Originally posted on Haunt Jaunts: https://www.hauntjaunts.net/amityville-the-bell-witch-demonic-or-not/
Reevaluating Amityville & The Bell Witch: Demonic or Not?
I decided to examine The Bell Witch legend and The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson to see if there was any demonic merit in the stories. I’m a supernatural folklorist who specializes in demonic phenomena; I created an ever-expanding classification system to include all phenomena that previously had been included in people’s narration of their experiences. This is in effort to organize all the information I could about demonic abilities. I will be evaluating both stories through my system to see if the markers of infestation come up. As a folklorist, I know that stories shift with each retelling, so I could easily be incorrect especially when you focus on one retelling alone (especially with the Bell Witch). Also, I’m never the first to cry “demon!”, even though I’m a demonic folklorist; I handle a lot of supernatural narratives and for the most part, they’re some other type of spirit. True demonic infestations/experiences in general are incredibly rare. Everything below is somewhere from my classification system in my thesis, In the Presence of Evil: Demonic Perception Narratives and on my website, http://www.demonfolklorist.com.
In 1974, Ronnie DeFeo shot his entire family at 112 Ocean Avenue in the Amityville neighborhood of Long Island, New York. A year later, the Lutzes moved in and had what they claimed to be horrific phenomena, abandoning the house after about a month. The Amityville Horror haunting is largely considered to be a hoax, though the famed paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were involved in the investigation and stood behind the Lutzes that this was a demonic infestation. However, the book itself was admittedly embellished for maximum scares and the family living there today has had no supernatural intrusions. The current owners have even changed the house’s iconic windows that resembled eyes so that the house is less recognizable for tourists.
- George saw changes in his own appearance: black circles under eyes, pg. 24
- forcible movement in car, pg. 25/26
- knockings pg. 29-30
- unnatural coldness pg. 35,44, 284, 302
- changes in personality pg. 38
- Kathy describes being touched by spirit/hug and patting hand pg. 40, 81, 153
- inside a toilet was black sludge pg. 40, 42
- overpowering, unidentified odor pg. 42
- flies manifesting, hundreds of them pg. 43-heavy door hanging by one hinge as if wrenched off pg. 46
- metal of doorknob twisted pg. 47
- sour smell pg. 53
- crucifix hanging upside down pg. 53
- crackling sound on telephone/not working correctly pg. 59, 183
- George developed strange habits of uncleanliness pg. 63
- figure of pig with red eyes staring at them pg. 69
- chair rocking back and forth pg. 69
- George developed stomach issues pg. 78
- Kathy became more short-tempered/angry pg. 79
- sweet perfume smell, overpowering smelled by Kathy pg. 81, 153
- blood smell pg. 99
- Kathy watched a statue move toward her pg. 111
- statue ended up on the floor pg. 114
- George had teeth marks on his ankle pg. 115
- George saw a face projected on the closet wall in the basement pg. 119
- in the fire, Kathy saw a white figure with horns materialize (George saw it later) pg. 134, 261, 291
- blankets had been torn off Kathy and George pg. 135
- George and Kathy saw red eyes reflected at them in the window pg. 148
- cloven pig hoofprints found outside the house pg. 149
- garage almost torn off its frame pg. 151
- nobody heard the garage door being torn off when it would’ve made a racket pg. 151
- unseen pressure squeezed Kathy, causing her to pass out pg. 153
- figure burned into fireplace pg. 164
- priest had the smell of excrement pervade his room after blessing house pg. 165
- disembodied voice told priest to leave pg. 166
- Sgt. Zammataro felt creeped out by the house pg. 168
- George experienced the excrement smell in the house, causing him to vomit pg. 170
- statue had dematerialized from upstairs to downstairs, unseen pg. 173
- George heard marching band sounds pg. 176, 186, 273, 288
- George heard heavy breathing behind him pg. 177
- Kathy was levitating while sleeping pg. 177
- loud moaning emitting from phone call pg. 183
- all the furniture had noticeably been moved, seen by George pg. 187
- telephone didn’t ring when it should’ve pg. 192
- George saw illusion of Kathy as a very old woman pg. 202
- banister was wrenched off posts, unheard pg. 214
- Kathy and George heard loud humming, many voices speaking at once pg. 221, 288
- green slime materialized on walls pg. 226
- illusion of flames reaching out for him pg. 233
- George poked by icy finger pg. 234
- windows had been flung open in every room pg. 234
- Kathy had welts on her body as if burned pg. 238
- Kathy’s mother never liked the house pg. 240
- Kathy felt she was being watched then was immobilized by fear pg. 242
- window wouldn’t move when it should have and vibrated pg. 247
- agitated dog behavior pg. 253, 270, 290
- room became overly warm pg. 260
- eyes began to sting in the warm room pg. 260
- something picked up George’s chair with him in it pg. 261
- pig spirit talked to daughter pg. 268
- heat rose in all the rooms pg. 281
- the boys’ beds were moving back and forth pg. 288
- George was immobilized pg. 288
- mattress was soaking wet pg. 288
- doors throughout house slammed pg. 289
- dog seemed undisturbed by door racket pg. 289
- George felt himself stepped on by invisible force pg. 290
- Danny saw a figure without a face pg. 290
- heart rate sped up/raced for Mrs. Riley pg. 302
- numbness, as if from cold pg. 302
- Steve felt shortness of breath pg. 302
