Back from Australia! I have to admit, the last three weeks of my life have been insane, with this last week being the most chaotic in my entire life. Every aspect of my existence has been turned upside down. If you want to read about it, you can always go to my blog and read about it there. But this is strictly for folklore.
It’s a slightly phone in week while I adjust back to home life here, so forgive me for that.
1. The Biggest Supernatural Hoax of the 20th Century.
I can’t remember who I was with. It was either when I saw SAW in Australia with my friend Karma, or when I came back and saw the terrible Blade: Trinity with Matt Yeager, but at one of those two movies, a trailer for an upcoming film made me pause. Yes, that’s how insane this week has been. I can’t even remember that one detail.
The trailer was for the upcoming film: The Amityville Horror. This film is a remake of the original from the 1970’s which was base don the book by the same name.
What bothers me is that the trailer stated that the Amityville Horror is based on a true story. In fact, the truth about the Amityville house was debunked 25 years ago, but thanks to some great PR and urban legends, the tale is still considered true. I myself have spent a night in the house, and I can tell you it’s about as scary as an episode of Donna Reed or My Three Sons.
I thought since this column is all about the truth behind legends, what better topic could I cover today that sharing with you the true history of the Amityville Horror…
America’s most famous Haunted House is steeped in over twenty-five years of controversy. From the murders that started the publicity about the house, to the debates over whether or not the hauntings were nothing more than an elaborate hoax, the Amityville house has become a part a major part of American folklore.
One of the few aspects of the Amityville house that is considered fact by all sides is that on November 13th, 1974, one Ronald DeFeo Jr, rose from his second story room at 3am after watching a movie called, White Keep, and picked up a.35 Marlin rifle. From that point DeFeo brutally murdered his father and mother, Ronald Senior and Louise, and then moved on to murder his two brothers and sisters as well. In all, six people were murdered that early morning, and the eventual aftermath would send a 2 and a half story Dutch Colonial house into the annuals of Parapsychology.
Police reports state that all six bodies were found in bed. The sheer mystery behind how an entire family could sleep through gunshots made by a high-powered rifle is only the start of the controversy. AT DeFeo’s trial, two different psychiatrists argued heavily over the state of Ronald Jr’s sanity. Even after Ronald was given six consecutive life sentences for the murders he had committed, he continues to give the same eerie defense. Ronald admitted he had killed his family. And that he felt no remorse for the crimes. But insisted something had gotten inside him and forced him to kill the family he swore he loved. Was Ronald actually possessed by something from another world?
Many people believe DeFeo was actually possessed, but just any many feel that DeFeo’s defense attorney, William Weber convinced DeFeo to use the possession defense in hope of making a lot of money from a book deal. In fact, there are book contracts between the two men, and DeFeo was also slated to receive a percentage of book sales from the Lutz’s, whom we will meet later, as well as money from Hanz Holtzer’s book Murder in Amityville. Today, DeFeo sings a different story and claims he was tricked into perpetrated into a hoax by the aforementioned parties into making them rich. Yet is this because he truly was tricked, or simply bitterness that they made money of his psychotic murders? The truth about DeFeo’s actions may never be known, but those six murders were the starting point for the story that would eventually become knows as, The Amityville Horror. To Holzer’s credit, his book, Murder in Amityville, is more concerned with the court case and documentation of what occurred during the trial than the actual hauntings.
On December 18,1975 George and Katherine Lutz moved into 112 Ocean Avenue in the small town of Amityville. The house in question had six bedrooms, a huge yard and a swimming pool. But best of all was the price. Only $80,000. When they queried how such an incredible house could cost next to nothing, the broker explained that a year before, that house had been the sight of a mass murder. The Lutz’s, claiming they were not superstitious people, bought the house and moved in with their three children, Daniel, Chris, and Melissa, as well as their dog Harry. On January 14, 1976, a mere 28 days later, the Lutz family fled the house in fear, vowing never to return. What had happened?
It all started after the Lutz’s priest, Father Ralph Precario aka Father Ray aka Father Mancuso had blessed the house that strange supernatural events began to take place. Father Ray also claimed a deep masculine voice warned him to leave the house when he sprinkled holy water upon the floor. He then suffered from a strange sickness that plagued him until he transferred to another parish.
As for the Lutz’s they encountered stranger and more horrifying events over the next four weeks. The family began to see ghosts floating through their home. Windows across the house would break in unison. Swarms of flies would hover in the Children’s bedrooms. There would be extreme temperature changes, a ghostly parade every night, oozing slime from the walls, marked changes in personality, along with the stereotypical strangely appearing wounds and gashed, horrid smells and unexpected bouts of illness.
