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19 Oct 2014


N.J. town still haunted by 'Amityville Horror'

ASBURY PARK, N.J. — For some Toms River residents, the filming of Amityville Horror in the late 1970s and its subsequent and less memorable sequels of the 1980s, was in fact a real life nightmare.

So much so, that the town later adopted one of the most restrictive ordinances in New Jersey when it comes to film and television production inside its municipal boundaries.

In the case of Amityville Horror, Hollywood demons and their hapless victims were prone to making a great deal of commotion in the middle of the night, when, as any horror movie fan can appreciate, the portal to hell in the basement is the most active.

After a sequel was filmed in 1982, the then-Dover Township Committee adopted a blanket prohibition on commercial filmmaking in all residential zones.

The original 1979 movie was based on the book of the same name. Actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder played George and Kathy Lutz, who move with their three children into a lovely Dutch colonial house with its iconic eye windows in the coastal town of Amityville, N.Y.

The Lutzes get the house at a bargain price because of its history, which the real estate agent discloses. It seems there was a teensy-weensy massacre there involving the previous occupants, and to make a long story short, everyone died horribly.

"Houses don't have memories," George Lutz tells his wife, a line that will literally come back to haunt him when he becomes possessed by an evil spirit that resides in the home.

The colonial-style house at 18 Brooks Road in Toms River stood in for the real house where the supposed haunting occurred on Long Island. A superstructure was built around portions of the home to make it look like the Amityville one, complete with those eye windows.

In 1981, the house was moved after the filming and positioned directly on Brooks Road, rather than toward the corner of Brooks and Dock Street, where a new home was built. A boathouse that the film company built for the movie is now part of that new property.

In 2011, the house was on the market for $1.35 million.

Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy was a 26-year-old Toms River police officer in 1978 when Hollywood came to the Toms River.

Mastronardy said there were never any problems on the set or in town associated with the production, but he noted that he can't speak about whether the lights and crowds of onlookers upset the neighbors — which then resulted in the tough anti-filmmmaking ordinance being introduced. The film was also shot in Point Pleasant Beach, and Ocean County residents will recognize several familiar local landmarks in the film.

"It was an exciting time for the town, people enjoyed it and it was very successful," said Mastronardy, who at one point during the production was assigned to Kidder as her bodyguard when she was out shopping in town. "She was a sweetheart."

In 2012, the Township Council adopted a new ordinance, in the spirit of the old municipal code, this time to keep Snooki and JWoww from filming a reality show spinoff of Jersey Shore in Toms River. Even though municipal officials concede that the ordinance probably would not hold up in the courts, the rules are designed to dissuade filmmakers from ever thinking about making a movie in Toms River.

Among other requirements, filmmakers are required to present proof of insurance for bodily injury in the amount of $1 million and name the township as one of the insured, notify all residents within a 500-foot radius of the shooting location, and provide the full cost of police protection necessary to maintain order, according to the ordinance.

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