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George Lutz Primetime Live Internet Chat (2002)

Following a segment of "Primetime Live" which dealt with The Amityville Horror, George is invited to an internet chat on their website to answer questions from the public.

 

Primetime Live Internet Chat
(Nov 1, 2002)

House of Horrors

Dream House Turns Out to Be Haunted – Or Was It?

Oct. 31 – When George and Kathy Lutz moved into the three-story colonial in Amityville on New York's Long Island in December 1975, they were thrilled.

The sprawling house at 112 Ocean Ave. had cost them just $80,000, and they loved it. "It was a dream come true," George Lutz remembers.

True, the house had been the scene of a horrible multiple murder a little over a year before, when 23-year-old Ronnie DeFeo went from room to room methodically shooting his parents and his four brothers and sisters in their beds. But the Lutzes sat down with their three young children and agreed the family could handle it.

Just in case though, the day they moved in they had a priest, Father Ray Pecoraro, bless the house. According to Lutz, the priest said he felt an unseen hand slap him in the sewing room and heard a voice say "Get out." Then, Lutz says, Pecoraro became ill with flu-like symptoms and his hands began to bleed.

The family moved in anyway, but within days they began to notice strange phenomena.

"There were ... odors in the house that came and went," Lutz says. "There were sounds. The front door would slam shut in the middle of the night.... I couldn't get warm in the house for many days."

Lutz says the family kept the fireplace burning day and night in a futile attempt to stay warm, and found strange gelatinous drops on the carpet when they woke up in the morning. At times, he claims, his wife was physically transformed into an old woman, with the face, hair and wrinkles of a 90-year-old.

Lutz claims that he mysteriously woke at 3:15 a.m. almost every day – around the same time the DeFeo murders were believed to have happened. One night, he says, he heard his children's beds "slamming up and down on the floor" above him but he was unable to do anything because he was immobilized in bed by an unseen force. Later that night, he woke to see his wife levitating and moving across the bed, he says.

The next morning, just 28 days after they moved in, the Lutz family fled the house, leaving their clothes in the closets and food in the refrigerator. If the family had not left, Lutz says, he believes something horrible would have happened. "I try not to think about it," he says.

Psychic Slumber Party

As word spread of the Lutzes' experiences, people interested in the paranormal contacted them. Two months after the Lutzes moved out, reporter Laura Didio assembled a group of psychic researchers to evaluate the family's claims.

The investigators spent a night in the house, walking from room to room trying to pick up ghostly vibrations. "It was like a psychic slumber party," Didio remembers.

One of the researchers, Lorraine Warren, remembers an "overwhelming feeling" of "horrible depression" in the house. The team also took a series of time-lapse photos of the upstairs landing. None of the photographs showed anything out of the ordinary except one, which had what Didio describes as "the face of what appeared to be a little boy, peering out from one of the bedrooms."

Meeting With a Murderer's Lawyer

Things returned to normal for the Lutz family after they left the house, and George Lutz began to wonder if it was the house's horrors that had driven DeFeo to kill his family.

"We realized there was something so wrong there that it would be inhuman, it would be improper, to just let him rot in jail and not try to help get him some kind of psychological help," Lutz said.

At his trial, DeFeo had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming he had heard voices and that on the night of the murders something out of his control made him kill. The jury rejected that defense and sentenced him to six life terms.

Lutz contacted DeFeo's attorney, William Weber, who was already fielding book proposals from publishers for his client's story. The Lutzes' story of a haunted house had the potential to drive up interest in a book, and Weber agreed to meet George and Kathy Lutz to hear their account.

Weber remembers the Lutzes as starting out in a "reserved" tone, with "no ranting and raving going on." But then, he says, the three went on to consume at least four bottles of wine and the evening turned into a creative writing session about what kind of thing could go into a horror book. "There was this give and take, and toward the end we were creating ideas," he said.

One such idea, according to Weber, was giving the gelatin drops the Lutzes found on the carpet a sinister explanation: "If you were talking about the green slime, why couldn't it have come from a demonic source?" he told Primetime.

Weber says he never believed the Lutzes' account of inexplicable happenings during their stay on Ocean Avenue. "Absolutely not. Because they were making a commercial venture," he said.