The Lutz’s also began to encounter Poltergeist style activities. Items would fly across the house violently and suddenly. Their telephone would repeatedly disconnect. And strangest of all, young daughter Melissa began talking to a demon only she could see that she named “Jodie.” It also was in the shape of a pig. Kathleen began to have psychic dreams were she saw the murder of the DeFeo family unfold, along with visions of Louise having an affair with the artist who painted the DeFeo family portraits. Interestingly enough, there was no evidence to show Louise having an affair. Another odd contradiction between the hauntings and reality was when George grew out his beard and hair, which they claimed made him look like Ronald DeFeo Jr. In actuality, Ronnie’s hair did not go past his neck. Even with these inconsistencies, the family began to live in a world of fear. The children refused to go to school. George refuses to go to work. Eventually, the family left the house and their worldly possessions behind in a desperate attempt to escape the evil that they believed lived within the house.
Soon after, the Lutz’s told their story to professional author, Jay Anson, whose book called, The Amityville Horror was published by Prentice-Hall in 1977. It was released as a non-fiction book. Although Anson had never visited the house, and made errors throughout his book, from minor mistakes about meteorological data, to utterly false floor plans of 112 Ocean Avenue being included in the book, it became a best seller and also became the basis for of the of highest grossing film of 1979, which had the same title as Anson’s book. This also set off a spree of Haunted House movies, books, and True Stories, including Smurl house.
Even if the story told by Anson and the Lutz’s was true, credibility was lost when John G. Jones wrote not one, but TWO sequels to the Amityville horror. These books were also credited with being “True” stories, yet Jones was not able to get the name of the children correct, calling them Greg Matt and Amy, instead of Danny, Chris and Melissa. Nor did Jones accurate state what George Lutz dud for a living, calling him an air traffic controller, instead of the manager for a surveying company.
More cracks began to appear in the Lutz’s story. A large one comes from the fact they claimed their house was built atop an abandoned well where the Shinnecock Indians would leave their sick and insane to die from exposure to the elements. In fact, the Shinnecock Indians lived nowhere near what would become the town of Amityville. All Indians on Long Island, which is where Amityville is located, were actually Montauckett. Although these Indians DID bury their dead in shell mounds along water, but there are no records of Sanitariums or Indian Burial grounds where 122 Ocean Avenue is located. The only Indian burial grounds around Amityville are now dumping grounds. As well, Native Americans are known to care for their injured and dying, and wouldn’t abandon them in a well. Other rumors of a satanic magician named John Ketchum living where the Amityville house now stands, an ancient cursed cemetery standing where the house now does, and the like were all proven false.
The infamous red room that the book and movie claimed was a “gate to hell” and where Ronald DeFeo jr. practiced black magic in was nothing more than where the DeFeo children kept their toys. Brunswick Hospital had no record of every seeing Danny Lutz whose hand was supposed smashed by a window controlled by the spirits in the house. George’s claims that the house was constantly freezing was proved not to be the work of ghosts, but nature as they lived on the water’s edge, and also had a heater that known to be faulty, even when the DeFeo’s lived there.
Worst of all for the Lutz’s is that many of their witnesses began to admit falsehoods about the case and book. Father Decorator admitted under oath during a civil case that the majority of the story was false. William Weber, the man who cooked up the entire “possession” defense for DeFeo appeared on a radio show in 1979 where he firmly stated the entire story was created in the Lutz’s kitchen over a few bottles of wine. After he came up with the idea, the Lutz ran with the tale and refused to share any of the profits with him. Weber sued for what he felt was his share of the book and movie profits, while the Lutz’s countersued to validate their tale. During that trial, both Lutz’s passed a lie detector test, but the results were of course inadmissible in court. The suit eventually ended with Judge Jack Weinstein finding verdict in favor of Weber, believing the Lutz’s had created a hoax with the sole intent of getting a book published.
Other names joined in the suit of the Lutz’s. Jim and Barbara Cromarty, who moved into the house after the Lutz’s, encountered no evidence of paranormal activity. The house was quiet as any other building. However, due to constant barrages by the media, tourists and assorted wackos, the Cromarty’s sued not only the Lutz’s, but also Anson and Prentice-Hall for 1.1 million dollars. The matter was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Father Ralph also sued the Lutz’s and publisher for invasion of privacy and distorting his words and involvement in the entire affair. He too, received an out of court settlement.
It should be noted that the Lutz’s were the only family to ever have a problem with the house. Families before the DeFeo’s and after the Lutz have reported no bizarre happenings during their stay in the building.
