United States of Scare: The Witching Tree of Smithfield

     In case you are wondering, the Witching Tree in the town of Smithfield, is indeed real. The old tree stood in the middle of the threeway intersection for decades. It was an old, diseased and creepy looking tree that sat right in the middle of the roadway. It’s thick trunk was marked with scars from dozens of vehicles that slammed into it. These accidents, which have included some fatalities, have fed the urban legend behind the tree. The majority of the accidents have occurred for one of two reasons. 

     First, the roadway leading to teh tree is windy and dark. Many unsuspecting drivers coming from any direction, came upon the tree to fast and were unable to avoid hitting it. 

     The second reason, is the legend itself. Many drivers would move around the tree in hopes to see the ghostly apparition of a witch appear from the depths of the old oak. Instead, they only found it easy to damage their vehicles. Or, is the cause of the accidents truly because an ancient witch was buried beneath the roots of the tree? 

     The legend of the “witch” can be different depending on who is telling the story. One version says, if you move around the tree three times the witch will appear and chase you but can only move away from the tree a short distance.  

     In another version, once you have moved around the tree three times, you drive up the road and the witch comes out of an old house and chases you. A third version, tells people to go around the tree three times and drive up the street to the residence and then throw rocks at the house and the witch will come out and chase you. This version is actually the most realistic. If you throw rocks at a house, the homeowner is going to come out and confront you. I mean, wouldn’t you if your house was hit with rocks?

     Another rendition of the story says a ghastly looking biker roars from the tree and tailgates you until you drive off the road causing yet another accident. More than likely, this version originated from a young driver playing the witch tree game and ending up explaining to their Mom and Dad how the car came to rest in the trees. 

     In still another version of the story, as you come upon the tree, you see a group of small children playing around it. As you get closer, they children disappear resulting in more vehicular carnage.

     Some may ask well, is this legend really true? I can tell you from firsthand experience that people believe the legends are true because I have seen people do it on many occassion. You see, I was a police officer in the town of Smithfield for years and there were many times we were called to the area for people going around the tree and trying to bring out the witch. 

     Our department, and the neighboring department, would be sent to the area of the house for people throwing rocks at the dwelling trying to bring out the witch. The adventure seekers would only succeed in bothering an elderly gentleman who resided in the house. 

     The tree resisted the town’s efforts to bring it down for decades. For some reason, despite the numerous accidents and creepy legends, the big oak stood in defiance of cars driving the snaking roads of Smithfield. 

     Finally, the big, frightening, ghoulish looking tree was torn down and the old house which was linked the tree burned down. The town replanted a tree in the same location but instead of leaving it to menace unsuspecting drivers, they designed a guardrail that encloses the tree and painted bright traffic lines to tell drivers whichway to go. 

     Accidents have declined in the area since it has been removed. Is it because the town engineered safer driving methods in the area? Or is it because the paranormal activity around tree died with the removal of the big oak and the burning down of the house up the road? I’ll let you decide.