Monday, August 31, 2009

For God's sake, get out!!

One of the first bits of horror pop culture that I remember being exposed to as a child was The Amityville Horror. The story of a "haunted" Long Island colonial style house fascinated me from the minute I saw my mom reading it in the late 70s. I was more than a little bit freaked out by the flies on the cover of the book she was reading. I would ask her about it and she would tell me "oh, it's about a haunted house - and it's a true story!" Well, that was enough to sell me right there. I knew I wanted to read it, but obviously, at the age of 7, that was not going to happen.

Anyway, flash forward to me in 3rd grade and I'm at the Carroll Public Library. Our library had two distinct sections - one side was the children's section and the other side was the adult section. Each had its own door and they were separated by a wall and the circulation desk. What exactly I was doing at the age of 10 in the adult section of the library I'm still not entirely sure, but I found a paperback copy of The Amityville Horror. I vividly remember asking the librarian if I could use the telephone and calling home to ask my mom if I could borrow the book. She was oddly silent for a moment and then said "well, you can check it out, but you have to promise that you won't be scared." I assured her that I would not be. Looking back, I don't know who I was fooling. Certainly not my mother.

Sure enough, I read up to the part where the Catholic priest comes to bless the house and is told by a disembodied voice to "GET OUT!!" while flies swarm around in the dead of winter and, well, it was too late. I tried to sleep that night and I couldn't do it. I sat on the stairs and told my parents that I was scared. I don't remember what their reaction was, but it was likely of the "we told you so" variety. I did finish it, and I remember it being very scary.

I think I read it at least 15 more times in the next few years. My friend Kelly says that me reading The Amityville Horror is one of her first concrete memories of me. The next year, in 4th grade, I did a book report on it for reading class. I went up to the teacher and said that the only words I could find to describe the book were "psychic phenomena." (hmmm, looking at the back of the book I wonder exactly WHY those were the only words I could think of.) I wrote the words in the report, only to have the report given back to me with those words circled and "own words?" written off to the side. Geez, details. She should have been impressed that I was reading such high caliber stuff! This was not Tales of A Fourth Grade Nothing or Encyclopedia Brown!

The thing that always got me about The Amityville Horror was that it was billed as a "true story." Pretty much the ONLY thing true about The Amityville Horror was that people were murdered in the house about a year before the Lutzes (the family who bought the house and supposedly suffered the "psychic phenomena") moved in. Everything else, up to and including every last bit of supernatural craziness talked about in the book is complete fabrication. Even though the Lutzes both steadfastly maintained the veracity of their story, they started contradicting themselves and certain parts of their story were proven to be completely and utterly impossible - the most notable of which is the night they claimed the demon-pig haunting their daughter's room ran across the yard leaving cloven hoof prints in the snow despite the fact that there was no snow on the ground in Amityville that night.

The part of me that is still in the 3rd grade is very disappointed by the revelation of The Amityville Horror being a hoax. I really want to believe in some kind of life after love death and ghosts and all that kind of stuff just fascinate me. There is absolutely not one whiff of scientific proof that supports the existence of ghosts - one has but to read Mary Roach's Spook to really understand this - but as I have often said, there are many things that science just can't explain. And besides, much like Fox Mulder, I simply want to believe.

Even though I may never get that definitive proof of ghosts that I would love to have, I know that the next time I go to New York, I am going to take the train to Amityville to see the house. The "eye" windows have been replaced, and the house renumbered to prevent sightseers and riffraff like me from gawking, but a quick Google Map search of "112 Ocean Avenue, Amityville, NY" gives you this.

If that isn't it, I don't know what is.

I'll be respectful, but so help me if I hear a disembodied voice say "GET OUT!" I am taking off like a dirty shirt.


Matt said...

Oh my lord...this book scared the holy hell out of me.

Myfizzypop said...

when i saw the post title on my feed thingy, i automatically assumed it was about my 3rd favourite Evita song Goodnight and Thank You!! I was wrong :/ This was good too...

Dan said...

Matt - maybe we'll both have to confront our childhood fears and make that pilgrimage to 112 Ocean Avenue! Just not at 3:15 AM.

Paul- Goodnight and Thank You could be a whole blog post. How good is that part in the movie?!?!