The York County Hex Murders- Rehmeyers Hollow
On the evening before Thanksgiving 1928, a storm had been brewing for some time in
what is now known as Stewartstown, PA and was about to come to its horrific conclusion. What happened that night gave birth to one of York County's most notorious legends.
Nelson Rehmeyer lived alone in small two story house that still stands today in South Central Pennsylvania near the Maryland state line. He had been estranged from his wife Alice for some time. She and their two daughters lived in their own home near by.
Nelson was know in his community to be a sort of witch doctor that practiced a type of Pennsylvania Dutch folk magic called Pow-wow.
It is described by as being a combination of Christian theology and shamanistic beliefs that were brought across the ocean with those that migrated from Germany to Pennsylvania many years before.
Several years ago in a York News Channel interview, Rehmeyer's grand daughter stated adamantly that the craft he practiced was all good intentions. There was no black magic or curses involved. He was not a witch but more
of a homeopathic healer. She goes on to explain it as a God given gift that has been passed down through her family for many generations and that she too was blessed with this ability.
At the time of the murder in 1928 these practices were still widely accepted in the small farming
community where Rehmeyer lived. What happened due to these strong beliefs would shock the entire country.
John Blymire grew up in the same area learning the practices of Pow-wow from his family who were healers for several generations. He grew up to eventually become a well respected healer himself. By the time he was 7 he was already peddling his simple tinctures and Natural cures. Legend tells of an incident where Blymire was leaving work at a cigar factory in York, PA when he and coworkers were cornered by a rabid dog, foaming at the mouth and barking furiously. Everyone was terrified of the dog except John who walked up to the animal gently and spoke a few quiet words. The dog soon stopped foaming at the mouth and excitedly followed John home. As successful as he was in his earlier days he still felt as though something very dark was always looming.
John grew up and eventually married a young lady named Lily. A few years later a run of very bad luck began. He became very ill for a long period of time and had problems holding down a steady job. He and Lily had two children who both died in infancy. The townspeople would see John wandering aimlessly around town and at home he was not eating or sleeping well at all. One night while lying in bed awake the idea popped into his head that these bad things were happening because he had been cursed by someone. He first believed it was his great great grand father who had put the hex on him. The elder Blymire had been dead many years and was buried in the local cemetery so John moved away from the area hoping to break the curse. It seemed to work for a while but then his bad luck returned and John became consumed with finding the person responsible for it. Unable to figure out who and why he had been cursed he became suspicious of everyone, even his wife.
John sought the help of another pow-wower name Andrew Lenhart. Lenhart had previously been hired by another man in town to clear his home of the darkness that was making his wife seriously ill. The wife who did not believe the "treatment" worked, was so out of her mind, consumed by pain one evening that she shot and killed her husband while he lay sleeping in bed.
Lily Blymire knew of this incident. This combined with her husbands erratic behavior troubled her to the point that she feared for her safety. She finally hired lawyers and had him committed. Doctors evaluated him and determined that John was severely obsessed with hexs and witchcraft . He spent 48 days in an asylum during which Lily divorced him and moved away.
John went back to work in the Cigar factory in 1928 depressed and despondent over his recent stint in the asylum and his wife divorcing him. There he met and befriended Milton Hess and 14 yr old John Curry who believed they had been cursed by someone as well. Both had runs of bad luck similar to his. Bad crops, family discord and general life mishaps. The talk of all the bad things happening to them renewed Johns fevor that someone had cursed him. He was convinced the he once again that he needed to seek help from someone who deals in hexs and magic.
This time he went to see a very well known pow-wower in the Susquehanna Valley region named Nellie Noll. Noll revealed to Blymire that Nelson Rehmeyer was the one who had cursed not only he but his two friends as well. The only way to break the hex's was to bury Rehmeyer's spell book and a locket of his hair six feet under ground.
John Blymire had known Nelson Rehmeyer his entire life.They were actually distantly related. When John was a small child he became seriously ill. Unable to heal him themselves, his father and grandfather took John to Rehmeyer who eventually cured him.
On November 26 John Blymire and John Curry visited Nelson Rehmeyer at his home. They first stopped at Alice's home and she pointed them to the house in the hollow. They came under the guise of needing some pow-wow advice and talked for hours, nervously trying to find a way to search for the spell book without suspicion. No opportunity presented itself and it inevitably became very late. Their host offered to let the two men sleep downstairs. They accepted and waited for Rehmeyer to go to bed. Blymire and Curry then searched for the book but found nothing and the idea of getting a lock of hair from the giant man who slept upstairs now seemed impossible. The pair left in the morning without incident.
