The investigation by Duke University is messy...
Firstly, BellWitch74 is right - the official Duke University Parapsychology department closed down a long time ago. The official Duke Parapsychology Lab was established in 1935 by JB Rhine and William McDougall.
As JB Rhine neared retirement age, he felt the establishment of an independent organization was needed, as his work in parapsychology was always on the "fringes of academia" and was frequently looked down upon by skeptics, disbelievers and conservative members of Duke. So in 1962, Rhine helped create the "Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man" (FRNM) to sponsor and thus ensure the continuation of his work. This foundation included the "Institute for Parapsychology," which was the research group that investigated the Amityville house.
Now with a name like the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, is it any wonder that everyone just referred to them as the "team from Duke University"? That's where the foundation began. That's where they had their roots, and that's where their building was located (until 2002).
In 1995 they renamed the FRNM as the Rhine Research Center.
Some people feel that the Lutzes were using the term "Duke University" to give their case more credence - but even Stephen Kaplan seems to disagree with that, noting that many people still refer to them as the "Duke University ESP Lab":
In his book The Amityville Conspiracy, Stephen Kaplan wrote:George Kekoris & Jerry Solfvin of the Psychic(al) Research Foundation in Durham, North Carolina... The PRF is one of the most respected parapsychological research organizations in the world. It is an independent group which branched off from the original ESP department at Duke University founded by J.B.Rhine... Many people still refer to the PRF as "Duke University ESP Lab", but in actuality the university closed their parapsychology department when J.B. Rhine retired many years ago. The modern PRF is headquarted in a small cottage which they rent from the Duke campus.
So Kaplan refers to them as the PRF; George refers to them as Duke; and today they are known as the Rhine Research Center. For berevity and clarity, I'm gonna refer to them as the "RRC" in this post...
So the problem with the RRC investigation is the discrepancies in statements from Jerry Solfvin. One of our members contacted Jerry a couple of years ago. Jerry is presently with the Center for Indic Studies at the University of Massachusetts in North Dartmouth. This is what he told us:
In 1975, I was a full-time research associate with Psychical Research Foundation (PRF), a privately funded Duke University affiliate. William G. Roll was the Director. We had some professional links/projects with Duke Engineering Dept., but were not funded by them.
When the Lutz family called to report their case (Amityville), I took the call and proceeded to collect info from them via telephone over the next few days. Lutz was eager to obtain an "endorsement" from PRF/Duke that his "haunting" was real - he wanted me to send him a signed statement to that effect - which, of course, I did not. Since the case was of limited interest to us (no collaborative witnesses), I chose NOT to make a personal visit but, instead, sent a "field investigator", a graduate student volunteer who I knew to be in the Amityville vicinty at the time. That was George Kekoris. I asked George to visit the Lutz's house to take photos and collect other information concerning the purported anomolies. He did this, and then reported back to me.
Does that answer your questions? Please feel free to write again if you have other questions. You know, of course, that the case was later discovered to be a houx?
But I'm curious as to the recent "movie" you mentioned that has re-stimulated interest in the Amityville case. Would you be so kind as to bring me up to date on that? Thank you....
Jerry Solfvin, PhD
Okay, so in this email lets make note:
1) Jerry did not visit the house
2) George Lutz was eager to obtain an "endorsement" from them
3) George Kekoris reported back to Jerry
Now let's see what Stephen Kaplan (who declares the haunting was a hoax) has to say about the televised seance in early 1976:
In his book The Amityville Conspiracy, Stephen Kaplan wrote: Soon Channel 5's Marvin Scott was introduced and they started the taped segment. Scott stood in front of the dark facade of the Amityville house, introducing the story to viewers who may or may not be familiar with it by now. The scene then changed and we were seeing the interior of the house. A group of individuals was seated around a table conducting a seance. They were introduced as Lorraine Warren, a clairvoyant; her husband, Ed, a demonologist; psychics Mary Pascarella and Mrs. Alberta Riley; and George Kekoris of the Psychical Research Foundation in Durham, North Carolina. Outside of the seance circle were Jerry Solfvin, also of the Psychic Research Foundation in Durham. Marvin Scott and the camera crew.
So Kaplan claims Jerry WAS there after all. So a discrepancy on point 1 (above).
