the beginning of March 1976, Weber sent a book contract to the
Lutzes, which covered a proposed company, called the Hoffman, Weber,
Burton and Mars Corporation. Like Weber, Mars and Burton, Kathy and
George Lutz were to receive, each, 12 percent of the shares of HWBM.
Since Paul Hoffman was the writer, he would receive the largest
share, 40 percent.
Lutzes terminated their proposed venture with Weber because they felt he
wanted to tie them up with an unfavorable contract. Instead, the Lutzes
chose to go with author Jay Anson. The contract they eventually signed
with Anson offered a more lucrative split of 50 percent. Nevertheless,
this did not stop Hoffman from selling two articles about the Lutzes’
first article appeared in an issue of New York Sunday News on July 18, 1976, and was titled “Life in a Haunted House.”
The second was titled “Our Dream House Was Haunted” and appeared in the
April 1977 edition of Good Housekeeping. Both articles
were nearly identical and were based on the experiences that the Lutzes,
Weber, and Hoffman brainstormed in January 1976.
1977, George and Kathy Lutz filed suit against Paul Hoffman, William
Weber, Bernard Burton, Fredrick Mars, Good Housekeeping, New York Sunday News
and the Hearst
Corporation. In the suit, the Lutzes alleged invasion of privacy,
misappropriation of name for trade purposes, and negligent infliction of
mental distress. They sought relief in the form of $4.5 million.
turn, Hoffman, Weber, and Burton each placed a counterclaim against the
Lutzes for two million dollars, citing they had perpetrated a fraud and
breached a contract.
Mishler dismissed the claims against Good Housekeeping, New York Sunday News and the Hearst Corporation
because there were no invasion of privacy issues and because the
plaintiffs had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be
granted to them. Judge Mishler, however, eventually handed the case over
to Judge Jack B. Weinstein.
the actual trial began, Judge Weinstein, known to be a
“no‑nonsense” judge, presided over the case in his Brooklyn U.S.
District Court. On September 10, 1979, Judge Weinstein dismissed the
rest of the Lutzes’ suit and allowed the defendants’ counterclaim to
continue. He said, “Based on what I have heard, it appears to me that to
a large extent the book is a work of fiction, relying in a large part
upon the suggestions of Mr. Weber.”
In the September 17, 1979 issue of People
magazine, Weber reasoned, "I know this book is a hoax. We created this
horror story over many bottles of wine."
Weinstein also pointed out that he saw serious ethical questions
regarding Weber and Burton’s conduct. Therefore, he proposed to refer
the entire matter to the New York State Bar Association. Judge Weinstein
said, “There is a very serious ethical question when lawyers become
next day, the counterclaim was settled, and the entire case was
In May 2001, Geraldine DeFeo with the
assistance of California attorney Roger Stacy requested Judge Weinstein to unseal the remainder of the
Lutz vs. Weber files. After proving she was legitimately married
to Butch DeFeo, the judge granted Geraldine's request. What was unsealed
was the simple affirmation of the Catholic
priest, who testified under oath that the events described in Jay
Anson's book never transpired.
Catholic Church Speaks Out). Overall, the case
helped corroborate William Weber's claims that the haunting was a fictional
endeavor, even though the Lutzes' insisted it was not a hoax.
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