Continued from Part Two...
Horror.com: OK, but is it the house or the property? If it’s the house, you’d think someone would have razed it to the ground by now.
Lutz: Laura DiDio did additional research, and she found a reference to these kinds of things in some Jewish texts that were a couple of thousand years old, and said that when you have a property like this, what you do is, whatever structure is on it you take it down. You destroy it, you salt the earth so that nothing can grow there for 40 years, and it’ll be fine. We weren’t about to do that!
Horror.com: [laughs] Well, gee, why not? Beyond the limits of your purchase agreement, was it? Didn’t you want to protect others who might live there after you?
Lutz: Well, I had my own family to deal with and we felt the house was locked and Laura had the key and that was the end of that. Later on that year we learned… and it wasn’t until Dan’s Histories Mysteries documentary was done… from Dr. Hans Holzer that he had also investigated the house that same year…
Farrands: January of 1977.
Lutz: … When he was in there, he went in with another trans-medium named Ethel Johnson-Myers, and Laura DiDio accompanied him and a representative from the bank because by then we gave the house back (in August of 1976). We had an auctioneer go in there and just auction everything off, including the boats and tools and furniture, and everything. We did have friends of ours go in there on Easter Sunday and collect the food and clothing and give that to the Salvation Army.
Farrands: But you never went into the house.
Lutz: I did go back on Palm Sunday. I went back with Dr. Heffernan, who is a parapsychologist, and he brought with him a girl that he used as a medium. He did a whole afternoon and said the house was cleansed and that we would smell violets. Well, I smelled flowers but I didn’t smell violets; I smelled something much less desirable. I was incredibly suspicious from that point on, that anything of value had been done.
So the house was investigated a numbers of times. It was investigated basically three separate times, plus the Warrens had gone in on their own with Laura DiDio, the first time on their own. So that’s 4 separate visits by qualified people — or seemingly qualified people. One of the hardest things back then was weeding out the ones without credentials from the ones who did have credentials. That’s another horror story.
Dr. Holzer had completely certified that the house was haunted. He felt that what Ethel Johnson Myers had discovered was that it was an Indian Chief, and he also felt that he had got a couple of photographs of the likeness of that individual. [He said] that this Indian Chief was incredibly angry and that the house would be a real problem to live in.
Without a doubt, we made the right decision. We left everything and we started over, and that was hard enough to do on its own. I don’t think we could have gone back there and survived.
Horror.com: Did you have any odd experiences after you left the house, or has your life been supernatural-free since then?
Lutz: Oh, I wish I could tell you that it’s been warm and wonderful. As a matter of fact, someone emailed me a question about that this morning — they asked me if I felt that what was in the house had left and come to follow us, or bother us, after we had moved. The way I always looked at it back then was that it had reached out from there, that it had never left as such. That doesn’t mean that today the house is a problem; I only talk about it when I owned it.
Horror.com: I see. So I have to ask, since the first thing I think of whenever I wake up at 3:15 is you, what do you think of? Do you ever wake up at 3:15?
Lutz: [laughs] Oh, yeah, sure. I’m sure as I get older I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, every night.
Farrands: [laughs] It seems like people have made a lot of that idea. Including, and especially, in the new movie. I mean, they bonk you over the head with it.
Horror.com: I know, but I’ve felt this way ever since I read the book and this was years ago, long before the remake. It’s been in my mind ever since then.
Farrands: It’s even more so, now. From my own research, this is an approximate time of the DeFeo murders. It seemed that, it was around that time that he [Lutz] was waking up and being drawn to the boathouse, inexplicably. Just another thing. It was never more than just another thing.
Horror.com: [laughs] Buzz-kill. OK, now speaking of the boathouse… to right the wrong in the remake about what happened to the dog, Harry…
Farrands: He was a black lab.
Horror.com: Mr. Lutz, can you clear up what really happened with the dog? I know you didn’t kill him in the book, and I remember clearly that in the first movie, the character went back into that awful house to save the dog before fleeing — big difference in the 2005 version.
Lutz: Harry was a terrific dog. At that point, he was about a year and a half old, and he was pretty much fearless. But the very first day we moved in, he literally hung himself trying to get out of the dog run. We had chained him in there so we could move stuff without worrying about he was going to run off to, and he climbed over the fence but the chain was too short for him to get all the way over so he was hanging there. We had to lift him back into the pen.
