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Amityville, Tutankhamun and Mata Hari
- This Week in Dark/Strange History

- Three unrelated stories of a strange, unusual or dark nature.


October 14, 1975 – Ronald DeFeo Jr. goes on trial for the murders of Ronald Defeo sr., his wife Dawn and their four children Dawn, Allison, Marc and John. On the evening of November 13 the previous year, Ronald entered a local bar and told of his parents being shot and killed in their home. On arrival, the full shocking scene was discovered – the entire family was shot dead in their beds.

At first Ronald Jr said he believed the murders to be a hit by the mob, but he was soon confessing that he was in fact the perpetrator.

Many aspects of the case were confusing – the family appeared to have been shot dead in their beds, most of them while asleep, and without a struggle. No one heard the gunshots even though the murder weapon did not use a silencer. At one point DeFeo also claimed he was possessed and that the devil made him do it.

His attorney argued for an insanity defence, but this was denied, and Ronald DeFeo Jr was sentenced to six consecutive life sentences of 25 years to life. He is still in jail to this day.

Recent investigations (both amateur and ‘professional’) have dug up evidence that may suggest he was not alone in carrying out the murders and that a second weapon was used.

The DeFeo’s Amityville home was soon sold to the Lutz family who made claims that it was haunted, which resulted in the Amityville Horror book and movies.


October 14, 1925 – On this day, after much planning, the innermost of Tutankhamun’s (also Tutenkhamen and Tutenkhamon) sarcophagi is opened to reveal the mummified remains of the boy Pharaoh. It had been well over a year since the Pharaoh’s tomb had been discovered – a significant find as it was completely intact.

The tomb was discovered some 3300 years after it was sealed following ‘King Tut’s’ death, when British Archaeologists led by Howard Carter discovered a step leading to the chamber below. It contained hundreds of objects made from gold and other precious resources and provided an as until then unheard of detail in burial rites of the Egyptian kings.

But to many this find seems to have come with a catch, a curse, with a number of those taking part in the find coming to an early death.


October 15, 1917 – “Slowly, inertly, she settled to her knees, her head up always, and without the slightest change of expression on her face. For the fraction of a second it seemed she tottered there, on her knees, gazing directly at those who had taken her life. Then she fell backward, bending at the waist, with her legs doubled up beneath her”. So goes the eyewitness account of Henry Wales at the execution of Mata Hari.

Mata Hari, born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle MacLeod, was arrested in her room at the Hotel Elysee Palace in Paris, on charges of espionage – providing information to the enemy, the Germans, during World War 1. She was soon put on trial for causing the deaths of at least 50,000 soldiers, and subsequently found guilty, although there was no definite evidence produced against her.

However ‘secret ink’ was discovered in her room which was looked as being incriminating, though Hari said it was part of her makeup – she was in fact a very well known exotic dancer and courtesan of high ranking military officials… on both sides of the conflict. Her defence really was non-existent, her lawyer prevented from conducting cross examinations of the prosecutions witnesses nor was he able to question his own witnesses.

The trial was already a foregone conclusion before it had even started. Mata Hari was condemned to death by firing squad.

She sent off appeals but only found they had been denied when she was awoken in her cell by officials and led to a car that took her to the place of execution – an old fort. She refused the blindfold that was offered to her, she said she would not cry. She was not bound to the pole, she met her fate standing. She did not flinch as the orders to ready arms were given to the squad, and when the rifles were fired, she toppled calmly to the ground rather than violently fall.

Although she was dead, a bullet having found her heart, a revolver was emptied into the side of her head as required.

Mata Hari’s body was not claimed and was used as a subject for medical study. Her head was removed and embalmed, kept in the museum of anatomy in Paris. However it was discovered in the year 2000 that it was missing, likely that it is held in some private collection somewhere.


Until next week…

Ashley Hall 2013

Photos: Ronald DeFeo Jr.
Inset left: Howard Carter examining the sarcophagus.
Inset right: Mata Hari.

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