'Real Fear': The Spooks That Inspired 'Poltergeist' And 'The Amityville Horror'
The names Lucille Hermann or Christopher Lutz may not scare up immediate recognition, but horror fans owe them a debt of gratitude of sorts.
Both of them experienced real-life scares that eventually inspired two popular spook features: "Poltergeist" and "The Amityville Horror."
Back in 1958, Hermann's family became nationally known after they experienced unexplained poltergeist activity in their house in Seaford, N.Y. -- an experience that inspired the 1982 film.
Meanwhile, when Lutz was 7, he moved into the now-infamous home in Amityville, N.Y., that was the site of a series of bizarre paranormal events that eventually inspired two books and nine films.
But the key word is "inspired," as the fact that both films were based on real-life incidents doesn't mean screenwriters and directors didn't take liberties with the truth.
However, a new documentary, "Real Fear: The Truth Behind the Movies," that debuted March 11 on the Chiller cable network, gives Hermann and Lutz a chance to tell the stories that inspired "Poltergeist" and "Amityville Horror," as did people behind the incidents that inspired "The Mothman Prophecies" and "Silent Hill."
For Hermann, it was the first time in 53 years that she confronted her past.
"I never saw 'Poltergeist,'" she told HuffPost Weird News. "I felt I had my own nightmare. But when I was back in the old neighborhood, it all came back -- nothing had changed, except the roof of the house. Back in 1990, the owners put a second story on the house. That made it easier. There was no emotion."
It was a long way off from the day in February 1958 when small pieces of furniture and her brother's globe began flying around the house.
"All of a sudden, you'd hear this loud noise, like a popping bottle sound, and you'd look around and find a bottle that was 12 feet away from where it was supposed to be and all the contents were missing and the bottle was hot to the touch," Hermann said.
At first, Hermann said her parents tried to keep things "as normal as possible when you have flying objects in your house," but eventually her father decided to call the police.
The case received nationwide attention and made the cover of Life magazine, and is credited with popularizing the term "poltergeist," but there was never any explanation for the events that happened and, eventually, the Hermann family moved away.
But while her experience is a part of horror film history, it's not a part of the Hermann family's lore.
"Explaining it is very difficult," she admitted. "I'm not even sure if my kids have seen 'Poltergeist.'"
Amazingly, Hermann's poltergeist experience only took place five to seven miles from the site of the house that became the basis for the "Amityville Horror" franchise -- a fact that surprised show host and paranormal investigator Katrina Weidman.
"Long Island is a hot spot and I believe it's because any place where there once were a lot of Native Americans seems to have a lot of paranormal activity," Weidman told HuffPost Weird News.
Although she enjoyed getting Hermann's perspective on poltergeists, she admits being a little "star struck" regarding Christopher Lutz, who, at the age of 7, lived in a large Dutch Colonial house that was allegedly haunted by paranormal activity during the 28 days he, his mother, stepfather, brother and sister lived in the house.
"I always thought there was a lot of exaggeration about the story, so it was good to talk with him," she said.
Some people think the activity was due to the fact that 13 months before the Lutzes moved into the house in December 1975, Ronald DeFeo, Jr. had shot and killed six members of his family there.
Lutz says the real story about what happened has been clouded by fiction and the purposeful dissemination of information by his stepfather, George Lutz.
"The story that my parents put forward is that it was the house's fault," Lutz told HuffPost Weird News. "He says he had no knowledge of the occult, but he did. That was the trigger. To do what he was doing in that house was sure to cause a problem," referencing his stepfather's allegedly attempting to contact the occult.
Weidman pointed out that both Hermann and Lutz were kids when they had their alleged paranormal encounters, but that their reactions are both completely different.
"She's matter-of-fact about everything, while he's very emotional," Weidman said. "You can tell it shaped his life, while she talks about it like she's getting her car checked.
Part of the reason Lutz may still be affected by what happened in the house is because the entities there have never left him alone.
"Whatever it is has remained in our lives," he told HuffPost Weird News. "I call on Jesus Christ when it flares up, and it seems to be a cycle of some sort."
Although there have been many Amityville books and movies, Lutz hopes to one day tell his own version.
"The kid's story has never been told," he said. "I was 7. I had no say."
Currently, Lutz does air conditioning and remodels in Arizona, and admits that the Amityville experience gave him a perspective on buying a home that others don't have.
"I thought disclosure was the law in every state, but it's not," he said. "If you're buying a house, you should look into what happened there before."
"Real Fear: The Truth Behind the Movies" will air again on the Chiller network on March 14.