Hex Murder: Pow-Wow Witchcraft in York County, Pennsylvania

By on February 19, 2015

Witchcraft, hexes and murder in 20th century Pennsylvania? The strange case of folk ritual magic gone wrong in York County’s not-too-distant past.
The Nelson Rehmeyer hex murder house in York County, Pennsylvania
The Nelson Rehmeyer hex murder house in York County, Pennsylvania

It is difficult to imagine witchcraft trials in the 20th century. In the 1920s, however, York County, Pennsylvania was still steeped in old Dutch mysticism, a superstition that lead to a brutal murder which still haunts the area. The house pictured above, located in what is known locally as Hex Hollow, is now considered one of the most haunted houses in Pennsylvania.

In 1928 it was the home of Nelson Rehmeyer, the place where he would be killed.

Related: Family finds remains of Pow-wow ritual in walls

Pow-wowing was a form of ritual folk magic practiced by the Pennsylvania Dutch. It was rooted in a book published in 1820 by German author John George Hohman. The Long Lost Friend was a “collection of mysterious arts and remedies for man as well as animals.” It contained spells, remedies, recipes and talismans to cure ailments and domestic troubles. It became entwined with folk traditions in Pennsylvania when it was translated to English and renamed Pow-Wows.

When Rehmeyer’s neighbor John Blymire began to suspect he was cursed after years of illness and bad luck, he followed the advice of local witch Nellie Noll, known as the River Witch of Marietta. She instructed him to find and burn Rehmeyer’s copy of Pow-Wows, the source of his spells, and bury a lock of the man’s hair.

Powwowing: The Long Lost Friend by John George Hohman

Long Lost Friend or Pow-Wows by John George Hohman
J. Ross McGinnis, author of “Trials of Hex,” reportedly owns Rehmeyer’s copy of Pow-Wows, as well as the lock of hair Blymire took to bury. via York Town Square

When Blymire, along with young accomplices John Curry (14) and Wilbert Hess (18), broke into Rehmeyer’s home, they were unable to find the book. Rather, they bludgeoned Rehmeyer, bound him to a chair and set him on fire in a desperate attempt to lift the curse. Interestingly, Rehmeyer’s body did not completely burn despite being doused in kerosene. According to McGinnis, a pervading theory at the time was that the hounds of Hell returned to claim one of their own.

Today the house is owned and maintained by Rehmeyer’s great grandson. You can tour the house and see artifacts that belonged to Rehmeyer, including his clock which apparently stopped at 12:01am, the time of death determined by the coroner.

The place where Nelson Rehmeyer was killed in the Pennsylvania hex murder house
A window in the floor of the hex murder house reveals burn marks remaining from Nelson Rehmeyer’s death.

Reproduced from the German original —-

Der Lange Verborgene Freund (The Long Lost Friend)

by John George Hohman

3440633Der Lange Verborgene Freund: The Original German Version of the Long Lost Friend (German Edition)

Sunbury Press has digitally restored Johann Georg Hohman’s 1828 Ephrata edition of Der Lange Verborgene Freund. The original German text is presented in its original typeface, including any inscriptions, tables or pictures in their original context.
About the Author
Johann Georg Hohman (English spelling: John George Hohman) was a Pennsylvania German printer and book seller, compiling collections of herbal remedies, magical healings, and charms. He immigrated to Pennsylvania from Germany in 1802, settling near Reading, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, where he printed and sold publications and practiced and instructed in the arts of folk magic and folk religion which later became known as pow-wow. Hohman’s best known work is the collection of prayers and recipes for folk-healing titled the Long Lost Friend, published in German in 1820 as Der Lange Verborgene Freund.
Der Lange Verborgene Freund: The Original German Version of the Long Lost Friend

Authored by Johann Georg Hohman
List Price: $12.95
5.5″ x 8.5″ (13.97 x 21.59 cm)
Black & White on White paper
96 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1451554618 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1451554613
BISAC: Body, Mind & Spirit / Magick Studies
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One response to “Hex Murder: Pow-Wow Witchcraft in York County, Pennsylvania

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