Dead Animals in the Walls

The imagery has been used in story and in cinema for years; an unsuspecting family rips open one of their walls and finds animal corpses stuffed within. The horrifying scene is an iconic one, but it does have its roots in old traditions, as one family found out the hard way.

In 2011, the Bretzuis family bought their dream home Auburn PA, that they said did not appear to need any work done on it to be move-in ready. The big house was built nearly a century ago and has been occupied by many tenants over the years. The services of a home inspector had also been used and they too had found the house to be in good condition, signing off on the inspection quickly. Then in 2012, they decided to do some insulation work in their walls when they discovered something they never expected.

Behind layers of drywall they found that the house had already been insulated with scores of dead animal carcasses. The family was horrified and disgusted at what they found, as they revealed hidden corpses throughout the house. The dead animals were wrapped in newspapers from the 1930’s and 40’s. Also stuffed into the wall were other strange items such has half-used containers of herbs and spices.

Although they were disturbed by their findings, the family were also baffled as to why the house had been left in such a condition. They then sent hundreds of artifacts and carcasses to an expert in the nearby town of Kutztown PA. The expert analyzed the bodies and the array of other items. Their findings were that the rotting animals in their walls were attributed to Pow-wow or Dutch magic.

The Pennsylvania Dutch were a group of German-speaking settlers to Pennsylvania in the 1600 and 1700’s, and are often of Lutheran, Mennonite, or Amish faiths. They practiced a form of North American traditional medicine and folk magic, blending aspects of folk religion with healing charms, often called "powwowing". These traditions included healing rituals, as well as securing physical and spiritual protection, and good luck in everyday affairs. The expert surmised that one of the previous owners of the house, decades ago, had been a practitioner of Dutch magic and had hoped to thwart illness and bad luck by sealing those animals within the walls.

The Bretzuis family’s Insurance would not cover any of the repairs as the corpses were stuffed into the walls before the family bought the policy. As a result, they had to pay for removal and repairs which cost them over $20,000, completely draining the family’s savings. The mold found on the rotting carcasses in the home also caused illness among all the family members; the couple and their four children. As of 2016, the family remains unsure after the extensive work and repairs that they put into the house already if there aren’t more still within the walls that they could not afford to have replaced. They also say that the odor hasn’t gone away.