Hexenkopf Hill and Hexenkopf Rock, PA: Hexenkopf, the witch’s head. Mountain summit in Northampton County. Peak elevation: 791 feet. Isolated prominence on a ridge of South Mountain. Home. The ghost of a headless hunter, the ghosts of witches, and strange lights have been seen there. Strange sounds come from the woods.
The stone of which Hexenkopf Rock is comprised is embedded with tiny flecks of mica, reflective scales that once covered the entire surface of the rock. The surface mica has largely eroded away, but at various times when the densely wooded hill had been clear-cut by owners trying to squeeze an income from their rocky property, the mica would mirror the moon and glow white in the night. Morgan le Fay could easily have lived in the brambly woods covering Hexenkopf, fingertips sparking.
When German families settled in Northampton County their homes and barns were inhabited by Hausgeister, house spirits – leprechauns, púca, brownies, or Robin Goodfellow to those of other ethnic origins – half-animal creatures that lived in caves and the hills and hunted in the woods. When the Magyars (including my great-grandparents) arrived from Hungary, they found that the manók elves and goblins, the foxy törpék dwarves, the cave-dwelling bubus spirits, and fene illness demons were already there. The Germans looked for the ghostly Der Schimmelreiter to lead his spectral army through the hills, the Hungarians for the guta demon who beat his victims to death.
In the late 18th and 19th centuries, it was understood that any wind blowing from Hexenkopf carried contagion and pestilence and the entire hill was cursed and haunted, and not to be trespassed or abused. When Hexenkopf Rock glows in the moonlight, devils and spirits and ghosts roam the hill. German witches still practice on its slopes.
Perhaps is ironic that I never knew our hill was supposed to be cursed or haunted, or harrowing in any way, never heard about headless ghosts or contagion winds, about mysterious lights and sounds in the trees, never knew any of it until I was decades older and far away. Perhaps it is merely loss.