Stories of haunted houses is something that is commonplace, but there are paranormal events on record, which indicate that such activity is not restricted to brick and mortar structures, but can manifest itself in other objects too – objects such as trees. There is a three hundred year old live oak in the New Orleans, Louisiana City Park that carries the hair raising name of ‘The Suicide Oak. According to legend, people are drawn to this particular tree in order to commit suicide. It is said that at least twelve individuals have taken their lives under its huge branches within a period of sixteen years. No wonder that this great member of the flora family has acquired a reputation of being haunted.

Another group of trees that is said to be possessed is located on the Redcliffe Plantation on Beech Island, South Carolina. This historic spot was developed in the mid-1800s by a political figure named James Hammond, who died here in 1864, leaving behind his ghost to haunt the property. It is claimed that these hauntings centre on three trees set in a triangular pattern on the property, where people have experienced strange phenomenon. These paranormal manifestations appear as a male shadow thought to be the deceased James Hammond. However this cannot be said with certainty, as people other than Mr. Hammond must have passed away on the plantation and if the so called shadow is a ghost, it could be of anyone who lived and worked on the plantation.

The following bizarre account has been gleaned from published sources related to New England. ‘On the remote Wolf Island Road that runs through the desolate forests of Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, there is the legend of spectral, shadowy bodies hanging from the trees of the Ellis-Bolles Cemetery. It is said that these phantom hanged bodies are those of a group of soldiers that was ambushed and captured in the heavily wooded area during the King Philip’s War, after which they were hanged from the trees to be put to death. Massachusetts also harbors an enormous sycamore tree called “The Whipping Tree,” a haunted tree that was the location of a brutal whipping enacted upon a Shaker, or Shaking Quaker, by the name of Abijah Worster. The Shaking Quakers were a religious group that once lived in the area until they were forcibly driven out in a 1782 riot. It said that Worster had tried to put a stop to the beatings and harassment, but was tied to the tree and whipped for his efforts, after which all those who had tormented him died shortly after. It is said that the tree is cursed. The state of Connecticut is home to another spooky tree that stands in the Great Hill Cemetery in the town of Seymour. Local legend is that a cemetery carter once committed suicide by hanging himself from the tree, and to this day, a ghostly body can be seen hanging there sometimes and that cars have the unsettling habit of stalling when passing under it’.

Haunted trees are not confined to the US alone, but can be found all over the world. There was a ‘peeloo’ tree in our old house in Lahore, where scared stiff visitors claimed to have seen the specter of a disheveled old woman with red glowing eyes, while one of our domestics ran into the house shouting that he had been chased by a huge black dog, which had materialized from the tree. We often took after dinner walks, passing under the old gnarled ‘peeloo’, but experienced nothing.

Then there was the Jajjhar Palace, which was once occupied by my grandfather on his posting there before independence. My mother often told us that she and the rest of the family heard, what sounded like screams coming from the direction of a water tank overshadowed by an ancient ‘banyan’ tree, in the large compound. This was the spot, where the Nawab of Jajjhar and members of his family were hanged during the 1857 War of Independence.

Stories about unexplained events are now being aggressively researched as science begins to acknowledge that such phenomenon does occur. Leading this quest is the department of parapsychology in Duke University North Carolina, where much progress has been made increasing our understanding of paranormal phenomenon. Who knows what these studies will uncover in the future, but there is one undeniable fact that such phenomenon does exist.

 

The writer is a historian.