Brief Tidbits of Bernards Township
05/11/01 Devil’s Tree More Than Just a Tree
Not far from Chimney Rock is a tree with quite a history. By all accounts, it is at least two hundred years old, and it is striking in both its placement and appearance. It sits at the bend of a long country road. Various legends surround the tree, including that it was once used as a “hanging tree” by the local chapter of the KKK (yes, we had them, and probably still do). It seems impossible now, but the location in the mountains was probably more remote in the past than it is now. Some attempts have been made in the past to cut the tree down – it bears deep scars near its base – and of course legends surround what might have happened to those who tried to bring the tree low. Today, the tree is on private property, but is embarrassingly vandalized. Bottles and cans of all description litter the area. Some joker even put a “noose” around the low branch.
Personally, I don’t think it could ever have been used as a lynching tool – the ground under the tree is too uneven. But ya never know…?
According to the locals, who tell of the legend, everyone in the vicinity of Bernards Township seems to have a story about it. One story was, at one time a farmer killed his entire family, then went to the tree to hang himself. According to others, numerous suicides and murders occurred around the tree.
Supposedly anyone who tries to cut down the unholy oak comes to an untimely end, as it is now cursed. It is said that the souls of those killed at the spot give the tree an unnatural warmth, and even in the dead of winter no snow will fall around it.
There have been many attempts have been made over the years to take it down. The tree stands all alone in the middle of a large field. Its trunk has been severely scared by axes and chainsaws, some wounds appearing to be quite old. Why no one has yet been successful in felling the evil oak we can not say for sure. Nor do we know what has become of those who have tried.
One local described the Devil’s Tree this way: “There’s a big field and right near the road is the tree. It’s the only thing in the field. Supposedly it’s a portal to hell and a sentinel guards it. He drives an old black Ford or Chevy pick-up truck and will chase you down the road until a certain point. You will see headlights one second, and the next nothing – the car is just gone.”
Another local says that the inherent unholiness of the Devil’s Tree is the result of the evil that men do, and nothing supernatural at all.
“There is a very evil truth to the mythology of the Devil’s Tree. At one time, Bernards Township was one of the central headquarters of the KKK in New Jersey – they held many demonstrations in our town and held many meetings throughout the hills. As per KKK policy, often they would ‘lynch’ local African-Americans to set an example, not only to other African-Americans, but also as an example of their principle and resolve.
The Devil’s Tree was more secluded in those times before the developments spread across the mountain like a plague. It sat in a very isolated section of woods and fields, far from the prying eyes of the police. The Devil’s Tree was the site of many of the KKK’s meetings and hangings. The evil energy around the tree comes from the souls of dead men and women who were killed by this vile organization. If you look at the picture, the left most branch extends almost parallel to the ground. This was the hanging branch. Pretty freaky and true stuff. When the moon is a full red harvest moon, and the wind is blowing just right, it looks like there might be bodies hanging from the branch, slowly swaying in the breeze.”
This is one sinister looking tree. It is on an open field with just the tree. It was probably more secluded back in the day, as there are some houses off the road a little bit. The odd thing was that there was no snow around the tree. We kept gonig back to the truck everytime we saw headlights comming down the road, just in case. John’s hand started bleeding out of nowhere as we approached the tree the second time. And John scared the shit out of me by screaming for no reason.
The easiest way to get here is, unfortunately no longer easy. Chimney Rock Road in Martinsville is closed for construction and is no longer accessible. So the next easiest way is to get on Route 78 West.
– Take 78 to Exit 33: Bernardsville/Martinsville.
– Make a right onto CR-525/Martinsville Road.
– About 2 or 3 lights up is Allen Rd. Make a left onto Allen Rd.
– Make your first left onto Somerville Rd. Somerville Road goes over Route 78.
– After you go over 78, make the first left onto Mountain Road. Go SLOW on this road, expecially in the dark. It is very winding. Devil’s tree is down the road a little bit, around a curve.
Post your story!
Story 1 – Kirk Sporman http://www.weirdnj.com/stories/_archives2001.asp#06
Story 2- Colin J. Vozeh http://www.availabledark.com/html/wnj/wnj04.htm