My dad always told me to never let the truth stand in the way of telling a good story.  Apparently Hollywood has the same storytelling philosophy that my dad does.  Every couple years a new horror movie is released with the “based on true events” tagline.  These days few moviegoers actually fall for it, but there’s still some who will swear on their family Bible that the events depicted in the film really happened.  Let’s not forget how many people fell for the Blair Witch Project in 1999. Even though the film's stars accepted an MTV movie award live on stage, many still believed they were missing somewhere in the Maryland.
AmityVillian

Every good paranormal enthusiast has seen the 1979 horror flick “The Amityville Horror,” or the uncalled for
2005 Ryan Reynolds remake.  Based on a book by Jay Anson, the films tell the story of the Lutz family who moved into a demonic hell house. 

In reality, there was an actual Amityville Horror, but it had nothing to do with bleeding walls or swarms of flies.  Prior to the Lutz’s, the house was owned by the DeFeo family. Ronald Defeo, Jr., known as “Butch,” was reported to be a heavy drug user who had financial problems as a result.  He had a turbulent relationship with his father, who he often argued with over money.  On Nov. 13, 1974 Butch ran into a local bar yelling that his parents had been shot.  A carload of bar patrons and friends went with him and entering the house they found the bodies of his parents in their bed, as well as the bodies of his two sisters and two brothers.  They called 911.

Butch was taken to the police station for his own protection after suggesting to the cops the crime was the result of a mob hit.  However, inconsistencies soon began appearing in his story, and the following day he confessed to the murders, saying “Once I started, I just couldn’t stop.  It went so fast.”


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Butch Defeo
In court Butch testified that he was possessed by Satan.  His lawyer tried for an insanity plea, but the jury didn’t buy it.  He was sentenced to six consecutive 25 year sentences.  DeFeo is serving his sentence at the Green Haven Correctional Facility in Beekman, New York.

The story of Amityville murders is filled with holes and numerous conspiracy theories have been attached to it.  Probably related mostly to Butch’s ever changing story, no one will probably ever know exactly what happened that night.  Butch once said his sister Dawn had come up with the idea of killing their parents, and went on to kill the other children to eliminate witnesses on her own.  Upon discovering what she had done, Butch killed her in a rage.  Others point out that there likely had to be at least one accomplice because there was no silencer used on the gun and the shots would have woken others in the house, but everyone was found in their own bed.

Enter George and Kathy Lutz.  They bought the house the following year, and stayed for only a month, which they referred to as “a 28 days hellish siege.”  Anson’s book details their account of staying in the house which included green slime oozing from the ceiling, insect swarms of biblical proportions, doors ripped from their hinges, cabinets banged open and shut, and a demonic face with red eyes that would peer in at night and left cloven hoof prints in the snow.  A priest called in left with blisters on his hands after a demonic voice told him to “Get Out!”


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'ghost boy' photo taken while the Warrens were investigating
One day Kathy Lutz decided to move around some shelves in the basement, and claims she found a door that led to a red room that was not part of the house’s blueprints. Several psychics were called in, including groundbreaking ghost/demon hunters Ed and Loraine Warren. Some believed the red room was an actual portal to hell.  All agreed that there was a demonic entity in the house and a proper exorcism was needed.   

A long list of factual errors and inconsistencies rivaling those of Butch DeFeo make the case that Anson and the Lutz’s were just trying (and succeeding) in cashing in on the story of the home’s previous owners.  For example, weather records show no snowfall for the time when hoof prints were supposed to be found outside.  It is possible exact dates and other details could have gotten blurred in the terror, but the principle of Occam’s Razor would have it that they were simply trying to make a buck off the tragedy. 

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112 Ocean Ave Amityville, New York
Butch DeFeo’s lawyer has since stated that the story of possession was created over several bottles of wine in hopes of getting his client a new trial.  George Lutz still claims that all the events actually happened, although there is no evidence to back this up. 

The Amityville house has become a macabre pilgrimage for horror fans and paranormal enthusiasts.  Unfortunate for all owners since the Lutz’s, gawkers continue to show up, snapping photos and hoping to capture something that will make them a part of the story that is an admitted fake.

