Jay Anson's book, The Amityville Horror: A True Story, was wildly popular. It spawned other books and movies, and each took more liberties with the truth. Blame for the inaccuracies always seemed to come back on the family despite the fact that Anson admitted embroidering the story because he "wanted to write a bestseller and retire." Many readers pointede to Anson's exaggerated statements, easily disproven (such as the claim that the front door had been mysteriously ripped off its hinges, or that the famous quarter-moon windows had shattered) as evidence of the unreliability of the Lutz family.
This was especially hard on the children while growing up in California, as far away from the house in Amityville, NY as their parents could get them. Anson revealed the family's name in his book, and Christopher Lutz recalls being teased by his classmates at the age of eight or nine for being the boy who claimed to have lived in a haunted house. Eventually, while in the army, Chris changed his name back to Quaratino (the name of his biological father, Kathy's first husband) in order to get some relief from the limelight.
Yet Christopher, now in his forties, says that despite the exaggerations, poetic license and outright lies, the house really was haunted. He heard the footsteps and the screams, and saw a terrifyingly large, dark figure moving toward him in the house. Not only that, he says the activity continued after they left, and that he still has strange paranormal experiences to this day which he claims are far more frightening than anything Hollywood screenwriters can come up with.
Disgusted by past films that depict the child ghost of "Jodie DeFeo" (a fictional character) and showing George Lutz attacking his family with an axe, Christopher wants to tell the real story of what happened during the twenty-eight days that he and his family lived in the world's most famous haunted house. He has offered to work with moviemakers to do so, and has issued a challenge: tell a scarier story than Chris' honest account of what happened in Amityville.
So far, all have preferred to tell the story their own way, publicly claiming to base "their" version on sources such as diaries kept by the Lutz children. Chris counters that none of them even kept diaries as children, and neither he, his brother nor his sister have been contacted by any filmmakers for their input. He is currently working on a book detailing his own account of the Amityville haunting, hoping to counter the effects of the latest spin-off films.
The story of the events in Amityville is a human drama that deeply affected two families. Ronald DeFeo, Sr, and his wife, Louise; their two daughters, Dawn and Alison, and their sons, Marc and John, all lost their lives in that house. Ronnie, Jr., will spend the rest of his life in prison. And George and Kathy Lutz's lives were never the same after their brief stay in the beautiful house on the South Shore of Long Island. Their children grew up under a cloud of publicity and ridicule, and according to Christopher, continued paranormal happenings. Chris does not want to see the memories of the DeFeos or of his parents, both of whom have now passed away, further sullied by lies about the most traumatic events of his life.
There are plenty of entertaining ghost stories out there. Books and movies come out every day with more of them, and we all love a good scare. But if someone puts a real name in the title, gives a real address or discusses a real family, they have a moral if not a legal obligation to confine themselves to facts. This is what Christopher Quaratino Lutz says he is doing.
To follow Chris' efforts to reveal the truth of the Amityville haunting, go to www.amityvillehorrorchallenge.com.