An Interview with Michael Linder

An Interview with Michael Linder

Michael LinderThis Fall, the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” started its 23rd season, continuing its run as the longest-running program on the FOX network. One of its creators was Michael Linder, an Emmy Award-winning TV producer and investigative journalist with roots as a radio broadcaster. Back in the mid-1970s, Mike was working at New York radio station WQIV, but was fired (along with most of the on-air staff) when the station switched formats from rock to classical music.

By early 1976, Mike landed a job as the news reporter for rival radio station WNEW. Around this time, stories began circulating about a supposedly haunted house in an upscale community on Long Island, the scene of a grisly family murder the previous year. Through a friend of his (the TV news director for Channel 5, which was associated with WNEW), Mike heard of an upcoming seance to be held at the home. It was to be Mike’s first assignment for his new station.

“I had done some paranormal research in the past,” Mike explains, recalling a previous paranormal experience he had in 1969. “I was living in suburban Cleveland. I remember being at a Ouija board seance with a group of friends in a house that they believed to be haunted. That seance produced a narrative that came out of the Ouija board that channeled a 19-yearold kid who drowned on the lake in the 1860’s with his dad, trying to rescue people on a boat that was in trouble in a storm. They were fishermen. They lived on the edge of Lake Erie. And when we asked things like, ‘What kind of fish did you fish?’

L-A-K-E-T-R-O-U-T.

“Well there are no lake trout around Lake Erie anymore, but the local historical society said in the late 1800’s there were. So there was some historic corroboration and stuff that came out of that. It was a really interesting evening. Couldn’t debunk it. Had some historical accuracy to it. And I reported that story on the radio.

“I had also interviewed and studied people who had gotten very serious into paranormal research,” Mike continued, “So I had gone in there [Amityville] with an open mind, thinking,

‘Okay, I know this terrain, I’ve studied exorcisms and ghosts and know about putting salt in the corners of the rooms, all that kind of stuff,’ and I went in there thinking, ‘Well maybe there is something going on.’”

poolIt was dark by the time Mike arrived at the Amityville house — around 6pm on that cold March evening. A man answered the door holding a candelabra. Behind him the interior of the house was pitch black. The man explained that they were keeping the lights and electrical equipment off so as not to disturb the vibrations.

Mike seemed to be the first to arrive. Handing over the candelabra, the man suggested that Mike take a look around the house as he waited there, by the door, for the others.

“I took the candelabra and started walking up the stairs, thinking this is the most ridiculous thing I have ever been involved in. Here I am, walking up the stairs of this haunted house with this candelabra in my hand. It’s all dark. What the hell is going on here? I got to tell you, the anxiety that I felt walking in the house, going up the stairs with the candlesticks and being in this haunted house with the lights off, 30 seconds in — it’s unsettling. Suddenly it’s the haunted house at Disneyland.”

Acting as the news reporter for a rock ‘n’ roll radio station, Mike often integrated a lot of music into his reports. “The song that popped into my head as I was going up the stairs was ‘The End’ by the Doors, which Jim Morrison sings, ‘The killer awoke before daybreak, he visited his mother’s room, he visited his father’s room.’ This was running through my head as I walked around the house, poking into doors and windows, just looking around at the various rooms.

“It was creepy in a way you realize that, I guess, Lutz bought the house fully-furnished, and so a lot of that furniture and whatever appliances, and that goofy lion statue and all of that must have been the DeFeo’s stuff. And so to realize that the house was pretty much intact, and that the Lutz family hadn’t lived there all that long. It was almost an unspoiled crime scene, but it had been cleaned up — new mattresses brought in. I’ve been in other crime scene homes where there was some physical evidence that mass murders had gone down — stained ballroom floors, that kind of thing — but no traces of any of it [here].”

As the house started to fill-up with other reporters, investigators and psychics, the lights were quickly turned back on. “As we were walking around the house, people were talking about cold spots, hot spots — I didn’t see it. It’s an old house, it was March, it was cold.”

Another topic of discussion was the DeFeo murders, which had occurred in that house just over a year ago. “The story that was going around that night was that [Ronnie DeFeo] had laced the family meal with barbiturates,” Mike remembered, not then aware of the coroner’s report which stated that no traces of any drugs were found in the victims’ bodies.

