By Kevin Williams
Okay, it’s October, Halloween month, which means silly season on TV. Golly gee, you won’t want to miss this: Amish Witches: The True Story of Holmes County. If you want to catch this gem, tune in at 8 p.m. on October 29th on the Lifetime channel.
The title is a bit misleading. This is a Lifetime movie about a reality TV show. So the “True Story” is simply the fictional True Story.
From Lifetime’s press release about the movie:
When a reality TV crew moves into Holmes County. Ohio to document the lives of an isolated sect of Swartzentruber Amish, production is halted by the death of Brauchau, an Amish witch. Following her unconsecrated funeral, a small group of young Amish women solicit the TV crew’s help in an attempt to document the inexplicable events plaguing them.But as everyone soon discovers the powerful malevolent force haunting them has deadly intentions.
The movie is produced by Hot Snakes Media, the Hollywood production company that has brought us other cultural gems like “Amish Mafia”, Amish Haunting, and Breaking Amish. Sorry to be cynical, but I think the executives at Hot Snakes know very little about the Amish, but they have obviously found a profit-center for their storytelling.
There’s been an attempt by media to sort of imbue the Amish with some sort of mysticism or spiritual otherness, but this all Hollywood confection. I think this is rooted, perhaps, in some Amish traditions such as folk medicine and I have personally witnessed an Amish healer using some sort of “spell” (I use the word very, very, very loosely, I just can’t think of what else to call it, maybe someone else can) in an attempt to heal. But those traditions are not widespread and are dying out among younger Amish. There are also local “legends” and lore, but I think they are more perpetuated by outsiders than the Amish. But consider the case of the “Chesterville Witch.”
Mysteriousheartland.com gives the history of the Chesterville Witch:
Chesterville is a small Amish and Mennonite community that consists of no more than a few dozen houses located a couple of miles away from Rockome Gardens. Within the neatly trimmed grounds of Chesterville Cemetery an old oak tree stands at the edge of the woods that separates the graveyard from the river. The peculiar thing about this tree is the iron fence that surrounds it, and the old stone marker that no longer bears a name. According to Troy Taylor, this is the grave of a woman who turned up dead after being accused of witchcraft in the early 1900s after she challenged the conservative views of the local Amish church elders. The town planted a tree over her grave to trap her spirit inside and prevent her from taking revenge. Her ghost can still be seen from time to time hanging around the area . A bit more information about the Chesterfield Witch can be found here.
Amish youth are as apt to tell “ghost stories” as non-Amish youth and such stories like the Chesterfield Witch are passed along in that way. But as far as actual witchcraft being somehow part of the spiritual edge of the Amish? Not that I’ve seen, that is all Hollywood stuff.