'Hex Hollow' film: Reactions from the families
If you've heard of the Hex Murder of 1928, you've probably heard tales about haunted happenings in Rehmeyer's Hollow as well.
As the story goes, in 1928, suspected witch Nelson Rehmeyer stepped into the crosshairs another man, John H. Blymire, when Blymire's health deteriorated and he sought the help of local witch Nellie Noll.
On Nov. 28, after Noll pointed at Rehmeyer for Blymire's ill health, Blymire and two others broke into Rehmeyer's house in search for one of his spell books to break the spell. Though the spell book was undiscovered, they beat Rehmeyer to death - in hopes of lifting the curse - and set the house on fire. The death sparked trials and wide media attention.
Now, legends transcend that November night. One legend warns the ghost of Rehmeyer gets in his car at midnight and runs over people he sees in the hollow.
But on Saturday, York County filmmaker Shane Free showed locals the true story behind the murder in his documentary film “Hex Hollow: Witchcraft and Murder in Pennsylvania.”
Hundreds attended three sold-out screenings of the film at the Capitol Theatre in York Saturday and said they appreciated the opportunity to learn the truth about Nelson Rehmeyer, John Blymire and what really happened on that late November night.
Interviews with more than 22 people led the film to portray Rehmeyer as a nice man who kept to himself and Blymire as a paranoid drifter who spent time in and out of a state hospital.
Rehmeyer’s great-grandson, great nephew and first cousin once removed and Blymire’s nephew were several of the interviewees.
After introducing the characters, the film explained the series of events on the night of the murder and the trials that followed. The film also noted that powwow, a protective and healing art practiced by Rehmeyer, was not generally used for witchcraft.
After the final screening Saturday night, members of both the Rehmeyer and Blymire families and a local expert on the murder said they felt Free provided an accurate portrayal of events surrounding the Hex Murder.
Rickie Ebaugh, great-grandson of Rehmeyer
Ebaugh said he’s been waiting 20 years for someone to tell his great-grandfather’s side of the story.
In the years after the murder, Ebaugh said he remembers his grandmother (Rehmeyer’s youngest daughter) feeling ashamed to walk around in public.
“It was always hurt,” Ebaugh said. “My great-grandfather was considered an evil person. It reflected on all of us.”
Now that Free has made this film, Ebaugh said it’s a sigh of relief.
“This is the closest we’ve (come) to explaining hex and the murder and powwow,” Ebaugh said. “The truth is finally out there. I wish my grandma could see it.”
Wes Blymire, great-great nephew of Blymire and artist for the film
Growing up, Wes Blymire said his family didn’t talk much about the Hex Murder. What he knew of it, he learned from friends.
But when he found out that Free was making a documentary about it, he made sure to get himself and his uncle Ebert involved.
Through the interview process, Wes Blymire said he learned that Ebert’s son suffered from a mental illness similar to what John Blymire could have suffered from.
“If they had treatment back then, maybe this could have been prevented,” Wes said, adding that he wasn’t upset by the portrayal of John Blymire as an unapologetic murderer in the film.
“I think it was honest,” he said.
J. Ross McGinnis, author of “Trials of Hex” and a speaker on the subject for 40 years
When McGinnis first learned that Free was making a documentary about the Hex Murder, he said he was concerned it would be boring.
But after seeing the movie Saturday night, he said he thought the “local color” brought the film to life.
“I thought (Free) did a really in-depth job,” McGinnis said. “I think he caught the spirit of the story, and I’m especially happy about the treatment of the trials. That’s why ‘Apprentice To Murder’ (the 1988 film about the Hex Murder starring Donald Sutherland) was a flop.”
He said however he wished the film would have gone into more detail about the trials, particularly attorney Harvey Gross’ performance in court that led to a second-degree murder charge and 10 years in prison for Blymire’s accomplice Wilbert Hess. Blymire and another accomplice John Curry both received life sentences.
Overall, though, McGinnis said he thought the documentary was an accurate portrayal of the murder and everyone involved.