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public sales, barns, witchcraft formula, ghosts, Catasauqua, parade, Comus
Handwritten notes copied by Alfred L. Shoemaker from The Allentown Democrat of June 25, 1879 to June 1, 1881. The notes concern a chair purchased at a public sale, a Mardi Gras-style parade held in Catasauqua and a formula for warding off evil spirits found in an old barn in Alburtis, Pennsylvania.
June 25, 1879: An Ancient chair. Elias Bittner of All-Luzerne. Has date 1735 cut in its back. It was purchased by Mr. Bittner last winter at the assignee’s sale of the personal property of Mr. Jonas Werly, up in Lowhill, for the trifling sum of ten cents. It was made in Germany and has been in the Bittner family for nearly a century and a half.
July 2, 1879, Fantastical Parade at Catasauqua. The young men of Catasauqua are making extensive preparations for a fantastical parade in said place on the 4th of July. One who knows informs us that two hundred persons, fully equipped, will participate, thus making the parade quite a pageant – one that will afford amusement and pleasure to the citizens, as well as visitors. There will be costumes of every character in line, though the tendency towards the ugly and comical will probably predominate among the “Mystic Krew of Komus.” There are those who are not enthusiastic admirers of fantastical parades, and who have never been fully convinced of their refining and elevating tendency, but for our part we think it is better to be [illegible] than sad, and if, as some genial writer asserts - a good hearty laugh takes a nail out of your coffin, a parade of the fantasticals cannot fail to lessen the bills of mortality.
June 1, 1881: A few weeks ago an old barn was torn down on what was formerly known as the Rothenberger property, up near Alburtis, in Lower Macungie, now owned by Mr. James F. Knedler. Up in the east gable end of the structure was found fastened a curious block, consisting of two pieces of heavy plank nailed together, and on the same being separated a piece of paper was found concealed within containing a curious writing which for a long time could not be deciphered. The manuscript was in German, but what it all meant could not be got at until one of the persons examining the document finally commenced to read the words backwards, when it was found that it was a warning to ghosts, hobgoblins and all evil spirits of whatsoever kind to stay away from the premises, from the horses, cows, bulls, heifers, sheep, from all living animals, from all human beings, until such time as the mother of God (Mutter Gottes) should give birth to a second son. It bore the signature of John Rothenberger, and evidently had been written many years ago. John was a firm believer in spooks, and laboring under constant mental hallucinations of one kind or other he at last gained rest from his earthly troubles by hanging himself.
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Shoemaker, Alfred L., "Notes From The Allentown Democrat, 1879-1881" (1950). Alfred L. Shoemaker Folk Cultural Documents. 191.
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