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The Devil's Tree, in 2006

The Devil's Tree is a solitary oak, with some dead limbs, growing in an undeveloped field on Mountain Road in the Martinsville section of Bernards Township, New Jersey. It is just opposite Emerald Valley Lane, a recently-constructed subdivision.

Local legend, extensively documented in Weird NJ magazine and the book based on it, has it that the tree is cursed, or the property of the Devil. Allegedly, those who damage or show disrespect to the tree (usually by urinating on it, or making disparaging remarks about it within earshot) will soon thereafter come to some sort of harm, often in the form of a car accident or major breakdown as they leave.[1] Others report being chased after nighttime visits by black phantom vehicles that disappear before reaching a major road.[1] Simply touching the tree is said to cause unexplained effects, such as the hand turning black afterwards.[1]

In winter, the ground beneath the tree is supposedly free from snow, no matter how much has fallen or how recently.[1] A nearby boulder called "Heat Rock", and sometimes the tree itself, is said to be warm to the touch regardless of the season or time of day,[2] and is believed to be a portal to Hell.[1]

It's said that rebellious slaves were hanged from the tree in colonial times from the branch that runs almost parallel to the ground[3] or that the Ku Klux Klan used it for lynchings; local legend attributes these murderous acts to the tree itself.[4]

Chain-link fence around the trunk.

Despite the dire warnings of the legends, the tree has been damaged to the point that its lower trunk is protected by a covering of chain-link fence around it; there is graffiti above the top of the fencing. Furthermore, the site is now constantly patrolled and nearby homeowners consider the tree an extreme nuisance. The township's plans to develop the land might have required the tree's removal, but it was decided to protect the tree and keep it as-is. Since early 2007, there is a sign stating when it's open to the public.

In May 2009 the branches were cut down, and the tree no longer has the historical appearance it has been known for.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Moran, Mark and Sceurman, Mark; Weird NJ: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey's Local Legends and Best-Kept Secrets, Barnes & Noble, 2003; 14-16.
  2. ^ Nutt, Bill (October 7, 2001). "Lost Souls: The Spirits of Central Jersey Live On". Courier News (Gannett Company). "If you put your hand on it, even in the dead of winter, the tree itself is warm."  
  3. ^ "Day 81: The Devil's Tree". nj.com (New Jersey On-Line LLC). August 25, 2008. http://www.nj.com/events/index.ssf/2008/08/day_81_the_devils_tree.html. Retrieved May 24, 2009. "It is said that during colonial times, unruly slaves were hanged from the branch that runs almost parallel to the ground"  
  4. ^ "Tales from the Devil's Tree", Weird NJ, May 2006.

External links

Coordinates: 40°37′48″N 74°34′59″W / 40.6300°N 74.5831°W / 40.6300; -74.5831

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