Lutzes Find Another Project

The Lutzes say they felt pressured by Weber and did not like his idea of offering a share of the profits to DeFeo. They decided not to work with him and, after moving to California, ended up agreeing to a book project with author Jay Anson.

The result, The Amityville Horror: A True Story, released in 1976, went through 13 printings and sold more than six million copies. The film version, released three years later, was a huge box-office success. But the Lutzes never signed a contract with Anson, and the book and the film netted the family only about $300,000, the family says.

Lutz admits that some of the scenes in the book and the movie – such as the green slime – were an embellishment. But he insists the book and the movie are based on events that actually happened during the family's 28-day stay in the house.

He denies making anything up, saying that if they had, they would have come up with a better story and would not have fled their house, leaving their belongings behind. But he says people are entitled to call his story a hoax if that's what they think. "I can't tell them what to think. I can just say what I experienced."

Medium Says Indian Chief Was on Warpath

Weber continued to pursue his book project, enlisting Hans Holzer, a professor of paranormal psychology, self-styled ghost catcher, and author of dozens of books on the occult.

In 1977, Holzer visited the Ocean Avenue house with a medium who claimed to be able to talk to the dead. According to Holzer's account, the medium went into a trance and said there was an Indian chief on the warpath in the house because it had been built on the site of a sacred burial ground. Holzer believes Ronnie DeFeo was possessed by the angry spirit of the Indian chief, and that the chief will not leave the house until it burns down and leaves the land bare.

But members of the Montauket tribe of Long Island are skeptical of Holzer's theory, saying there are no records of a burial ground in Amityville. Even if there were, "that doesn't mean we will go into somebody's body and capture their soul and control in a very negative way ... that's not us," said the tribe's Chief Straight Arrow Cooper.

Joe Nickell, a professional skeptic who has made a career out of challenging claims of paranormal activity, believes there is no scientific basis for any of the claims, from Holzer, the Lutzes or anyone else: "The bottom line is that ... it was a hoax, or is, simply, at best, a matter that's not proven. And that's not very good for America's most famous haunted house."

As for DeFeo, he told Primetime he lied when he said he heard voices commanding him to kill, and was only trying to create a better insanity plea. He is still serving six life sentences in an upstate New York prison.

So in the end, who is telling the truth? After nearly three decades, there is very little proof either way – though no one who has lived in the house on Ocean Avenue since the Lutzes has reported any strange activity.

House of Horrors?

A Chat With Ex-Amityville Resident George Lutz

Nov. 1 – In 1974, Ronnie DeFeo Jr. made headlines when he murdered his parents and four siblings in their suburban Long Island home. A year later, George and Kathy Lutz purchased the sprawling three-story home. But just 28 days after moving in, the family made a run for it, leaving all their possessions behind.

The Lutz family claims they were spooked by strange odors and sudden noises in the middle of the night. They say they witnessed apparitions, levitations and mysterious life forces.

Their story would later become a best-selling book and blockbuster movie – The Amityville Horror.

But was it all just a hoax?

George Lutz joined a live chat with ABCNEWS.com readers on Friday, Nov. 1. The transcript follows.


MODERATOR: Welcome to our live chat! Our guest today is George Lutz, former resident of America's most haunted house in Amityville, N.Y. The Lutz family's story would later become a best-selling book and blockbuster movie, The Amityville Horror. Welcome – and thanks for joining us!

You knew that a whole family had been murdered in the Amityville house a year before. Didn't that make you think twice before moving in?

GEORGE LUTZ: We talked about it as a family for quite a while. Kathy and I were concerned that the children might not be comfortable or might not want to live in such a house. When we were convinced that the kids were okay with it, we went ahead with arrangements to try to purchase the house.

So yes, it was a concern. But that concern went away once we had spoken as a family.


MODERATOR: Can you describe some of the things that happened in the 28 days you spent in the house?

GEORGE LUTZ: When I look back at it now, what comes to mind first and foremost is the subtle but increasingly severe changes in our relationship as family – the way we treated each other, talked to each other. In general, we retreated into our own little corners of the house. We changed as a family.

What that means today is that we were no longer the same people 28 days later. We went in there as a happy family and came out very frightened and very confused, and very worried about our ability to survive with our sanity intact.

