft, she admitted to be playing with an imaginary friend named Jodie, pig-like creature with red eyes. According to Missy, the individual could change appearance but only it could choose who to be seen by.
One night George entered the room of the little girl to check her sleeping when he noticed two red eyes staring at him in the middle of the darkness. While the family fell into a slowly decline both physical and psychological, the house started to exhibit odd and scary phenomenons: heavy and unbearable smells infesting some areas of the house, mold starting to appear in great quantity in the tiles of one of the bathrooms, and a green substance dripping from the walls everywhere.
The peak was reached when a fly infestation occupied the whole sewing room, despite the rigid winter climate of the time. Family Lutz started to get worried for their lives; they desperately tried to reach out to the Catholic church of the area, but the phone seemed constantly with no service.
Unable to get in touch with the priest who firstly went to the house to bless it, George decided to do it by himself.
By holding a cross in his hand and praying, one night he passed by all the rooms, committed to cast away whatever was haunting the walls of High Hopes
In response, a choir of bodiless voices spread once again, asking:
Will you stop?
Although they were hoping for happier days ahead of them, the last night in the house appeared as the very worst one. George Lutz has never wanted to reveal to anybody what that night happened. However throughout the time some details emerged.
The Lutz found themselves in a horror film: the furniture were shaking and moving by themselves as well as the walls, which were releasing some sort of laments. Besides that, a hellish series of noises of different tools and drums were enveloping the house and George saw a hooded presence levitating to the second floor and then moving towards him for then disappearing.
The couple and the children were terrified to the point they left immediately without preparing any luggage
After more than a couple of weeks from the escape of the family, the couple Ed and Lorraine Warren appeared in the house, popular demonologists at the time. They were called by a journalist of the area, Marvin Scott, committed to report the horrors of Amityville.
After getting ready, accompanied by a camera and investigative crew, the couple Warren went to the number 112 of Ocean Avenue, armed of their experience and great courage.
it did not take long time for the investigation to turn into a lively scene
While reciting some religious psalms in the basement, Ed Warren was violently pushed to the floor by an invisible force, after something in the dark had sparked. His wife Lorraine was instead overwhelmed by a sense of discomfort, described later as an attempt of possession by a demon. She also said that, during a vision, she had noticed the bodies of the dead De Feo laying on the ground, covered by sheets. Linking the phenomenon to her clairvoyant abilities, she believed to have experienced the appearance of Ronald Sr De Feo, so frightening to convince her that nothing would have healed the soul of the house.
What remains of that day is a picture, as famous as controversial. It represents one of the set of stairs and the door of one of the rooms; from that one, almost as if he was afraid of the people around him, there is a face of a child peeping out.
The face is partially covered by his hair, his eyes dazzled by the flash light and a checked shirt partially appears below.
Below: the picture of the investigation conducted by the Warren couple. Source
yet no child was present that day at High Hopes
When the picture was developed, the resemblance between the spectral face and the little John De Feo made both the photographer and the Warren speechless, indicating it as the definitive evidence of paranormal presence inside the mansion.
Below: detail and enlargement of the picture Source
Below: picture of John De Feo compared to the alleged ghost
Some time later, however, the Lutz family was blamed for having mystified on purpose with the journalist Marvin Scott the events happened in the house. The following clamour that the story provoked, narrated by novels, films, and TV programs, would have most likely produced profit for the ex marine and his family.
Below: Jay Anson’s book “The Amityville Horror, A True Story”. Picture by Ianmacm, Copyright of Prentice Hall via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
The Lutz denied all the accusations, claiming to have experienced unforgivable moments in those 28 days, days which would have not disappeared from their memories. If the tale of the Lutz family was result of a lie or true, or perhaps hallucination, it is not possible to say. However what is certain of all that story is that, inside the number 112 of Ocean Avenue in Amityville, there is the memory of a family slaughter, still without any motive, which will always burden the whole city.
Furthermore, several legends about the demons which supposedly haunted the house started to pop up. Some rumours told of ancient American ships which, in the area of High Hopes had set up a hospital for infected and mentally ill patients. Or others talking about the satanism of some previous tenants who had inhabited those walls, who had guided malevolent spirits within the house.
High Hopes, during the years, saw many different owners, some of whom being extremely afraid of paranormal events and others who said that nothing out of the ordinary had happened in there during their stay.
Below: picture of the house dating back to 2005. Picture by Seulatr, shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
The house is still for sale, waiting for some brave heart willing to purchase it and verify for themselves whether the supposed evil aura is result of gossip or raw reality.