The Amityville Horror case, which traumatized the Lutz family and captivated a nation for generations, will ALWAYS be one of the most controversial cases in popular ghost lore. While there is plenty of evidence that more than suggests a great deal of inaccuracy in what was reported, there are still those die-hard believers who cannot believe such a tragic event as the DeFeo murders could NOT produce a terrible psychic imprint on the location, and even signal...a demonic influence.
Just as controversial as the case itself is one of the most well-known photographs taken from an investigation of the home in 1976, after the Lutz family had fled. This investigation was conducted by the well-known demonologist team of Ed and Lorraine Warren, which raises many red flags to much of the paranormal community. The idea of this post is not to invalidate this case, this photo, or even the Warrens, but to provide readers with some alternative explanations and information on this widely distributed photo.
As stated, the photo in question was a product of a 1976 investigation of the house, led by the Warrens. It was actually taken by a professional photographer that accompanied the investigation team, a man by the name of Gene Campbell. According to research, the camera was set up on the second floor landing, and was designed to take various photos over a set period of time, using black and white infrared film. From all the sources I have read, the camera was left in this position after the team had packed up for the night.
For whatever reason, this photograph was not publicized until a 1979, when it appeared on the Merv Griffin Show. I've heard varying accounts that the photographer had either been asked to provide a photo of the
Amityville investigation for a book, or even for the Merv Griffin show itself. Whether for book or for television, the rest of the story remains the same. A secretary was given the task of choosing a photo to include. There were literally tons of shots to choose from recorded by this specific camera, but this one stood out to the secretary. She was 8 months pregnant at this time, and reported that every time she picked up the photo that appears to contain a little boy, her baby would kick violently.
As stated, there were literally tons of shots from this camera, but only one seemed to contain any type of anomaly, especially one so shocking as what appears to be a young child peering over the banister. So why did it take so long to become public?
Many believe that the photographer knew that the photograph wasn't paranormal, and to my knowledge, he has never stated anything to the contrary. However, when the photo WAS brought to public attention, the amount of theories and publicity surrounding it gave it a life of its own. The creepiness of the little boy with glowing eyes is exactly the kind of thing that would help support this story.
Popular theories were all over the map concerning what exactly this anomaly was. Some believed it was demonic in nature, no doubt due to the high level of creepiness and feelings this image provokes. The violence of the DeFeo incident and the horror that the Lutz's claimed to have experienced also supported something of a demonic nature.
Still, others thought the image, though still paranormal in nature, had a more benign explanation. They pointed out the startling visual similarities of the ghost boy in the photo to those of John Matthew DeFeo, the nine year old brother and youngest murder victim. Side by side photo comparisons do show some similarities, leading this to be a widely accepted explanation.
I'm personally in the camp of those who believe that the photo is NOT paranormal in nature. One plausible argument that often comes up is the fact that the camera was left unguarded for a significant amount of time, leaving a hoaxer ample opportunity to sneak in and be caught on camera. The eerie glow of the eyes is explained by the nature of the infrared camera. On the other hand, researchers have discovered ANOTHER explanation that for many, has rendered this photo a closed case.
On the night of the investigation, the Warrens were assisted by an investigator named Paul Bartz. Photographs of Bartz from that night show him wearing a plaid shirt, similar to the pattern seen around the "ghost boy." Bartz, of course, was of age during the investigation, and by no means the size of a child barely tall enough to peek over a banister. However, the image is still believed to be that of Paul Bartz who happened to be caught on camera as he was kneeling on the floor, taking some measurements.
According to another blog who provided some excellent information on this story, a reader had claimed to have contacted who he believed to be Paul Bartz himself. When asked about the photo, Bartz neither confirmed nor denied that it was him in the photograph, but did admit to being on site that night, and stating in his own words:
“I am the same Paul Bartz that took part in the séance in the Amityville home some 32 years ago.
The image in the photo you mention does resemble me and I know that Ed (now deceased) and Lorraine went on record (including national tv) stating it was a ghost. Because I have great respect and admiration for them, I will say no more on the issue, allowing the legend of the most haunted house in America, to continue.”
From looking at the uncropped version of the photograph, it is easy to start to see what appears to be a man kneeling in the doorway of the room across the hall, peering out. Forced perspective and creative cropping turned this fairly obvious image into what looks like a young boy peering directly over the banister. In my honest opinion, I think this photograph has been debunked!
Special thanks to News from the Spirit World for the information and comparison photos for this piece! Be sure to clink on the link for the cropped and uncropped ghost boy photo, side by sides of the "ghost" and John Matthew DeFeo, and of course, Paul Bartz wearing a plaid shirt the night of the investigation!
Want more ghost photos? Please see my Paranormal Photos Page for information you won't find on any other ghost site!