Horror author and investigator Michael Thomas-Knight sends us an article about an investigation he and his group performed in Long Island, New York. Thank you, Knight!
The Witch Tree
Investigation and report submitted by
Long Island, NY
Nov. 19th, 2009
On the South Shore of Long Island, NY, legend has it that a witch was hung from a tree in the early 1700s. Villagers accused her of being a witch and vigilante justice was served. The tree is said to still be standing after 350 years. The woods in the area of the tree give off a dark oppressive feeling and people often leave the area with sadness in their hearts, though they don't know why. Several people have committed suicide in the woods surrounding the tree with one actually hanging themselves from the very same branch on the witch tree that the accused witch hung from. It is also said that you can hear her high-pitched scream, a repeated cry she had made when they had dragged her to the place of her hanging.
I'm part of an investigating group that looks into local haunts. We do it just for fun and self interest, not to prove or disprove the existence of ghosts and spirits. We have fun learning about the local history and discovering new areas in our local heritage. We attempted to find this witch tree on one cool autumn day. We only had a vague idea of the Witch Tree location; the wooded area was overlooking the Great South Bay. Such little location information left a large area to search, too large. Some historical investigation helped us narrow down our search criteria.
In the 1600's, the east half of LI (Suffolk County) was considered New England, not NY. A group of settlers from Salem MA, broke off from the community and headed south by boat to claim a piece of land on Long Island's South Shore. They started a new community and called it Salem Village. It's believed the name was eventually shortened to Sayville (SAlem VILLage), a town still found on Long Island's South shore.
Fair assumption or not, we decided the Puritans that believed in witches and held witch trials in Salem could have been the same group who would condemn a witch on Long Island. We mapped out the shoreline in the area of Sayville finding a State Park (undeveloped) overlooking the Great South Bay. After an hour's drive to eastern Long Island, we reached the State Park. With cameras and recording devices in hand, we headed into the woods on our search.
After 10 minutes of trail hiking, we entered an area with mostly dead trees. The bare branches clawed at the sky like skeleton fingers and criss-crossed one another like an ancient web. Several members of the team instantly became lethargic, not only drained of energy, but unexpectedly disinterested with continuing our search. We stopped, listening for any signs of movement and scanning the woods for a tree that could be the infamous, Witch Tree. The trees in the area seemed adversely influenced from the past events, growing in strange, deformed ways. The sky grew darker than it had been all day. We had the eerie sensation of being watched and Dave called out, "Hello, whose there?" despite seeing clearly through the bare winter trees that no one was around.
Robin said she was feeling nauseous and we agreed we should head back to the car. We began back up the trail we had come from. After twenty yards I had the urge to turn around. When I looked where we had stopped, we had been standing under a tree that could very well have been the witch tree. It seemed plenty old and had quite a lot of age-rot and decay. There was a single branch jutting sideways from the trunk that could support the weight of a person hanging from a rope. The branch was high but a few hundred years ago it would have been much lower to the ground. I snapped a few photos as we retreated from the woods. When the tree was out of sight we heard several shrill screeches in succession from the direction we had come, echoing through the woods. We were tempted to go back, but we were extremely cold by this point. The damp Autumn air had successfully chilled us to the bone.
We are still not sure if we had found the Witch Tree, but considering the circumstances it was a strong possibility. We asked some local people in the area, but no one seemed to know the exact location of the tree, despite having heard the stories. No one could say that we had not found the fabled hanging tree either. Our combined personal feelings and experiences indicate that it was in fact, The Witch Tree of local legend.
Michael Thomas-Knight is an author of horror fiction and blogger on horror entertainment and culture. You can read his stories by checking out his Amazon Author’s Page at: https://www.amazon.com/author/michaelthomasknight
You can find Michael at his blog, Parlor of Horror, which deals with all things horror, movies, books, and articles for the horror enthusiast. http://parlorofhorror.wordpress.com
His latest short story appears in Journals of Horror from Pleasant Storm Entertainment, edited by Terry M. West. For more info click here: Journals of Horror: Found Fiction