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Cave of Kelipus: A Place Where Ardent Believers Waited for the Second Coming

Saturday, November 19, 2016 8:09
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Cave of Kelipus: A Place Where Ardent Believers Waited for the Second Coming

Non-believers say that it is merely an old springhouse. Yet many believe that the hard-to-find cave is where the (perhaps) first death cult of the United States sought sanctuary as they awaited the end of the world. The Pennsylvanian cave is located on the side of a hill above the Wissahickon Creek. The uncanny beauty of the Wissahickon Valley, now a National Natural Landmark of the US, has long attracted the attention of visionaries, including the poet Edgar Allen Poe and the social advocate John Greenleaf Whitter. At the end of the 17th century, the Valley attracted a different sort of admirer. In an elaborate interpretation of the Book of Revelations, Johannes Kelpius believed the end was neigh. And the one place he and his followers could remain safe was in the ancient forests outside the city limits of Philadelphia.

Johannes Kelpius was an ethnic German from Transylvania (then under dispute between the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, today part of Romania). He arrived from the in Pennsylvania in 1694 at the age of 27. Kelpius had a master’s degree in theology from the University of Altdorf (located near Nuremberg). While at university, he had become enchanted with Pietism, an austere version of Lutheranism. In particular, Kelpius became an avid follower of Johann Jacob Zimmerman, a renowned German astronomer, mathematician, and cleric.

Johannes Kelpius

Johannes Kelpius (Public Domain)

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