The Amityville Horror – Jay Anson
Prentice Hall – 1977
Despite what it says on the cover, this book is definitely not “a true story”.
The Lutz family move into a new house right before Christmas. The kids are disappointed by their presents, the stepdad feels chilly, the dog pukes, the mom has some sex dreams about a man who isn’t her husband, there’s a reek of human shit in the basement, and the parents beat their kids with a strap. Oh, and some weird stuff happens too.
The family hear some creepy voices, see an evil talking pig, and get covered in green slime.
Honestly, I quite enjoyed the first few chapters. There was a part where the little girl asks her mommy if angels can talk that genuinely creeped me out. Unfortunately, things get silly pretty quickly. Once the mom started levitating I lost interest and the book became a chore to read. So many haunted house clichés are present here that it’s very difficult to take seriously. (Some of these clichés likely originated in this book, but that doesn’t make them easier to accept.) This is absolutely not non-fiction.
One of the most confusing features of this book is the character of Father Mancuso. He’s a Catholic priest who visits the Lutz family right after they move in so that he can bless their home. A spirit tells him to GTFO, and he runs away. The rest of the narrative goes back and forth between what’s happening to him and the Lutz family, and I was expecting him to make a grand return to help the family out during the climax of the book. He doesn’t though. He just shits out his bathroom so badly that he has to leave his house for several days and then picks some scabs on his hands. I’m not even exaggerating. It’s suggested that these events were caused by the evil entity in the Amityville house, but the book is set during flu season, and it seems absurd to suggest that an man getting a bad dose of the trots in January has anything to do with ghosts. Honestly, he craps out the shitter so bad that his neighbours complain. Dirty old fucker with a stinking asshole. I read online that he was kicked out of the priesthood after the book’s publication, but I couldn’t find out why. It likely had something to do with his repulsively reeking shitter.
There’s a whole slew of other books about the Amityville house and the Lutz family, but some are presented as fiction based on the truth, some are non-fiction that examines the fiction, and some are presented as nothing but fiction. (There’s also novelisations of movies that don’t seem to be involved in the literary canon of the Amityville mythos.) I’d be interested in looking at some of them just to see how they go between fiction/non-fiction, but three of the key Amityville texts were written by Hans Holzer. I read two books by Hans Holzer during my first year of keeping this blog. Gothic Ghosts and Elvis Presley Speaks are two of the worst books I have ever read, and I don’t want to read anything else by Holzer. (Do yourself a favour and go back and read my reviews of those books. Pure quality.) No. I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be wasting my time on Amityville.
I just noticed that tomorrow marks 8 years since my first post here on Nocturnal Revelries. I must be getting close to 600 books reviewed. I didn’t expect the blog to last this long. You may not have noticed, but since the beginning of this year, I have been deliberately alternating between fiction and “non-fiction”. I had been avoiding non-fiction for a few years, but I’m enjoying get back into it. I actually feel happier with the blog recently than I have in quite a while. Here’s to another 8 years. Hope you’ve been enjoying it!