For crime scene photos of the DeFeo murders and a more detailed analysis, follow this link.  *probably not for the kiddies*


The Real Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Americanized Exorcism of Emily Rose was actually based on the case of a young German woman named Anneliese Michel.  Michel was born Sept. 21, 1952 in Leibfing, Germany to a devout Catholic family.  At age 16 Anneliese had a seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy.  She began having trouble speaking and walking, having to hold on to nearby object for balance.  Soon after she began hallucinating while she prayed.  Doctors prescribed her anticonvulsants. 


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Anneliese Michel
Anneliese went on a trip to Italy with a friend.  While there she refused to drink holy water or walk past religious iconography.  Her family became convinced that her condition was not a medical one, but a spiritual one.  They appealed to the church to perform an exorcism, but were told that permission would have to be granted by a bishop and to continue with medical treatment.

By 1973 Anneliese was suffering from regular auditory hallucinations, hearing voices telling her that she was “damned” and would “rot in hell.” She was sent to a psychiatric hospital and received treatment which she didn’t think was helping her.  She fell into a deep depression.



In September of 1975 the local bishop granted Rev. Arnold Renz permission to begin an exorcism on Anneliese.  Once spiritual treatment began, Anneliese and her family stopped all medical treatment.  She went through 67 sessions with priests over the next two years.  Although her condition only worsened, the family insisted they be continued.  She refused to eat or drink.  She would, however, eat insects and growled at religious symbols.  Once she sat under the dining room table barking for two days.

The following video contains actual audio taken from the exorcism sessions:

Anneliese herself proclaimed that Judas, Nero, Hitler, Cain, Lucifer and others were possessing her body.  Finally on July 1, 1976 Anneliese died.  The autopsy ruled dehydration and malnutrition as the cause of death.  She weighed only 68 pounds.  She was 23 years old.

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Anneliese during her exorcism
But the story was far from over.  The state prosecutor opened an investigation and concluded that her death could have been prevented up to a week before she died if medical treatment had not been withheld.  Her parents were charged with negligent homicide.  The priests who had attended to her were found guilty of manslaughter and received suspended sentences of six months and three years probation.

It has been speculated that the only thing that possessed Anneliese were mental disorders, ranging from depression to dissociative personality disorder and schizophrenia.  These problems, combined with her religious upbringing could account for her problems, but there’s no way of every finding the truth.


The Exorcist

In 1971 William Peter Blatty wrote a book called the Exorcist. In 1973 a movie of the same name was released starring Linda Blair as a child possessed by demons.  Both the book and the film claimed to have been based on a true story.  But it wasn’t a little girl who had become possessed.  The story was taken from the diary of a priest who had performed an exorcism on a 13 year old boy, who was referred to as “Robbie Doe.”

According to the diary in Cottage City, Maryland in 1949 Robbie’s family began to notice strange things happening with their son.  Initially scratching noises were heard that seemed to be coming from inside the walls of the house.  Phantom footsteps were heard in the hallway and objects would move without any explanation.  Later furniture would move across the floor and the boy’s bed would shake violently when he was in it.  Claw-like scratches appeared on his body.

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The possessed Regan in "The Exorcist"
Robbie’s Aunt Tillie was an important player in his story.  Although she had passed away by the time the episodes began, the two had played with a Ouija board and Tillie was said to have been well versed in the occult and adhered to the Spiritualism movement.  The family consulted a Catholic priest who suggested sprinkling holy water throughout the house.  The boy’s mother claimed the bottles of holy water would fly off the shelf and candles would extinguish themselves.  Robbie had to be taken out of school because his desk would move around on its own.

The family petitioned the church and the archdiocese granted permission for an exorcism to be performed.  Robbie was taken to Georgetown Hospital where priests witnessed him speaking in dead languages. During one session the boy ripped a bedspring from his mattress and slashed a priest from his shoulder to his wrist. Witnesses claim the priest’s hair turned white over night.

Eventually Robbie was taken to St. Louis to live with his aunt and uncle.  Here Jesuit priests led by Father William Bowdern resumed his exorcism.  During the rite, the boy would violently spit and urinated on the priests.  Once he punched a priest in the groin and growled “That’s a nutcracker for you isn’t it.”


