23 May 2011

Post 385: The Amityville Horror

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. ISBN: 9780553049848.

So, I gave this a three star rating on Goodreads (I liked it). And I did, though it was by no means well written by any stretch of the imagination. Taken as a work of fiction, which seems to be the consensus these days, some of the incidents are more laughable than scary. The narrative is jumpy and poorly written, and the omnipresence actually takes away from the story. We are given too many details about what is actually happening, even though we don't know exactly why it is happening. But, this is exactly the kind of narrative you would expect from people who have been experiencing weird shit and documenting it.

Having said that, it would have been better if this had been written as a kind of diary, or if it had been based on "recordings" from home movies, etc. Instead we have a plain narrative, and while there are moments that are scary if you're able to suspend your disbelief, it is much more difficult to do that if you already accept that this is a hoax.

So the question is, do we get pissed off at the Lutzes and Anson for having deceived thousands (?) of readers in order to give them a real scare? Or do we accept that, haha, they got us, and be grateful for the entertainment value and the brief moments of belief we experienced? To be sure there is enough malicious and even unintentional misinformation that is spread on a daily basis, but the kind perpetrated by individuals seeking to improve their personal lives while providing a source of entertainment is relatively harmless in the long run.

And why do we want to believe these stories anyway? Wouldn't it be better if there were no demons to infest our houses and possess our bodies? Or is it better to believe in them and try not to piss them off or invite them into our homes and lives? Even if there aren't demons it might at least lead to better lives just based on a more thoughtful and possibly healthier mindset. The fact that some people have to have the bejesus scared out of them to remind them not to do things they damned well know they shouldn't says more about who we are as a social species than being upset that someone lied to us. The fact that this story was created and perpetrated as being true was a breaking of that social contract, but we are pissed only because someone profited from it rather than receiving the hellfire we think they deserve for doing so.

However, as far as lies go, this is a small one. And it is easy enough to believe that there are strange things that happen to people in other places. This is just another overly exaggerated ghost story that got blown even more out of proportion because there was fame and money to be had. It seems to me like the audience was given what they really wanted: the chance to believe a fantastical story. That there was deception involved is really an extension of the storytelling, if somewhat questionable ethically.

A reasonable personal comparison between the movie and book can be found at PelleCreepy. According to the (self-proclaimed) World's Strongest Librarian the audio version is hilarious. 
 LibsNote: This was sent to me by an international man of mystery who prefers to remain mysterious. He responded to my call to help me out with stuff on my wishlist.


  1. I read this book back in 7th grade when it first came out. We read it as true. You could excuse us since we were only 13 at the time, but many of our parents also read it as true and some of our churches preached against reading it because it was dangerous.

    We really should have known. It's so clearly faked.

    But you do raise several interesting points about books like this. Why do we want these stories to be true? So many of us, anyway. I don't know, but it's a good question.

  2. I think part of the reason why we like these stories (and maybe I'm just speaking for myself), is that life is kind of way cooler with monsters lurking around the corner. I mean, yes, they may eat you and drag your soul to hell, but in the meantime, it means that we have more to deal with than just ourselves. There are dark things that heroes can save us from.

    Without monsters, all the evil in the world just comes from people.

  3. CB,
    My generation had a similar deal with the whole Blair Witch Project. I was about the same age as you were for Amityville when it came out, and though the marketing was made transparent a lot quicker after there was just enough confusion about how "real" everything was. I think sometimes it's easy to believe because we've all been spooked before, it's not hard to imagine that going just a bit further into something malignant, etc.

    It's on my reading list, it seems to be a bit hard to find in this area. We'll see what my finances are, I've heard it's probably not a good idea to read it via eBook because of the text variations.

    Why have monsters when there are spiders the size of wall clocks?

  4. No one can save us from the clock spiders.

    Also, it will not let me sign in, so posting without actual account.

  5. Oh Blogger, the things you do.

    Dan, perhaps...time...will tell.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...