Lutz Kitchen“I really tried to get into the spirit of the moment and the vibe, but the place just seemed so damn ordinary. Everything was just so ordinary. Just did not kick up anything whatsoever. The place was haunted by its interior decorator. The moose head, that lion statue — I could never get a fix on what kind of personality had driven what was going on in that house. Who would stick that moose head up — where is that coming from? Was that Lutz? Was that the DeFeos? And that was the unsettling thing about it. You go into somebody’s house and you can get a sense of their logic — what kind of people they are. You couldn’t in that house, because there was just so much whacko junk all over the place. Disorganized.

“I mean structurally and architecturally, its a nice house. The staircase is really grand, and when you walk in the front door and see that in front of you, and these rooms — the dining room coming off one side, the living room coming off the other — its a very nice place. The Sunroom is stuck off to the side. It was built with the best of intentions — really junked up by the time we got there. … The oddball furniture and the things just kind of stuck around. The whole thing looked like it was furnished by the Salvation Army.

“And sure, a family with kids, things are going to get sloppy; but there was really no overriding sense of personality about the family who lived there. Why would there be all this weird furniture, brik-a-brak all over the place? It didn’t make sense. If they were just going to walk out with the clothes on their backs one day on the advice of the Roman Catholic Church, then maybe they were just scattered to begin with.”

With that point in mind, Mike conducted what he refers to as the ‘Toothbrush Test.’ “That is, if people are going to leave, and they’re going away for the night, or they’re going away on a trip, they’re going to take their toothbrushes with them. So I checked all of the medicine cabinets in all the bathrooms, and the toothbrushes and toothpastes were all there. They had, indeed, just walked out of the house.

“And in fact they had asked would we please empty the food out of the kitchen refrigerator, because there was lettuce and tomatoes and veggies and stuff in there that would spoil — and so at the request of the Lutz family we emptied out the perishables from the refrigerator.”

dawnsroomAmong the various observers and psychic investigators present that night were demonologists Ed & Lorraine Warren and local TV newsanchor Marvin Scott and his crew, who were there with cub reporter Laura DiDio, filming a report for the Channel 5 news. “Marvin played it low-key. He and his cameraman and sound guy, they all just shot what was happening, stayed out of it, didn’t try to sully the environment by asking questions or being an annoying presence in the story.

“Everyone walked around the house, exploring. I remember the camera guy setting up, doing the infrared photography. There was some guy who identified himself as a paranormal researcher affiliated with DukeĀ  University. [He and his friend] kept very quiet and to themselves,” Mike explained, most likely referring to Jerry Solfvin and George Kekoris from the Psychical Research Foundation.

The main event for the evening was the seance. “I remember when we sat down at the dining room table for the seance, and holding hands, and these people would sway back and forth and start moaning and carrying-on — and doing this kind of free-association stuff, where one of them started saying, ‘Oh, I feel the presence, it’s an amorphous demon, it’s purple, it has no shape.’ This was also when they started claiming that they were picking up vibrations from the Indian burial ground and stuff. That was the first I had heard of that. And they also claimed that they were picking up vibrations from someone who had committed suicide in the house earlier.

“In the middle of all of this, suddenly there’s a knock on the door. BANG-BANG-BANG! And of course everyone shot up. We all jumped up from the dining room table and ran to the front door. Cameras were rolling, and still cameras were there. We flung the door open, and…

We flung the door open, and it’s this 16-year-old kid in a tuxedo with a corsage box in his hand looking for his dance date. He came to the wrong house. And suddenly he’s standing there, and here’s around 15 of these absolute lunatics and a TV camera focused on him, thinking ‘What the hell?’

The lost prom date who disrupted the seance was soon on his way, but he was not the only distraction that night. “A little bit later there was some tapping on one of the windows in the dining room. And these were two boys — little kids who lived next door whose parents have had it with the notoriety that this place was getting now — and they were shouting, ‘Hey Ronnie, you wanna come out and play ‘ghost’?‘”

The seance continued. “You know, it was hard to take it seriously, sitting around that table, all of these psychics joining hands and swaying and moaning and carrying on. It was far too ‘comic book’. I expected to hear knockings and trumpets blowing and all of that stuff from the 1920’s happening all over again. They were simply just giddy, goofy, over the top wailers and moaners who just dredged up all of these fictional tales of death in the house. Indian burials, suicides in the house, this purple and black demonic force that was an incarnate force — they claimed that it was just this ball of negative energy that they could visualize as just pulsing — the beating heart of the house. Of course, nothing that you could put your finger on.

