Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Edward D. Gingerich: The Only Amish Man Convicted of Murder

Visions of Madness

The children were fast asleep as Ed walked in the door.

Katie stared quizzically at Ed and said, You look funny, whats wrong?

Im going to bed; Im dizzy and my head hurts, Ed replied as he made his way to the bedroom.

As dusk turned to dawn, Ed leaped out of bed and shook Katie awake. As Katie came to, she could hear Ed talking to himself in a strange voice.

Ed, what are you doing? she demanded.

Ive had a vision ... a vision from God!

What do you mean? Katie asked.

I tried to kill the older leader but he would not die. I couldnt conquer him!

Katie had no idea what Ed was talking about. What leader? she asked.

Bishop Shetler! Ive got to kill the older leader to make room for the new religion. I couldnt do it because he wouldnt die! No matter how hard I tried, I couldnt kill him ... the devil wants my soul, hes fighting Jesus for my soul. Ed replied.

After hearing her husband ramble incoherently all morning, Katie arranged another trip to Doc Terrells. By 2:30 that afternoon, Ed was sitting in Doc Terrells office listing his symptoms on a piece of paper, no appetite, forgetful and cant sleep, Ed scrawled on the paper. His treatment resulted in a shoulder rub, right-foot manipulation, and another jar of blackstrap molasses.

Following Eds latest treatment, he showed absolutely no improvement and shocked the entire community the following night. It was church night at Katies parents house. Everyone was present, including Bishop Shetler. That night, without warning, Ed told the entire congregation that an English friend and spiritual advisor had opened his eyes to God and Jesus Christ. Katie was horrified as Ed spoke.

If I leave the Amish church, I can be saved...its the only way...he has shown me passages in the Bible, in the Book of John...that says that faith alone is enough, Ed announced before a shocked and dismayed audience.

Bishop Shetler held his tongue momentarily before replying to Eds charges. I know of these men, he said, referring to Eds spiritual advisor. They are devils soldiers. Speaking to Ed, Bishop Shetler asked, Are you joining with these people?

Why are my own people against me? Ed responded in an annoyed tone.

No one is against you! Katie exclaimed.

Ed, ignoring Katie, announced, Ive had a vision...

Dont tell them about your dream! Katie yelled.

The leader of the new church will conquer the old leader. I tried but I couldnt kill him no matter what I did. I kept trying for the new religion, but couldnt.

Bishop Shetler stood up from his chair as Katie said, He just had a dream...it was just a dream!

No, Ed proclaimed, Its a vision, a prophecy!

That was it, Bishop Shetler could hear no more. He abruptly grabbed his coat and hat and walked out the door. Everyone else took their cue and followed him. Katie stood humiliated and in tears as her worst fears suddenly became reality.

On the morning of March 23, 1992, Ed refused to get out of bed. He was lying on his back spitting at the ceiling, totally ignoring Katie.

Ed, please stop doing that and get up! Katie pleaded.

Ed spat into the air, watched his phlegm hang from the ceiling, and asked, What does that say? What is that saying to me? What is it saying?

Katie was extremely disturbed by this new behavior and immediately summoned Bishop Shetler.

Ed was still lying on his back spitting and talking to himself when Bishop Shetler arrived.

Tell us, Ed, why you are spitting? the bishop enquired.

I think my heart is tearing loose. Its coming off, I can feel it! Ed blurted.

Bishop Shetler immediately sent word to the elders and to Eds family, Ed has been seized by the devil, and that their presence was required at once, to help pray against Satan. As Eds family and the elders entered his room, Ed began flailing about, and had to be restrained.

Maybe we should take him to a doctor, Eds mother offered.

This man is not sick. He has been taken over by Satan. The only thing that can save him is prayer. The bishop explained.

Everyone present was instructed by the bishop to form a circle around Ed and pray for God to drive the devil out of him.

Ed soon sat up in his bed and the prayers stopped. Ed was helped to his feet and taken out to a front room and placed on a cot, where he fell asleep. Hours passed and Bishop Shetler was certain God had defeated Satan and freed Eds soul. Nonetheless, the victory was short lived. Ed awoke abruptly, flung himself onto the floor, and began howling as he ran around the room on all fours.

Those present began to consider the possibility that Ed was in fact insane and decided it was time for Ed to see a medical doctor. A call was placed from an English neighbors house and a local doctor was soon in route. Dr. Craig Caldwell had been known to treat Amish patients and was of a rare breed, a doctor that still made house calls.

How are you doing? the doctor asked.

Check to see if my heart's still there. I think it jumped to the right side. Ed replied.

The doctor briefly examined Ed with a stethoscope, as Ed began rambling on about the bishop and Jesus Christ. Katie handed Dr. Caldwell a jar of Doc Terrells blackstrap molasses and asked, Would this be helpful? The doctor looked over the jar and read the label under the light of a kerosene lamp. I dont think so, he replied. The doctor then wrote Ed a prescription for tranquilizers. Call me if Ed isnt feeling better, he said as he walked out. Ed crawled into bed a short time later and cried himself to sleep.

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