The Barlow Demon Tree
by John McLaughlin
It was the Barlow men that strung them up in the tree.
Those three lasses, midwives accused of mixing devilry and medicine.
You know, in that tree that kind of looks like a man, a human giant.
The old red oak that stands at the heart of the big woods in back of Barlow farm
In that little clearing just about halfway down the path to town.
These days kids still get scared by its breezed up limbs.
With all that wood clacking, groaning, swaying
Casting shadows on those who pass by.
On that very night in 1689 the locals named it the demon tree.
Named for its two gnarled black burl eyes
For its scowl shaped hollow mouth
But mostly named for that wicked hanging deed.
Its dark reputation has stayed strong through the mists of time.
Reverend Barlow struck dead in the winter of 1730 by a widow maker.
That 1869 news story in the Rockland Gazette.
The one that talks about an autumn long spell
When dozens of folks saw “ghost lights” floatin’ round the tree late at night
Winkin’ in and out under its canopy of deep dark red.
And what about Barlow farm’s prize winning bull from the 1947 Union Fair?
Found dead at the tree, all tangled and strangled by thick snaking roots.
A murder of crows in 1985 found still and stone cold, scattered through its upper limbs.
And just a few years back, one of the more recent Barlow boys, that no good one, the mean one
Found with his head all tucked up in its hollow maw, eyes bulging, neck all shades of purple, twisted round, and round.
Some say it’s the wronged spirits of those poor murdered lasses that give it life.
Some say their spirits help it walk, help it move about those big woods
From place to place on the darkest nights
Seeking unjust judges, seeking Barlow men, seeking to feed.