I don't mean to be rude to not go into all the details of what happened. But one of the reasons we wrote the book was to not have to relive the events, which is what happens with the retelling.


MODERATOR: Do your children back up your claims that the house is haunted?

GEORGE LUTZ: You need to understand that I don't speak for the children, just as I don't speak for Kathy. They're all grown-ups, they all have their own lives, they all have their own memories.

As a family, there isn't one of us who denies anything that ever happened there; we all know what happened. But the kids are no longer kids and have their own stories to tell if they so choose – and that is their right.

I can understand them not wanting to, because of all the distortion that happens when you begin to talk about this kind of thing. But my own conversations with each of them, even over the last year, reminds me of how good their memories are, and how severely they were affected there as well.


MODERATOR: Did paranormal activity follow your family after you left the home on Ocean Ave.?

GEORGE LUTZ: Yes it did – for a number of years and in a lot of different ways. Over those years, there were many, many times that we thought the activity had stopped. But just as many times, we came to believe otherwise.

We worked very, very hard at trying not to blame the "house" on things that would go wrong. But too many events take away the possibility of randomness. It's been a long time now since we've been as concerned as we used to be about this.


SEAN: Would you say you were a skeptic when it came to ghost-type things before these phenomena began occurring around you? Also, at the height of the disturbances, were you or any of your family physically hurt as a direct result of these happenings?

GEORGE LUTZ: Absolutely, we were all skeptics – including the kids. I don't think we would have bought the house if we weren't.

My son Danny's hands were crushed in a window. Our dog Harry literally hung himself by his chain over a fence trying to leave the property.

When we did the lie-detector test years later with Chris Gugas and Michael Rice, one of the questions asked of Kathy was: Is it true that you turned into a 90-year-old lady? It took a very long time for the effects of that to disappear.

I personally lost about 25 pounds in the house; I was ill much if not most of the time we were there.


MICHAEL: Do you believe whatever may be in the house was there before the DeFeo murders or as a result of the murders?

GEORGE LUTZ: We came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with the house and wanted to get it fixed so that we could move back into the house after we left.

The idea that what was there was there long before the DeFeos didn't really have the credibility until we did research on the house and the investigators (the Warrens and Holzer) came in to see what it was DeFeo thought was there.

When we think back upon it now, then yes, I would certainly say that the general conclusion back then was that what was there was very old, very intelligent and very strong; it had the ability to reach out from there and affect lives on many different levels to the point that of all the people that were involved with us then, as far as we know, only the Warrens still live in the same house that they did then.

That house changed everyone's lives.


AMY: Did you ever retrieve your possessions from the house, or was everything left there and disposed of?

GEORGE LUTZ: Some friends went back and got one of my motorcycles, which I eventually crashed in California, and a wooden chest that my grandfather had made for me. Other than that, we retrieved nothing else.

We left our clothes, food, boats, and furnishings. Everything. It was eventually auctioned off in April or May of 1976. After that, we gave the house back to the bank, forfeiting our down payment, and we were glad to be relieved of the responsibility of selling the house to someone else.


DEKLAN: Although I am highly skeptical of the paranormal, I do believe that you and your family experienced something. Whether it was mass hysteria or a true paranormal phenomenon will never be known. I remember reading the book as a teenager, and it scared the hell out of me. That book along with Stephen King's books kept me up quite a few nights.

What was the slimy stuff that you described seeing in the mornings on the carpet? Also, what happened to the priest that blessed your house? How did he die?

GEORGE LUTZ: The slimy stuff was like drops of jello that went from room to room. At first, we thought it could have been the kids, but it wasn't. There was also a teardrop kind of ooze from the keyholes in certain doors. It was a hard substance, almost like epoxy, and grew longer as were there. But there was no blood from the walls, as in the movie.

I personally do not know that Father Ray is dead. His life was turned upside down by the publicity from all of this. Eventually, he changed states and went on to get a degree in forensic psychiatry.


ANGELIA: Can you explain why other people that have lived in that same house have experienced nothing?

GEORGE LUTZ: I don't know that that is true. I don't believe that any family since us has ever had the house blessed or investigated by a serious psychic team. But they all have had financial problems. And it is probably the most divorced house in the United States; almost every couple that's lived there has since divorced.

