Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Louisville's Witches' Tree

Louisville Witches' Tree (Source)
Gnarled, twisted, strangely-shaped trees can be spooky enough on their own.  However, its when they are given a supernatural back story and explanation that they catch my attention!  That's the case with this creepy old tree in Kentucky's Old Louisville District.

You can find the tree at the corner of Sixth Street and Park Avenue, among the breathtaking architecture of the area's Victorian era homes.  Local author, David Domine, who has written extensively about the haunted history of Old Louisville, tells the legend of the Witches' Tree.  According to that legend, there used to be a grand maple tree growing on the spot of today's tree.  In 1889, this tree was a favorite meeting place for a coven of witches in the area. The witches would meet at the mighty maple tree and cast spells, brew potions, and generally do whatever it is that witches would do.

Unfortunately, the city wasn't too fond of this coven of witches.  However, they WERE fond of the maple tree, believing it would make the ideal May Pole for that year's annual May Day celebration.  The witches warned the town that they'd be sorry if they cut down the tree.  But, the warning was ignored, and the tree was cut down and fashioned into a May Pole.  Meanwhile, the witches found a new location on the outskirts of town to practice...and to plot their revenge.

Exactly 11 months after the maple tree was cut down for use as a May Pole, a catastrophic tornado ripped through Louisville.  The storm hit on March 27, 1890 at 8:30 p.m. It only lasted about 5 minutes, but left a path of death and destruction through Old Louisville.  During the chaos, lightning struck the tree stump---the only thing remaining of the old maple.

As the town struggled to clean up and put the pieces back together after the tornado, something began happening with the tree stump.  From its remains grew a new tree, a tree twisted and gnarled and full of knots.  Locals believed that the witches had conjured the tornado to get revenge on the town for cutting down the maple tree.  The strange and unusual tree that grew in its place was a reminder that the town chose poorly for their May Pole that year.

Today, visitors flock to the area to get a glimpse of the tree for themselves.  They also leave offerings at the tree, possibly for a small blessing of good fortune, and possibly as a reminder of what happens when you cross a coven of witches!

Further Reading and Info
The Witches' Tree Facebook Page
Legend of the Witches' Tree by Katie Molck (October 26, 2015)
1890 Louisville Cyclone--The Filson Historical Society

Storm damage of Union Depot (Source)

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