The failure to procure the items needed to break the curse only seemed to agitate Blymire. He approached Milton Hess saying he needed a member of Hess's family to come with him to subdue the large man. Hess sent his oldest son William with them.
On the evening of November 27, 1928 the trio arrived at Rehmeyer's home once again. There are many versions of what happened next. After the incident, each man involved would give different details about what happened that night. The facts are that they beat and strangled Rehmeyer to death. When they realized what they had done and that Rehmeyer was dead, they ransacked the house for anything valuable to make it look like a robbery. They then doused Rehmeyer's body in kerosene and lit it on fire. The men left without the book or the locket of hair believing that the curse would be broken now that the one who had cast it was dead.
They had no idea how wrong they were at the time.
Rehmeyer's body was found two days later. In a bizarre twist of events the fire set by the three men left the body badly charred but did little damage to the house as the fire distinguished itself shortly after the men left. This fueled the belief in some that Rehmeyer truly was some type of witch.
The men were captured soon after Rehmeyers body was discovered. Once Alice told the police that Blymire and Curry had stopped by looking for Rehmeyer they were picked up and the story came out.
The trial and story made headline news across the country. People were shocked and horrified by the details of the Hex murder. The fact that some still believe such antiquated ideas and practices to the point that they were willing to kill someone over it shook the community to its core.
All three men involved in the murder were tried and found guilty. Blymire and Curry received life sentences and eventually were paroled. Hess was given 10 years.
John Blymire was released after his fifth attempt for parole in 1953. He worked as a janitor in Philadelphia until retirement age and then lived out his life quietly until his passing in 1972. He is buried in Red Lion PA. John Curry and William Hess were both paroled in 1939. They also lived the rest of their lives quietly in York County.
Curry joined the U.S. Army and was assigned to General Dwight Eisenhower as a cartographer, He helped draft the Normandy invasion maps and design the shoulder patch for D-Day. He studied art at the Sorbonne and returned home to a farm in Thomasville, where he and his wife, Leuellyn S. Curry raised two daughters. John Curry became well known locally as a fantastic portrait artist. He died at age 49 in his home.
William Hess moved back to Leader Heights where he worked as a chain electroplater until retirement in 1970. At some point he married and had two children. He died in 1978.
Having grown up in the region and later lived many years locally to the Hollow, friends would occasionally tell stories about their late night trips to there . The biggest phenomena was always car trouble. Running cars were said to stall and parked cars wouldn't start. Bizarre noises were heard by some and creepy "just not right" animals spotted. Others would simply say how it just didn't feel right there. I have visited several times (never at night) and I can say for sure there is a strange vibe that has to be experienced personally. Illinois Ghost Author Troy Taylor's write up on his website about the Hex murders says that the ground was always bad. Apparently the Native Americans, there before us all, would not farm or live on the land and actually sent their sick there.
The one incident that will always stand out in my memory is also the one that spurred my interest in the place. In high school one of my younger sisters best friends, whose name also happened to be John, had an experience at Rehmeyers Hollow that scared the crap out of him and anyone he told about it. It scared him so badly you could see and feel the terror in him as he told his story. He had gone to the hollow late one night with a group of friends who had nothing much better to do. He said something followed him out of there that night. For weeks afterward he said he would see a form in the back seat of his car and swore up and down it was a demon. At first he blew it off, as most of us do, but after seeing it again several times over the next few weeks stone cold sober he knew it was more than just having partied a little to hard that first night. He eventually stopped talking about it and we can only assume that the form stopped appearing in his car. Sadly John passed a few years ago so the only thing that remains is what my sister and I remember from that time.
Almost 100 years after the murder the topic still pops up from time to time , especially in the past few years as ghost hunting and anything paranormal has become pop culture. It is and always will be one of York County's most popular legends. You can find many different versions of the story on the web. Each with differences in the details. As I stated earlier Troy Taylor wrote an awesome detailed piece on the hex murders that is posted on his website American Hauntings (link below). He goes into great detail about pow wow practice, the story itself and subsequent similar murders that happened after the Hex Hollow Murders. His version, as far as I can tell, is the most accurate found on the internet. In 1968 Arthur H. Lewis wrote the book Hex about the murders. More recently a documentary was made titled Hex Hollow and can be found here: https://www.hexhollowmovie.com/
At Halloween time and late at night you can still find the teenagers huddled in their parked cars hoping that Rehmeyers Hollow will live up to its terrifying reputation.
Wendy Moxley Roe
Thank you to the York Blog for noted photos. Below is a link to an index of stories and photos of the Hex Murder on yorkblog.com:
Troy Taylors story on the Hex murders can be found here: