On the Nightstand: Amityville – The Nightmare Continues


Not long ago I ran across a box of paperbacks in my basement that I feared had been lost forever. This box contained most of my Stephen King paperbacks and my collection of the ten Amityville books that I collected as a teenager. Since I was in between books at the time I chose to reread a few of these.

I am still a bit astonished that this case had the life that it did, remaining high in the public’s consciousness well into the 1990s thanks in no small part to this series of novels. The last of these books, Amityville: The Nightmare Continues by Robin Karl was published in 1991 and I chose this one to read first based on the “true story” blurb on the cover and the Non-Fiction classification on the spine. I was curious to see just how true this tale would turn out to be.

I discovered almost immediately that this entry into the Amityville legacy had very little truth to it at all. Karl sets out to establish an entirely new timeline, ignoring the fact that another family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue just over a year after the Lutz family fled. Instead she depicts the house as a decaying old relic sitting empty for over a decade while the village goes about its business. I guess a story about how the only terror the next family experienced came not from demons but from tourists trampling their lawn and stealing shingles would not have been very exciting.

I can’t be sure if the decision to market this as a true story came from Karl or from the publisher and it doesn’t really matter I guess. When I read this back in 91 I recall believing that the house was empty and just festering there, waiting for a new family to terrorize. That is a much harder sell these days with the internet at our disposal. I am very adept at suspending disbelief long enough to enjoy a good story so I turned off my bullshit filter and dove in.

In Karl’s Amityville the former Lutz home has become an eyesore and the house on the block that parents warn their kids about. This doesn’t prevent Donald “Kooch” Webster and his friend Lester Chambers from sneaking in after school to smoke some weed and check out the old place. When they find the house full of antiques and other valuables left behind by the Lutzs they hatch a scheme to pawn the stuff for some extra money.

The stuff the boys steal turns out to be haunted by the evil lurking within the walls of the house and over the course of the next 28 days people all over town are killed in terrible and awful ways. Lester doesn’t believe his friend’s claim that the stuff is haunted, even after a bizarre skin condition develops on the hand he used to carry the evil relics, and finds himself taking the fall for Kooch’s antics. Kooch meanwhile is using this new found power to kill people he doesn’t like by giving them “gifts”, including the nasty old nun at the Catholic school the boys attend.

The narrative unfolds from notes and journals compiled after months of research by a third party who met an untimely death and charged his friend with telling the story of what the author calls “the Second Amityville Incident”. This involves a lot of diary entries, police reports and Author’s Notes that fill in gaps where narrative doesn’t make sense. The year is never mentioned but I was able to conclude that this was supposed to have taken place in the late 1980s, just over a decade after the Lutz family fled. Karl never acknowledges the movie or original book directly but the police as the clergy often refer to “that nonsense” concerning the house so many years ago.

There are a couple of interesting subplots going on as well involving the cantankerous clergy at the Catholic School, the Suffolk County police investigators and a husband and wife team of parapsychologists that smell a lot like the Warrens. The most interesting subplots however involve the parents of the two boys. Lester lives with his father and stepmother, a woman who used to be a nun at the very same convent that provides teachers for the Catholic school her step-son attends and who is living in a nightmare of daily abuse at the hands of her husband Ray, a man who is never developed fully, instead serving as an almost faceless monster who beats on his wife and son relentlessly. His motives are explored a bit as the story unfolds and when he confronts the demons from the house you catch yourself rooting for them to devour the man whole. Lester’s friend Kooch has it better. His mother is a drunk and his father is not around at all. The only real abuse he suffers is neglect and the occasional slap from his exasperated mother, yet he is the one getting into the most trouble. Kooch seems to feed on the evil in the house, with disastrous consequences.

The source of the evil, in this version of things, is not what you would expect based on the established history of the house. There is no mention of Indians or John Ketcham. Instead Karl plays a little fast and loose with the facts about the structure itself and introduces an interesting yet completely implausible turn of events unless you believe that the Lutz family never really looked around their basement during their 28 days in the house.

The Nightmare Continues was fun, not badly written and interesting despite the lack of “truth” and the constant misspellings of the DeFeo’s name. (DiFio? Really?) If you find it in the used bin at your local bookstore it is certainly worth picking up.

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