This creepy tree surrounded by rich lore is a stop on Louisville Historic Tours’ lineup of ghostly spots throughout the city.
At the corner of Sixth Street and Park Avenue in Louisville, Kentucky, stands a twisted, gnarled tree, its trunk covered with massive burls, its canopy of thin branches crazily extending every which way. Strewn around it are dozens of Mardi Gras beads, tarot cards and candles.
Behold the Witches’ Tree of Louisville. According to legend, a beautiful maple tree once graced this spot, which was a place of gathering for witches casting their spells. In 1889, Louisville city officials proposed using the tree as a May pole in the city’s May Day celebrations. The witches strenuously objected, but the tree was chopped down anyway, sending the witches into a frenzy of cursing, telling Louisville to “beware the eleventh month.”
Exactly 11 months later, a tornado struck Louisville, destroying hundreds of buildings and killing dozens of people. During the storm, according to folklore, a freak lightning bolt hit the spot where the maple tree once stood. The disfigured tree now standing there sprouted and began to grow. That tree’s fame has only intensified over the decades. Nowadays, it even has its own Facebook page. The many offerings strewn around the tree — including broomsticks —indicate it’s still a place of pilgrimage.
You can make a visit of your own, in broad daylight if you’re trepidatious about going there after dark. But consider taking one of the ghost tours offered by Louisville Historic Tours, which wind their way through the brick mansions of the Old Louisville neighborhood, once the home of the city’s barons of bourbon and titans of tobacco. You’ll hear ghost stories galore associated with these opulent homes, and the grand finale is a stop at the Witches’ Tree. Leave an offering of your own but don’t disturb any already there — you don’t want to risk a curse of your own, do you?
Park Avenue and Sixth Street South, Louisville, Kentucky, 502/718-2764, louisvillehistorictours.com