There’s no place like home. As long as that home isn’t trying to eat you.
This book proved true the idea that, sometimes, fact is stranger than fiction. I had no earthly idea before last week that this was (billed as) a nonfiction book. Seriously?! I’ve always had this fascination with the macabre and the unexplained, so I would’ve read this book long ago had I known that it wasn’t entirely fictional. (Yes, I’m aware that the book has since been proven to be only loosely based on the truth, but it’s way more fun to pretend that it’s true while reading it!) I think there’s a reason the fictional horror genre is so successful and draws so many readers and viewers; horror speaks to the fear we have of the unknown and the unexplainable. We like the thrill of watching or reading worst case scenarios while knowing that we are safe from them.
What takes horror to the next level and makes it far more uncomfortable to digest is the idea that what is terrifying us actually happened, that a real person experienced this thing that we didn’t know was even possible. Being faced with the reality of something that we think shouldn’t actually exist elicits actual terror instead of the thrill that draws us to fictitious horror. Some nonfiction, like that in the true crime genre, still appeals to our morbid curiosity in a relatively safe way, because these works are generally written after the culprit is caught and sentenced, or long after an unknown culprit would have died. But a story like this one, where the happenings are still unexplained and make no logical sense even though they appear well-documented, leaves readers on edge and uncomfortable. Which is the point. How do you provide a logical explanation for a seemingly possessed house?
The Amityville Horror documents the 28 days a family resided in 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville. I can’t imagine buying a house and feeling forced to abandon said home less than a month after moving in, and even leaving all of your worldly goods in the house when you make your escape. For one thing, I don’t think I would’ve ever purchased a house whose previous tenants were all either murdered in said house or are serving consecutive life sentences for committing those murders. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe that places can feel tainted or evil, as though whatever events happened there left a residue that soaked into the walls. But 112 Ocean Avenue was, and might still be as it is still standing, more than that. It’s as if the house has a presence of its own, and that presence is absolutely malicious.
The events that befell the family, as well as those that were inflicted on the family’s priest who only visited the house once, were horrifying and unbelievable. Really unbelievable. There’s this cognitive dissonance I just can’t quite get past to truly believe that this book is nonfiction. Part of the reason for this is because, while the novel is indeed based on a true story, the author was actually taken to court where he was forced to confess that he took some extreme artistic license with the story, adding in many of the sensational elements because he knew they would sell.
That being said, I’ve never been more thankful that my home is new construction that has never housed another family. Even if the book isn’t completely factual, just the idea that there is even a grain of truth to the story is enough to keep me as far away from 112 Ocean Avenue as possible. Anson’s tale is super disturbing, and is a fun read for anyone looking to catch up on some horror classics. If you can, convince yourself that this is nonfiction, at least while reading it, because that definitely makes the story far more terrifying.
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