Real horror

SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER: The Amityville Horror, Part 2

SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER: The Amityville Horror, Part 2

Part two of a special two-part Saturday Night Shocker: The Amityville Horror

On November 13th, 1974, Butch DeFeo arrived Henry’s Bar, saying he was locked out of his house and couldn’t get back in or get in touch with anyone in his family. He and several friends went back to the house and Butch broke a window to get inside. He found his parents and younger brothers and sisters all shot to death in their beds.
The authorities arrived. The bodies were taken away and the police tried to console the distraught Butch. He said he would do anything he could to help and speculated that he thought a man named Louis Falini was responsible. Butch said Falini, who supposedly had ties to the mob, had a falling out with Ronald and was heard threatening the DeFeo family. Butch went to the police station, mostly for his own protection, while the police continued to analyze the crime scene. The longer Butch was questioned, the more inconsistencies crept up in his story. Finally, he confessed to killing his family.
Fair use doctrine.
Eric Walter (Inset: Danny Lutz)
Then Butch started changing his story. He said that Louis Falini and others came into the house and made him watch as they shot his family. After that, he said he and some friends, including Bobby Kelske, had been caught by Ronald searching for his stash of money. One of Butch’s friends shot his father and then killed the rest of the family to cover it up. Another version of the story had Butch and Dawn planning to kill the family together. Butch shot Ronald and Dawn shot Louise; Butch left the house, came back to find that Dawn had killed the children and he killed her in a fit of rage. Butch’s relatives also tried to intervene, saying the confession had been coerced by police brutality and that his rights had been violated when he was denied the legal counsel of a family friend who was a lawyer.
Butch DeFeo’s trial for the murder of his six family members began in October of 1975. His lawyer, William Weber, tenaciously pursued an insanity defense. He claimed Butch heard voices and that those voices eventually made him kill his family, even manifesting as a pair of black hands that gave him the gun. Howard Zolan, the psychiatrist who examined Butch, claimed that he had an antisocial personality disorder but did know what he was doing and was legally competent. There was also testimony from cellmates and guards where Butch was being held who heard him say he killed his family and say that he knew how to feign insanity well enough to be acquitted.
Ronald “Butch” DeFeo Jr. was found guilty of six counts of murder on November 21st, 1975. He was sentenced to life in prison.
After the loss in court, William Weber contacted acquaintances George and Kathy Lutz. They had a few glasses of wine and discussed things like the Lutz’s interest in the occult and transcendental meditation. They concocted a plan that started when the couple bought the DeFeo house and has never really ended.
After they fled the house, George and Kathy Lutz contacted Laura Didio, a reporter from a local news station, with their story and she put them in touch with paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens did a walk-through of the house with several people from a psychical research institute and claimed to feel negative supernatural energies due to the property’s history. They said the land had been used by the Shinnecock Indians as an asylum for their ill and insane. The house had also been owned by a man named John Ketchum, a practicing warlock who fled persecution in the Salem Witch Trials. The Warrens alleged that Butch practiced black magic, which may have turned him into a conduit for the spirits that possessed him and made him murder his family. Butch backs up the claims in his letters to Long Island-based medium Jackie Barrett, mentioning that he attended more than one black mass when he was a teenager.
George and Kathy contacted author Jay Anson, who turned their story into his book The Amityville Horror. The book and subsequent movie, starring Jame Brolin and Margot Kidder, were wildly successful. As William Weber had hoped, his plan did generate some attention for Butch but didn’t get his sentence reexamined and he couldn’t even profit from the media franchise. Instead of monetary compensation, Butch had notoriety inside prison as well as outside. He wrote to Jackie Barrett that he fought off an attack from the “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz when he and Berkowitz were in the same correctional facility and that he was also approached by people who bribed him to kill Berkowitz.
He was interviewed by renowned paranormal researcher Hans Holzer. Holzer reiterated the Warren’s story about possession and spirits of Native Americans tied to the property. He wrote a book based on the DeFeo family and their murder, the basis for the movie Amityville 2: The Possession. Holzer’s book was a fairly accurate portrayal of the malicious and domineering father and subservient mother who couldn’t remove her children from the abusive environment. He even included the incident where Butch pointed a rifle to his father’s head to make him stop beating his mother. Holzer took a huge liberty with the story, however, when he added the element of incest between the two oldest siblings. Butch has said his sister was his co-conspirator or that she committed some of the murders on her own but insists that they never had an incestuous relationship.
The Lutzes didn’t deny any of what they said happened to them in the house, despite William Weber’s claim that it was a story they fabricated together. The Lutzes sued Weber, as well as Paul Hoffman, who was originally going to write the book about the haunting, and others for invasion of privacy and mental distress. The claims were all dismissed for lack of evidence but George and Kathy never wavered in their accounts of things like unexplained loud noises and doors being ripped off the hinges. Neighbors report never hearing the noises George mentioned and the next owners of the house, the Cromartys, said that all of the doors had their original hardware and they never encountered anything supernatural. Nevertheless, George and Kathy Lutz believed their story so strongly they were able to take polygraph tests that showed no evidence of lying. Despite telling Laura Didio that he “didn’t want publicity,” George Lutz would introduce himself as “the Amityville guy.” George and Kathy went on a year-long promotional tour and left Danny in a monastery school where, in his 2012 documentary My Amityville Horror, Danny says the priests tried to perform exorcisms on him because they thought he was possessed by evil spirits.
Daniel Lutz comes off as abrasive and troubled. The documentary shows him going to therapy but being defensive when talking to his therapist. Her asks her about the most traumatic thing she’s ever experienced to gauge whether she can understand what he has been through. He insists that everything happened just as it did in his parents’ book.
Daniel’s dislike of George Lutz is evident whenever he mentions his stepfather. The strained family relationships didn’t withstand the publicity of the Amityville horror; Danny left home in his teens and George and Kathy divorced in the early 80s, which he says was the best thing his mother ever did. Daniel’s siblings declined to be interviewed and he doesn’t mention them. Despite the turbulence the claims of the haunting brought to his childhood, he interacts amiably with Laura Didio and Lorraine Warren when filmed with them in the documentary. Lorraine suggests leading Daniel and the film crew in a prayer over religious artifact she has on a necklace. Daniel beholds the article reverently but reacts with hostility upon finding out that one of the crew members present isn’t actually a believer. At the end of the documentary, the director asks if Daniel was ever approached about taking a lie detector test. He says, angrily and indignantly, that many people have suggested that but doesn’t say if he took one. The implication is that, unlike his parents, he doesn’t know if he would pass a polygraph.
The story of “America’s most famous haunting” is built on a foundation of lies and omissions of truth. The specters were abusive and selfish parents. The witnesses are people with reputations to protect. The restless spirits are the memories of the deceased and the troubled people still struggling with the legacy of 112 Ocean Avenue.
Fair use doctrine.
Ronald Joseph “Butch” DeFeo Jr.
Posted by Laura James in Categories, SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER, 0 comments
Charles Schmid – The Pied Piper of Tucson

