Who knows?

Thanks to Thingy, I’ve been reading up on the “Amityville horror“–the actual case and the book about it, not so much the movies.

Apparently, there’s quite a lot of controversy over the extent to which it is “a true story”. Without having read it, but only read about it, I’d have to say that it’s certainly a compelling and powerful story, but on the other hand, so many of the weird events that happened to the Lutz family sound kind of clichéd. For instance, quoting from Wikipedia:

“The Lutzes’ five-year-old daughter, Missy, developed an imaginary friend named ‘Jodie,’ a demonic pig-like creature with glowing red eyes.”

To me, that’s really creepy. True or no, it’s something that sticks in the reader’s mind. But the concept also sounds a lot like the idea behind “Captain Howdy” in The Exorcist. Also, the actual description of the thing reminds me a bit of the Lord of the Flies from the 1954 book of the same name.

A believer in the supernatural might make the argument that horror clichés are clichés precisely because these phenomena have haunted humanity from the beginning, and thus speak to something in our genetic memory. Or perhaps, as Charles Lamb wrote in Witches and Other Night-Fears:

“Gorgons and Hydras, and Chimaeras—dire stories of Celaeno and the Harpies—may reproduce themselves in the brain of superstition—but they were there before. They are transcripts, types—the archetypes are in us, and eternal.” 

(As an aside, H.P. Lovecraft used that passage as the epigraph to his story The Dunwich Horror, the title of which is thought, according to Wikipedia, to have inspired the title The Amityville Horror.)

My reaction to this, as to all such “true ghost stories” is: well… maybe. I can’t say for absolute certain that it’s impossible. Who knows what weird stuff there is out there? But it seems unlikely. I mean, which is more probable, given your knowledge of the world:

  • That bizarre, fantastic supernatural phenomena occurred.
  • That some people made up a story that sounded cool for money and fame. 

I’m not saying the Lutzes were lying–I have no proof of that, and really, no one can know for sure. Their story might have been quite true. But at the same time, I think know which scenario is more plausible. It’s the same way with all these sorts of tales.

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