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.

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17 Comments

  1. Douglas

    May 4, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    I use to live in shrewsbury pa. My neighbor was a lady who’s father own the funeral home on main st. We’re he was laid out..she told me York paper tried to come in and take pictures and he kicked them out..she was a cool old lady

  2. mitchellcorona

    May 4, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    It used to be the common phrase was “not to suffer a witch to live”. Now in modern day it has changed to “damn witches sure are insufferable.”

  3. Ed Stevenson

    May 4, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    My Dad lived in this house for a time

  4. Valerie Maguill

    March 4, 2015 at 7:09 pm

    Yes, “witchcraft” still happens today.it is a form of religion. We do not ride brooms, or sacrifice anything. That would be against our beliefs. Do not be naive nor be supersticis

    • Raven Morrigan

      September 26, 2015 at 9:12 am

      It is a form of religion to some..but not every witch..

  5. Michele

    February 25, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    Its crazy how now a days some people still try and practice witchcraft and other things. Personally i would like to know when are the tours taking place?

    • Nicole

      March 13, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      Why is it “crazy”? Wicca and Paganism are forms of religion, like Catholicism, Christianity, Judaism, etc are forms of religion. They are lifestyle choices that people adopt in order to be close to the elements and the gods and goddesses. They have been around for hundreds of centuries. If it were actually read up on, one would not find it to be crazy. It is better to chose to understand than to judge and fear. No reason not to, unless one merely wants to bash something they chose to not learn about. It isn’t evil, it isn’t bad. It is actually very peaceful and tranquil and beautiful. Blessed be.

      • K

        September 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm

        This *me pointing to your post above because I can’t find the stupid up arrow.

      • MarE

        April 11, 2016 at 11:23 pm

        Not “forms” of religions…they ARE religions. JS

      • Suzy

        May 5, 2016 at 1:27 am

        Blessed be! Merry meet and merry part and merry meet again!

      • George

        June 13, 2016 at 12:17 pm

        I bet if you went back in time and met a true Pagan it would blow your mind.

      • Angel

        August 16, 2016 at 11:40 am

        Yes it is evil in that the powers you access to help do things are evil.The most powerful of Wiccans esp those born in it know it too. Many are playing with demons and never regard why it is forbidden by God. I use to be Wiccan. I was blissfully ignorant but Lord Jesus Christ had grace & saved me. I was allowed to ‘see’ what was helping me. The only thing close to describing same was that entity face on Conjuring (1st film) . Hell is also real. Repent all and believe the Gospel. God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were in sin Lord Jesus died for us. Dont be willfully decieved.

        • James Dorian Gaynes

          August 16, 2016 at 12:09 pm

          Wow, you’re a judgemental one, aren’t you? What are you even doing here?

    • Michele

      September 30, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      Why don’t you try doing some research and find out where modern day religions can from. Stop being ignorant! And learn about what you put down before you speak.

  6. Smith

    February 25, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    Sounds like a madman who took two impressionable youths to Hell with him. Sad.

  7. Courtney

    February 21, 2015 at 11:56 am

    “Can’t find book, therefore bludgeon and burn presumed owner of book” seems like a strange logical leap to make. Kinda seems like murder might have really been plan A.

    • Stephanie

      February 24, 2015 at 7:20 pm

      Yeah but considering the time period and the beliefs of the people involved, it really did seem logical to them in order to stop a curse. Stopping the source of a curse is actually a good logical leap. In their minds, it was self defense.

What do you think?