Thoughts on Amityville Horror

I often find myself going back and forth between belief and skepticism whenever I hear stories of hauntings. I believe that everyone has a spirit and that we do pass on after these life. And I do believe that there are devils and demons or at the very least angry spirits who can’t accept their fate. But something I’ve never understood, is if there really are spirits, good and bad, why would they care about us? Okay, so I can kind of see why previous owners of the house would be attached to their home and not like someone else there. But I don’t see how or why powerful demons would go after individuals living in a house. Wouldn’t they have something more important to be doing? I know, those of you who have read my work in progress might be ready to scratch their heads at what I’m saying. But I’m working through that.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some serious scary moments in this book. But because it’s a “true story” it read too much like a deposition than a story. The majority of the book, to me, felt like someone just relaying the events without having me experience them with the characters. Others may not have felt that way. But it did feel that way to me. The wording in the book is a great example of filter words with how often we see “George could feel” instead of “George felt.” That’s a big problem I always have to go back through in my own work and something I still miss often. I did try to keep an open mind which is why many of the events did freak me out when I imagined myself in their situation. But too often I was pulled out of the story so that I wasn’t experiencing it with them.

That said, let me repeat that the events they experience would be incredibly scary and would be an interesting study for parapsychologist and others. I can even see how it would spur such a following in film. Yeah, pretty sure I wouldn’t like my little girl talking to a devil pig. That’s just messed up.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Amityville Horror”

  1. But something I’ve never understood is if there really are spirits, good and bad, why would they care about us?

    That is an excellent question; one that I’m always hoping is explained within the landscape of the book. However, it is true The Amyitville Horror doesn’t even begin to address this. A reader is left to assume the house’s spirits are angry with Godliness. Their first target is Father Mancuso. They attack crucifixes. They get butthurt when the Lutz’s walk though the house murmuring bible verses. Even Jodie the Pig is identified as “demonic.” However, that doesn’t explain why the (alleged) specters at 112 Ocean Avenue are bent out of shape. Surely even Those Beyond The Veil have reasons for doing things…right? I mean, manifesting onto the material plane uses a huge amount of energy—which is often documented by Ghost Busters—so there must be something worth fighting that strongly about…right? (Flash back to Grace’s final words in The Others movie. Now that is a ghost with an agenda.)

    Socially something was happening during the ‘70s. As a kid I can’t remember much but there was something going on. Men were acting weird, all teary-eyed and sensitive, wearing “porn-staches” and unkempt facial hair. Shoeless, too, like when singers too to the stage. That always wigged me out. Mom always made me wear shoes when I went outside. Where were their moms? But anyway, this—grabbing for terminology learned as an undergraduate—sociological restructuring of gender roles and expectations of the times caused significant anxiety. Indeed, fiery rhetoric was being preached from the pulpit against female equality. “The man was Head of the Household,” and all that type of stuff. Doing otherwise was against God’s Plan. Thus, it was EEEvill.

    So, if we look at the body of fiction that arrived during the 70s we can (perhaps) see this subtext. Thing had turned upside down, social rules were skewered, the once-reliable was proving to be hollow, kids and wives were wrestling power from the hands of the Entrenched Patriarchy. (Horrors!) God’s Rule was being challenged and—gasp—the challengers were winning! Horror movies and books of the 70s carried a heavy encumberment of these sociological stresses. Anson’s The Amityville Horror is a splendid example of this social panic. Something EEEvill was forcing the Lutz family out of the hetronormative social pattern. Something EEEvll crept through that house. Was it that new-fangled meditation stuff? That certainly wasn’t Godly…

    Thus we are left asking: did the ‘70s create the hysteria of The Amityville Horror, or did The Amityville Horror give voice to the hysteria/Religious Renaissance of the ‘70s?

  2. I agree that the writing brought this story down. It straddled the line between non-fiction and didn’t work well for either in my opinion. The writing was elementary and didn’t help move the story along at all. I’ve always wondered why demons target who they target and why. I guess you could argue that they aim to cause chaos and suffering on any level.

  3. Yeah, some of the horror always starts to dissipate when I reflect on the reasoning behind the evil spirit’s actions. It usually comes down to “Man, I guess spirits are really just assholes.” To be fair, there definitely is something scary in the idea of a being that’s just unstoppably, irrationally hateful, but it only works for me if the story doesn’t give an explanation for the hate. Too often a ghost’s hatred is the product of some past injustice they experienced while alive, and their consequent decisions to simply hate everyone ever for all eternity makes me less scared than confused.

  4. “But I don’t see how or why powerful demons would go after individuals living in a house.”

    Aside from the bad writing, lack of characterization, and buckets of EEEEEEvil, Your statement is one of the many problems with the heart of this story. Since there were no previous reports of demonic activity at the Amityville house, if Weber and the Lutzes wanted to create a believable hoax, they might have started with the idea of a haunting by the murdered members of the DeFeo family. They had a reason to be in the house. However, there was speculation that part of the reasoning behind the hoax (along with making money) was to create sympathy for Butch DeFeo—if demons made him do it, he wasn’t wholly responsible for his actions. Which brings us back to your question—why did the demons decide to pick on DeFeo?

    Having read your WIP, your demons didn’t just say “Hey. We’re bored. Let’s pick on this kid.” If I’m reading things correctly, they have a reason for taking an interest in him.

  5. It’s probably just me and my overactive imagination, but I could piece together a theoretical answer as for why the demons went after the people in this one specific house, but eh… What’d be the point?

    I think that you’re right about the passive voice. For me that and the absolutely ludicrous nature of the story completely defused whatever fear had been brewin’ for me. The moment something becomes unbelievable? The fear potential automatically becomes defunct.

    Good post.

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