Amityville seance“And how they got there,” Mike continued, referring to the various psychics, “I never did figure that out — nor the relationship between DeFeo’s attorney and these psychics … or whether Marvin Scott had brought them in, or who. That was one part of the picture I still don’t know about.”

I asked Mike for his impressions of the others who were there that night. “From what I can remember of [the Warrens], they seemed like showbiz psychics — that what they were really all about was a nightclub act. Having dealt years earlier, like I said, with people who were serious about paranormal research — and that was everything from people who were trying to locate ghosts, people who were doing exorcisms, people who could clean homes of negative spirits, people who were trying to resuscitate ancient Egyptian magic rituals, yogas, Buddhists who were looking to identify reincarnated llamas in children who were being born, that whole thing — I’ve worked that world, but I had never really come across anyone as ’showbiz goofy’ as the Warrens. They struck me as not being psychic researchers, but more of a nightclub act.

“The cameraguy who had the apoplectic attack — I think it was just the net effect of the ’show business’ — the kind of cheap theatrics that these psychics were pulling off. He became short of breath, and that could have been anything from having gone up and down the stairs to simply the anxiety of what the psychics were kicking up. Whether it was brought on by that, or whether he simply had a cardio condition that acted up, I don’t know. But he was winded. He did sit down. Of course the psychics leveraged that into all kinds of paranormal theories. But it could have been the moment, it could have been physiological, it could have been an arterial condition in his aorta. [But it] did, indeed, happen.”

Hearing confirmation of that incident involving the cameraman, I next asked Mike about another oft-mentioned happening from that night — the taking of the infamous “ghostie boy” photograph.

“Yeah, I saw the photo. But there was no evidence that evening of anything that would have suggested that something like that would materialize. There was nothing the least bit spooky. Once you got familiar with the house — once you had been in it for 5 or 6 hours — the net effect was that it became far less scary the more you learned about it. Rooms full of flies? Never. Never.”

“No curses following you over the next few days,” I asked in jest.

MICHAEL LINDER: No, nothing. Nothing.

QUESTION: One of the claims made by the Warrens was that Alex Tanous, one of the other psychic investigators there that night, supposedly levitated 2 feet above the ground as he arrived at the front door. And I’m guessing by your laughter that you didn’t hear anything about that, right?

MICHAEL LINDER: No, no.

QUESTION: Okay. Just had to ask.

I asked Mike that question because, according to George Lutz, the Warrens claimed to have a tape recording of Alex Tanous recalling this very incident. I have never heard the tape, myself, (and I don’t know if George is just taking the Warrens at their word or not) but I would imagine that an incident like that surely would have been talked about that evening amongst the gathered investigators. After all, from what Mike described, the evening seemed to be a very informal gathering of people who mostly just wandered around the house looking at things and chatting with each other about the murders and what they knew about the haunting. “A psychic sleepover” as some have later described it.

masterbedroom“I remember there were people camping out in sleeping bags and everything. I do remember that. I also remember that I hadn’t planned to stay, but I just figured ‘what the hell,’ you know, ‘this is a good stunt, I’m in for it.’ So I just went up and claimed the master bedroom and crawled in and just kinda laid there and tried to open myself up to it — play back the crime — think of what had just happened with the seance that night and all of these researchers of all of these different stripes, from the really serious Duke team to nightclub psychics.”

