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Hexenkopf (Witch’s Head)

Hexenkopf (Witch’s Head) A rocky hill near Easton,
Pennsylvania, in the Lehigh Valley, steeped in witchcraft
superstitions and folklore influenced by German immigrants
who settled in the area in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Hexenkopf rises 1,030 feet above sea level and is
the highest peak in Northampton County. It is part of a
group of rocky hills that are among the oldest exposed
rocks in the United States.

Originally, the Hexenkopf was known as Groggy Rustic.
One of the early landowners around the hill was Johann
Seiler (see Saylor Family), who became famous as
a powwower, a healer whose remedies included “power”
and magical spells. Seiler’s son, Peter Saylor, became even
more famous as a powwower, and used the Hexenkopf in
his magical cures, by casting out illnesses into the rock.

The German immigrants imported their beliefs in
witchcraft, witches (hexerei), demons and magical healing,
called braucherei in Germany and then powwowing
in America. Many of the settlers had come from the Harz
Mountains area, where witchcraft beliefs were especially
strong. The Harz Mountains were known as the abodes of
witches, and the tallest peak, the Brocken, was the site of
regular sabbats and witches’ revelries, most notably Walpurgisnacht.

In the Lehigh Valley, the Hexenkopf took
over that role. Locals feared the witches’ gatherings. The
only way a Hexenkopf witch could be killed was to chase
her off the hill so that she fell to her death in the valley.
Many stories were told about the evil doings at the
Hexenkopf and oral lore accumulated over time, even into
present times. The witches were said to be local wives
who fooled their husbands by leaving sticks in their beds
so that they could escape on their brooms to attend their
nocturnal gatherings.

After World War I, a man sued for divorce because he
discovered his wife was a witch, he claimed to his lawyer.
One night he could not sleep, but his wife thought he
was asleep and rose from their bed to rub her face with
a magical ointment. She mounted her broom, said an
incantation, “Uber Stock und uber Stein,” and then flew
out the window. The curious husband got up and did the
same, rubbing his face with the ointment, mounting another
broom and uttering the incantation. He said he flew
through the air to the top of the Hexenkopf, where an
unholy revelry was taking place around a bonfire.
The man’s wife was not surprised to see him. She led
him through dancers to a table where black men with
long tails were giving out a hot drink. He took a few sips
and passed out. When he awoke, it was dawn and he was
in a neighbor’s pigpen.

This was more than enough reason to sue for divorce,
the man insisted. But the matter was resolved privately
and never went to court.

Lore holds that whenever the Hexenkopf glows at
night, the witches and demons are there. The glow may
in fact have a natural explanation—the rock has a high
mica content, which glints in the right conditions of
moonlight.

The Hexenkopf is dubbed “Misery Mountain” for its
reputation of bad luck, accidents, suicides, murders, mysterious
fires, crop failures and mishaps that happen in
the vicinity, even into present times. The vanishing cart
or car is prominent in lore. People travel up the steep hill
never to come down the other side. One of the old stories
tells of an abusive, violent man who mistreated his family
and animals. One night he stormed off in a fit of anger to
go to a tavern. He hitched up his horse-drawn wagon and
mercilessly beat the horses all the way up the hill, giving
them no rest. At the summit a mist descended around
man and animals, and they were never seen again.
The hill was famous also for its poisonous wind. Powwowing
belief held that all diseases and illnesses were
caused by the evil actions of the Devil, demons and
witches, who were constantly tormenting and harassing
people. The evil ones caused a “contagion wind” to blow
that brought illness to humans and animals. Such winds
could blow off swamps, marshes, graveyards, caves and
cellars, but the contagion wind that blew from the Hexenkopf
was the most toxic of all. Peter Saylor, a famous
powwower, called it “evil poisoning of the air,” and said it
was Satan punishing the sinful.

Mysterious, charmed animals roamed the Hexenkopf.
In the 19th century, a charmed white fox was seen one
winter. As long as it was about, hunters could kill no
game. They could not kill the fox, either, not even by poison
bait. Shots fired at it missed. Locals believed that the
fox was the embodiment of all the evil spirits who resided
on the hill.

The Hexenkopf also is home to numerous ghosts and
hauntings. The ghosts of witches and of the dead who
died mysteriously or tragically on or near the hill have
been reported seen and heard. On dark and windy nights,
a headless man and a headless dog are seen in the area.
Fiery, rolling balls of spectral fumes are supposedly the
ghosts of two farmers who fought bitterly over property
rights. Also seen is the ghost of a peg-legged farmer
named Brown who reportedly fell to his death while
chasing a witch. On moonless nights, he runs up behind
people, making a stumping noise with his peg leg. He has
gray hair, a beard and a terrifying face.
The Hexenkopf is under private ownership today. Ruins
of old, abandoned homes still exist on it

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Categories:   Paganism and Witchcraft

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