“The truth behind The
Amityville Horror was finally revealed when Butch DeFeo’s
lawyer, William Weber, admitted that he, along with the Lutzes,
‘created this horror story over many bottles of wine’.”
is that statement really accurate?
you say "this guy admitted it was all a sham," the
normal human reaction is to automatically believe it, just as
you would when someone confesses to a crime. After all, why
would someone confess or admit to a wrongdoing if they didn't
actually do it? What could their motivation possibly be?
what if I told you that William Weber made this statement as
he was actively suing the Lutzes, trying to get a cut of the
profits from The Amityville Horror book and movie?
Doesn't seem so simple anymore, does it? Now we see a clear
motivation – money. If the story was seen by the courts
as a work of fiction, and if Weber could convince the court
that he played a role in the development of the fiction, then
he could be seen as a co-author of the story, and he would be
entitled to a share of the profits.
when people read that Bill Weber confessed to a hoax, they may
think, "Well that's it, case closed – the haunting
never happened." But it's not that clear-cut. Many people
view William Weber's statement as a confession when in reality
it should be treated as an accusation.
November of 1974, Ronnie DeFeo murders his family. A year later
he is convicted and sent to prison. His court-appointed attorney
was William Weber. With the trial complete, Weber starts thinking
about writing a book on the DeFeo case. Meanwhile the DeFeo
house is sold to the Lutz family, who move-in during the middle
of December, 1975, only to leave a month later claiming it was
haunted. They temporarily stay at their mother's house where
they can take a breath, clear their heads, and decide how to
"fix" their Amityville home.
hired a writer, Weber works out a legal agreement with his associates
for their DeFeo book project when he is suddenly contacted by
the Lutzes, who feel that perhaps his client, Ronnie DeFeo,
was affected by the same forces they, themselves, encountered.
"We realized there was something
so wrong there, that it would be inhuman, it would be improper
to just let him rot in jail and not try to help get him some
kind of psychological help."
—George Lutz, ABC
Primetime Live, 2003
"They just said that they had
some personal experiences in the house that they would like
to relate to me because they thought it could help me in the
defense of Ronnie DeFeo."
on Spectrum with Joel Martin, 1979
Weber heard what the Lutzes had to say, he did seem interested
in helping DeFeo gain access to some sort of psychological care;
but he seemed even more interested in talking about
his book project, feeling that maybe the Lutzes' experiences
would make an interesting chapter – perhaps a sort of
epilogue to the murder story. He attempted to persuade the Lutzes
into coming on board with his book venture, eventually sending
them the following contract proposal:
soured on William Weber over the bullying tactics he used (in
order to secure their involvement in an earlier press conference),
this contract really drove the nail into the lid of the coffin
in terms of the Lutzes having any further association with him
or his book project. One particular item the Lutzes found distasteful
was clause #4 (found on page 3 of the contract) which stated
how convicted murderer Ronnie DeFeo would be entitled to a percentage
of the profits, which meant he would be profiting from his crimes!
The following letter from Weber to Ronnie DeFeo (attached to
the contract and mentioned in clause #4) talks about the deal
and spells out the percentages Ronnie would get from the book
understand the other objections the Lutzes had, it's important
to note how this contract called for the creation of a company
whose main purpose was the publication of this book. The company
was to consist of Bill Weber, his 2 associates, writer Paul
Hoffman and the Lutzes. The contract called for the Lutzes to
"cooperate with the media as determined by the company"
or face losing their equity in the company – no doubt
this clause being a direct result of the Lutzes' reluctance
to participate in the recent press conference.
the haunting was a traumatic experience for the Lutzes. They
didn't want to relive it over and over again in interview after
interview, especially when they had no control over when &
where they would appear and how many interviews would be scheduled.
To them, this contract made them slaves to Bill Weber –
forced to appear whenever and wherever he desired. And if they
refused, they lose all stake in the company, meaning they wouldn't
be paid and they would lose out on any profits.
it wasn't just the profits they stood to lose – on page
2 of the contract it states "all records, tapes or artifacts
now in the Lutzes' possession which pertain to these experiences
shall be held solely and exclusively for the use of the company."