The climax of the possession came when Robbie claimed to have a vision of St. Michael holding a flaming sword and exclaimed, “I am St. Michael! I command you, Satan, and the other evil spirits to leave this body, in the name of Dominus, immediately! Now!”  That seemed to do the trick and the strange occurences abruptly stopped.  The boy eventually returned to Maryland where he lived in anonymity.  The local fire department burned down the house where the phenomena began as part of a training exercise.

Some believe there was no possession to speak of and that the boy had been the victim of poltergeist activity.  Poltergeists usually attach themselves to teenagers, commonly those who are troubled.  Robbie’s family is said to have been dysfunctional.  Some assert that the occurrences could be explained by psychokenesis, wherein people can unknowingly manifest psychic energy that causes physical objects to move seemingly of their own accord in their presence.

Ed Gein – Inspiration for Horror

Real life killer Ed Gein, the “Butcher of Plainfield” has been the inspiration for at least three classic horror movies.  Norman Bates in the Hitchcock classic “Psycho,” Leatherface in “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and Buffalo Bill in “The Silence of the Lambs” were all based on Gein.

Ed Gein was born in Wisconsin in 1906.  His father was an alcoholic who worked as a carpenter and his mother, Augusta, was a very religious woman who dominated the family and ran a grocery store in La Crosse.  Augusta instilled in her boys the sinfulness of sex. 

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Ed Gein
In 1940 Gein’s father died.  Then in 1944 his brother Henry died suspiciously.  He and Ed had been fighting a brush fire on their property.  Henry was found dead in an unburned area and had bruising on his head.  The official cause of death was ruled as smoke inhalation.  That left Ed alone with his mother.  Just a year after Augusta died of a stroke, following an argument with a neighbor.  Alone on the family farm now, Ed went of the rails. 

He became obsessively fascinated with the human anatomy and took up grave-robbing.  He would search local obituaries for recently buried female corpses, and dig them up, taking body parts as trophies.  Gein started making macabre decorations with his trophies. He soon grew frustrated with the corpses and decided he needed fresher bodies to work with.

In 1954 a 51 year old woman named Mary Hogan, who vaguely resembled Augusta Gein, disappeared from the bar she ran in a neighboring town.  Gein was among the suspects but there wasn’t enough evidence to connect him to the disappearance.  In November of 1957 another woman resembling Ed’s mother, Bernice Worden, went missing from the hardware store she ran in Plainfield.  This time Ed could be connected.  Locals told police Ed had told them he intended on asking Bernice on a date.  On the day she went missing he had told people he needed to go to the hardware store to buy antifreeze.  At the hardware store crime scene police found a receipt for antifreeze. 


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When police arrived at the Gein house they were met with a house of horrors.  Deputy Frank Worden, Bernice’s son, found her body hanging from the rafters, her head cut off, her genitalia removed, and her torso slit open and gutted.  Several more bodies were found in this fashion.  Besides the bodies, Gein’s decorations horrified the officers and made him famous.  As they searched the home they found Ed’s handiwork, which included bowls made of human skulls, lampshades, an armchair, and a wastebasket made from human skin, shoeboxes containing female genitalia, a belt made of nipples, a human head, four noses, a heart in a saucepan on the stove, and an entire bodysuit made of human skin.

Gein immediately confessed to the murders of Worden and Hogan as well as his grave-robbing activities.  A judge found him mentally incompetent to stand trial and he was committed to a secure mental hospital.  The house was demolished to keep curiosity seekers from coming to gawk.  Gein died of respiratory failure at Mendota Mental Health Institute on July 26, 1984, at age 77.


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Mask made by Ed Gein
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Head found in a box
hermuse
12/30/2012

Wow. Fascinating stuff. Most of this I had heard of before, but somehow, I have never heard the story of Ed Gein. Wow. That's some crazy stuff. Thank you for sharing. This is very well done Ms Mandy.

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I am enjoying reading your article. Every couple years a new horror movie is released with the “based on true events” tagline. Thank you.

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