Although one cannot prove whether or not the Amityville house was actually haunted, it is quite easy from all the facts gathered that the story was at the very least, filled with embellishments. What is most important is not the debate of whether or not the Amityville house is a gateway to the netherworld, but that in 1974, six people died because someone snapped. If people truly did try to profit from the death of innocents, then they are far worse than the beings they claimed terrorized them for merely a month.
Anson, Jay. The Amityville Horror. New York: Bantam Books, 1977.
Auerbach, Lloyd. ESP, Hauntings and Poltergeists: A Parapsychologist’s Handbook.
New York: Warner Books, 1986.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits, The. New York:
Checkmark Books, 2000
Holtzer, Hans. Murder In Amityville. New York: Belmont Towers, 1979.
Holtzer, Hans. Ghosts: True Encounters with the World Beyond. Black Dog: New York,
Jones, John G. The Amityville II: The Possession. New York: Warner Books, 1982.
Jones, John G. Amityville: The Final Chapter. New York: Jove Books, 1985.
Kaplan, Stephen K. The Amityville Horror Conspiracy. New York: Toad Hall Inc., 1995.
Morris, Roberts L. The Case of the Amityville Horror. Review of the Amityville Horror
appearing in Kendrick Frazier, ed., Paranormal Borderlands of Science. Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1981.
The Amityville Murders: http://www.amityvillemurders.com
Amityville: The Web Site: http://www.jarrett.nu/amityville/main2.html
City of Amityville: http://www.amityville.com/
The Hoax in Amityville: http://chatanuga.topcities.com/Amityville.html
The Amityville Horror No Hoax page: http://members.tripod.com/~AmityvilleHorror/
The Amityville Horror Movie page: http://www.amityvillehorrormovie.com
2. Explaining the Golem
While I was in Australia, I joined in an Inside Pulse chat for the writers here. I can’t remember if it was Grutman or Daniels (again the last fortnight and a half have been a blur), but when I brought up the concept of the Golem, one of them stated they didn’t know what that was.
This surprised me, for a second, but then I realized not everyone is as anal retentive in their study of monsters as I am. :-P So I thought I’d share the reality of what a golem is with you. Not as in-depth as my Amityville Essay though. Just a quick rundown…
A golem (sometimes pronounced Goilem), in stems from early Jewish folklore and mythology, more specifically Kabbalistic lore. The name appears to derive from the word gelem, which means ‘raw material’.
Golems were a creation of those who were very holy and close to Jehovah. A very holy was one who strove to approach God, and in that pursuit would gain some of God’s wisdom and power. Kind of like a Faustian bargain, but without any of that selling your soul bunk.
One of these powers was the creation of life. But no matter how much God favoured this mortal, or blessed him with knoweldge, life and being they created would be but a shadow of one created by God. For example, in many tales about the golem, the creature was mute, unable to speak, which would help to distinguish it from life given by God. The voice is the key to the soul after all. Having a golem servant was seen as the ultimate symbol of wisdom and holiness, and there are many tales of golems connected to prominent rabbis throughout the Middle Ages.
Over time, like any good legend, new aspects were added to the legend of the golem. The further away from its roots the legend got, the less human or lifelike the creature became. Most of the time, the Golem is inscribed with magic or religious words that keep it animated. Removed or destroying the words destroys the Golem. Writing the name of God on its forehead, (or on a clay tablet under its tongue) or writing the word Emet (‘truth’ in the Hebrew language) on its forehead are examples of such words. By erasing the first letter in ‘Emet’ to form ‘Met’ (‘death’ in Hebrew) the golem can be destroyed. The Hebrew Letter, Peh, indicating circular outward movement, also is a common words/symbol associated with the Golem.
The big change in the legend comes in the demeanor of the Golem. Originally, as I mentioned above, having a Golem was considered a blessing and a sign of favour from God. In modern tales, the Golem is either a mixed blessing, or soon reveals itself to be a curse on those who sought the wisdom and understanding of God’s Knowledge. The Golem, no longer intelligent, can now only perform menial or simple repetative tasks. The problem of course is making them stop or controlling them after you have given them a command. Golems are used in modern tales as a metaphor for either brainless lunks or as entities serving man under controlled conditions but enemies in others. Similarly, it has become a Yiddish slang insult for someone who is clumsy or slow.
The most famous golem tale of all time was written in the 16th Century by Rasbbi Judah Low ben Bezalel of Prague. Especially because he is widely considered by Kabbalists to have made one!
Supposedly Bezalel created a Golem, used it to protect Jews from anti-semetic attacks, and then hid him in the attic of the Prague Synagouge. It is believed the Golem is still hidden somewhere and that it even survived the Nazi’s attack on prague where Hitler and his Occult scholars attempted to find and capture the Golem. Even today in prague, standing outside the old Jewish Quarter, you can see a statue of the Golem.
