Are 'Amish Witches' Real? 'True Story' Might Be In The Lifetime Movie Title, But You Needn't Be Too Scared
It's Halloween, it's spooky, it's scary, and it's the perfect time to indulge in an entertaining horror story. Lifetime's Amish Wishes: The True Story of Holmes County might be an unconventional, but perfectly satisfactory choice, if you're looking for an eccentric scary movie. But are Amish witches real, and by extension, is Amish Witches a true story? Unfortunately, like most witch stories, there's no evidence that there have ever been any real witches plaguing the Pennsylvania Dutch community. And, don't be fooled by the title of the film, either — this is no more a "True Story" about a haunting happening in Amish country than American Horror Story is telling a true "Roanoke Nightmare" this season.
One easy way to tell that this story has been fabricated is that the story covers a reality TV crew working on a project about the Holmes County Amish community. The reality TV cameras turn into documentarians after "a group of young women" suspect a witch of being behind a rash of murders in the area. According to PBS' Amish expert, not only do many Amish people not want to be photographed, they specifically do not believe in posing for straight-ahead photos. Some Amish communities will be more flexible about being filmed or photographed from afar, but according to PBS, "in a communal society that values humility, posing for photos is a sign of pride that calls attention to oneself and rubs against Amish beliefs about the importance of deferring and yielding to others." That doesn't seem compatible with filming a reality TV series.
But, if that's the first clue that Amish Witches isn't real, the second is that in their years of history in the United States, there has never been a famous Amish witch hunt the way there was in Salem, Massachusetts. There are folktales about witches, however. According to The Journal of American Folk-Lore's section on the Pennsylvania Dutch does describe some local stories about witches, but they sound more like annoying neighbors than malevolent forces. For example, "[a] housewife sometimes found difficulty in butter-making, the 'spell' being believed to be the work of a witch."
There is also a popular, but as far as I can tell, non-historical Amish urban legend from Chesterfield, Illinois that does sound similar to the film, about a famous grave underneath a tree that has become known for being the haunted burial place of a young woman who turned to witchcraft after being shunned by her family.
One thing, however, that is based on the lives of the real Amish, is the "shunning" that supposedly prompted the witch in both the Chesterfield story and Amish Witches. According to PBS, "shunning is practiced in different ways by various Amish groups, but it typically involves rituals of shaming such as not eating at the same table with ex-members at weddings or other public gatherings."
The Amish of Holmes County will pay in the Lifetime film, but in real life, it doesn't seem like there are any Amish Witches to worry about.