I originally read about this story some time ago in the book Weird Florida. I was intending to write a piece about it during our Urban Legend month, but when I did more research, I found out that there was a gruesome, sad ring of truth to the tale. The urban legend is that a serial killer kidnapped two teenage girls, tied them to a tree in what is now known as Oak Hammock Park in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, tortured and killed them. Supposedly for months after, he would return to the scene of the crime to satisfy some perverted urge of his own. Four years to the day that the killer murdered the girls, their remains were found by some fishermen (not sure why as most of the reports have the “devil tree” located so deep in the woods that people have spent hours trying to find their way back out). After the poor girls were discovered, locals started whispering about strange sounds coming from the vicinity of the devil tree. Shadowy, robed figures were seen darting between the oaks, and rumors were told of satanic rituals being performed beneath the branches. Some say a local clergyman was asked to come out and conduct an exorcism on the tree (first tree exorcism I’ve ever heard of!). The local authorities were so distressed about what had occurred in and beneath the tree that they decided to cut down the tree…..but the chainsaws that were brought out to do the job wouldn’t work. When chainsaw after chainsaw failed, the determined lumberjacks brought out an old fashioned two-man saw….but the teeth broke right off when set against the cursed bark. The tree stands rebelliously and malignantly to this very day.
The notorious Charleville Castle is located in a “primordial forest” practically in the center of the Irish island, near the town of Tullamore in the County Offaly. Originally called Charleville Forest Castle, it was commissioned in 1798 by the first Earl of Charleville, Charles William Bury. This imposing edifice was designed by the renowned Irish architect, Francis Johnston and was completed in 1812. (For such a haunted castle, it’s a bit young!)
Some might say the castle is nestled among the trees…others may claim that the forest entombs the building; it really depends on your outlook. My view is that by day it is nestled, by night entombed! Many other people have a similar opinion. After all, the Charleville has been featured on Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters International and Scariest Places On Earth. But how does such a picturesque castle gather such a fearsome reputation? The answer is shrouded by the passage of time.
Concord, Massachusetts is a town with many layers. Before the United States was even formed, this heretofore sleepy little town grew to be a hotbed of revolutionary sentiment. Alerted by Paul Revere, William Dawes and Samuel Prescott of the advancing British troops, the local minutemen banded together to confront the soldiers. These stalwart New Englanders actually pushed a contingent of the British Army, the world’s dominant force, back to Boston in retreat. The role Concord played during the American Revolution was a significant one, but even afterwards, this small village was not content to fade away into history.
In 1897 the beautiful Belleview Biltmore Hotel was erected overlooking Old Clearwater Bay by the famous Florida developer, Henry Plant. Mr. Plant’s influence is still felt throughout Florida; Plant City was named to honor him, the onion-domed, riverfront University of Tampa was originally built by Henry Plant as another grand hotel, and Morton Plant Hospital (named for Henry’s son) still provides state of the art healthcare for Florida residents. But of all Henry Plant’s contributions to Florida history, the one that holds a special place in my heart is the Belleview Biltmore.
The St. Francis Inn in St. Augustine, Florida is an old building in an even older town. The city itself dates back to 1565 and is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in the United States. The Inn dates back to 1791 when it was first built as a private residence.