John Whitman Ketcham (also spelt Catchum or Ketchum) was possibly a real man whose name appears in the book and film versions of The Amityville Horror. Although there may have been a real John Ketcham who lived during the 17th century, the claims made about him in conjunction with the story are likely to be untrue.
An extract from Chapter 11 of The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson states:
- One of the more notorious settlers who came to the newly-named Amityville in those days was a John Catchum or Ketcham who had been forced out of Salem, Massachusetts for practicing witchcraft. John set up residence within 500 feet of where George [Lutz] now lived, continuing his alleged devil worship. The account also claimed he was buried somewhere on the northeast corner of the property.
Ketcham was a common name in Suffolk County, New York during the 17th century. A page from the late George Lutz's site at notes:
- According to RootsWeb.com - in 1622, a man named John Ketcham was born in England. He was the second of four children belonging to Edward Ketcham and Mary Hall. The family immigrated to Ipswitch, Massachusetts when he was about 20 years old. He visited Salem where he was "made free" via Salem's court system. It would seem he arrived here as an indentured servant. In 1646, he married. One year later, he purchased a plot of land from his father-in-law. One year after that, he became a representative of Ipswich to the Massachusetts Bay General Court at Boston.
This particular John Ketcham is not known to have had any links to witchcraft. In the November of 1974, Ronald DeFeo murdered six members of his family at 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville. DeFeo's defense lawyer William Weber claimed that his research showed that the house was built on land owned at one time by John Ketcham. While the Ketcham family did own land in Amityville and there is a Ketcham Avenue in the town, claims of a direct link with 112 Ocean Avenue remain controversial.
The Amityville Horror website gives reason why there are so many Ketcham locations around Ocean Ave.: It was a descendent of this John Ketcham, by the name of Zebulon Ketcham, who would later become a major player in Amityville. Ketcham Avenue, near Ocean Avenue, is named for this Ketcham, not his forefather. Zebulon Ketcham joined the local militia during the Revolutionary War and in 1790, George Washington would have dinner at Ketcham's hotel, in what was then called Huntington South.The 2005 film version of The Amityville Horror contains a character, a cult preacher named Reverend Jeremiah Ketcham, whose evil actions towards Native Americans in 17th century Amityville during his "mission" are said to be the cause of the haunting at 112 Ocean Avenue. This is a fictional speculation, and is based loosely on a claim made by the parapsychologist Hans Holzer that the haunting was caused by a Native American chief whose body was buried on the site of the house.
Ketcham was also a very well known family that lived in Amityville within the 18th century. Many historical buildings were owned by them and are now museums in Amityville. However, surviving members claimed that there was never a witch in the family. As to whether or not they ever owned the Ocean Ave. lot has never been verified.