Hohman, John George (d. ca. 1845) The most famous braucher in the powwowIng tradition of folk Magic, spells, hexes and healing. John George Hohman (also spelled Homan) was a German immigrant to America and the author of the widely circulated magical text The Long Lost Friend.
Little is known about Hohman’s life. In 1802, he and his wife, Anna Catherine, and son, Philip (some sources say Caspar), left Hamburg for Philadelphia, arriving on October 12. They had no money and sold themselves as indentured servants. Hohman and his wife were split apart. His wife and son went to Burlington County, New Jersey, and Hohman went to Springfield Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
Hohman lived and worked in a German immigrant community. In his spare time, he made and sold decorated birth certificates and baptismal certificates, a popular custom among the immigrants. In three-and-a-half years, he earned enough money to buy freedom for himself and his family.
The family’s home is not known, for Hohman could not afford to purchase land. In 1810, they evidently lived in the Easton area near the HexenkopF. Hohman was by then writing books, ballads, hymns, poems and songs, which he published. By 1815, the Hohmans lived in reading.
Anna Catherine died there in 1832 at age 60. Hohman is believed to have died on April 26, 1845, at age 67 after a “lingering illness.” Hohman gained a wide reputation for his healing ability. In 1818 he published a folk medicine book, The Field and House Pharmacy Guide, with remedies for humans and animals.
This book contained no magic. In 1820, he published the book that made him famous, The Long Lost Friend, a faith-healing text of magical charms and spells that became the bible of powwowing. more than 150 editions have been printed. The book was translated into English in 1850. There is no evidence that Hohman ever used the term “powwowing” to describe his magical arts.
But among the brauchers, power doCtors and powowers, his text was golden, an essential tool for success. Even hex doctors worked black magic with it. mere ownership conferred power. The belief spread that no one could practice without their own personal copy of The Long Lost Friend. The influential SAylor FAmIly of folk doctors placed great importance on it. Hohman and The Long Lost Friend gained celebrity status in the early 20th century when a murder was committed over possession of a copy.
John blymIre, of York County, Pennsylvania, believed himself to be cursed and was told he had to take possession of the offending witch’s copy of The Long Lost Friend in order to be cured. Blymire killed the man when he would not give up the book. The story was written in a book Hex (1970) by Arthur H. Lewis.
In 1988, a film based on the story was made in Hollywood starring Donald Sutherland. It was originally titled The Long Lost Friend, but just prior to release the title was changed to The Apprentice to Murder.
A German version, The Night of the Demons, was produced. Both films performed poorly. The Long Lost Friend continued to be used until well into the 20th century and still enjoys an audience in present times. more than 500,000 copies have been sold.
- Heindel, Ned D. Hexenkopf: History, Healing & Hexerei. Easton, Pa.: Williams Township Historical Society, 2005.
- Lewis, Arthur H. Hex. New York: Pocket Books, 1970.