Charles Schmid – The Pied Piper of Tucson

Charles Schmid headshot / Fair use doctrine.
On May 15, 1964, in Tucson, Arizona, a 15-year-old girl named Alleen Rowe went for a drive with a guy known as “Smitty.” Smitty was older, in his early 20s, and Alleen couldn’t believe her luck. She was invited on a date with the most popular guy in town. He had his own place and threw wild parties where he let high school kids drink as much as they wanted. He was sophisticated, wearing “stage make-up” like a movie star, and a little dangerous: he walked with a limp, which he said was the result of a run-in with Mafia thugs. She didn’t even mind that his friends, John and Mary, were tagging along; she knew eventually she would be the center of Smitty’s attention.
It was late when they stopped in the desert. Smitty beckoned Alleen out of the car and John came with them. Mary stayed behind, listening to the radio. Once outside, Smitty turned amorous and rough. His friend’s presence didn’t even bother him; John just faded into the background while Smitty went after Alleen, whether she wanted him or not. When he was done, when she thought he would take her back to the car and home from their “date,” he put his hands around her throat and squeezed hard. Alleen was the center of his attention until her last breath. She had been lured to her death by the Piped Piper of Tucson.
Charles Howard Schmid was born on July 8, 1942. He was the adopted son of Charles and Katherine Schmid, a wealthy couple who ran a nursing home. He had a rough relationship with his adoptive father, fighting often, but his parents still indulged and supported him financially. After he was kicked out of school for stealing, his parents gave him his own quarters on their property and a monthly allowance of several hundred dollars.
Charles was insecure about his appearance and height. He wore thick pancake make-up and applied a beauty mark, and sometimes pinched his lower lip to get a “pouty look” like his idol, Elvis Presley. He was only 5’3″, so he stuffed crushed paper in his boots to make himself appear taller, though it only gave him an odd gait. He threw parties at his apartments, getting the attention and admiration he craved by providing underage kids a place where they could drink and do drugs without fear of being caught. Girls gave themselves to him eagerly.
One girl told her mother she had been invited to join a sex club and that if she didn’t get in, she would be “a nobody.” That girl was Alleen Rowe, Schmid’s first victim. He had one of his girlfriends, Mary French, lure Alleen away with them so he could satisfy his curiosity about what it felt like to kill a girl. He buried her in the desert but didn’t bother to stay quiet about the murder in his social circle. Presumably, his admirers only kept his secret because they didn’t want to risk losing their party spot. One of his girlfriends, 17-year-old Gretchen Fritz, the daughter of a prominent surgeon in Tucson, did threaten to tell the police about the murder, but only when Charles wanted to break up with her. He invited her to his place so they could talk things over. She brought her younger sister, 13-year-old Wendy. Schmid strangled both girls and buried them in the desert.
Having more victims didn’t make him any more secretive or cautious. He bragged to his friend, Richard Bruns, about what he had done and took him to see the bodies. Richard was wracked with guilt, suffering nightmares and paranoia that his girlfriend would be Schmid’s next victim. He went to the police and told them all he knew.
Charles Schmid was arrested on November 11th 1965. John Saunders and Mary French were also arrested for their participation in the murder of Alleen Rowe. Mary French got four years in prison and John Saunders was given a life sentence. Schmid received a death sentence but it was commuted to life imprisonment. He escaped with another murderer in 1972 but was recaptured after a few days.
He was stabbed by a fellow inmate in 1975 and died over a week later.
For a deeper exploration of a narcissistic sociopath who craves followers and followers so desperate for excitement they will be complicit in whatever he does, read Joyce Carol Oates’ iconic short story “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been” or Jack Ketchum’s excellent novel, The Lost, or watch the 2006 film adaptation of The Lost directed by Chris Siverston, all based on the Charles Schmid case.
Charles Schmid police car / Fair use doctrine.

Posted by Laura James in BRUTAL REALITY, SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER, 2 comments