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The Hamburg Area Item - - Lo­cal News -

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.

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