I first discovered the Amityville series by way of a worn paperback at my local library. Since then I’ve built quite a collection of worn Amityville paperbacks of my own. I had never run across the movie edition of Hanz Holzer’s Murder in Amityville until today.
Hardbacks of this book are hard to come by, so I was thrilled to find this gem In pretty good shape for just 50 cents at an antique mall in Somerset, Kentucky. In addition to the photos of Ronnie and the 1977 visit by Ethel Myers this version has photos from the movie Amityville 2: The Possession. Its not worth anything as far as pop culture memorabilia goes, but it will go nicely on my Amityville shelf.
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?
Despite all the alleged ghosts that roam the halls of 112 Ocean Avenue for a lot of people the real horror in Amityville occurred a year before the Lutzs moved in when the DeFeo family was executed in their sleep on November 13, 1974 by the eldest son Ronald. The haunting the Lutzs described on the talk show circuit made for interesting television but the story of the crime that set all of these events in motion is far more fascinating. If Ronnie hadn’t done what he did we wouldn’t even be talking about the town of Amityville at all, aside from the occasional mention in travel brochures.
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.