Answer: The Devil Tree is (Second) Most Famous Oak in Basking Ridge
Generations of legends swirl around this tree, but will its mysteries survive suburban encroachment?
You might say that Bernards Township harbors the tale of two oak trees.
Few would argue that the "good tree" is the white oak in downtown Basking Ridge standing majestically in front of The Presbyterian Church of Basking Ridge. This venerable tree, supposedly about 600 years old, was saved by extraordinary measures taken to prop it up when its existence was threatened in the last century.
But who cares about the white oak's darker cousin, the subject of this week's "Where is It/What is It?" column?
Surely, many of you guessed that the dark and twisting tree portrayed in photos earlier this week is our own Devil's Tree (sometimes known as the Devil Tree) on Mountain Road.
While the old oak on Oak Street got all the good press, with George Washington rumored to have picnicked under its spreading branches, few had anything good to say about the Devil's Tree. Instead, rumors of murder, madness and mayhem spread through the decades.
"It was (maybe still is) a creepy fun landmark in Basking Ridge," resident Tony Otero wrote in the comments section on Monday. "Always looked up to it as I turned left on the bicycle. I am sure the weight of the limb could no longer be held up. Too bad as it gave it width and breadth. Now it looks like it has slimmed down."
Weird N.J. captured the essence of the story, and spread it around. The main legends are that a farmer killed his family and hanged himself on a long horizontal limb which, until recent years, gave the tree its characteristic shape. Others spoke of lynchings, voices from within, and a nearby portal to hell.
No wonder some people (particularly teenagers) view the littler tree with so much affection!
Even so, the tree is showing wear and tear these days, particularly as home developments grow nearer to the desolate field where it's located.
Reader Greg Toombs commented: "Supposedly it (the tree) bleeds red sap when cut. The trunk of the tree has accumulated many cuts over the years, easily seen up close. The missing branches were dead and had to be cut back , apparently due to all of the cuts on the trunk interfering with the flow of sap from roots to the branches."
Otero suggested another website for more information.
One of the legends is that snow does not collect around the base of the tree, no matter how deep it is elsewhere. But photos taken on Monday indicate that the winter of '10-'11 seems to have overcome that mysterious force. Will the tree's mystique disappear as well?
We've heard plenty of first-hand reports about encounters with the township's "other" beloved oak, and we wonder if you could pass some along in the comments section below.