Amityville Files: First off, you are related to the former owners of the Amityville house, do you know why they decided to buy a house with such surrounding controversy?
Donna Cromarty: Yes, I am the second cousin to James Cromarty. I can only render opinion here as it has been some time since 1978. However, I believe the home came on the market for a very low price so, it was a deal. My cousin grew up in the same neighborhood. He bought the home prior to the book coming out and to any “controversy” ever coming up. If you will check the closing date and when the book came out you will see this is fact.
AF: How many times were you in the home while the Cromarty family lived there?
DC: One time for my class project. However, my grandpa Jerry (James’ Uncle) was in there many times for family events. He reported wonderful parties in a beautiful home.
AF: What was the family like at the time?
DC: I would say they were warm and loving, but under stress from all the human activity outside of the house 24/7 taunting them non-stop. The human beings were the real HORROR! People would not leave the family alone. There was one story of a little old woman throwing rocks at a window and cursing the family out when they came to the door. This is the real truth no one considers!
AF: Did the Cromarty family ever say anything to you or anyone else that might indicate an evil presence within the house?
DC: Nope! The only evil was OUTSIDE the house in the form of crazy human beings obsessed with ghosts, throwing rocks at the house, ringing door bells, and harassing my family due to the movie. When I was in the home there was nothing evil in there.
AF: Tell us about the school project you did that focused on the Amityville story.
DC: It has been 30 years since I did this project so, I will try and recall what I can. I did this report for Mr O’Neill’s Massapequa High School class in fall of 1978. I went to the home with my best friend Jamie. She still lives on Long Island. She was from another school district. We were not working on the project together as some reports have misstated. She came along with me for moral support as I was nervous going into the home due to the deaths, not because I feared any evil presence. Jamie and I went to a Pentecostal church together. I was then and am now a Born Again Christian. I believe evil does exist, but we have power and authority over it in the name of Christ. There was nothing evil in there at all. It was simply a beautiful home with a tragic history. I interviewed my cousin and his wife as we went room to room. My cousin identified all the falsehoods point by point. There was indeed growling when I played the tape back during the class presentation. I was not aware it existed until the presentation. I had all to do to keep from laughing as it was funny to me. The kids in the class were scared, BUT it was due to the family poodle dogs. The growling played nicely into my report and earned me an A plus. It was like a mini Hitchcock production. Sometimes humans fear the unknown more than the known!
AF: There have been different articles written over the years that claim the audio that you recorded that day contained a growling noise every time the word “hoax” was mentioned. Is this true?
DC: No. This is a lie. I never said any such thing. The growling was caused by 2 poodles owned by my cousin. They growled at us.
AF: After hearing all the horror stories about the house, were you hesitant to even go there?
DC: I did not hear stories, I saw the movie. I was born and raised in Amityville until age 12. The inaccuracies in the film made me upset that my home town was being vilified by Hollywood. Amityville is a wonderful place… especially down by the bay where the home is. I am a Born Again Christian and I do not fear evil so, I was never hesitant. However, the thought of a innocent family perishing there was unnerving. I could not stand the fact that children died there at the hands of their own brother. The brother was the ONLY evil in that house and he was in jail. How could anyone not think about those kids?
AF: Do you know why the Cromarty family decided to leave after ten years of living in Amityville?
DC: Let me ask you this, why should anyone care if someone sells their home after 10 years? People simply move on or scale down. My cousin is up there in age now. People sell their homes every day. I think 10 years in the home says it all!
AF: Why do you believe the Amityville story continues to live on to this day?
DC: The answer to this question lies in anthropological study of human behavior. Why is it some people still believe in the Bermuda Triangle or the curse of the Pharaohs? People distrust science because they don’t understand it. There are people who want to believe in ghosts, so that is what they are going to believe NO MATTER WHAT is said or proved to be false. The real tragedy is that people forget the innocent people who died there. The only horror that existed in that home was created by Ronald DeFeo who took the lives of his own family. People should focus more on what causes humans to become so evil that they kill their own. That is where the true focus on human behavior should be studied… not some Hollywood story whose main purpose is to sell tickets and earn millions. People should try placing responsibility on human beings who commit evil deeds rather than on ghosts. It would be a much better world if everyone would be held accountable for their deeds.