Halloween is just around the corner and many of us have been watching scary movies in anticipation of the holiday. One well known movie, The Amityville Horror, is a favorite. Most people are familiar with the movie, book, or a telling of the events. What many aren't familiar with, is that it was all a hoax. The house was never haunted. Still, many believe the tale to be the truth, a classic haunted house story. This is despite the family who originally claimed the house was haunted, the Lutz's, eventually admitting they'd made it up.
Yet, even if one where to disregard the confession that the story was a fake, by use of the principles of critical thinking, one should be able to reach this conclusion on their own, allow me to demonstrate using a few of the principles.
The first principle, ruling out rival hypothesis, is perhaps the easiest one to use. If someone claims that there house is haunted, one should use this principle and ask themselves, what else could it be and has that explanation been ruled out? In the case of the Lutz's no one ever ruled out the possibility that the family was making the story up. Many tried to by inviting paranormal experts to validate the Lutz's claims, but no concrete evidence was ever established excluding the possibility that the Lutz's were lying.
The principle of extraordinary claims asks one to evaluate if the evidence is as strong as the claim. Again the answer is no. Besides the Lutz own first hand accounts, and the confirmations of supposed paranormal experts, there was no other evidence, certainly no concrete physical evidence.
Replicability, determining if the results can be replicated, is another principle that pokes a hole in the Amityville story. The haunted events that supposedly took place for the Lutz's were never replicated, and in fact, the families that have owned the house since have reported no sign of an otherworldly presence.
Although Halloween is a wonderful time to watch scary movies and get into the spirit of the holiday, it's important to keep in mind the principles of critical thinking. It's fun to be scared sometimes but, when the lights go off at night, its nice to know that that scary movie you just watched couldn't possibly be true. Right?