The Forbidden Cave of the Wissahickon Monks 21-31

ForbiddenCave01This report has a little mysticism, a little history, and a whole lot of hearsay. Who were these mysterious monks that settled in eastern Pennsylvania in the 17th Century? Were they harbingers of the end times, or kind men with a penchant for magic?  Let’s investigate!

The Forbidden Cave that once belonged to the Wissahickon monks lies between Philadelphia, PA and the nearby hamlet of Germantown, near the Wissahickon Creek. It’s said that the monks came from Germany in June 1694 and settled near the creek as they prepared for the end of the world.

These supposed mystics took the Book of Revelation very seriously and from their calculations, the year 1694 was very near the end-date of creation. The leader of this Protestant sect was Johannes Kelpius, then 21 years old.

Kelpius and his fellow monks had been university educated and they kept up with their studies despite their hermit lifestyle. They also helped the sick in the area, maintained their prayer schedule, involved themselves in the music ministries of local Anabaptists and Lutherans, and even practiced alchemy.

ForbiddenCave04The monks were keenly interested in studying the stars because they cast horoscopes for information when the Rapture was to occur. They had astrolabes and telescopes with them.

In 1708 Kelpius died of pneumonia and many of his followers abandoned the hermetic way of life. Six stoic individuals stayed and carried on the work, led by Conrad Matthai.

ForbiddenCave08According to Weird U.S. com, before Kelpius died, “…he handed his assistant Daniel Giessler a locked box full of magical artifacts with strict instructions to throw it immediately into the Schuykill River. In a tale reminiscent of Arthurian legend, Giessler thought that the artifacts would be valuable for future generations and without any thought of personal gain, chose to keep them for posterity. He hid the box on the shore and returned to his dying master. But Kelpius knew he had not done as he was told, and commanded him to go and do it. On his second trip, Giessler threw the box into the river. A mighty explosion blew out of the water, with flashes of lightning and a crash like thunder. Naturally, because of the group’s reputation for alchemy, some believed that the box contained the Philosopher’s Stone which still rests beneath the Schuykill River near Wissahickon Creek.” (Philosopher’s stone from the Harry Potter movies, right.)

ForbiddenCave02One monk left the Wissahickon enclave and moved to Germantown. His name was Christopher Witt. He remained a monk working in botany, making clocks, building instruments, and caring for the area’s sick. He actually earned enough money by 1718 to buy 125 acres of land in Germantown. (Photo left of area along the Wissahickon Creek.)

Some villagers thought Witt was a hexenmeister, or warlock, so they treated him and his household with suspicion. But the majority of people felt he did so much good for the community, that they left him in peace.

There are stories about Witt that indicate he may have really been a mystic. For example, it was said he bilocated to find a woman’s husband in London. He is also credited with exorcising demons. Whatever the truth, he eventually took it all to his grave.

ForbiddenCave03Travelers Beware

Nowadays there is a walking trail that runs along the Wissahickon Creek. Legend says if you go there at night you may see six men in monks’ robes, walking quietly through the woods. People are also advised to not enter the cave where Johannes Kelpius spent much of his time meditating. The Rosicrucians erected a monument (photo left) there in 1961 to commemorate Kelpius and his little sect as the first Rosicrucian settlement in the new world.

If you’d like to know more about Johannes Kelpius, see the article by Joe Tyson in the References section below.

Sometimes when people don’t understand another group of people, they misinterpret things and start crazy rumors that may not be true and probably aren’t true. I don’t believe for one minute that the Philosopher’s stone was in the box that got tossed in the river. (Besides we all know Dumbledore had the original!  😉  )

ForbiddenCave05It was more likely chemicals that the monk was experimenting with.

Was Conrad Witt really a mystic that could bilocate (be in two places at once)? Who knows? How do you prove something like that from 300 years ago. (Photo right of path along the Wissahickon Creek.)

I guess the mystery and wonder associated with these men will continue to permeate that area. Thrill seekers may enjoy walking the path at night to see what they can see … or what shouldn’t be visible.

Are you brave enough to walk into a haunted woodland?










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