Of course, there are all kinds of stories – but they're those families' stories, and not mine.


SEAN O: What was your initial reaction to the movie?

GEORGE LUTZ: Well the first cut, if you can imagine, was even worse than the released version. Since I had no control over what they had done, the only way I could get some changes made was to agree to do publicity for them.

One of the hard things to explain to people is how the rights were obtained by the movie company. Initially, Anson sold the rights to CBS. Then, American International Pictures wanted the rights and came in and made a new deal with Anson and CBS.

They then paid Anson and came to us and said: "We're going to make this movie." And we said: "How are you going to do that? We have signed no contract with you and have none of your money."

After about six weeks of negotiations, Kathy and I obtained the sequel rights, which is basically unheard of in such a case, and agreed to let them go forward with the movie.

So we had no control over what they did, but at least it left us in control of our own story in the future.


CINDY: Why did you let Anson "embellish" your story in his book? Were you more interested in telling a good tale or telling your story?

GEORGE LUTZ: We didn't write the book – Anson did. To this day, I don't think Kathy has ever read it.

To understand how this came about, we finally had a contract with the publisher in August 1977, when the book was due to be released two weeks later. It was already printed and shipped.

That doesn't mean we didn't contribute to the book – of course we did. We had done a number of cassette tapes, talking out most of our experiences, and gave him those tapes.

We did the tapes really for ourselves – not for anyone else, let alone for a book. They weren't exactly coherent, and it was just us sitting around talking about all the different things that had happened in no particular order.

We had done our own research about the history of the house, and the Warrens had agreed to be interviewed by Anson, and so had the priest.

We left New York with a verbal agreement with Anson on Mother's Day 1976. The agreement was that if he was able to write a book and get it published, then we would have a contract with him. During the process of all this, there were different galleys sent out to us that we worked hard to correct. But ultimately, the control of the content was in the hands of the publisher and the author.

When I think back to then, I was not dissatisfied with the book – and I'm not today.


J. CALLAHAN: I've never seen the picture of the little boy on the landing before, and can find no reference to it on any of the Amityville Internet Web sites, pro or con. What person or organization actually took the picture? Where has it been all these years? Is there any documentable past reference to its existence?

GEORGE LUTZ: The first time that picture was shown was on the Merv Griffin show back in 1979. It was discovered 3 years after it was taken.

Gene Campbell, who was a professional photographer, was brought into the house in 1976 when the Warrens went in with their team. He set up an automatic camera on the 2nd floor landing that shot off infrared film, black and white, throughout the night. There are literally rolls of film with nothing on them. There's only one picture of the little boy.

In 1979, I was putting together a book that has yet to be published that included the photographs, many of which were on the show last night. The secretary I had at the time was about eight months pregnant. We had dozens of these pictures to choose from that didn't have the boy, and she asked me: "Which one should we put in the book?"

I told her to just pick one. She came running back into my office about 5 minutes later saying that every time she picked up the photograph with the boy, the baby kicked her.

We then asked my kids if they knew who this was. Missy said it was the little boy she used to play with in the house.

I then called the Warrens and the photographer and let them know about the picture. We licensed the photograph to the History Channel's documentary 2 years ago. But it hasn't been published in a book yet.


KEVIN HOTT: Would you return to the house today if you were given the opportunity? Would you stay in the house for a night 27 years later?

GEORGE LUTZ: No – I can think of no circumstance where I would consider that.

MODERATOR: George, do you have any final thoughts before we sign off?

GEORGE LUTZ: I don't have anything profound to say. We understood skepticism would be a large part of this story when we agreed to tell it. The last 25+ years have shown us just how much we underestimated that.

Just because we lived through this, we really don't think of ourselves as special. But we do think of ourselves as fortunate for having survived it.

We can only tell our story and it's not our place to tell other people what they should think. But I want to thank ABC for being so fair last night and for all of you having the interest to come here today.


GEORGE LUTZ: There is a site that deals with the truth of all of this. Go to amityvilleHorrorTruth.com. There is a forum there that deals with a lot of this. Thank you.

MODERATOR: Thanks to George Lutz – and all those who joined this live forum.

[Note: At the end, when George mentions a forum, he was referring to an earlier incarnation of the "Amitvyille Truth Forum" which is currently hosted on this site.]


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