The late 1980s were a vast empty wasteland for Amityville fans. It had been five long years since the last film, Amityville 3-D, which hadn’t been very good and didn’t do well at the box office. It had also been three years since a book about the house had been released. I’m sure the current owners were happy about that but I was NOT! All Hail John G Jones, the official “chronicler of the horror” who answered our prayers with the next installment in the series, 1988’s Amityville: The Evil Escapes.
This wasn’t Jones’s first dip in the Amityville well. He also wrote The Amityville Horror 2, Amityville: The Final Chapter and Amityville: The Horror Returns, all books about the Lutzes and their ongoing ordeal and all touted as non-fiction. I can see why his publisher annointed him the Official Chronicler of the Horror. Even Hans Holzer only had 3 books under his belt on the story by then, and he had actually investigated the house in an offical capacity. All signs point to Jones being a pseudonym, some even suspecting that DeFeo lawyer William Weber wrote these books. I don’t believe that, but whoever Jones is certainly he has certainly made a career out of writing about Amityville.
This installment is his first to leave the Lutzes and look at the effect the house had on the community of Amityville through short stories that touch on various items acquired during the estate sale that followed the Lutzs sudden departure in February of 1976. In the foreword Jones tells us that the stories that follow have been fictionalized for dramatic effect but that there is “some truth here”. Tudor Publishing classifies this as non-fiction but I suspect that the only truth in these 420 pages is that an estate sale was held and that items were sold but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun right?
Window Into Hell
Long Island native Alice Treadwell attends the Ocean Avenue estate sale with her friend after seeing a random flyer stapled to a telephone pole. She is unaware of the history of the house and is instantly attracted to a certain painting hanging in a child’s bedroom. She buys it and begins having horrific nightmares about a monster inside the painting that wants to lure her into a fantasy world of terror.
Lord of the Northern Sea
Swedish transplant Arnie Johanssen is given a haunted drill by his wife Muriel that surges with power whenever he holds it. Initially repulsed by the feeling he eventually falls under its spell where he sees himself as The Lord of the Northern Sea. This was easily the silliest of the bunch, followed a close second by…
The Haunted Cycle
When Jimmy Scallino finds his friend George Lutz’s prized motorcycle sitting on a trailer in his driveway with a note that says “Take care of her for me” he is puzzled. When he can’t get George on the phone he stores it in his garage and hellish mayhem ensues. This reminds me of a cartoon I once saw called The Amityville Toaster.
The Truth or Not the Truth
Anne Cunningham has become famous debunking haunted houses. But when she is baited into investigating the Amityville case she gets more than she bargained for. This was my favorite story, but it wasnt without its faults. When Anne breaks into 112 Ocean Avenue she throws a brick through the window of the ground floor guest bath and it lands in a bathtub that has never ever been there. And when the Amityville Evil starts to tighten its grip on her she is plagued by Kathy’s memories instead of someone deceased like one of the DeFeos, which would make more sense. Odd choices but still an enjoyable tale.
Betty Ds New Toy
Betty Dawn Korda is about to turn one year old. To celebrate her daddy brings home a new toy, a fluffy orange dog that is POSSESSED BY EVIL, and Betty D is having none of it. She screams and wails and won’t go near the hideous thing, but eventually she comes around and won’t let it out of her site. The toy floats and glows red and transforms little Betty into some drooling mixture of Gage Creed and Linda Blair until her exhausted parents have the bright idea to burn the stuffed animal in the backyard.
No this one isn’t about me, but I can see how you may have thought it was. The main character here is a theology student/psychic named Saul Aarons who belongs to a group of like minded souls called The Paranormals. He becomes obsessed with the Amityville story despite the warnings of his friend Rabbi Meyer and his psychic Apache lover Nanna. When the Lutzes contact him for help he agrees and a door is opened that exposes him to the Indian Chief who haunts the land and his bloody wrath. This one doesn’t end well for anybody, but offers an interesting take on the legend surrounding the house and the land.
The 1989 movie of the same name is not a direct interpretation of any of these stories instead drawing inspiration from the concept and telling a different tale completely. In this case, it involves a hideous lamp and Patty Duke and was made for television, so the scares are mostly of the light and fluffy variety. We can talk more about that when I review the movie. Soon I promise.
The Evil Escapes ushered in a decade full of Amityville goodness. The 90s gave us four new films and a new book, some of them good and some of them not so good. The real shame though is that we didn’t have Ebay in the late 70s. The frenzy for Amityville items would have been epic. We would have seen shingles and blades of grass and rocks and dirt and all sorts of nonsense for sale, and people would have bought the SHIT out of it. The previous owners of 112 (now 108) Ocean Ave had a moving sale in 2010 and a few of the items did make their way to the online auction site, but nothing much of interest really since there was no ties to either the Lutz or the DeFeo families. Still, there is some fascination with owning things that have been inside the famous house in some capacity. Lorraine Warren would warn you against owning anything from that house, but I’ll admit I’d be excited about it. I wonder whatever happened to that ceramic lion?