Meet Hannah Hetherley, the ‘pow-wowing’ witch doctor know as the ‘Sorceress of Lititz’

Is there buried treasure in Lititz?

According to a Lancaster newspaper report from 1879, many area residents believed that there was and spent countless hours on several quests to find it. If you are ready to begin the Sorceress of Lititz Adventure, click here. Otherwise, read on to learn more about Hannah Hetherly, Sorceress of Lititz.

During that era, legend had it that a heavy chest was deposited by an unknown party just east of downtown Lititz.

Once word spread of the bounty, a group of locals—all said to be born on Christmas day—formed an exploration committee to find the supposed wealth.

Leading the charge was the mysterious Hannah Hetherley.

Possible self-portrait of Hannah Hetherley circa 1893.

Who was Hannah Hetherley?

Well known across Central Pennsylvania, Hetherley was a respected clairvoyant, animal curer, fortune teller, and medicine woman. She practiced Pow-Wow, which was a form of healing that involved prayers, rituals, chants, and charms, and one that was very popular among the Pennsylvania Dutch. Concerned residents from all over the state would pay visits to this local “witch” with the hopes that they, their children, or even their livestock could be cured of a variety of ailments.

From the Tuesday, April 1, 1879 edition of ‘The Boston Weekly Globe.

An 1879 Lancaster newspaper article referred to her as the “Sorceress of Litiz,” (the second “t” was added to the town’s name in 1880), and stated that she lived in a small, run-down log cabin situated between Lititz and Manheim. Her powers were said to have come from a charm book that she kept wrapped in old snakeskin when not in use.

One of the many stories published on local Pow-Wow doctor Hannah Hetherley.

Her popularity led her to be featured in many newspaper articles in The Reading Eagle, The Perry County Democrat, The New York Sun, The Boston Globe, The Cincinnati Enquirer, and even the St. Louis Globe.

From the Friday, March 28, 1879 edition of the ‘Reading Times.’

Dig We Must!

Traveling by horse and wagon, the rag-tag bunch set off, and among the picks and digging spades in tow, they also had with them an “Erdt Spiegel,” – or a special mirror which supposedly could see into the ground, and thus, locate the gold with ease.

Erdt Spiegel

During one attempt, it was reported that the team actually unearthed a strongbox from the ground. Try as they might, they never completely pulled the container fully to the surface, and the box eventually sank back into the earth.

One evening while asleep, a gang member dreamed that by going near another rumored spot of the bounty and standing there in silence, an iron chest containing $50,000 would rise from the earth. Desperate as they were, the diggers tried this method late one night but once again walked away empty-handed.

The group embarked on 10 trips around parts of the Lititz area and dug 24 total holes, but nothing was ever found. Even Hetherley, who cast a few spells at the sites of the digs to increase luck, could not produce anything. It seemed that the long-lost riches just didn’t want to be found.

While this tale makes for good campfire conversation, one should most likely bet that the legend of buried loot somewhere in Lititz is just that—a legend.

Sorceress of Lititz Adventure

When you are ready to begin the Sorceress of Lititz Adventure, click here.

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Cory Van Brookhoven for allowing me to reprint his article, Going For The Gold, here. You can read the original here as well as other fascinating historical tidbits on his Lititz history blog, From Brunnerville to Broad Street. Cory also hosts a great Lititz-themed podcast. Find it here.

Resources

One thought on “Meet Hannah Hetherley, the ‘pow-wowing’ witch doctor know as the ‘Sorceress of Lititz’

  1. By 1879 Gen. John Sutter was a well-known figure around Lititz. His name is forever associated with the discovery of gold in California, and I wonder if that association somehow sparked the legend that gold was buried here. Sutter did not, contrary to popular belief, profit from the gold rush. There is little possibility that he possessed any such treasure to bury.

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