Tuesday, May 25, 2010
newsday - The real estate listing for the house that went on the market Monday at 108 Ocean Ave. refers to it as a "legendary home," but most people would know the sideways Dutch Colonial on the canal as the so-called Amityville Horror house.
Listed for $1.15 million, the picturesque and pristine home looks very different from the home where Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered six family members as they slept in 1974. The 28 supposedly haunted days in the house experienced by subsequent owners George and Kathleen Lutz spawned the 1977 bestselling Jay Anson book "The Amityville Horror: A True Story" and a series of scary movies about alleged supernatural happenings at the house starting in 1979.
Even the address is different. Previous owners James and Barbara Cromarty, who own the Riverhead Raceway, said they had it changed from 112 Ocean Ave. to protect their privacy.
James Cromarty, 77, bought the house in 1977. By that point, a bank had foreclosed on the house from the Lutzes, who have since died. DeFeo is at the upstate Green Haven Correctional Facility, serving 25 years to life for the murders.
"Nothing weird ever happened, except for people coming by because of the book and the movie," said Cromarty, who lived a decade in the house.
He and his wife, Barbara, sold the house in 1987 to Peter and Jeanne O'Neill. Reached Monday, Jeanne O'Neill said, "I loved it. It was a beautiful home." They sold the house in 1997 for $310,000 to the current owner, which records identify as Brian Wilson.
"It's one of the more beautifully redone houses in the neighborhood," said listing agent Laura Zambratto of Daniel Gale Sotheby's International Realty.
Jerry O'Neill of Coldwell Banker Harbor Light, who has been selling Amityville real estate for 38 years and whose brother, Peter, used to own the house, said he thinks the price is fair. "It's a gorgeous, big center hall Colonial with a finished basement," said O'Neill, with "nothing spooky about it." Neighbors said that there are occasional gawkers, mostly on Halloween.
It's not the only notorious Long Island house on the market. Recently, the East Meadow expanded ranch where serial killer Joel Rifkin used to live, sometimes bringing victims back to the house, was listed for $424,500.
AMITYVILLE HORROR: THE REAL STORY
Ronald DeFeo, Jr. and his siblings
Thousands of sightseers flock to the small, quiet town of Amityville, Long Island each year in search of demons and ghosts. Its rich history and beauty are overshadowed by the story of George and Kathy Lutz, the previous residents of 112 Ocean Avenue, who claimed that shortly after moving into the house they “fled in terror,” driven out by paranormal activity. The best selling novel and popular movie have marked the town as the site of the most famous haunted house in history, yet many are unaware that the true history of this house is much darker than “The Amityville Horror’s” icy drafts and bleeding walls. Six members of the DeFeo family were murdered at 112 Ocean Avenue one year before the Lutz family moved in and their tragedy haunts the citizens of Amityville to this day.
In June of 1965, a man by the name of Ronald DeFeo Sr. purchased the 2 ½ story Dutch Colonial home at 112 Ocean Avenue, equipped with a boathouse on the Amityville River and plenty of rooms for his wife and four children. It seemed like the American dream: beautiful house, happy family, and money to spare. DeFeo even placed a sign in the front yard that read “High Hopes” as a symbol of the family’s good fortune. But there is a much darker side to this fairy tale, for his oldest son Ronald DeFeo Jr. wasn’t so content. His temper was as hot as his father’s was, and when he reached adolescence they often succumbed to fist fighting matches. By the age of 17 Ronald, or “Butch” as he was called by his friends, was using serious drugs and dabbling in petty thievery. Even though he was well taken care of by his family - landing a “cush” job at his grandfather’s car dealership where he received a weekly allowance whether he showed up to work or not - Butch was growing more angry and resentful with his father’s supposedly stingy ways. He planned a fake robbery with a friend while he was on the way to the bank to deposit $20,000 from the dealership, splitting the “stolen” cash with his friend. When Ronald Sr. exposed his sham, Butch wanted revenge.
It has been reported that in the early morning hours of November 13, 1974, Butch left the second floor TV room and grabbed his .35 Marlin Rifle. While his parents and four younger brothers and sisters were sleeping he methodically shot and killed each one of them. He entered his parent’s bedroom first, instantly killing his father Ronald DeFeo with two shots to the lower back. His mother Louise was awakened by the gunfire but before she had a chance to react Butch proceeded to fire two bullets into her chest. Since the bodies of his four younger brothers and sisters were all found in their beds, it appeared that they were not awakened by the shots. His two younger brothers, John and Mark, were his next victims. Standing between their beds in the room the two young boys shared, he fired one shot at close range into each of their bodies. Finally, he entered the room of his sisters Dawn and Allison. Dawn was the closest in age to Butch, and Allison was in grade school with John and Mark. Butch did not hesitate when he fired two shots into their heads, killing them instantly. The police reported that all six victims were found on their stomachs with their heads resting on their arms.
Butch tried to point the blame on a Mafia hit man whom he claimed had a vendetta against him, but the detectives grew suspicious when they found an empty gun box in his bedroom that matched the murder weapon. His story fell apart and after hours of interrogation. “It all started so fast. Once I started, I just couldn’t stop. It went so fast,” he confessed. When asked during his trial why he had done such a thing Butch replied, “As far as I’m concerned, if I didn’t kill my family, they were going to kill me. And as far as I’m concerned, what I did was self-defense and there was nothing wrong with it. When I got a gun in my hand, there’s no doubt in my mind who I am. I am God.”
Even though Butch was found guilty of six counts of second-degree murder, many questions still remain about what really happened on that tragic night in November. Why didn’t the children run after hearing the first shots? Why were the victims all found lying on their stomachs? Were they told to stay in bed by someone they knew? Why didn’t the neighbors hear the shots? Speculations surfaced that the DeFeo family was drugged at dinner, yet autopsies discredited this theory. The police believed that the house muffled the sound of the shots, however, many people who have been in the house reported that street noise could be heard from inside. According to gun experts, the sound of a .35 Marlin Rifle can be heard from a mile away, yet neighbors claim that the only sound they heard was the barking of the DeFeo family dog. To this day Butch continues to change his story. Being a habitual liar, it is still unclear what role he played in the murders and whether he acted alone. For many, the truth remains to be told and investigations are in progress that may shed light on the validity of his story.
Butch DeFeo, 58, is currently serving six consecutive life sentences at Greenhaven Penitentiary in Stormville, New York. The parole board has rejected all of his requests for parole since 1999.
Families have lived happily in the Amityville house (its address now changed to deter the flocks of curious sightseers) since the Lutzes moved out without being bothered by a single demon or ghost. The citizens of Amityville often tell tourists that the house has been torn down, frustrated that a ghost story has overshadowed a tragedy – the brutal murders of six members of the DeFeo family, the true horror of Amityville.
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