I am an author and paranormal enthusiast who has published numerous books and articles on the subject of true unexplained phenomena.
A Seed is Planted
In York County, Pennsylvania there exists a place steeped in what is commonly referred to as folk magic. The area in question was once known as Rehmeyer Hollow, but locals now prefer to call it by the name more befitting its history; "Hex Hollow."
In the early 1900s, it was rumored that a witch by the name of Nellie Noll resided in the area's backwoods. Those who were familiar with the social pariah claimed that she possessed powers that had been bestowed upon her by the devil himself. As such, if anyone had an issue that needed to be resolved or a score to settle, they looked to her to set things straight. For her part, if the price was right, the notorious purveyor of necromancy was more than willing to oblige.
In 1928, a man named John Blymire took his troubles to Nellie. He explained to her that, although he couldn't quite put his finger on it, something was making him terribly ill. He didn't know what was wrong, but he feared that he would die sooner than later if the cause of his malady wasn't discovered post haste.
Nellie, wise beyond her station, took one look at the frail figure standing before her and informed him that he need look no further. She had detected the source of his misery and would share the information with him as soon as he paid up. Relieved that help was on the way, he eagerly handed over the agreed upon compensation. Once the transaction was completed to her satisfaction, Nellie got down to business
She told Blymire that he had been cursed by a man called Nelson Rehmeyer. The name instantly rang a bell since he was an acquaintance who was well-known locally as a 'Braucher;' a healer with an allegiance to the Pennsylvania Dutch tradition of Braucherei.
This Old World folk magic, also known as 'powwow,' shunned modern medicine, preferring to use ritual ceremonies to combat physical and psychological illnesses. Although this method was intended to be used for good, in the wrong hands, it could also be a source of evil.
Rehmeyer was someone with whom Blymire had always enjoyed a cordial relationship. If there was bad blood between them, it was news to his alleged victim. Ironically, before consulting with the woman who bore the nickname "River Witch," he had sought Rehmeyer's advice in curing his multitude of ailments. It was only after the Braucher's suggestions provided him no relief that he resorted to more drastic measures in search of a cure.
Nellie told the cursed man that his tormentor was in possession of a book of spells that held the key to saving his life. She went on to say that in order to put a halt to the magic that was being used against him, he would have to pilfer the book and bury it along with a lock of Rehmeyer's hair. Only then would the hex be lifted.
Believing that this was his only hope of survival, Blymire began formulating a plan, the ramifications of which would resonate for decades to come.
A Means to an End
Taking Nellie's advice to heart, on the night before Thanksgiving, Blymire and two teenager's he recruited to aid in his malfeasance, John Curry and Wilbert Hess, descended upon Rehmeyer's house in the hollow. Their mission was clear; confiscate the book whether its owner agreed to the arrangement or not.
Flanked by his accomplices, Blymire knocked on the door and braced himself for the confrontation to come. When Rehmeyer answered, the three men pushed their way into his home. Once inside, Blymire ordered that the book be handed over, citing the hex that had supposedly been placed on him as the reason for the odd demand.
Rehmeyer, who was twice the age of his accuser, refused to comply. Enraged by the Braucher's unwillingness to cooperate, the men tied him to a chair using a rope they had brought along for just such an occasion. Once he was subdued, the intruders took turns throttling the older man in an effort to make him give up the whereabouts of the book of spells.
Their victim proved to be a tougher adversary than the men had anticipated. Even as they wore themselves out torturing Rehmeyer well into the night, he refused to utter a word. He would die in the early morning hours as a result of the beating he had sustained; taking the location of the coveted book with him.
In an attempt at damage control, Blymire and his cohorts set fire to the body and watched it burn. Their intention had been to destroy the entire dwelling, but they soon discovered that, although Rehmeyer was reduced to ashes, the house around him failed to ignite.
Having left behind evidence that led authorities right to their doorsteps, the three would-be robbers turned killers were soon arrested and charged with the first degree murder of Nelson Rehmeyer. Blymire and Curry would both be found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Hess, who was only fourteen at the time of the incident, was convicted of second degree murder and given a lesser term than his co-conspirators.
Curry and Hess were both released in 1939 and went on to lead exemplary lives. The beating death of Rehmeyer, as horrifying as it was, would be the only crime that either of them would ever commit. Blymire was freed in 1953. He too would walk the straight and narrow for the remainder of his life.
In light of past events, residents appealed to officials to rename Rehmeyer Hollow; reasoning that allowing the area to retain the name of a man who was known, rightly or wrongly, for dabbling in the occult didn't seem quite right. As a result of their efforts, the region is now known as Spring Valley County Park. There are those, however, who still refer to it as Hex Hollow on account of the circumstances that cost Nelson Rehmeyer his life.
As for the dwelling in which the crime took place, it is still standing in spite of the killers' attempts to destroy it. Naturally, given the events of that night as well as the questionable reputation of the victim, it is rumored to be a hotbed of paranormal activity.
The structure is now a popular attraction that is periodically open to the public. Among other things, the morbidly curious can view the charred spot on the floor that marks the location where Rehmeyer's smoldering remains were discovered.
Reports have surfaced over the years indicating that the presence of the murder house isn't the only thing disturbing about Hex Hollow. According to local lore, the surrounding woods were teeming with evil spirits long before Rehmeyer met his grisly demise.
As the story goes, indigenous people had once used the forest as a dumping ground for those deemed a danger to others; mainly criminals and the hopelessly insane. Unable to fend for themselves, the survival of these outcasts was left up to fate.
Visitors to the area have told of hearing tribal music echoing through the night air. Light orbs, thought to represent the souls of those lost to the woodlands, have also been seen flitting among the trees. The feeling of being under the watchful eye of something they cannot see has also been reported, as have sightings of shadow figures.
Whatever it is that inhabits the forest is said to remain on the heels of interlopers for the duration of their stay. It is only after they clear the woods that the feeling of being under constant surveillance is lifted, allowing curiosity seekers who got more than they bargained for to breathe a sigh of relief.
The whereabouts of the book of spells that led to the murder of Nelson Rehmeyer is unknown. Some say that it is now in the hands of his descendants, while others swear that it disappeared the night he died. There are also those who claim to have firsthand knowledge that it remains in the house, on display for all to see. Although such a thing seems unlikely, anything is possible.
As a last little tidbit, it is worth noting that John Blymire allegedly told anyone who would listen that his health was restored when the Braucher took his final breath. The spell, real or imagined, had been broken.
·wikipedia.org; roadtrippers.com; americanhauntingsink.com; atlasobscura.com