Mike describes his night alone, recording part of his radio report from the master bedroom. “I laid in the bed and recorded on my cassette recorder a monologue about how I remembered growing up in Illinois as a little kid, home alone on a Saturday night watching Shock Theater on TV and being so afraid of being alone — and here I was in a haunted house, and I didn’t feel any kind of threat. The sheets smelled like Tide. It was all just so comforting. The line was ‘Saturday Night at the swinging singles ghost bar, and I’m going to be sleeping alone.‘”

When Mike gave me that “it was all so comforting” line, it triggered recollections of how the Lutzes described themselves as being “charmed” by the house, where they felt like they never wanted to leave. I remembered what George said about how he’d spend less and less time at the office, and how Kathy normally loved Christmas shopping, but did very little of it that year. Instead of going out, they would invite friends over to the house, and despite Kathy’s strong desire to mend some of the DeFeo’s furniture, she would skip out of the re-upholstery classes she signed-up for.

kathy-georgeNaturally this all sounds like a normal newlywed couple enjoying their lovely new dream house, but George said it went much further than that. It was almost as if they were under a spell. In fact, when the haunting became overt and the family felt threatened, George blames this overriding feeling for causing them to perhaps stay longer than they did. When they phoned Father Ray the next day, his advice was for them to leave the house and stay at a motel or with a relative until they got the situation sorted out. That simple idea just wasn’t on George or Kathy’s radar — the realization that they could simply walk out the door and spend the night elsewhere.

Of course Mike isn’t saying that he was possessed by the house, and I don’t mean to infer that he was. Still, I couldn’t help but make that connection just then.

“I slept in the master bed that night,” Mike continues. “About half the people — Marvin Scott, the TV crew — all but a few bailed out. I can’t remember exactly how many spent the entire night, but I did. It was just a one-night event from probably 5 or 6 in the evening until 8 or 9 the next morning. I got up, drove back to Manhattan. There were still a couple of people hanging around who had spent the whole night in the house.”

Reportedly, a 2nd seance took place around 3am in the sewing room. “I have no idea what the other people did all night long. When I got up there were still some bleary-eyed people walking around the house, probing it. I just got in my car and drove back to Manhattan. I had my tape, and I had gotten a good night’s sleep. I had no weird dreams, I had no nightmares, I had no fitful sleep. I got a great night’s sleep.”

In the Epilogue of The Amityville Horror, Jay Anson writes briefly about this March 6th investigation, noting: “Observer Mike Linder of WNEW-FM stated that he had felt a sudden numbness, a kind of cold sensation.”

“I never said that,” Mike attests. “That was completely fictionalized. Completely made up.”

Mike insisted that he gave the story of the haunting a fair shot. “I did not go in there as a skeptic. I went in looking for it. … I had also interviewed and studied people who had gotten very serious into paranormal research, and that was when I was intrigued by these guys who said they were there from Duke — these two guys who said that the carnival circus atmosphere was not conducive to doing any kind of serious research. That was exactly the story.”

In fact, Mike may have faced a much scarier situation in 1990 when, as producer for The Jesse Jackson Show, he met with Saddam Hussein on the eve of the first Gulf War.

“We had three meetings, actually. I was up in my hotel room at the Al Rasheed. It was about ten o’clock at night. I got a call from the manager saying, ‘Mr Linder you have to come down to the lobby.’ I did, and there were two Iraqi soldiers in cammo, each carrying an AK47, and they spoke no English, whatsoever. They flanked me and each of them took me by an arm and walked me outside the hotel without saying a word — put me in the back of a car, and we drove off into the Baghdad night at high speeds. They had blue license plates, and when cops would see this car coming they would stop all traffic and wave them through intersections.

“We drove around town madly for about 40 minutes; whipped into an underground parking lot of a building that turned out to be one of Saddam’s palaces — was brought up in an elevator, through a metal detector, and there was Saddam and Jesse Jackson and my crew. We had all been rounded up and brought separately in bizarre routes to where Saddam was at that particular moment.

“I was wearing this kind of khaki shirt and pants — kind of quasi-military — and Jesse’s wearing a shirt and tie. I have to apologize. We’re in a Louis XIV classical palace room, and everyone’s suited up except me. Jesse said, ‘Mr Linder, who I don’t think knew was going to be here tonight.’ And Saddam walks over and checks out my clothes and feels my shirt. He says, ‘Oh, I like dressing like what Mr Linder, here, does.’ He kind of patted me on the shoulder. Saddam was very nice and very cordial to me. That was far weirder [than being in the Amityville house].

