cally an eccentric aunt who roamed the countryside tormenting innocent farmers and souls, often told to author, Richard L. T. Orth, as a youth. One particular tale she often told of, he had never forgotten through the years, was about this aunt who was once jailed for these mischievous acts only to somehow transform herself every night, while incarcerated, departing through her cell’s key- hole to care for her young child left at home. But, miraculous in disappearance, always remained unnoticed by guard.
Orth, long writing it off in his rational mind as blasphemous, a part of him somehow believed parts of it true or not entirely surprised as he got older as this side of the family was always very peculiar. No less than four of his female cousins, in contemporary times, continued in the family’s longstanding tradition of en- gaging or at least dabbling in the Black ( occult) Arts; but he instead chose to shy away and avoid such participation not to barter one’s soul, and rather be deemed a person of God and Country. Thus, as he got older, he instead focused on researching and writing about models of true Christian living as our Plain Dutch Mennonites, Amish, and Brethren of the PA Dutch Country.
However, adding to the mystique but puzzlement of the author, following recent deaths on his pater- nal side including some of dear, close family members, he subsequently was in charge of clearing out the old abandoned Victorian house of his childhood in Fleetwood. During this time, he stumbled across a few unique artifacts, some obscured, handwritten notes, odd newspapers clippings, and a handful of 19th Century books of names familiar to Orth from research while at the American Folklife Institute and mentioned by colleague and mentor, Richard H. Shaner. However, Orth having long been ashamed of his family’s mischievous doings, he continued to stay mum on the subject matter and for years, even to his close confidant, of his family’s peculiar backwoods folkways not to expose them. Orth, as most Dutchmen, had a healthy fear in such Hexerei, but also a deep respect for his family’s wishes of privacy or to divulge of such possessions or heirlooms, as his family had long known Shaner to be an overly eager antique dealer, first. Nonetheless, all now made sense to Orth, of those stories told since he was a lit- tle boy, family ramblings that continued on for years that didn’t make sense at the time, and conversations he stumbled upon that would suddenly cease upon entering the room, all but confirming what he had long suspected- both sides dabbled in Hexerei, thus, compelling him to write this book and finally free himself of the “family’s secrets” burden he harbored for years.
Orth’s book available at Amazon. com, http:// www. american- folklife- institute. org/, http:// www. mcfarlandbooks. com/ or on eBay.
Orth grew up in Berks County and had been involved with the American Folklife Institute in Kutztown for more than 22 years, and a columnist for the Kutztown Patriot since 2009. He holds both his bachelor and master’s degrees from Kutztown University , but his life’s work and passion remains in the study of the rich Pennsylvania Dutch culture, its folk art, architecture, and folkways his experience includes curating museum collections, field research, and continual writing.