Though all of the phenomena listed above has been reported during demonic infestations, I’m unconvinced that this was demonic in nature. First, never does anyone say that they felt a feeling of distinct evil or malice towards them from a spirit; this is a hallmark of a demonic infestation because no one can seem to forget how it felt to be in a room with something that wants to hurt them that badly. Also, almost always when a demon is present in narratives, it announces itself with a horrific smell and the temperature drastically dropping because it drains the energy of the room. These two things happened, but sporadically and not in tandem. What they encountered seemed to have enormous strength that was greater than that of a human and this spirit had an aversion to religious objects/people. However, it didn’t react with extreme hatred when the priest was around or try to attack him physically. I think there was some type of spiritual activity, but the hallmarks of the demonic weren’t present in a way that convinces me that that’s what it was. Now this could also be a problem with Jay Anson’s ethnographic skills and that he didn’t capture everything, but the activity in the house didn’t follow them after they left (another mark of the demonic) and it didn’t seem very severe in nature before the Lutzes left. It could have been another entity pretending to be demonic or a very low-level demonic entity (if that’s truly what it was). I believe something was happening, but I’m not convinced it was demonic. The activity hasn’t continued in the house to this day, which means it wasn’t tied to the house and isn’t tied to the Lutzes, so where did it go? Demons don’t usually just disappear.
The Bell Witch
The Bell Witch is a famous haunting from 1817 from American Southern folklore, when an unsuspecting family began to experience supernatural terror from a supposed witch named Kate Bell in the form of what’s thought of as a poltergeist, possibly centered around the PK energy (or building psychic energy) of the maturing daughter, Betsy. Reading about it, I don’t think it’s a poltergeist at all. I think it might’ve been a demon they were dealing with based on a version of the legend.
Based on the details in Legend #1 featured in The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, I think the Bells might have been dealing with a demonic presence. The other versions presented of the story read like a typical ghost story.
This is why I think it could be demonic, at least based on Legend #1:
1.Spectral creatures seen
2. Knockings/rappings/scrapings (it doesn’t say if they came in threes, but if they did, they would be trinity knocks, common in demonic cases)
3. Sounds of rats gnawing (often vermin or other unpleasant animal noises heard; animals/insects themselves may be present or not), giant dogs clawing
4. Invisible hands slapping and pulling hair
5. Would temporarily stop phenomena when the name of the Lord is invoked (this really caught my attention because demons only seem to do this; human spirits/poltergeists aren’t bound by the same rules because they can choose to ignore invocations of God, due to free will).
6. When the spirit would speak, it told them several different stories of who it was. Demons are notorious for changing the story, for messing with people when asked directly who or what they are.
7. It said this at one point: “a Spirit from everywhere, Heaven, Hell, the earth. I’m in the air, in houses, any place at any time. I’ve been created millions of years. That is all I will tell you.” Now, this is quite the statement and it’s not like spirits are above lying to humans. What it made me immediately think of was a jinn was due to the reference of being “in the air”, but jinn as far as I know never went to Heaven, though they do seem to be interdimensional as this statement implies. Most of this implies what we know of demons: interdimensional, religious interpretations place them as once-angels who were cast to earth and can do incredible things like move between the spirit world and ours. Demons are also thought to be quite ancient.
8. This spirit made predictions about the future, including the Civil War and the World Wars. Demons generally have information of the past, present, and future that they shouldn’t know. Religion explains this from their prior angelic forms since if this is true, at one point they served God and had all that information from past/present/future when they were cast out of Heaven. Another difficult thing to prove; personally, I don’t discount religion but that doesn’t mean I believe everything described about demons. We just don’t know some things about demons and can only guess.
9. Mysterious sickness of John Bell (prolonged exposure to spirits of any kind can make a person sick anyway since for them to manifest, they take energy from a designated person)
10. Legend variation #3 also has interesting phenomena: objects breaking strangely/howling noises/bedsheets pulled off/weird shapes/ghost lights/tall figure in a black cloak/screaming/raspy breathing (the tall figure in the black coat particularly is of interest since that’s a common demonic sighting).
The Bell Witch: Possible
Based on the ultra-specific information in this version of the legend, I think it is possible that the entity the Bells were dealing with a demonic entity since what bound it was the name of God, which human spirits can ignore. Future events have been known by demons, as well as things about the person in question that demons could not have known. However, folklore grows and changes with each telling, but with such specific information that had never been organiezed at this point in history about demons, it is possible they were dealing with a demon. Otherwise, this is a deeply malevolent spirit of another variety; unfortunately, we weren’t there and simply do not know the truth.
Anson, Jay. 1977. The Amityville Horror.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. 1992. The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits.
Jaye, Victoria, “In the Presence of Evil: Demonic Perception Narratives” (2021). All Graduate Plan B and other Reports. 1563. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/gradreports/1563