In his book The Amityville Conspiracy, Stephen Kaplan wrote: Saturday, Feb. 28, 1976 I was able to reach the Psychic Research Foundation on Thursday night and had spoked with Gerald Solfvin, one of the PRF's two investigators who was present at the Channel 5 seance. He was about to lock up the office there, and didn't have much time for conversation, but did tell me that he was rather annoyed by the Lutz case.
"It was a circus there," said Jerry. "There were so many people roaming around the house that there was no way we could conduct a scientific investigation. When the Lutzes originally called us in to investigate, they did not tell us they would be bringing in a camera crew on the very same night."
Jerry went on to say that the PRF had originally assigned George Kekoris to investigate the case for them because he was the field investigator located closest to Amityville. "I went along only because I happened to be in New York that day," said Jerry. "We have no official conclusions on the case because we were not given the proper atmosphere in which to conduct and investigation, and George Kekoris has not yet turned in his report on his interview with the Lutzes."
So here is further contradiction over whether Jerry was there or not. Here he says he was there after all, and was waiting for George Kekoris to turn in his report. Now lets go further in Kaplan's book, to March of 1977:
In his book The Amityville Conspiracy, Stephen Kaplan wrote:With Max listening on the amplifier, I immediately call Jerry Solfvin at the PRF in Durham. Luckily Jerry is in to answer the phone. He has not yet seen the Good Housekeeping article so I read the paragraph concerning the PRF and ask for his comments.
"That's wrong, we did not conduct the seance," says Jerry. "It was conducted by the people brought in by Channel 5 - the Warrens and their group. George Kekoris sat in on the circle, but I was merely an outside observer. Most of the time I was attempting to investigate the house on my own, but it was such a circus there that it was impossible."
"Do you realize, Jerry," I ask, "that the Lutzes are using the good reputation of the PRF and Duke University to add credence to their story? And this time it's in a national magazine!"
Jerry is not pleased at all by this prospect; in fact, he says he is quite fed up with the whole case. George Kekoris never did turn in his report on his interview with the Lutzes, and Jerry says that Kekoris is no longer a representative of the PRF. As far as Jerry is concerned, their involvement with the Amityville house was inconclusive and they have severed all connections to the case.
So in this passage, we not only see that Jerry once again states he was definitely in the house, but we see how Kaplan puts the idea into his head that "the Lutzes are using the good reputation of the PRF and Duke University to add credence to their story." Kaplan goes on to say how "Jerry is not pleased at all by this prospect," which seems to point out that this is the first Jerry has heard this prospect.
And finally, lets note that Jerry states how George Kekoris never did turn in his report, which contridicts his email to our member, stating that Kekoris had reported back to him.
Toward the back of Kaplan's book is the transcript from a 1979 radio interview between William Weber and Joel Martin. Here's an interesting segment dealing with Jerry Solfvin:
Joel Martin: Which is a fascinating point, because among those who the Lutzes suggest were contacted to verify the psychic phenomena, the apparitions, the unearthly presences in that house, the slime on the walls, the statues moving, Kathy aging, the flies on the windows, and, I don't know, the demon pigs, was a man by the name of Jerry Solfvin from the Psychical Research Center at Durham, North Carolina, sometimes misidentified as being part of Duke University but in fact it is near and not actually a part of it.
William Weber: That's correct. And the Lutzes have taken advantage of associating that Institute with Duke University.
Joel Martin: They sure have. They did it as recently as a few nights ago when they were on the "Merv Griffin Show" on whatever station runs that in the city. And they suggested that he was in there and they imply in the book, too, that he went in there to investigate. Now I had a tape recording as recently as this afternoon, in private, of an interview with Jerry Solfvin in which he says, "They called me, I took down what they said, I just made a record of the incidents, but that's all I ever did. I did not investigate. I did not confirm."
So here we have Jerry supposedly telling Joel Martin in July/Aug of 1979 that he was never at the house. Now why would he state that? Could this stem from his 1977 statement to Kaplan that "he is quite fed up with the whole case"? After Anson's book came out, Kaplan says he had a long phone conversation with Jerry, telling him that his organization was being used to support the Lutzes' story. Kaplan says Jerry was upset, but figured there was nothing he could do about it.
I guess he decided that what he could do about it would be to deny ever being a part of it...