It’s very difficult for me to take this book seriously on a number of levels. First and foremost, I am an atheist. I do not believe in demons, and I do not hold up priests or other religious figures as moral and spiritual authorities. Contrary to Jay Anson’s claims, there is a great deal of material refuting the alleged activity in and around the house (not to mention evidence of outright fabrication), inconsistent testimony from those involved–most notably from Father “Mancuso”–and very little to actually corroborate their story.
And then there’s the quality of the writing itself. Let’s just say it’s…not good. I like the original film, so I didn’t expect the book to be as badly written and unquestioningly subjective as it was (that would have been more in line with the remake, which we will pretend never happened except to note that it was my first date with my boyfriend, and it somehow did not destroy our burgeoning relationship). The most glaring issue comes from a seemingly innocuous punctuation mark. Jay Anson loves him some exclamation points. But they don’t create tension and fear! Except when they’re used in every paragraph! Because then I’m afraid of how much worse his writing will get! Unable to build tension with the events themselves–their utter ridiculousness doesn’t help–and having rather weak skills as a writer, Anson uses exclamation points as his equivalent of jump scares. Also, I don’t need to be reminded of the house’s address in every paragraph. I’m not that guy in Memento; my short-term memory is fine. The house is at 112 Ocean Ave. I GET IT.
I share Chris Shearer‘s theory that George, in desperate need of money and owning a house in which a terrible tragedy had recently occurred, saw an opportunity to ride the 70s horror boom. As far as I can tell, this story is exactly how George made a living for the rest of his life, going so far as to trademark the phrase The Amityville Horror and running a website devoted to it. I even saw Lutz at the Pittsburgh Comic-Con a couple of years before his death, sitting at a table piled high with books and videos about the Amityville house as he continued to whore out the tale for whatever money people would give him. As Chris noted, the Lutzes used every single haunted house trope you can imagine and then some (pigs, ceramic lions, and marching bands don’t scare me, but whatever), creating a story so over-the-top and insultingly stupid as to be completely unbelievable. One unintentionally hilarious episode came when Kathy threatened the children with violence over the green slime leaking out of the wall; despite her claims to have seen a demon in the fireplace and the various nonsense previous to this event, she couldn’t reconcile the slime with the other manifestations. Really? Either she’s an idiot, or just an asshole who likes to beat her kids.
Long story short, this book is terrible. Watch the movie instead (you may never read these words from me again), and don’t fall for the “true story” hype.