A few days ago, I received an email from a reader who wanted to know what influenced me to become interested in the paranormal. There have been a number of unusual episodes that I can recall, but the following narrative probably sums up my story the best. The esoteric and paranormal influences in my life were a bit more unusual than most. My descendants (who came to America, at Philadelphia, in 1734) were Ana-Baptists from Switzerland…better known in the New World as the Amish. I am the 11th generation of my descendant Ulrich Strickler, who fled the reformation and persecution. The original family homestead in Springettsbury Township, York Co. PA is recorded at the National Register of Historic Places As more German-speaking people moved into Pennsylvania, Old World folk-healing was established within the Pennsylvania Dutch / High German communities. The practice was known as ‘Pow-Wow’. The well-known ‘hex signs’ (Speilwerk) on Amish barns are Pow-Wow symbols used to deter evil spirits. Somewhat similar to HooDoo Conjure, Root Work and Magick, Pow-Wow is deeply associated with the Bible…especially the Old Testament. Most of the better known healing spells and folk magic are in John George Hohman’s 1820 German-American magical receipt-book named Pow-Wows or Long Lost Friend Another resource used is the The Sixth and Seventh Books of MosesThough ‘Pow-Wow is illegal to practice under Pennsylvania State Law…be assured, it is still used. My family had deep religious beliefs and prescribed to the long held symbols and customs. Though I’m not a religious person, I am spiritual and continue to keep ‘The Long Lost Friend‘ near me. It’s my version of a ‘talisman’ and reminds me of the healing sessions I witnessed as a boy. The 1988 film Apprentice to Murder was based on a true story attributed to a great uncle (portrayed by actor Donald Sutherland) who practiced Pow-Wow in southern Pennsylvania. Paranormal activity has been a part of me all my life. I have always had some psychic sensitivity but lacked the knowledge to properly use it. But one important event forced me to further examine my spirituality and how I would regard life here and beyond. I have posted the following event previously, but it was the greatest influence in my spiritual life. In 1977, it was confirmed that my great Aunt Lydie was suffering from lung cancer. The prognosis was not good and the doctors stated that she had very little time to live despite the fact that her illness didn’t slow her down. After a stint in the hospital, she returned home and continued her normal routine. Lydie was my mother’s aunt, my grandfather’s sister and would always open her home and kitchen to the family. The fact is that she practically raised my mother since my grandparents both worked. Her and my uncle owned a well-kept home in the south central Pennsylvania countryside that was surrounded by cornfields and woodlands. When I was a boy, I would take long hikes along the dirt roads as well as hunt for squirrel and deer in their woods. When I’d return to the house, my aunt would have a big hug and food on the table. I was very close to my Aunt Lydie. I had been married to my first wife about a year and was living outside of Baltimore, MD. My mother also lived in Maryland but about 15 miles from me. The family kept daily contact with Lydie and we all continued to visit her to make sure the house was maintained even though we lived an hour away. Lydie seemed resilient and didn’t let her illness get her down.
One late night, my wife and I were in bed asleep when ‘something’ woke me. I rolled on my back, opened my eyes and noticed that the room seemed to be illuminated somehow. By that time, my wife had also awaken and was wondering aloud as to why the room had lightened. We sat up and looked around the room in amazement. I was just about to get out of bed to check on my baby daughter when suddenly, a white billowy apparition started to materialize by the foot of the bed. The form was about 5 feet in height and continued to take a distinct form. Little by little, the spectre developed into the likeness of my Aunt Lydie. As I looked at the apparition’s face, I could see the mouth and eyes moving. It looked directly at me as it seemed like it was trying to tell me something. Both arms started to raise as if it wanted to hug me…the same way my Aunt Lydie would do when I’d walk through her kitchen door. My wife was motionless, shocked and scared out of her mind! She jumped out of bed and ran into my daughter’s bedroom, slamming the door behind her. By this time, the apparition started to dissipate and was completely gone after a few seconds. I sat on the bed utterly astonished. Honestly, this wasn’t the first ghost or phantom I had seen but it definitely was the most unforgettable. Then it struck me…my Aunt Lydie was dead. I looked at the alarm clock which read 2:33am. Just then, the telephone on the nightstand started to ring. I picked up the receiver and it was my mother calling. “Lon…don’t get upset. But, did you see Lydie?” I acknowledge to her that I had. She continued, “Well, Mom (my grandmother) called me and said Lydie had come to say goodbye to her and Daddy (my grandfather).” Well, by this time, I was totally freaked out. The fact that we all lived in separate locations many miles apart and that the spectre of my Aunt Lydie had visited us at the same time was mind boggling…at least to this, then, 20 year old. In the morning we were told that my aunt had been rushed to the hospital a little after 2:00am and had died in the emergency room at 2:27am after suffering a massive stroke. This incident really opened my eyes and encouraged me to take a serious look at paranormal field work. Since that time, I have experienced a plethora of strange and unexplained phenomena…and I still have an overwhelming desire to find the answers. Lon