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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

Family Finds Animal Carcasses Stuffed in Walls of New Home

A Pennsylvania family’s dream home became a nightmare when they discovered the horrifying remains of a Dutch magic ritual inside the walls.
Pennsylvania family finds evidence of Dutch magic ritual inside the walls of their home

The Bretzius family had no idea what horrors lurked behind the walls of their Auburn, Pennsylvania dream home when they moved in. It wasn’t until 2012, when they began pulling down some of the walls to add insulation, that they discovered something completely bizarre and unexpected.

The walls, they found, were packed full of dead animal carcasses wrapped in newspapers dating to the 1930s and 40s, along with spices and other random objects. An expert told the family the objects were mostly likely used for Pow-wowing, ritual folk magic once practiced by the Pennsylvania Dutch.

Pow-wowing and the York County Hex Murder

The practice of Pow-wowing has it’s origins in a German book called The Long Lost Friend by John George Hohman, published in 1820. Later editions renamed it Pow-Wows after the Algonquian word for a gathering of medicine men. It is a collection of folk remedies, recipes, spells and talismans to cure domestic ailments and rural troubles.

The book gained notoriety in 1928 when it was found in the possession of murderer John Blymire. Thanks to a local witch named Nellie Noll, Blymire became convince that he had been cursed by his neighbor Nelson Rehmeyer. He and some accomplices broke into Rehmeyer’s home to find his spell book, but found Rehmeyer, instead. The group killed and mutilated the man in hopes of lifting the curse.

The Rehmeyer hex murder house in York County, Pennsylvania
The Rehmeyer hex murder house in York County, Pennsylvania

Though they do not know who filled the walls of the house with animal carcasses or why it was done, the Bretzius family is still struggling with their own curse. They have run out of finances to remove all of the carcasses from the walls. Also, the mold made them sick, and the smell won’t go away.

They are hoping to raise funds to finish the renovation through their Go Fund Me account right here.

via Conservative Tribune