George saw this as possibly including the Amityville house,
itself; so if they refused any interview or media appearance,
they might even lose their home!
Lutzes didn't sign Weber's contract (a contract Weber later
claimed he never wrote) and one day George showed it to a friend
who was involved in the book industry.
"A friend of mine who sold textbooks
to colleges looked at this and said, 'I know someone who
you should talk to before you ever consider such a thing.'
I said, 'Well we're not even considering this –
this is just an absurd idea,' but he introduced us then
to Tam Mossman who was an editor at Prentice-Hall Books –
Prentice Hall Trade Division. Tam Mossman was Jane Roberts'
– who did the "Seth Speaks" books – her editor.
And I went and looked those up, and bought them and read them,
and learned about – even thought there was some really
strange stuff in those books, that this was a guy who knew
what he was talking about – what he was doing –
who understood the paranormal, at least one particular perspective,
and I was now dealing with a credible company. He made a recommendation
of someone he knew – Jay Anson – and asked that
we meet with Jay."
—George Lutz, Penn
State speaking engagement, 2003
set the ball rolling with Jay Anson and Prentice-Hall, and Jay
quickly got to work writing what would become The
in July of 1976, still shopping for a publisher for his own
book project, Bill Weber commissioned Paul Hoffman to write
an article about the haunting for The New York Daily News.
The piece was a hit, causing hordes of curiosity seekers to
descend upon Amityville, gazing upon the eerily vacant house.
A revamped version of this article was later sold to Good
Housekeeping in early 1977, prompting concern from Prentice-Hall
which forced the Lutzes to sue Hoffman, Weber, and their associates
(partly in order to prevent any future articles from coming
out before Anson's book was released). Weber counter-sued the
Lutzes, claiming breach of contract in regards to them backing
out of Weber's book deal (claiming an oral agreement had been
made) and misrepresentation, as he explained in a 1979 radio
"They took all of the material
from me, converted it to their own use under the guise of
helping me and Ronnie DeFeo, and they also pre-empted the
field, preventing us from getting our book published."
on Spectrum with Joel Martin, 1979
"I know this book's a hoax,"
charges Weber. "We created this horror story over many
bottles of wine."
quoted in People magazine, 1979
that quote brings up an interesting question – if the
Lutzes and Bill Weber did, in fact, make-up the story of the
haunting as a work of fiction, then why did Weber include a
clause in the contract above (found on page 2) requiring the
Lutzes to take and pass a polygraph examination to confirm their
claims regarding the haunting? That clause clearly tells us
that Weber wasn't sure if the Lutzes' story was real. And if
he wasn't sure if the story was real, then that means he did
not help the Lutzes create it (because if you
help create a fictional story, then you sure as hell know it's
fiction). So that right there tells us that William Weber did
not, in fact, help invent The Amityville Horror.
court case dragged on for 2 years. By the time it ended, with
an out-of-court settlement reached on September 12, 1979, the
book had long been published, the movie was a box-office hit,
the Lutzes were tired of traveling back & forth to New York
(and paying for hotel rooms and babysitters back home), and
Weber was facing potential ethical questions before the New
York State Bar Association – as judge Jack Weinstein put
it, "There is a very serious ethical question when
lawyers become literary agents."
the claims of not being able to go ahead with his own book due
to the Lutzes "pre-empting the field," Weber was,
in fact, eventually able to cash-in on the Amityville craze
by ditching Paul Hoffman and teaming up with Hans Holzer on
the book Murder in Amityville, as explained in this
letter from Weber to Ronnie DeFeo:
as seen in
this 1980 letter to attorney Jack Glazer (deceased), Weber writes
about how he "anticipates receiving as much as $200,000"
from the Murder in Amityville project which he described
as "one literary project with a possible movie connected
with it" (apologies for the scribbling on the letter –
that was done by Ronnie DeFeo).
movie rights for Murder in Amityville were sold to
Dino DeLaurentis, and provided the basis for the movie Amityville
II, which set off a whole new round of lawsuits for the
Lutzes, this time lasting some 12 years...
this subject on our forum!