I was born in Copaigue, Long Island, New York. At least that is what I have repeated most of my life, and I do recall that it was on the birth certificate that I have stashed away in a file somewhere that I needed to procure for some reason or another. I remember nothing about Copaigue, because I don’t think we lived there very long after I was born.
I do have a distinct memory of standing in a crib, having been awakened by sirens from a fire truck in the middle of the night. For some reason, I don’t think it was my own bedroom, but I can’t be sure. It probably was. I mean how many cribs could there have been around Long Island waiting for me to sleep in. The odd thing about the memory is I see myself in the crib, like I’m the parent walking in. Anyway, I was pretty frickin’ scared and screaming at the top of my lungs. Fire truck sirens at night still have a disquieting effect on me.
Copaigue is a hamlet. Not something familiar in this part of the country. We don’t have hamlets in the West; we have camps maybe, and towns, then cities. A hamlet is a small village, so that fits. In Britain, a hamlet is so named because it doesn’t have its own church. Hamlet is also a play by Shakespeare that was first published in 1603.
Copaigue is an unincorporated hamlet within the town of Babylon. The 2010 census counted 22,993 residents. Besides me, the only person of any celebrity that was born in Copaigue seems to be a professional wrestler that I have never heard of. But….Copaigue is bordered on the West by the village of Amityville also in the town of Babylon.
You remember Amityville, right? The Amityville Horror. So more frightening because it was supposed to be true. In fact, the subtitle on the cover was “A True Story.” Written by Jay Anson in 1977, the book sold over 3 million copies. It was the “Exorcist” all over again, but this time it was true.
George and Kathleen Lutz moved into 112 Ocean Ave, Amityville, New York on December 18, 1975. It was their dream house, a house they clearly could not afford. But they got the deal of the century on the place because, thirteen months earlier, Ronnie DeFeo murdered his entire family while they slept. On January 14, 1976 the Lutz’s fled the house in terror, packing only a few belongings, claiming it was possessed by demons.
Those of you familiar with the story might remember the invisible pig, “Jodie,” that was a special friend of the Lutz’s little daughter. He would appear small like a teddy bear or could be the size of the house, according to George Lutz, when he wanted to be seen. Kathy Lutz first saw the invisible Jodie as two red eyes peering through the window.
I was reading “The Amityville Horror, A True Story” in the family room of my house in Cheyenne. It was a half-basement room with ground level windows. I couldn’t put the book down, and was reading it late into the night after everyone else had gone to bed. All of a sudden I looked up at the basement window and two bright red eyes were glowing through the glass. It scared the living shit out of me. I jumped up out of the chair, threw the book down and walked slowly toward the window. Why the hell I did that, I’m not sure, but the two red eyes continued to glow for a few seconds and then they abruptly disappeared. Looking out the window, hoping to see nothing, especially not a floating pig, I could see the neighbor getting out of his Ford Galaxie 500 across the street.
Another thing that happened in the book was George Lutz would wake up every night at 3:15 am. It was inferred that this was the time Ronnie DeFeo went around shooting the members of his family, but the time of death was never determined by the coroner. For the next few weeks I started waking up in the middle of the night, and would look at the alarm clock on the bedside table. It would undoubtedly read 3:15. It freaked me out.
I could hardly wait for the much touted movie to come out. I was in line the first weekend that it was showing in town. But for me, the movie turned out to be a huge disappointment. It barely followed the story in my view, and had James Brolin sitting around holding an axe like some crazed maniac throughout most of the movie. It was almost comical in how it pushed the demonic possession of George Lutz which, according to the “true” story, never really happened. Still the movie grossed over $80 million. And they have made eleven Amityville movies since, most recently “The Amityville Asylum” in 2013.
I followed the story for years after as they tried, almost as soon as the book came out, to refute George and Kathy’s story. A story that had been on a national tour with appearances on talk shows around the networks, as well as Good Housekeeping, People magazine, the New York Times, and the L A Times, to name a few. When no one knew where the Lutz’s had gone, I tracked them down to a non-published number in San Diego, California when I was working at the phone company in 1978. I also talked with my Aunt that lived in nearby Woodmere who told me she had driven by the house on several occasions and it was up for sale at the time. She went on to say that it was like a constant traffic jam in front of the house on Ocean Avenue. I felt more connected to the story with my intimate information.
The house on 112 Ocean Avenue still exists but has been extensively remodeled, and the address was changed back in 1977 to 108 Ocean Avenue to try and keep down the constant drive-by traffic and protect the owner’s privacy. The house looks considerably different today than it did back in the 1970s. Interestingly none of the other owners of the house have claimed to be haunted by demons. The house was listed in 2010 for $1.15 million. Kathy and George Lutz have both died; Kathy in 2004 of emphysema, and George died of heart disease in 2006. They were divorced in 1980 but supposedly remained friends.
The look-a-like house in New Jersey that was used for the exterior shots in the original 1979 film was back on the market in 2012. It was originally listed for $1.45 million, and then reduced to $1.35 million in 2011. The asking price on the 10-room colonial style home when it was relisted was dropped to $955,000 in time for Halloween 2012, because the owners said they were getting a divorce, not because it was haunted.
Ronnie DeFeo is in the Green Haven Correctional Facility in upstate New York serving 25 years to life for the murders that spawned a horror genre.