The History of Amaritudinem, Pennsylvania ~ fiction by John Lane

Dear reader of this fine publication,

The following was rubbed from a sheet of 1960s-era carbon paper found in a shoebox hidden under a floorboard in Pennsylvania State Museum’s Delaware Room. Research indicates that Noah Brewster, chief historian of Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, during the 1960s, was about to discover the location of Amaritudinem, Pennsylvania, before being found in his bedroom, face and hands shredded from several blows of an axe blade. No further information could be found on Amaritudinem, nor anyone else related to Mr. Brewster. Therefore, with the help of this publication, Mr. Brewster’s findings were included in the hopes of locating a relative of his, or someone else with knowledge of Amaritudinem. 


Jim G. Harrison

Past President, Friends of Lost Pennsylvania Towns


Members of the Unami, Minsi, Lenape and Unalachtigo tribes collectively sold a five-square-mile stretch from the Delaware river border to what is now Pennsylvania. The purchasers were a group of drunks and layabouts led by the former Reverend Matthew Dancer, a pastor from St. Mary’s Church ousted for embezzlement of parish funds. Masquerading as colonial agents, Dancer and his cohorts bought the land at the sum of one pound. 


Dancer’s group resold the land for one thousand pounds to a former group of monks led by William Thomas, a man with deep knowledge of the Scriptures. Mr. Thomas and the monks built Ephrata Cloister, a monastery focused on prayer and isolation. Unbeknownst to Mr. Thomas, the Reverend Matthew Dancer also sold the same land to Conrad Beissel, a man who saw God in a vision, for an identical amount. Within a couple of months, when all buildings were completed, Mr. Beissel, with some settlers from nearby Farmingtown, forced Dancer and his men off the property with iron-barrelled musketoons. Afterward, Mr. Thomas convinced his dissenters to revolt. With twenty other members, Mr. Thomas trespassed to the Cloister’s center and preached the Bible over a thirty-hour period until his group was asked to leave by Mr. Beissel, aided by the same armed settlers. Weeks later, emboldened by their faith in God, the dissenters raided Mr. Beissel’s home and stole one thousand pounds found underneath a floorboard.


During the yearly gathering, leaders of the four tribes received a vision of Dancer laughing as he jumped on their graves. The elders translated the vision as the tribes being cheated from the small transaction and the men banded together to arrive at the settlement, named, Caelum, or “heaven.” They burned down seventeen log cabins and killed over half the colonists with tomahawks. The victims were then scalped. As each man was slain, the Indians shouted, Tosh-shonte Popogusso, or “Englishman’s Hell.” William Thomas, his entire brain exposed, lay on his deathbed, and was heard to mutter amaritudinem, or “bitterness.” Amaritudinem ended up as the town’s name.


Fourteen children attended the grand opening of the William Thomas school to learn basic math and spelling. That night, every school-going child had a vision of an Indian running through their town and touching them. The next morning, each one had a fever and developed a reddish rash. Within thirty days, the affected children died from measles. This was especially noteworthy because colonists usually died from complications of the communicable disease, not as a direct result. The town’s leader, John Smith, placed an indefinite moratorium on public schools.


To celebrate the American War of Independence, the William Thomas Tavern was established in the center of town. The house specialty, Savages’ Stew, was rumored to be made from the remains of children who died from measles. The rumors were never substantiated. The tavern was burned down, and a tomahawk with blood caked on its blade was found on the burned site. To this day, the tomahawk has never been recovered.


The Whig candidate for President, William Harry Harrison, gave a town hall meeting in the public square. Despite an outcry from the majority of the town’s citizens, Mr. Harrison wanted to mandate a public school for every town. As Mr. Harrison left, he swore that screams were heard, although no one else was able to verify. Thirty-one days into his presidency, William Harrison died from pneumonia.


During an intense thunderstorm, large streaks of lightning hit Amaritudinem’s city hall and lit the building on fire. The fire soon spread throughout the town. Days later, people from Farmingtown found no survivors.


After many years… I discovered Amaritudinem, Pennsylvania…  located between… (text indecipherable)

From the writings of Noah Brewster, Chief Historian of Philadelphia, PA. August 1, 1962.

John Lane’s fiction has appeared or will be forthcoming in Black Hare Press, Ghost Orchid Press, Black Ink Fiction, Dark Dossier Magazine, Trembling with Fear, The Drabble and other venues. His essays have also appeared in Morbidly Beautiful, Celestial Toyroom, and Pure Slush. In 2020, John’s story, “Dimension Traveler,” tied for Rejected Manuscripts’ third most voted entry out of 130 stories. Member of the editorial team for 101 Words, and a reader for Black Hare Press. Member of the Horror Writers Association. Army and National Guard veteran.