Real-life: Daniel as boy at the house in Amityville
Haunted: House lit up by movie producers for the 1979 film
Daniel Lutz still remembers the terrifying childhood moment that would be the spark for one of the world’s most infamous horror stories.
It was the morning of Friday, December 12, 1975, and the 10-year-old was helping his family move into their new home...
"My job was to haul boxes inside,” says Daniel, telling his story for the first time.
"Then I went into the house’s playroom to find about four or five hundred flies buzzing about. I stood there with a newspaper smashing them on the walls, smashing them on the window.
"I killed about a hundred in five minutes. Then I ran downstairs to tell mum and when I came back up the dead flies had gone. Even the newspaper had gone.”
The Lutzes spent just 28 days in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue in New York’s Long Island community of Amityville, before fleeing in the middle of the night.
They claimed to have been haunted by windows and doors opening and closing on their own. They were plagued by foul stenches and loud, unexplainable noises that would wake them in the night.
Their story became a worldwide sensation, inspiring a bestselling 1977 book, The Amityville Horror, and a series of films.
Now 47, Daniel’s boyhood experiences in the house still deeply affect him. “I believe evil can manifest itself in any way, shape or form it chooses and that I was a victim of that. My mum used to say good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.
"But sometimes bad things happen to good people.”
When Daniel moved into the four-bed house with mum Kathy, ex-marine dad George and his brother Christopher, seven, and sister Melissa, five, he had no idea of its dark past.
A year earlier, its rooms had echoed to gunshots as Ronald DeFeo Jr, 23, slaughtered his mother, father and four brothers and sisters as they lay in their beds.
A heroin and LSD user, he claimed at his trial that the “voice of God” had told him to do it. He was given life and is still in jail.
The house in the smart neighbourhood lay empty until sold, complete with furniture and fittings, to the Lutzes for the bargain price of $80,000.
After living in a cramped apartment in West Babylon a few miles away, their new home looked like a mansion to Daniel.
With attractive quarter-moon windows on the second floor, it even boasted a heated pool and a boathouse. He figured it was big enough to keep him and his adoptive father, who he didn’t like, apart.
"I thought ‘this is pretty cool’. It was twice as big as anything we had looked at.
"I didn’t know anything about what happened there until the day we showed up to look at it. Mum told us, ‘There’s something I want you to know. There was a family murdered here’. She asked if it would bother us. But when you’re that age you barely know what a murder is.”
Apart from the incident with the flies, their first few days there were peaceful – until, one evening, the family heard banging noises outside.
"The entire family saw the garage door slam up and down,” says Daniel. “I went out there with George and it was hanging off one side of the door and he was pulling down on the other side.”
Worse was to come as Danny looked up and saw an evil-looking creature at Melissa’s bedroom window. It looked like a cartoon character of an angry pig with wolf-like teeth and red eyes. “I ran up to her room and a rocking chair was going back and forth on its own,” he says.
On another occasion, Danny claims he was lifted off his feet by an unknown force. “I was on the second landing when I was projected up the stairs into the wall,” he says. “I stood up and no longer had control of myself.
"My mother was 15ft behind me and was in shock. Something had touched her or scraped her. From somewhere in the room a sub-bass voice said, ‘It is you’."
During their time in the house Daniel’s stepdad George become physically abusive, beating his stepchildren with a wooden spoon.
Even today, six years after his father’s death at 59, Daniel has not forgiven him. “He had no parenting skills. He was a marine and that’s how he knew how to handle things,” he says. “I’m happy he’s dead now. He was the biggest f****** a****** you could meet.”
Things got spookier the day the family took down the decorations after their first and only Christmas there... including a cross from the wall.
"There was an incredible, foul dumpster-juice type of smell. We went around opening windows and doors,” says Daniel.
"I’d gone up to the playroom and got a jammed window open. Then suddenly it slammed down and crushed my fingers.
"It took George, one of his friends and my mother and brother to get the window off my fingers.” Even today, the small finger on his left hand is still kinked.
"We went down to the kitchen so my mother could put ice on my hand and the side door opened very slowly.
"A spirit came into the house, bumps into my mother, walks through my hands, knocks a peanut butter knife down on to the floor and sits down.
"Then, in three seconds, it was gone.”
The sinister happenings reached a climax the night of January 14, 1976.
"My brother and myself shared a levitation experience in our beds,” says Daniel. “We both woke up and our headboards and footboards were smashing each other and banging off the ceiling.
"Mum said ‘Go pack a bag. We’re going to grandma’s, we’re getting out of here.’ I didn’t know we were never coming back’.”
Many believed the family’s story was a hoax because they couldn’t afford their £37,000 mortgage. Others believe George had an interest in the occult and that triggered events. Then there’s the suggestion Daniel is recalling things that didn’t happen, known as false memory syndrome.
But journalist Laura DiDio, who investigated the story, says: “One of the things that struck me about the Lutzes was they were not seeking publicity. They were very, very normal.”
Today Daniel lives in the Whitestone suburb of New York and drives a delivery van. He left home at 15 but was reconciled with his mother. She died in 2004 at 57.
Now he is breaking his silence over his childhood nightmare in a forthcoming documentary, My Amityville Horror.
"It’s not easy to tell somebody how you got thrown up a staircase,” he says. “It’s not something I enjoy discussing.”
Nobody who has lived in the house since the Lutzes has reported any paranormal activity. Two years ago it was sold for $950,000 (£590,000).
So was it horror, or hoax? Daniel remains unconcerned about the people who call him and his family frauds.
"I stopped trying to persuade people about this a long time ago,” he says.
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