Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Legendary Hexenwolf

For those who are unfamiliar with the Hexenwolf videos that appeared at the Virginville Film Festival in 2006, they are available on YouTube.

Those who are familiar with these parody videos, however, may not be aware that the Hexenwolf is indeed a character in some little-known Pennsylvania German folktales. Much like the Jersey Devils wreak havoc across the Pine Barrens, the Hexenwelf (plural form) inhabit tracts of land across much of eastern Pennsylvania. Some folks say they are generally invisible, but they can manifest themselves in a visible form at will. Others say that they are not actually invisible, but, like a cuttlefish, are able to blend into their environment in an extremely effective way. Although those who claim to have seen it describe an animal similar to a Jersey Devil, the Hexenwolf has never been said to have wings. 

It is more likely that the Hexenwolf is identical to the Dwayyo, which is a mythic creature mentioned in the Deitsch regions of Maryland. The Dwayyo is said to be the predator of another mythic creature, the Schneller Geischt or the Snallygaster.

They are nocturnal creatures, perhaps baneful wights or spirits, that have little use for humans, particularly humans' streetlights, headlights and flashlights. Thus, the Hexenwelf tend to hunt at night and sleep during the day. However, crossing their path while they are hunting could be deadly... Even if you are not physically harmed, these creatures are said to be able to exert a dark force upon you, which leaves a blemish and plagues you with bad luck.

Many tales of the Lenape did not survive the Colonial era, so we will never know whether these are native creatures or whether they came over with our ancestors, hidden among their possessions.

They have been said to dwell in woods or meadows near Oley, on the ridges by Cushion Peak, Eagle's Peak, The Pinnacle, and in the Welsh Mountains. Some say they inhabit the woods atop Mount Penn at the far end from the Pagoda, and on some nights hunt in packs, on two legs or on four. The wooded areas not far Angelica Lake seem to be a favorite home. In the north, they are said to avoid the Blue Mountain Ridge, perhaps due to the presence there of Der Ewich Yeeger, the Eternal Hunter, but on the other side of the ridge, the stories re-emerge in the wooded areas just north of Mauch Chunk/Jim Thorpe.

Stories indicate that they occasionally let out howls like wolves; other stories say they have the ability to project their thoughts into the minds of those whose gaze they catch, and that is one way they stop their prey.

They have been rumored to have ransacked root cellars and garbage cans. They have also allegedly attacked livestock, chickens, but for some reason they do not attack dogs and cats. In fact, cats have been reported among their numbers on occasion, traveling comfortably with the pack.

So make what you will of these almost-forgotten tales, and if you are hiking along the back roads of Deitscherei, be wary of the night hunters, and keep your flashlight on!