The Lutzes moved into their dream home on December 18th, 1975. Four weeks later, they fled in terror. The home was the scene of a mass murder a year before, and the Lutzes claimed paranormal phenomena caused them to fear for their lives and forced them to abandon the home.
The Amityville Horror was one of the first horror novels I ever read and it was a title that genuinely scared me. Written by Jay Anson and published in 1977, it was presented as a true account of a hostile paranormal event.
Admittedly the home was the site of a horrific murder in 1974, when Ronald ‘Butch’ Defoe Jr shot and killed six other members of the Defoe family. Defoe’s lawyers argued that their client was in a state of ‘paranoid psychosis’ as he committed the murders and, with all the later talk of hauntings, there is an implication that Defoe had been driven to his acts by the supernatural currents that infested the house.
But none of that concerned me when I was an idiotic twelve-year old reading that book. My main cause of concern was not the veracity of the story, or the human tragedy of the family murder that was used as a foundation for its shaky structure. My greatest worry was that I would look up from reading the book and I might see those piggy red eyes that stared at the main characters during moments of heightened tension.
Kathy was looking past George’s shoulder at the living room windows. Staring back at her were a pair of unblinking red eyes! At his wife’s scream, George whirled around. He also saw the little beady eyes staring directly into his. He jumped for the light switch, and the eyes disappeared in the shining reflection in the glass pane.
Looking back on this, I wonder about two things: why has this remained in my memory for more than forty years? And, more importantly, what’s that scary about a pair of red eyes?
I don’t have the word count or the inclination to think about the memory question. Memory is an odd creature and it allows me to remember school teachers from when I was six, whilst I struggle to recall what I had for tea twelve hours ago. But I do want to linger on the question of red eyes for a moment and point out that it is truly a groundless fear. If the eyes are disembodied, it’s obviously unpleasant, but it’s not exactly threatening, is it? A disembodied hand (if it had the ability to move) could scratch, claw and throttle a person. A disembodied head (again, if it had the ability to move) could bite, chew or gnaw. But the worst a disembodied eye could possibly do is give someone a nasty look. Even then, I think we need eyebrows and eyelids for such precision glaring. And these were red eyes. Does this suggest the menacing glare is coming from a stoner? If so, on reflection, we have to admit that’s one of the least threatening things out there. The worst atrocities I’ve known stoners to commit are stripping pages from a book to make roaches for joints: it’s not exactly ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’.
But the book genuinely scared me and I recall the exact point where I put the book down too scared to continue. I’d diligently read a prologue and ten chapters. My dreams had been disturbed and I was scared to look out of the bedroom window in case I saw glowing red eyes. Then I got to the start of Chapter 11. It begins with the following sentences:
“22 January – The Lutzes had lived at 112 Ocean Avenue for twenty-five days. That Sunday was one of the worst.”
That was when I put the book down. I was twelve years old. I had no intention of returning to that book until I was much older, or maybe never.
I mention all of this because, my next horror novel is going to be about a building that is touched by the supernatural, and I suspect my subconscious was heavily influenced by memories of The Amityville Horror.
To find out more about this forthcoming title, to learn when it’s going to be released, please subscribe to my mailing list below and I’ll keep you updated.