Farrands: You mean, you didn’t ax him to death? [sarcastic laugh]
Lutz: He lived with us for years and years later. We took him with us out to California. We got there on Mother’s Day 1976, which is when he escaped New York and landed in San Diego. He was such a good dog.
Horror.com: What about that scene in the first movie?
Lutz: I promise you, we never forgot him. That wasn’t possible. He was a member of the family and we had him for a long time and enjoyed every moment of it.
Horror.com: It’s interesting you should mention that the dog had problems starting on day one, because animals are ultra-sensitive to danger.
Lutz: His patterns of behavior really changed. One example is that when Kathy discovered what was called the Red Room down in the basement — that was the small room that was painted all red and was hidden behind a bookcase — we’d taken him down there to show it to him and he cowered away from it. It was the only time I ever saw him cower away from anything. But he wouldn’t go near that room. The times that I would hear the front door slam in the middle of the night and I’d go running downstairs to see what had happened, or I would hear what I can only term as the sound of a marching band tuning up and walking around down there stomping on the floor, Harry would be asleep. He would be undisturbed by this. He would be sleeping right by the front door. The very night that we were out of the house and had moved in with Kathy’s mom, he was tied to the piano and he dragged that piano in his sleep, across the room. For years, he would have nightmares, but those became less and less. But he had so much built up in him, and he could not express it to anyone, that he worked it out in his sleep. It was a terrible thing to watch.
Horror.com: Switching gears a bit here — Dan, are you in favor of the DVD, since it has your documentaries on it, or not?
Farrands: Well, I believe the documentaries alone are for sale through the History Channel website. I guess I can only say that I think these shows are the saving grace of this boxed set. I mean, not to pat myself on the back, but when they bundle the original movie, which certainly had its share of problems in accuracy, with two other movies that were pure fiction, I suppose it’s a good thing to include a program that at least attempts to give you an overview of the true story and the controversies surrounding it. In Hollywood there really is such a limited interest in doing anything based on the truth. This fiction had been done and it was a little bit more exciting in a visceral way, so Hollywood had sort of figured that, you know, why deal with the truth? There really wasn’t blood dripping down the walls and all these things that they said and put in all of these films. The truth has gotten lost.
So I think to have a documentary that at least attempts to portray the truth of what happened and to go and interview the people who were involved — and even some of the people who weren’t involved but thought they were, and attempted to trade on it and make a name for themselves by saying that they had some incredible knowledge that this was all baloney. Or that the family had admitted to some sort of hoax. I really wanted the Lutzes to have their fair share of screen time and to be able to say their peace.
I think especially for Kathy in particular, I remember when we finished the interview with her, which went on for about 8 hours and was in the blazing hot early summer months in Arizona, and it was a tiny room and those lights, and… And she was very ill at the time. I just remember that when we finished the interview there was sort of a sense of closure for her. You know, that she had finally said her peace, she wished us well with it, and I think she put some faith in me that we would not misquote her or take her out of context, and she was very thankful. I think I spoke to her once very briefly after it aired and she seemed very pleased.
Lutz: She was pleased. I think I can absolutely say that. What I should express here though, is that, that 8 hours of grilling… these people had their questions ready, and we kept waiting for them to say, “Ah, we got you. We tripped you up.” And I think in the backs of their minds, after hearing some people proclaim so loudly that what we had experienced was not true, that they had to do this in a way that satisfied their own curiosity.
Farrands: Kathy’s responses, in particular… I mean, she took so much time before she really articulated. She articulated everything very well, but it wasn’t rehearsed. When we asked a question, she would stop and really consider the answer before she attempted to give an explanation. I haven’t experienced something like the Lutz family did, but I think it’s very difficult in layman’s term to explain something that’s like a psychological attack.
From everything I know, what happened in that house was a very calculated psychological attack — there were some physical things that happened as well, but from their perspective it really appeared that it was trying to get at the family unit. I never came away with any sense that this was fabricated — there was enough evidence and from other people that we also interviewed, such as Laura DiDio, the Warrens, and even people that you wouldn’t imagine. There were several people that we interviewed in the town of Amityville today those sort of the man-in-the-street interviews you try to capture when you’re on location - and people we got to know, who were very open-minded about this story and even talked to us about some other strange things that they claimed happened in the house in later years. Whether that is, from their point of view, urban myth or people trying to kind of associate themselves with what is arguable the own’s most famous story, The official stance is that nobody in the town believes that any of this is true, but I can tell you from my experience that there are a number of Amityville residents today who haven’t written it off.
