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Tuesday, September 18, 2012


(This write-up is also posted on another of my blogs, THE SPLATTING NUN!)

One of the things about American culture that most fascinates me is our ability to get sucked up in and to continually believe things which we know have turned out to be hoaxes. Case in point: The Amityville Horror. Even as many years as it has been since the George and Kathy Lutz publicity debacle about the “haunting” at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, NY, there are folks who still believe that it happened. Even the Michael Bay-produced movie remake – oh, sorry, re-imagining of “The Amityville Horror” – specifically had star Melissa George in interviews talking about the original Lutz events as ‘factual’.

Anyway, because I’m a sucker for reading anything about this famous haunted house story about a house that was never haunted, I picked this book up three nights ago at – of all places – a grocery store.

Up until this time, I’d never heard of author Jackie Barrett, a psychic. This is not surprising, because I don’t really believe in psychics and will flip channels if I see one come on TV. I am equally annoyed at both psychic and anyone they’re with who appears to believe everything they’re being told. I used to like watching a psychic pry info out of their “mark” and then build on whatever tidbit they’re given, but now it’s just disgusting. Oops, I digress…

However, because Ms. Barrett is/has been in touch with Ronald DeFeo, Jr. (aka Ronnie or, as he prefers, “Butch”) and got him to open up about his 1974 crimes, I bought the book. I’d heard Butch on a previous TV interview indicate that his sister, Dawn, had a hand in the killings and then he turned his gun on her. There has never been any credible proof that Dawn was anything more than a victim. Perhaps Butch was telling this story to lessen his culpability. He sticks to this story in THE DEVIL I KNOW. Maybe he’s told it enough times that he now believes it.

For those not familiar with the crime, Butch DeFeo, one November 1974 night, shot and killed his entire family. Why? According to Butch, his father, Ronald Sr., was abusive to him. Therefore Butch wiped everyone in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue completely out. Boy, talk about taking out your anger on everyone.

If Butch is to be believed (and I’m not sure I’d believe him even if he said that skunks smell bad), Ronald Sr., routinely punched out Butch “for no reason” and even enlisted Butch’s help when the old man decided to confront one of his wife Louise’s alleged paramours, killed him and removed his heart. Butch related that his father brought the heart back home, showed it to Louise and that Louise had Butch bury it in a corner on the property grounds. The grave, Louise insisted, must be “four feet deep”.

Regardless, THE DEVIL I KNOW spends a lot of time going back and forth between Jackie’s contacts with Butch and the weird, completely unbelievable things that she reports within the boundaries of her own past and present. Her mother, Jackie claims, died while being exorcised.

Through astral projection or somesuch nonsense, Butch and Jackie travel back in time to see the DeFeos there in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue (since all the circus-like activity of curiousity seekers showing up and such, the address has been changed to 108 Ocean Avenue), according to the book. I usually only snicker while reading books if they’re the wonderful comedy mysteries of Kinky Friedman or any of a number of books by humorists, past and present. However, Jackie’s book kept me amused more than I’d expected it to.

Within the photos section of the book is a shot of Butch’s front tooth which fell out, supposedly, on the day before what would have been his mother’s birthday. There’s even a notarized “Certificate of Authenticity” from Butch as to the fact that it fell out exactly when he said it did. He believes, according to the statement, that losing the tooth was “payback” for his 1974 crimes. Jackie comments that the smell was unbelievably bad when she opened the envelope containing the tooth. Yeah, I would imagine that dental rot isn’t all that attractive an odor.

Actually, I’m surprised Butch has kept any of his teeth this long. From what I understand, inmates usually knock someone’s teeth out to make it “feel” like a vagina. I imagine that the other inmates would have had him wearing a dress, dancing in prison musical productions and calling Butch “The Amityville Ho”.

I think that the only “possession” Butch DeFeo suffered in 1974 was being a mean, spoiled, dumbass doper bully who couldn’t handle his high. Now he doesn’t have to worry about highs and lows other than taking whatever meds they give him now. Hope one of them is saltpeter.

The saving grace for this book, in my opinion, was the acknowledgement that the Lutzes and Butch’s defense attorney, William Weber, concocted the whole “ghost” story because 1). George Lutz needed out from under an outrageous mortgage (I learned from THE DEVIL I KNOW that the Lutzes never made even 1 mortgage payment to the bank before abandoning the house) and 2). To try and make some money from the story. George and Kathy Lutz did make some money off of the novel, “The Amityville Horror”, but some of it went right back out fighting lawsuits.

Poor Bill Weber didn’t really get his piece of this particular pie. I believe author Jay Anson, who “punched up” the fabrications (Anson was, after all, a Hollywood Publicist by trade), probably fared the best financially from the book.

He got a million dollar advance on his next book, “666”, which was another haunted house book, this time acknowledged as “fiction”. Anson died shortly after “666” was released and so never really had much of a chance to either enjoy its success or pay back some of that advance money if the book didn’t meet sales expectations.

From Berkley Books in their “True Crime” line.