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?


Last Modified Sunday, 08-Feb-2009 06:46:40 MST

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