By Marlon Wallace
When I spoke with filmmaker Eric Walter by phone on April 26, I believe I compared him to Fox Mulder, Fox Mulder being a fictional TV character who studied cases that had paranormal connections. Eric Walter, a Delmarva native, doesn't have X-Files, but he does have Amityville Files, or rather AmityvilleFiles.com, an Internet site Walter created, which has become the largest Web-based archive of Amityville-related research.
His Amityville-related research isn't just general research on the New York village located on eastern Long Island. The research is specific to the murder case that occurred there back in 1974 at 112 Ocean Ave. It was then and there that Ronald DeFeo, Jr. shot and killed six of his family members: his mother, father, two sisters and two brothers.
This would be horrible enough, but about a year after those murders, another family, the Lutz family, moved into that same house and according to them experienced very scary, unexplained and paranormal incidents, lasting 28 days. The scary stuff got so intense that on that 28th day the Lutz family were forced to flee from the house, abandoning all their possessions. This ultimately became the basis for a book and a subsequent movie called The Amityville Horror.
Since the Lutz family left, there have been people who have tried to debunk this horror story. The Lutz family, specifically parents George and Kathy Lutz, have always insisted that they were haunted by ghosts, ghosts of the DeFeos or some other family. Of course, some people didn't believe George and Kathy and there has been no one who could really corroborate their claims.
This year, all that changes, as Eric Walter brings in his upcoming documentary, which he started shooting in July, the one person who is probably the best eye-witness to what happened in that house. This one person saw and heard a great deal and can say better than anyone else if the ghost stories were true or not. He hasn't talked openly about any of this for over 30 years. It was with surprise that Walter got a call from this person about a year ago wanting to finally break his media silence.
That person is Danny Lutz. He's the eldest son of George and Kathy. He's one of three children who for thirty-five years has not talked about what went down in that Amityville house. Eric Walter got an exclusive interview with Danny Lutz who is now 44 after seeing Walter's website.
Whether or not, it corrobates his parents' story is only tangential. For Danny, this is more about trying to explain something that had a profound effect on him when he was younger and explain it, especially to his children.
Besides providing an unheard testimony to something that has become a great, American urban legend, Walter says this film is less concerned with proving whether or not the Amityville story is true. Of course, when Walter initially went to Danny to talk to him, it was in the hope that he would get something new and compelling about the infamous ghost story, but, after meeting Danny, Walter says that's not really what the focus of his film will be.
Walter told me that his documentary will not be about the ghost story per se. His documentary will be about the ghost story-teller. It's not the events themselves but the effects. Walter believes that whether or not ghosts haunted the Lutz family is not the point. Walter says that something haunted Danny.
No matter if there were real ghosts in that Amityville house or if it were all just fabrication, the aftermath has had an effect on Danny. Like any person, Danny has issues, a lot of issues. Walter believes that the root of those issues are unique and has stuck with Danny for decades.
Walter says that Danny has described reoccurring dreams of terrifying happenings linked to that Amityville house. Danny's siblings, save for one, have been able to move on and not dwell on Amityville but Danny seemingly hasn't. Walter says that Danny has a tough guy facade, but people around Danny, current friends and co-workers, reveal that it's a mask for a man who is still scared of something.
Whether he's scared of something supernatural or something internal and within himself, Walter's documentary seeks to explore that. He's not only talking with Danny but with people closely connected to Danny's experience at Amityville to get at what's truly been haunting him.