My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It’s not exactly a secret that I despise the whole Amityville Horror phenomena. Thus it should come as no surprise that I found this utter shredding of the original saga to be very pleasing in the cold, dead corners of my heart.
Kaplan performs the usual (well deserved) hatchet job on the book itself, going point by point through 90% of the factual issues that have been discussed ad nauseum by dozens, if not hundreds, of others – including myself – over the years. That’s not exactly new territory, though having it all in one place and written with reasonable coherency is handy.
What puts it a notch above other, similar materials is the items related to the rise and aftermath of the Horror story. The lead up going over some aspects of the original De Feo murders was interesting, if failing to present anything really new, but the information about articles and interviews related to the Lutzes and their ever-shifting story of demonic possession and slime rivers chasing them up and down staircases features even more contradictions and about-faces than different editions of the book, and when you get into the discussions between George and Kaplan – or the lack thereof, in some cases – showcases even further how utterly batty the whole thing is.
So why only 3 stars? Because Kaplan is just a little bit of an egotist. Every contradiction, every new edge in debunking the mess that is unearthed comes with self-congratulatory pats on the back and portraits of a messianistic crusader for truth who is too often martyred for his cause by the shock-hungry American public who all-too-desperately wants to believe that an innocent suburbia can become host to ghosts, demons, angry Native Americans and evil pig ghost/demons. The discussion of his personal life, including the discussion of his marriage’s dissolution and eventual romance and marriage to his future cowriter and the blow by blow of heath scares and why exactly he didn’t want to work in buildings with stairs are likewise unwelcome visitors. They add nothing to the book’s assumed purpose and frequently interrupt the flow of attempting to piece together something resembling a factual account of the events surrounding the Horror. Were those not present, or were at least scaled back a notch, this would have easily earned 4 stars from me.
Bottom line? If the Amityville Horror fascinates, inspires or aggravates you, there’s things in here worth reading for both those who subscribe to the hogwash camp and those who still desperately seek to defend it. If you have a more generalized interest in true-life ghost stories or investigations, it’s probably still worth a look, being related to arguably one of the most famous American hauntings. If neither topic is of deep interest to you, this book isn’t going to change your mind.
One other consideration is the price point; I had a hard time hunting down a copy, and generally it goes for $30 or more. Whether that’s due to rarity or popularity, I’m not certain. But that may put off more casual students of the subject, so be forewarned.