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

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.

Recent: 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.

Further Reading

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gary chohany
gary chohany
2 years ago

When I was about nine or ten I found a book in my dresser. (If u can tell me more ill tell you )more

Candide Scaramouche (@Scaramouchetoo)
4 years ago

“The Long Long Friend” is referenced many times in the Appalachian folk tales of Manly Wade Wellman. His “Silver John” stories in particular make regular mention of it.

Douglas
Douglas
5 years ago

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

mitchellcorona
5 years ago

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.”

Ed Stevenson
Ed Stevenson
5 years ago

My Dad lived in this house for a time

Valerie Maguill
6 years ago

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

Michele
Michele
6 years ago

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?

Smith
Smith
6 years ago

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

Courtney
Courtney
6 years ago

“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.