“In fact, I’ll tell you the revelation — I haven’t seen this come up. Before we turned in for the night, a bunch of us started digging around in Lutzes’ desk, and looking at papers and files that he had. What we found were…”

“In fact, I’ll tell you the revelation — I haven’t seen this come up. Before we turned in for the night, a bunch of us started digging around in Lutzes’ desk, and looking at papers and files that he had. What we found were copies of a bunch of letters that he had sent to various publishing companies offering to move out of the house in exchange for a book deal. He was pitching this stuff.

lorraine-marvin-to-sewingrm“I believe there were some two-way correspondence, but the story that I reported was ‘maybe there is a demon here, and maybe this purple, undulating, amorphous blob of evil is cunning enough not to resort to mass murder every time — maybe all it took to corrupt the Lutzes’ souls was a book and movie deal in six figures. And the demon is sitting back, waiting for the next family to move in.’ And I closed it off with ‘from the not-so-haunted house in Amityville, Long Island, Michael Linder, WNEW-FM News.’

“And I played that on the radio Monday morning to a huge reaction from the city. It was unbelievable. And in the months that followed every sign in the town that said ‘Amityville’ on it was stolen by souvenir hunters. This town of Amityville was just absolutely flummoxed by this. By the time the movie came out and everything, and the notoriety, you couldn’t have anything that said ‘Amityville’ on it, because souvenir hunters would come and rip the signs out.”

Unfortunately, Michael’s taped copy of his Amityville Horror report was lost a few years back during a flood at his storage facility in his current hometown of Southern California.

“The main thing that was on my tape, and that was in my report, was pretty much the story I’ve been telling you, about the neighbor kids tapping on the window and yelling out to Ronnie; the kid at the door; the actual seance, itself — all of these things were the points that I covered in the story — but especially that thing about digging through the Lutzes’ desk and finding those letters, and that they had been pitching moving out of the house in exchange for a publishing deal before they left the house. They had left that paperwork behind in their desk.”

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QUESTION: Can you recall approximately how many book companies they were corresponding with?

MICHAEL LINDER: I think there were 2 or 3 letters like that.

QUESTION: 2 or 3?

MICHAEL LINDER: Yeah, to the best of my recollection. But they were pitching it. Yeah.

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This was certainly news to me, and this dramatic hoax evidence apparently seems to have escaped the scrutiny of Steve Kaplan, Rick Moran and Ric Osuna as well.

“My cynical surmise on all of this — and there’s no way I can prove it — is simply that the Lutzes picked up this house with the idea that they could turn it around into an intellectual property; and that DiDio came in as kind of a 3rd party who could engineer the myth of the house, build it up, bring in TV, start this talk about ‘was Ronnie possessed by demonic spirits the night of the murders,’ let’s bring in psychics and see what gets produced. All the while giving the Lutzes plausible deniability. Yet the letters in the desk, demonstrating that they were actually pitching the whole thing, was their undoing. And they played it as ‘yeah, we went to the church, we tried to figure out what to do, we were so worried by all of this.’

“But I really believe that they were using DiDio as their cat’s paw to hype the house, to build interest in it and to whip up the literary possibilities. Evidently it worked. They got what they wanted.”

During the course of the interview, I tried to remain as neutral as I could, not wanting to influence Mike’s recollections. As we neared the end, however, I did try to run some things by him, as the news of the discovery of letters between the Lutzes and publishing companies seemed alien and unfamiliar to me, and I was curious about his reactions towards the claims made by the Lutzes in later years.

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QUESTION: Yeah, I see what you’re saying. There is some oddness about it, though. I mean for one, how much money did they think they could make with a book about a haunted house? And two, they gave the house back to the bank instead of reselling it, so right away they’re losing however much they lost — $60,000 or whatever it was.

I haven’t confirmed this, but they claimed that they kept making payments on the house up until June or July; but again, that’s just coming from George, I haven’t been able to confirm that at all. And it just opens up all these questions — there seems to be questions everywhere you look — on both sides. When you think of it as a hoax, you run into questions; and then when you think of it as a true story, you run into questions. It seems like there’s no easy answers.

