Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Amityville Apocrypha

Long Island, New York, the scene of a real life nightmare that is quite possibly without precedent in capturing the dark curiosity of millions. Here lies the small town of Amityville . . . a name that has been secreted into legend from a simple suburb and transformed into a word that conjures up something much more outlandish . . .

There is much myth here, and much fact. All of you might have an inkling of knowledge regarding the horrors that befell the Lutz family in 1975: tracing the arc of history we find their experiences only an epilogue to the brutal day of infamy when Ronald Defeo murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters while they slept. He was quoted later by the police saying: 'I couldn't stop if I wanted to, Hell; I thought somebody was moving me.' Is he implying, even then, that other forces were conspiring against him? Through all the rubble that defines this case, through all negative criticism of the investigators and movies that befell it, there is an underlying core of truth that cannot be silenced: something happened within those walls which classify it as a modern day horror story.

It was December 1975, only thirteen months after that tragedy that the Lutz's decided to purchase the home on
Ocean Avenue. Knowing full well what had transpired, the idyllic scenery and price was something that couldn't be countered against. Twenty Eight days later (another good movie- ha, ha) they would flee in abject terror with no belongings and never return . . . to this day their testimony stands rigid and unflinching in front of the hardest skeptics.

Upon first viewing the original film when I was eight years old, something struck a nerve in me: the attic windows perched atop the side of the house like inverted malign eyes were something to do with it, but overall that innocence created a tapestry of belief that one finds lacking in the adult. Not only was the jury still out regarding all things supernatural, I was heavily leaning toward it being a common reality due to some personal experiences in my house that weren't exactly . . . run of the mill. There was fear, delicious fear, and I credit the original for giving me a life-long obsession with the genre.

If you are reading this, the chances are very high that you've seen it; if not, go out and grab it now. The picture was conceived in a naive time that makes it somehow classier than some of the fodder offered today. Like The Omen, there is an intelligence that lends it certain panache. The old adage of 'they don't make them like they used to' applies here more than anything else, and if you can suspend your skepticism , even just for a few hours , join me again in the second part as we examine the remake, the legacy, and beyond -

Before tackling the second piece I went back to the vault and re-read Jay Anson's THE AMYTIVILLE HORROR. (Hence the delay). I wanted to immerse myself in what started it all ... and not be tainted by the plethora of celluloid. Jay Anson tells a good tale (regardless of its authenticity); and you'll find yourself enraptured whether the belief is there or not.

Throughout the ages, many families have claimed to experience what the Lutz's have: persistent knocking, footsteps, and overall negative karma that made each individual want to war with one another. Should we discredit them so easily when so many have come forward to attest these occurrences?

During 2001 I resided in
Glenelg, South Australia. An ancient area, considering this is where our State was proclaimed. Around the time of March, I considered it the height of hilarity to fool around with an Ouija board. Do not get me wrong: I love horror, always have; but stories involving the supernatural have only ever belonged within the page, I was neither a believer nor a disbeliever. I just wanted to have a bit of fun. If it worked, cool. If it didn't, cool.

It worked.

I won't go into the details of who contacted me or why. Suffice it to say things after that became . . . weird. And it affected all areas of my life: work, home: everything. There was a constant and prevalent sensation of being watched. I would wake up at exactly the same time every night with a scream on my lips, as if I'd just had the absolute ballbreaker of a nightmare but couldn't remember what it was . . . My cat (who had never exhibited this before) would stare into corners transfixed by something that wasn't there. My partner at the time was not oblivious to any of this and noticed a dramatic change in both our personalities. One night, entirely sober - I saw something from the corner of my eye that resembled a green mask . . .

All of this is a way of saying I believe the Lutz's story. There are things we will never understand: to think we're just mortal creatures that do not share this space with others is entirely arrogant and foolish. What the original film did, essentially, is bring those primitive fears out: we forget what it's like to be really scared. The child within whispers these things, but we hardly ever give it attention. Perhaps because we don't want to listen . . .

The remake (starring Ryan Reynolds and
Australia's Melissa George) ignored these elements and went straight for visceral horror. Overall - for horror fans - it's a damn good film. Believer's, however, are let down. What we see is just a revisionist's take that brings it into the next century. That's not to say it's not worth viewing: at least it brings attention to the horror genre and enhances the regular 'Joe's' perception of it. The actors are all great , the direction spot on. The real tale, however, is never addressed.

Over the years, rumors have abounded which claim to prove the Amityville case a fraud. How these rumors started and how they became so ubiquitous is unclear; what is clear is that numerous investigators have seen the house for themselves, and experienced some of the phenomena which occurred. They have photographs and reports which show remarkable proof of the existence of very remarkable phenomena in that house.

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