Other famous Golem stories came about in the 19th and 20th Centuries, which for all intents and purposes was the Renessaince of the Golem. In 1915 Gustav Meyrink wrote the novel, Der Golem, which was based on the stories and adventures of Rabbi Bezalel and his golem. This book inspired a series of silent films by Paul Wegener. Silent Film buffs will tell you The Golem, made in 1920, in one of the all time classic silent films.
But the most famous Golem tale of all time, was dreamt up in a sleepy town in Switzerland in 1816. While it holds a lot of the original Golem legends within it’s pages, it is still quite different from the original Hebrew stories. Yet, it is the story that for almost 200 years has shaped how Western Society views the Golem and what the creature stands for.
You may have heard of it. It’s called, Frankenstein…
I thought now, I’d steal (but give credit to) a few snippets of a list from Wikipedia that talks about modern appearances of the Golem. I chose my ten favorites from the list, ones I felt most people would have heard of in some way shape or form:
* Feet of Clay, a Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett features golems. One specific golem named Dorfl is adopted into Discworld canon and appears in later works.
* Golems have been heavily referenced by role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, and have expanded the definition from clay and stone, to iron, wood, rope, straw, glass, and flesh amongst other substances.
* An episode of “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest”, a animated series, centres on a rock Golem that goes on a rampage in Prague.
* An episode of “Gargoyles”, a animated series, centers on a clay Golem that becomes possessed by a madman.
* Another contemporary anime, InuYasha, features frequent golem use by the character Naraku.
* The DC Comics series The Monolith features a golem created to fight crime in Brooklyn.
* Science fiction author Philip K. Dick’s novel “The Cosmic Puppets” featues golems animated by mysterious children in isolated Millgate, Virginia.
* The golem is featured in a 1997 episode of The X-Files, entitled Kaddish.
* A golem is a major boss enemy in the computer game Vampire: The Masquerade: Redemption.
* Multiple types of golems are in the computer game Nethack, and when they are defeated, they crumble into their source material; a stone golem into rocks, an iron golem into chains, etc.
* In the Pokemon video games and related media, Golem is a monster made of stone that is among the most powerful Rock type Pokemon.
And that my friends, is the Golem.
I didn’t do much cooking the last 3 weeks what with being on vacation. It was more about trying food on another continent. And let me tell you, Australian food is FAR superior to that of England, even if they do have tons of meat pies and sausage rolls and other horrid British concoctions. ;-)
Anyone that knows me would label me as a bit of a health nut in regards to what I eat. Mainly fruits, veggies and pasta. A little meat, but that’s more a treat. I rarely eat sugars or fats or oils. But I have two vices. The first is Popeye’s Chicken. I don’t know why, but I love it. The second…is Ice Cream.
Even stranger, the colder it gets, the more I want Ice Cream. Right now in my freezer I have 4 kinds. I have a pint of Strawberry, a pint of Cherry Garcia, a pint of Blueberry, and a gallon of Breyer’s Vanilla Fudge Twirl. Yes, I’m mainly a fruit Ice Cream eater. Guess that Mr. Healthy label tries to apply even with junk food.
Today, with holidays approaching, it means you should be having some festive parties coming up. So I thought I’d share a very quick and simply (but delicious) recipe that anyone could make for a celebration, whether you’re the host or merely bringing some food to the event. It’s got fruit, it’s got ice cream, and it’s got alcohol. What more do you need?
Fresh Blueberry-Vanilla Rum Milkshakes
1 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries
1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups WHOLE milk, cold (Don’t use 1% or 2% of skim. Use WHOLE MILK)
1 pint vanilla ice cream (I suggest Breyers or Ben and Jerry’s Organic)
1. Combine the blueberries, rum and sugar in a bowl and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. Transfer the blueberry mixture to a blender. Then add the milk and ice cream. Blend until smooth. Poor into 4 tall glasses and serve immediately.
Nice and simple, eh? Try it. You’ll be quite the hit of the party. At least in regards to the food aspect of it…
None this week, sorry. I haven’t really read the page for 3 weeks so I don’t know where to begin. But hey, it’s Inside Pulse, right? EVERYTHING here is gravy.
As always, I’m here to answer any questions about folklore, urban legends, cultural anthropology, myths, and anything else related to these topics for you. Just shoot me an email and let me know what I can do for you.
Before I go though, I am curious to see who has tried any of the recipes I’ve put in the columns. Share with me your experiences if you had. If you hated the food, loved it, still use it, claimed it for your own, whatever. I’m curious to know how much people enjoy these, even if they don’t even use them.