MICHAEL LINDER: Everybody was thinking book & movie deal at the time. John Parsons, who was then News Director at WNEW, which it was known as then, was thinking of, and actually urged me to write a screenplay treatment for it. He was thinking “book and movie deal.” Lots of people were thinking “book & movie deal” at the time. In New York City the literary possibilities of what was going on in that house, especially after what had happened that night in March, ‘76, you know, a lot of people were connecting those dots and thinking in terms of literary properties at that time.

QUESTION: And William Weber, too. He was trying to get a book deal. I don’t know about a movie deal, but he was trying to get a book deal done, too. Trying to write his own book. In fact trying to write it in collaboration with Ronnie DeFeo, where Ronnie would get profits from the book. That was before the Son of Sam law and everything.

MICHAEL LINDER: Yeah, nothing like grisly death as a great profit center. I should talk. [laughter]

QUESTION: Yeah, then again, you run into questions like “Why would he leave behind those book contracts that you guys found if he was…”

MICHAEL LINDER: Yeah, that was really sloppiness.

lutzesQUESTION: Yeah. And also it seems like someone would “be in the know.” I mean to get the involvement of the priest, you risk him blowing the whistle if he said “no” and if they went with someone else, then he might blow the whistle and say, “Hey, the Lutzes approached me with the same deal, and I said ‘no’.”

MICHAEL LINDER: You know, you guys have dug into that angle more than I did, but my impression going in that night was that the priest had simply said to the Lutzes, “Well, you know, if it bothers you, move.”

QUESTION: Well George did say that. Yeah. George said that’s basically how it went down. The family was just in a frame of mind where that just didn’t occur to them — and again they said that was something that they experienced in the house, this weird feeling that they never wanted to leave. It just didn’t occur to them to — at least for a night — go get a motel room or something else. And George said that’s exactly what the priest said — just get out of the house…

MICHAEL LINDER: I always thought it was more of a casual thing that the priest would say, like, “Okay, if it bothers you, move.” And that becomes “advised to leave on the advice of the Roman Catholic Church.”

QUESTION: Ah, yeah — I see what you’re saying.

MICHAEL LINDER: The shading of it. You can take a simple comment of, “You know, if its creeping you out, go somewhere else, you know.” Fine. Common sense advice. Suddenly that becomes like a papal mandate of “Evil! Evil! Beware! Get out!” Well I’m not sure it went down that way.

QUESTION: Yeah. I can see your side, and to play Devil’s Advocate, there’s also the question of how much of that came from the Lutzes and how much of that came from Jay Anson writing the novel. There are things that Jay Anson put in the book that the Lutzes flat-out said never happened.

MICHAEL LINDER: Oh yeah, he was totally over the top, too — to make it play. That’s the real phenomenon of the Amityville house, that everybody who went in there simply layered their own fantasies on top of a grisly murder — and what you’re left with is a bizzaro wedding cake of a property that’s just got so many layers of icing and doo dads stuck on it that it becomes bigger than life.

book-coverQUESTION: It takes on a life of its own. … In 1979, when the movie was just about to come out, and the book was such a hit, that’s when Weber sued the Lutzes, saying that they walked away from his book deal — and that’s when Weber first started claiming that it was all made up, that he made up the story with the Lutzes, which seems odd because there is a contradiction — there’s a few contradictions there with Weber making it up with them. Then the case was settled out of court. The judge got mad at Weber for being more of a literary agent than a lawyer. So they settled out of court. I don’t know how much it was for, but according to a personal letter that Weber sent to Ronnie DeFeo, he claimed it was a very small amount.

MICHAEL LINDER: Who made the most money out of all this?

QUESTION: I think the makers of the original movie. Although, you know, with inflation… No, I think still the original movie. The original movie made a ton at the box office. You can go to those sites where they adjust the profits for inflation, and I think even adjusted for inflation, the original did better than even this 2005 remake. So the movie studio and Jay Anson, if you want to be specific. Jay Anson also had a cut of the movie. I don’t know how much — I don’t know what kind of percentage deal he had, but Jay Anson made a ton of money off the book and the movie.

The Lutzes claim they didn’t make a lot. Offhand I forget exactly how much they said they claimed, but it was under a million — and that was up til the 2000’s — for the deal they had.

MICHAEL LINDER: Did you ever suss out exactly how bright a guy you think George Lutz really was under it all?

