The Amityville Horror: A True Story

amityville horror a true story hardback cover first edition
6.0 Overall Score

Fun ghost story, sorting out truth & fiction

Poor writing, cliches

Book Info

Book Title:  The Amityville Horror:  A True Story

Publisher:  Prentice Hall

Writer:  Jay Anson

Release Date: September 13, 1977

amityville horror author jay anson

Jay Anson

The Lutzes have gotten a steal on 112 Ocean Avenue in the New York city of Amityville. The large Long Island home sits on the water and is more than enough room for Kathy, George, and their three children. The catch is that the house has a bit of a history. A little over a year before, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. had killed his entire family in the home then claimed demonic voices told him to commit them. The Lutzes entered the home as non-believers, but left only twenty-eight days later…terrified for their lives and reporting of an unstoppable evil in the home.

Written by Jay Anson, The Amityville Horror: A True Story was a huge hit and alleged that it was based on a true story. The book combines aspects of true crime and horror and The was the basis of the 1979 film with James Brolin playing George Lutz and Kathy Lutz played by Margot Kidder. A remake (using some aspects of the book) was made in 2005 with Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George.

amityville horror real house exterior

Do you dare enter?

The style of writing of The Amityville Horror: A True Story is very simple and easy to read. It is a style similar to crime fiction as it tells the story straightforward with no frills.  It is a definitely a beach type book with short chapters and easy to pick-up and put down. The book is compelling in that it does flow, but it is also the type of book that ends most of its sentences in exclamation points! For emphasis! Seriously! Most of the events in the story aren’t scary or frightening enough to deserve these exclamation points…but Anson sure tries.

What does happen in the story is a lot of standard ghost stuff. Slamming doors, loud marching, cold chills, items missing or moving, etc. These are often effectively used to provide the creeps, but I think some of the stranger stuff is the stuff which is specific to this story. Things like Jodie the Pig, the hooded figure in white, and the strange red room in the basement all provide bigger scares than the standard ghost stuff, but they do combine with them to entertain.

amityville horror a true story paperback edition

Paperback Edition

Most of the interesting things about The Amityville Horror: A True Story is looking into the real history of the house. The DeFao murders, which definitely did happen, provide a nice set-up for the “true story”. I don’t buy much of The Amityville Horror and Kathy and George both recanted (then sometimes reaffirmed) that the story was true before their deaths. The minister mentioned in the story did confirm some events, but denied much of the story…and didn’t have anything to gain for confirming it.

The Amityville Horror is a fun ghost story to read, but it is a story. The book is quick and simple, so it isn’t a commitment. It is too bad that it is so poorly written because it could be kind of compelling if was better paced. The attempts to make it “real” and make it a true crime story backfire a bit by making it too simple. Anson and the Lutzes made the story too realistic with not enough flare or direction to make it horrific enough…aka a rather unsatisfying ending. The book is also filled with gimmicky flies on pages…massing more toward the end. A follow-up book called The Amityville Horror II by John G. Jones which continued events of the story was released in 1982.

Related Links:

The Amityville Horror (1979)

The Amityville Horror (2005)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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