There are still stories about the house — of things that have happened, or people who have seen things and heard things. Whether those things are documented, I can’t comment on that. But it appears that there’s a real rift between people who want to say it’s true and people who say it wasn’t.
I think it’s unfortunate for the town, because even though it sort of brought some of this kind of phenomena to light and I think, in many ways, for other people who experienced this sort of thing, it gave them the confidence to come out and say, “Yes, this stuff does happen.” The Lutzes have been contacted over the years by a number of other families who have gone through a similar ordeal. The downside for the community was, it’s a little bedroom community on Long Island, and it’s very peaceful — you know, Amityville means the Town of Friendship — and what they had to contend with was the public interest in this story and the hoards of people parading up and down the streets looking to, you know, see the ghosts… There was one story of a man who brought goats to eat the grass, to try to drive the evil spirits out. It brought out all kinds of people, especially after the book and movie came out.
Horror.com: Well, I am curious to know about the book title. Doesn’t putting the word “horror” in it sensationalize it right there?
Lutz: I think [author, Jay] Anson pulled it from a work done by someone years earlier called The Dunwich Horror.
Farrands: I didn’t know that. That makes sense.
Lutz: [laughs] Well, you never asked me, Dan!
Farrands: The one question I forgot to ask in that 8 hour interview… Damn.
Horror.com: What advice do you have for people who might be going through what you went through?
Lutz: I can certainly understand why someone who experiences this kind of thing would not want to talk about it, back then, for fear of ridicule. And I can more than understand now why… if you were going to consider going public and coming forward talking about this kind of thing as something that happened to you now, you might have better tools than we had back then. New electronics have been developed and certainly, there are a lot more qualified people available to help. Communications are so much more advanced that it might go better for someone else to get it documented and get the right people involved and find out what’s really going on.
The first thing that anyone needs to do is, if they find themselves in this kind of situation or hear of it, is you know need to leave it. You need to get away from it. You need to get some perspective and collect your thoughts. When Dan spoke about the onslaught of psychological attacks that accompanied this, there is a complete breakdown of communications that go on. There are mood swings, and headaches and nausea, and all kinds of physical reactions, but there are also deeper layers of self-doubt and there are thoughts that come that you know are not your own. When they come, and you begin to realize that something is going on that is just not right, that is just not normal, that is just not part of your own nature. You really do need that space from where ever it is that you are that you’re experiencing that so you can collect your thoughts and you can collect a bit of perspective. You don’t deal with this stuff by yourself and survive. Without the help and we had and without the grace of God, I don’t believe that you and I would be having this conversation.
Farrands: And you didn’t need to have your family take you out and tie you up and drive away in a speedboat. [laughs sarcastically]
Horror.com: I know you haven’t seen it, but I imagine since there are lawsuits you’re going to have to watch the remake. Any thoughts on that?
Lutz: My friends who go with me [to see it] will probably tie me up to keep me from getting arrested. [Laughs, stops] One cannot steel oneself from the pain and misery that it will cause their own family. This will be another 25 years of undoing the effects of what people create who don’t have any care for the responsibility of what they do. This defames the story itself, it casts the story and my family in a completely false light. The damage it will do will continue and we will deal with it. I will not be silenced about this.
Farrands: No matter what [kind of business it does], people will see it. Today we have DVDs that bring these movies to a whole new generation of people and you know, the average American filmgoer, God love them because they’ve given me a career, will be duped into believing that this is the true story.
Horror.com: Well, horror fans are definitely going to the see the movie anyway, regardless. How do you counteract any falsehoods, since you can’t stop people from seeing it?
Lutz: Well, that’s not my intent. My intent is for people to understand what it is they are looking at. It’s a fabrication. It is our devout hope that someday… although the rights to make the original story into an accurate portrayal probably can never be done… but the sequel events, the events that happened to all the other people that were involved in helping us, [we’d like to see]. If Dan and I can find someone to make that movie, to find someone who’d be willing to do make a nonfiction movie about this, you bet.
Farrands: Which is why I think the documentary, so far, is as close as I could get to fulfilling that.
(Pictured: The Ryan Reynolds version of George Lutz)