PA DUTCH LIFE--List of SUPERSTITIONS Known to the Members 2007
From Joan Young, in October of 2006:
The Pennsylvania Dutch were very sprititual people and as such they were also superstitious and tended to believe in ghosts and curses and such.
I don't know if anyone on the list has ever read the little book written by Klaus Wust titled "The Saint Adventurers of the Virginia Frontier" but it is about those who branched out from Ephrata Cloister and started new colonies in what is now West Virginia (Hampshire County).
There is an appendix to the little booklet entitled "The Ghosts of Longmarsh Run, The Three Wives of Christopher Beeler" and the story points out wonderfully the spiritual nature of our PA Dutch ancestors.
Christopher Beeler and his family lived near Ephrata Cloister and they were among the followers of Conrad Beissel and the Pietest movement at the Cloister. The most devout of the followers lived at the Cloister and led a celebate lifestyle. Christopher Beeler's wife Catherina and their daughter went to live at the Cloister leaving poor Christopher alone.
He eventually "fell into temptation" as the book puts it (the events are taken from the Chronicon which was the journal of the day to day events at Ephrata Cloister) with a neighboring widow. Eventually Christopher and the widow lady went to Hampshire County and took up residence there. They eventually married after Christopher's first wife died at the Cloister. Catherina Schule/Sheely (the widow) and Christopher Beeler went on to have 3 children of their own. Then she died and Christopher remarried for the third time in Hampshire County. The third wife was German-born and was an extremely spiritual woman.
The story goes on to explain the events as the ghost of Christopher's second wife and first wife appeared to the third wife and taunted her--even to the point or ripping at her clothing. Eventually she became so distraught over the ghosts that Christopher arranged for a "reconciliation ceremony" to be held at Ephrata Cloister to get the disembodied spirits to leave his third wife alone.
This amounted to an exorcism and on Feb. 3rd, 1761 at the 11th hour in the night the session began. In addition to the 3 family members from Virginia, 18 people from Ephrata were also present at the session--among them all of those who the ghosts had specifically named when making their appearances. At the close of the ceremony the account states that they all knelt down and after the prayer was said, the ghosts made off...never to return.
I've been on the tour of Ephrata Cloister and mentioned this event to the tour guide--who promptly and vehemently denied that anything like an exorcism ever took place there. I cited the book and the Chronicon and she sort of had to eat her words--the book is on sale in their gift shop and Klaus Wust was probably the most knowledgeable student of events at Ephrata Cloister. So there is little doubt that the events actually took place there on that cold dark night in February at the Cloister.
PS: How's THAT for a PA Dutch Halloween evening tale?
NOTE from Sue: Throwing it over your left shoulder, you throw it in the Devil's face.
NOTE: Marilyn (Shepler) Simpson submitted this food for thought:
The hat on bed prohibition isn't a superstition, it's good and timely advice. Seventy five years ago it wasn't difficult to "catch" head lice or bedbugs but without insecticides such as we have today it was very difficult to rid your home of the pests. If you have ever had a child in day care or elementary school you have probably experienced head lice in your home. Along with thoroughly disinfecting and scrubbing the poor child you must wash down the child's bed and wash every scrap of bedding in hot water with detergent and bleach. To be on the safe side you did the same thing with the other children in the house and washed clothes, hats, scarves and mittens. Coats and things that couldn't be washed went into the freezer for 24 hours. By this time your own head itches even though it is bug free so you use the stinking shampoo too. A bed full of hats is a breeding ground for head lice. It was good advice.
NOTE: Tracy asked her mother why, and her father piped in out of the blue and said, "it was bad luck, invited bad luck into the home." Said that his mother was very superstitious, but his dad wasn't.
NOTE: Connie wrote: I live in the house where my grandmother lived and once in a while her rocking chair moves a bit. It comforts me as I know she is still with me. I loved her very much. Connie
NOTE: Patti submitted:
NOTE: Tracy's sister says it would sweep the luck out of the house.
NOTE: Tracy's grandmother would say this...we are wondering if it has something to do with family gossip/telling tales or the more you speak of something the worse it gets.
NOTE from Sue: My mama said in her house for good luck the belief was that the first person of the new year to come in the front door had to be a dark haired male, so her one brother always had to go sit on the front porch late New Year's Eve and couldn't come in till just after midnight....I don't know what the dark hair had to do with it but it had to be a dark haired male...
NOTE from Mary: Could it be that the younger, dark-haired male represented Baby Time whereas a lighter haired male would be more like Father Time? Remember that both have always been represented by men.
NOTE: From H.E.Bower: We were 16 at the time. My girl friend was baby sitting for a family on New Years Eve. She lived in North of Williamsport, PA. She was baby sitting in South Williamsport. I drove over to get her and take her home. We had not gone very far when the clock struck 12:00 PM and the New Years celebration sounded. She made me stop in the street an kiss. She quoted;
"what ever you are doing at midnight on New Years Eve you will be doing the rest of your life." That was 56 years ago. We celebrated our 52 wedding anniversary this past December. Harold Sr.
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