I don’t even know where to begin. I fear this may be a long, chaotic mess of thoughts, so please bear with me, or skim, or totally ignore.
I’ve always been fascinated with the occult. The Exorcist (both the book and the movie, RIP Mr. Blatty) scared the hell out of me, pardon the pun. It still does. Every. Single. Time. And I love being scared. I love horror movies, haunted houses, Ouija boards (even though my husband forbids them), and Halloween. I love Halloween so much it’s my wedding anniversary.
My freshman year of college, I was a moron. I had an English Lit class where I had to write a basic research paper on anything I wanted. I chose exorcism. Why? Moron.
Fascination is one thing; belief is another. I didn’t actually believe all this stuff; I just liked reading about it. All my research during that semester long assignment pointed to one book, Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans by Malachi Martin. I was nineteen. This was before the internet and Amazon. I actually had to check books out of physical buildings called libraries. I had to find Hostage to the Devil…and I couldn’t. It had mysteriously vanished from every library within 100 miles of my college. My dad happened to find a copy in some little secondhand bookstore, and when he told the bookseller who it was for and why, the guy actually tried to convince him not to buy it.
But I’m stubborn, and my dad knew, one way or another, I’d find it. He bought it anyway. At the risk of unintentionally reviewing Hostage too, I’ll just say…I kind of wish he would have listened. That book messed me up. I didn’t sleep for weeks. I was on edge. Things happened in my college apartment I couldn’t explain. I managed to turn in an incomplete paper, and my professor took pity on me. He gave me a “B” and told me to get some sleep.
Why am I telling you this? I have absolutely no idea. I guess because it’s been on my mind lately, reading this book, and then yesterday with the death of William Peter Blatty and this oddly timed report on Father Martin.
For at least a decade after that taxing English Lit class, I wouldn’t go near this stuff. But time has a way of minimizing even the most frightening memories, and looking back, I’m convinced I was just sleep deprived and hormonal.
So here we are. I read Jay Anson’s Amityville, finally. And not just any old Amityville, but a used battered paperback that looks like it holds its own demons. Was it scary? Not particularly—at least not when compared to The Exorcist. Plus, to be able to read the faded print, I had the room lit up like noon in August. Was it good? Definitely. And for someone interested in the occult, it is, in fact, fascinating. If you look at the reviews, it seems the people who believe the Lutz’s account rate it much higher than the people who don’t. I went into this thinking I’d be impartial; I’d just rate it as a work of fiction and leave it at that. Easier said than done, because the entire way through, I questioned everything. Did this stuff really happen? If they were lying, what was their motive? How do you explain the testimony of respected corroborating witnesses like Father Mancuso and the local police force? It was impossible for me to read this simply as a work of fiction, and to review it, I had to look at it from all angles. The writing, the storytelling. Fact vs. fiction. The phenomenon, the controversy, the legacy. As a whole, it’s kind of brilliant.
Should you read it? If you’re into this kind of stuff? Absolutely! I wanted to go big, thus the creepy looking paperback, but if you really want to be scared…read the e-book version. Alone at night. With the lights out.
Oh, and sweet dreams.