Book Review: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

The next book in the Readings In the Genre The Haunting was The Amityville Horror (Horror 315 page) by Jay Anson. This was a very different style of haunting than The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson.

I think one of the key difference with this story is that I could tell right off the bat that the house itself was evil. While reading The Haunting of Hill House, I kind of felt like the house was more lonely than anything and that it was just trying to convince people to stay so they and it wouldn’t be lonely anymore. The house in The Amityville Horror was a completely different type of haunting, where it wanted the violent deaths of the current living inhabitants.

I liked the preface by Reverend John Nicola and how he talked about the three different main stances, “that characterize the multitude of attitudes individuals assume toward reports of siege by mysterious powers.” He goes on to talk about the scientific, superstitious, and religious stances and how each of the three are classified and how people who fall into each category might see the world. Just like when I read Stephen King‘s Carrie, I can see how adding this information to a book that came out when it did adds to the reader’s knowledge of the story and how people at that time reacted to or understood unexplainable occurrences.

George and Kathy’s list of unexplainable occurrences as well as the danger in the house and the manifestations continued to build throughout the story, making me curious as to what happened next. I also liked that the story sort of made you feel okay about reading it, even though there were some rather freaky and unpleasant thing going on. If you read the back of the book, you know that the entire family survives to flee in terror after only spending 28 days in the house.

“The shocking true story of an American dream that turned into a nightmare beyond imagining. In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that, one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the property – complete with boathouse and swimming pool – and the price had been two good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror This is the spellbinding, bestselling true story that gripped the nation – the story of a house possessed by evil spirits, haunted by psychic phenomena almost too terrible to describe.”

It’s interesting for me to note the summary on the back for a couple of reasons. The first being that I was very amused by the line, “Twenty-eight days later,” because I remember watching the movie with that title. I wonder if those that made the very unrelated movie 28 Days Later had intended there to be a correlation. I strongly doubt it, but it amused me nonetheless.

The other part about the summary on the back of the book that interested me was how it talks about how the house was possessed by evil spirits and haunted by psychic phenomena. I mentioned a few paragraphs ago about the preface from Reverend John Nicola and how he spoke of the three main stances when viewing extraordinary phenomena. In some ways, it feels like there might have been more acceptance for the mystical back in the late sixties and early seventies. The churches had the three types of stances categorized and seemed like they had plans in place to deal with supernatural occurrences. Today, I don’t know of very many strongly religious people who would willingly acknowledge these types categories. I would think that things would be reversed, where people with their much broader intellectual base would be more willing to accept supernatural occurrences today rather than forty years ago. There are even popular television shows these days about ghost hunters and their search to prove to their viewers that places are either haunted or not, but I’m not really sure how seriously people take those shows, even though they clearly have scientific methods to measure psychic phenomena.

This book clearly outlines pretty much all of the signs and symptoms of psychic phenomena or supernatural occurrences or hauntings or whatever. There are spots of warmth and cold, ghostly images, presences of others, flies, green goo, moving furniture, weather problems, etc., and I guess all these could be used as something of a checklist if you ever feel like your house or living environment may not be entirely safe.

One of the other interesting things to me is how it appears as though there were a variety of spirits in the house and not just those with malevolent intent. The elderly couple, the pig guy, potentially the “neighbor” who brought a six-pack of beer as a house-warming gesture, the little boy, and the creepy white monster. It made me really start to think about whether or not all the ghosts interact with each other. This was somewhat partially eluded to when Missy mentions that there was the little boy ghost who she’ll soon get to play with, but I think it’s something interesting to note, because it kind of felt like all the different spirits wanted different things. I wonder if they had different times or places where each of them could be more influential and that’s why some rooms of the house were safer than others? Because I can’t imagine that the elderly couple or the little boy meant any real harm. Those that were part of the sacrifices and such, I can absolutely see as meaning harm.

Overall, I think I would rate this book as a high two on my rating scale. It was an interesting read, but it really wasn’t gripping and I didn’t really get the full sense of movement and urgency from it that I have from some previous books. I’m glad that I own it so that I can use it as a reference in the future, but I’m not sure how likely I am to reread the whole thing again.

About C.A. Jacobs

Just another crazy person, masquerading as a writer.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, MA in Writing Popular Fiction, Readings in the Genre and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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