112 Ocean Avenue
by Michele Christopher
"You go first."
With that, Jack scaled the makeshift fence that had been erected in front of the house. He fell onto the front lawn. We hesitated for about thirty seconds, waiting for something bad to happen. When nothing appeared out of the shadows to attack Jack, we joined him in the yard.
I stared at the house. 112 Ocean Avenue. A shiver went through my body, the kind of shiver that makes you think there's someone standing behind you, maybe reaching out a cold hand, ready to grab your neck. I pulled a beer out of the brown bag I was carrying and took a few swigs to settle my nerves.
This was in 1979, soon after a movie had been made about this house. The murders that happened there were the old news; five years had passed and the bloody family siege was all but forgotten in the wake of the tales of hauntings, glowing-eyed pigs and demonic possessions. The new owners of 112 Ocean Avenue had come and gone, leaving behind a legacy that was far more disturbing to some than the tragic life of the DeFeos before them.
We were teenagers with nothing better to do, I suppose. So we sat on the dock in the back of the Amityville horror house, along with many other bored suburban teenagers, drinking, telling scary stories and waiting. Just...waiting for something to happen.
My friends were anxious. Waiting for signs of the afterlife. Maybe the moans of the dead coming from inside the house, or a floating pig to appearing at the window. If the house was a freak show in itself, the kids roaming around outside it were just another ring in the circus. Drunk, loud and curious. Not a great combo there. Most kids would try to get into the house or vandalize it or pee in the bushes just for the hell of it.
I only went there two nights. Some kids hung out there a lot, I just went once and my curiosity was satisfied within minutes. Just a house. Just a house on a street with pissed of neighbors. There were no ghosts here. No pigs or flies or demons.
Well, that's not entirely true. There were demons, alright.
I thought about the real horror that had occurred there. A young man possessed by his own personal demons slaughtered his entire family right inside that home. That's what frightened me. Not some imaginary spirits. Not that I was too mature to believe in ghosts; I was just more concerned about the ghosts of the DeFeo family getting pissed off at us being there than the manifestations of some deranged couple's fantasy haunting us off the property.
Some guy killed his whole family inside there. That's all I could think as I sat there alone, staring at the house. What came after that; the new owners, some ridiculous ghost stories, a book and a couple of movies, that didn't matter to me. Ghosts and goblins don't scare me much. People who slaughter their family members do. And seeing all these kids running around the property like it was their own haunted playground, I couldn't help thinking that most of these kids had no idea what happened before the Amityville house became the horror house. Maybe they wouldn't be so quick to dump warm beer out on the lawn or kick in a window if they knew. Kids died in there. Not fake kids on some movie screen. Real kids.
Based on a true story? Sort of. There really was a guy who killed his parents and brothers and sisters one night inside 112 Ocean Avenue. There really was a couple named the Lutzes who moved in to the house shortly after. That's about as far as the "true story" goes.
But bored, drunk teenagers mostly preferred to believe the gruesome tale of oozing toilets and slimed walls because it gave us something to do. I think about it now - we spent nights hanging out in the vacant backyard of a fake haunted house? - and I almost laugh at myself until I remember all the other stupid things we did in the name of suburban excitement.
Now that it's Halloween and people are talking about horror movies and Amityville always comes up, I keep thinking back to those nights we snuck into the yard at 112 Ocean Avenue. The real horror was much worse than the fictional (passed off as truth) horror from the movie, book and deluded brain of one George Lutz. Remember when you see "based on a true story" that the story it is based on has nothing to do with beady eyed pigs and exorcisms.
Which is a shame, really. I'd much rather be scared of a demon barnyard animal than a living, breathing lunatic.
Michele sleeps with the lights on.