The Amityville Horror
An Inquest into Paranormal Claims
Frank R. Zindler
RELIGION / Atheism
TRUE CRIME / Con Artists, Hoaxes & Deceptions
FICTION / Ghost
Although it has long been known that The Amityville Horror: A True Story was a fraud, until now, no assessment of the extent of the fraud or account of how it was planned has been published. In this book, The Amityville Horror: An Inquest into Paranormal Claims, investigator Frank Zindler reveals how the story was concocted by the Lutzes (the protagonists of the horror-house tale) in collusion with the lawyers for Ronald DeFeo, Jr.—the man who murdered six members of his family in the house at 112 Ocean Avenue prior to its purchase by the financially strapped Lutzes.
Zindler’s day-by-day investigation of the infamous 28-day “ordeal” is a textbook example of how to investigate claims of demonic possession and other supernatural yarns. It draws upon everything from weather records for the demonic days to court records of a trial in which the Lutzes and the lawyers sued each other for fraud; from polygraph reports to interviews with priests, police, and other Amityville persons mentioned in the original book to the auction inventory of possessions provided by the realtor who sold the house to the Lutzes. Demonstrating extensive plagiarism from the novel The Exorcist, Zindler’s deconstruction of Jay Anson’s “True Story” is the definitive critique of a hoax that since 1977 has grown into a half-billion-dollar industry that feeds upon public ignorance and superstition.
Finally, Zindler reveals the lasting effects of the abuse suffered by the Lutz children, and a straight line is drawn from the New Testament belief in demons to the beliefs of the Q-Anon insurrectionists who invaded the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
Frank R. Zindler has been an atheist activist since 1959 when he began publicly to defend the teaching of evolution and to criticize religious encroachments upon the public sphere. A professor of biology and geology at SUNY for almost twenty years, he was forced to give up teaching when he joined Madalyn Murray O’Hair in a lawsuit that attempted to remove “In God We Trust” from American currency. A linguist and editor of scientific literature, he is a former member of The Jesus Seminar and an internationally known advocate of the Christ-Myth Theory, arguing that “Jesus of Nazareth” was not an historical figure. He is the author of many books, including the four-volume Through Atheist Eyes: Scenes from a World That Won’t Reason.
The Amityville Horror: An Inquest into Paranormal Claims is Frank Zindler at the height of his creative and analytical powers, a skillset honed over six decades of using science and logic to challenge supernatural claims. Using an investigative methodology that utilizes both scientific inquiry and historical analysis, Zindler systematically exposes the paranormal claims in Jay Anson’s 1977 bestseller, The Amityville Horror: A True Story, as a fraud.
Author of The Ghost of Democracy
and The Firing of Doctor Democracy
Why a book today on a decades-old “true” supernatural story? First, the original 1977 account has continued to spawn movies as late as 2017. Second, Americans remain susceptible to “alternative facts,” baloney, and bald-faced lies. In a series of meticulous and short readable chapters analyzing each day of the alleged events, Zindler deftly debunks the Amityville myth. Yet if anything, the abundance of such hoaxes and the nefarious branding of inconvenient facts as hoaxes by certain parties has further eroded the very notion of truth and demonstrated the peril of gullibility and credulity. In this way, Zindler’s project is as timely as ever.
—Jack David Eller, PhD
Author of Trump and Political Theology
and Introducing Anthropology of Religion
Zindler’s book is precisely the kind of thorough and proper investigation into the paranormal that pop culture has repeatedly failed to conduct in their complicit furtherance of hoaxes and frauds. Those who are adamant in their belief in the paranormal need to read this formidable work by a true master of skepticism so as to see a brilliant example of critical thinking at play.
—Darren M. Slade, PhD
Author of “Properly Investigating Miracle Claims”
in The Case Against Miracles