QUESTION: I met George Lutz during the last year of his life.

[At this point the tape ends and this portion of the interview is lost as I switched cassettes]

QUESTION: I get an overall sense that something did happen. Whether stuff was embellished — that’s tougher to get a sense of. But it really does seem to me that something happened to frighten them.

And I don’t know. The whole family kinda turned their back on the public in the early 80s — I’m sure due to being fed up with being in the spotlight and being called liars and things like that. And then they came forward again — at least George did — in 1999 when the History’s Mysteries crew came around and wanted to interview him. And from the stories I’ve heard, he was very timid at first and then got more and more into it. Then he started going to various Amityville websites and he started answering people’s questions, and he started being really, really open — going around and giving talks about it and things like that. And you kinda think, if it was a money-making venture, you wonder, “Well what’s in it for George these days?”

One of the projects that George wanted to do in the 70s was to publish a book called The Amityville Horror Picture Book, which would have photos of the house and the investigation you attended. For one reason or another that book didn’t get published in the 70s — and during this last decade, when he was open again to discussing the case, he resurrected the picture book project. It was kind of a pet project for him. He had a couple of his friends working on it.

On one occasion, in 2004, I told him, “George, you guys really got to get crackin’ because if you want to put this picture book out, the thing to do is to take advantage of all this publicity that the remake is creating.” And he kinda shot me down. He said, “No, that’s not my intent. I’m not doing this for money. Its a labor of love. I want to take my time.”

And I even told him, “Well, its not even a money thing, but you gotta figure that if you want to get a publisher, the publisher is going to be more interested in doing your book if they think the public is interested.”

So, I don’t know. There’s little things like that…

MICHAEL LINDER: That’s why I think he may not have been the brightest guy in the world, and why he may have left those letters behind. And I think you may be right as well that maybe they did get scared. I mean, what if you lived in a mass-murder crime scene for a few months, you know? What does that really do to you? When your entire environment is the scene of gruesome family death; children being killed. That’s gotta be unsettling.

Maybe he realized, “we can’t live here — we’re not going to be able to unload this thing — maybe our way out is to pull off a book and whatever.” You know, if I sound as if though he went in there with the forethought to do it, I’m not so sure — and especially based on what I’m hearing from you now in terms of how he really didn’t have the sense to sink a new book idea with a feature film release, you know, just out of marketing practicality.

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And this is where our interview ended. Still, something didn’t seem to jibe with this discovery of the letters in George’s desk. How could this striking hoax evidence be missed by Kaplan, Moran and Osuna? Why wasn’t it shown to Marvin Scott and his news crew? How could George carelessly leave virtual proof of a hoax behind like that? Who else saw these letters, and why did no one else seem to blow the whistle (let alone the various book publishers contacted by the Lutzes) And how could this all remain forgotten for over 30 years?

Then I remembered something that George had once said in an interview. Thanks to our recent transcription project, I was able to find the statement George made pretty quickly, which came from his appearance on the Lou Gentile Show in 2002: “By the time Ed and Lorraine went into the house on the 2nd time, there was a contract that had been delivered to our house. It had Weber and his partners, Mars and Burton, wanted to do a book deal and a movie deal and use our story as part of that.”

Could this contract have been delivered to the Amityville house instead of Kathy’s mother’s house? Discovered by the Warrens (or others) and left on a table or something? Perhaps this might be what Mike saw — the contract that Weber had written-up?

I sent Mike a copy of that Weber contract, asking if it looked familiar and asking a few other follow-up questions. His response:

“I don’t recall the document you attached, though it’s possible it may have been among the papers. Those we saw were in a file drawer in a desk, I believe on the main floor. Would that be the living room? I have no idea whether Marvin saw them or not, or what time of the night they were discovered. It’s my recollection that the papers we saw were letters rather than contracts, but I’m fuzzy on the point. The others who were looking at them were definitely not the psychics. I remember them as being letters from publishers passing on the Lutz’ offer, not a contract deal. Had I seen the document you attached, I’m pretty sure I would have reported it.”

So there you have it. Make of it what you will. Another Amityville interview to add to the pile. With every answer we get regarding the Amityville case, we only seem burdened with more questions in return. Two steps forward, one step back.