By Matthew Wendler
Ronald DeFeo Jr. burst through the doors of Henry’s Bar pleading for help. It was around 6:30 p.m. Nov. 14, 1974. The 23-year-old claimed there was a shooting at his family’s home in Amityville, New York.
DeFeo led a group of men from the bar back to the DeFeo household, a three-story Dutch Colonial building located at 112 Ocean Ave. A sign hung on a lamp post outside. The words “High Hopes” were written. DeFeo refused to enter, so his friend Robert Kelske led the group inside. Kelske made his way to the second floor and entered the master bedroom. He found DeFeo’s parents, lying in bed on their stomachs. They were covered in blood. The men from Henry’s bar searched the rest of the house and found DeFeo’s siblings, dead, just like their parents. Ronald DeFeo Jr. was the only survivor.
Ronald DeFeo Sr., age 43; Louise DeFeo, age 42; Dawn DeFeo, age 18; Allison DeFeo, age 13; Marc DeFeo, age 12; and John Matthew DeFeo, age 9 had all been shot in their beds. Ronald and Louise had been shot twice and each child once. They were all found lying face down with no signs of struggle.
The police were called by one of the men at the bar. DeFeo sat outside the house, crying hysterically. When questioned, DeFeo claimed the murderer was mafia hitman named Louis Falini. The police, having no other leads, put DeFeo under protective custody.
During the investigation, police found boxes of ammunition for a .35 caliber marlin rifle inside Defeo Jr.’s room. Ballistic tests confirmed this refile to be the murder weapon. DeFeo stuck to his story that Falini was the killer. After hours of interrogation, DeFeo broke down and confessed to murdering his family.
“Once I started, I just couldn’t stop. It happened so fast.”
The shooting began around 3:15 a.m. Nov. 13, 1974. Following the murder, DeFeo tucked his family members neatly into bed, took a shower and changed his clothes. He discarded his blood stained clothes, the rifle and the used cartridges in a storm drain on his way to work that morning.
While talking with his attorney, William Weber, DeFeo made mention that he heard voices commanding him to kill his family. Weber told DeFeo his only option was to make an insanity plea, but the plea was denied after a psychiatrist determined DeFeo to be fully aware of his actions at the time of the shooting. The New York State Supreme Court found DeFeo guilty on six counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to 25 years to life Dec. 4, 1975.
Over the years, DeFeo changed his story on numerous occasions, even making claims that his sister Dawn was responsible for part of the murders. He was held at the Sullivan Correctional Facility until his death Mar. 12, 2021.
The house remained uninhabited for more than a year following the murders. In the summer of 1975, a recently married couple looked at the house with interest. George and Kathy Lutz were looking for a place that could accommodate their combined family. The retailers informed them about the events of the previous year, but ultimately the Lutzs decided it wouldn’t be a problem. They purchased the house for $80,000 and moved in along with their three children, Daniel, Christopher and Missy, Dec. 18, 1975.
A friend of the family recommended they call a Roman Catholic priest to bless the home in light of the murders. Although they were methodists, they agreed and got in touch with Father Ralph Pecoraro, who agreed to bless the house while the Lutzs were away. During the blessing, Pecoraro claimed he heard a disembodied voice while in the second floor sewing room. It told him,
The family claimed to have experienced strange things in the house shortly after moving in. They noticed the presence of cold spots in different areas of the house and odd odors with no source. The family complained about being awakened by jolting sounds at night. Large hoards of flies would swarm the windows and black stains would appear on much of their belongings.
George found himself continuously waking up around 3:15 a.m. The same time the murders took place. He seemed to go through a personality change while living in the house, becoming more secluded and angry. He came to spend the majority of his time tending to the fireplace in the living room. One night, George claimed to have woken up to find Kathy levitating above their bed. Kathy reported that she would often experience the feeling of being touched by an unknown force. She also claimed to have once woken up to find herself having the face of an old hag, which didn’t dissipate for hours.
The youngest child, Missy, mentioned to her parents a friend she made within the house. She said her name was Jodie. Missy described Jodie as an angel that could change forms, but would often take the shape of a large pig. Geroge and Kathy claim to have seen a pair of red eyes peering through the window from outside. Missy believed it was Jodie trying to get in.
On their final night, George claimed to have woken up to find Kathy levitating off the bed once again. He grabbed her and pulled her back to the bed’s surface. At some point later in the night, he felt paralyzed. In the room above, he heard the sound of his son’s beds, lifting up and slamming down against the floor. The family dog, Harry, was tied to the bedroom door at the time. Throughout the night, he ran around in circles, vomiting constantly.
The family fled the house Jan. 14, 1976. They left after staying for 28 days, leaving nearly all of their possessions behind. They never returned.
An investigation was conducted by self-proclaimed demonologists and married couple Ed and Lorraine Warren March 6, 1976. On the day of the investigation, the Warrens met with George four blocks from the house. He handed them the keys, providing scarce details of what he experienced and refused to assist.
Lorraine considers herself a clairvoyant. On the first floor, she claimed to have clairvoyantly seen a line of bodies under white sheets. Later, she walked up to the second floor and entered the sewing room. Once there, Lorraine became overwhelmed with a feeling of pressure and was quoted saying,
“I hope this is as close to hell as I’ll ever get.”
At one point, Ed walked down to the basement with a crucifix clutched in hand, asking for spirits to reveal themselves. Moments later, he found himself forced to the floor, struggling to breath.
Some of the people assisting in the investigation had to be taken out of the house after being plagued by a sudden illness. A few of them suffered from heart palpitations.
A photographer named Gene Campbell set up a camera on a tripod that took photographs automatically every couple minutes. The camera was pointed toward the stairwell on the second floor. In one of the photos, the face of a young boy with white eyes can be seen peeking over the stair rail. It is believed to be the face of John Matthew DeFeo.
The bank reclaimed the property Aug. 30, 1976, and the Lutz’s belongings were sold off at auction. George and Kathy’s marriage ended in divorce 1980. Kathy died of emphysema Aug. 17, 2004, and George died of a heart disease May 8, 2006. They’ve claimed their story to be true all the way to their deaths.
The house has had many owners over the following decades. The story of the haunting has drawn much attention, prompting many visits from tourists. The original address was changed as a way to keep unwanted visitors from trespassing among the premises. The third-floor quarter circle windows on the house’s side were also taken out. As of today, none of the new owners have reported anything strange.