The Hanging Tree Of Bedlam


On the southern edge of Bedlam, back in 1869, stood a tall old oak tree. It’s fame and glory stemmed from the fact that it had been host to a multitude of hangings. Conveniently located, it lived and grew beside the road that ran to the river. This highly prominent tree was used with regularity by enforcers of the law who wished to see justice carried out to its fullest measure. The town’s large graveyard lay just beyond the tree, which only helped increase the oak’s popularity. Having a cemetery nearby quickened the entire procedure, for little time need be wasted between the drop and the burial.

In the year in which our story took place, the mighty oak was about 75-80 years old. Its height was estimated at 70 feet. As seen from afar, the crown appeared irregular in shape. In its asymmetrical pose, it leaned to the east, enabling itself to hang a few branches over and across the dirt road. These wickedly crafted branches shot forth from the tree’s most distinguishing feature, its lowest limb. This skinny, but sturdy limb jutted straight out from the trunk, whereas the rest of the limbs above it reached for the sky. Perpendicular to the trunk, it gave the tree a peculiar look. It reminded the folks of a flagpole in the way that it thrust itself out from the main. Being only 10 feet above the ground, it provided a means for the simple task of tying a rope. Positioned 8 feet from the trunk, two side by side branches shot up from the limb forming a V-shape. In the middle of these two branches lay a well-worn ring where the bark had been rubbed away, the scars of its labor having been caused by the frequency of its usage.

All throughout it’s long and storied history, this grand and stately tree had been fortunate in the fact that it had never succumbed to disease, nor had it ever been home to pesky insect infestations. Luckily for the tree, lightning strikes had let it be, whilst they struck and mangled many an other in its general vicinity. Natural disasters had left it alone. In their season of cranky moods, the fierce and usually unrelenting tornadoes had steered clear of its steadfast location every time they appeared in the area. Because of its good fortune, the tree had stayed intact. Except for the leaves that it dropped in the fall, along with a few small twigs that it lost here and there, now and then, the tree had retained all the parts it had grown up with. Perfect, whole, and complete, the oak had remained immaculate in its formation, having lived out its entire life in multi-dimensional tranquility.

We can hardly blame that old tree for its bad reputation. It had done nothing to deserve it. It wasn’t able to understand man and his ways. Absolutely, it had always acted as it should, in an appropriate manner, natural and common to its kind. Except for those times when men would come to swing on its limb, people shied away from it, especially at night, whilst all the rest of God’s creatures treated it with dignity and respect. Folks said the big oak was haunted. “Home to a hundred killer’s souls, or more…”, but the tree didn’t kill them. Quite to the contrary, it took and accepted those men’s souls unto itself. The tree didn’t know how, or why it did that type of thing, it just did. It thought all the trees around there were able to do it, and would act in the same way under similar circumstances, if given the opportunity. As far as the old oak was concerned, that’s what trees were for, that was their reason for living. From its very beginnings, this big, humble tree had maintained a neutral stance of equanimity, thus placing itself in the highest degree of servitude for the sake of mankind. It lived an amoral life. It could not judge between right and wrong. It had no such knowledge. It made no distinctions between the two. Time and time again, the souls of the innocent and the guilty alike were welcomed into its inner sanctum.

In regard to the exact amount of men who’d come to their death by hanging from this tree, we have no accurate account. No official records had ever been kept. The tree was used for that purpose long before folks moved into the surrounding area. There was this one old widow who said she’d lived around those parts her whole life. She claimed to know of at least one hundred hangings, but she’d been prone to exaggerate so often in the past, that people took everything she said with a grain of salt.  Her then deceased husband had been party to 50 hangings himself, or so she said. Furthermore, her father once told her that he had participated in, or witnessed a hanging on this very tree 30 to 40 different times. Some of these hangings were done legally, the job having been performed and carried out to its conclusion by men of the law doing their duty. Some of these hangings were accomplished on the sly. People turned their heads and looked away at such times, not in a state of disgust, or what have you, but they’d learned that it was better not to impose themselves on those types of men, because that was just asking for trouble.

This is how the legend began. The rumors caught a ride on the word of one man. The rumor spread as rumors do, and shortly thereafter the story was true. This man, named John, had a very nasty, and hateful trick pulled on him. It all happened one night about five years before the events of our story. Some rowdy, drunk cowboys thought they’d teach their sissy friend a lesson. They were out to avenge themselves of the monies he’d taken from them in a fair and square game of poker. They’d been playing in the home of one of these here cowboys. After the game was over, they accused John of cheating. “We oughta hang your ass for that!” said the leader of the gang, as he winked in jest to his comrades. All in a ruckus, they grabbed him up and forcefully led him out the door. They all put on a good act, and their overly sensitive friend was truly frightened. The man of the house grabbed a rope and off they went, walking John towards the hanging tree. The man’s face was racked with terror. He stumbled along as he wept, but as they reached their destination, the men were witness to a great transformation, and a truly unnerving conversion experience took place right before their very eyes. John’s complexion had completely changed. He’d gone from terrified to peaceful, and from the pale-face look of imminent death, to the beaming reflection of a magnified life, in just a matter of minutes. These cowboys thought the man on the brink of disaster, and called off the joke immediately. “We were just kidding around,” was their excuse. The man was never the same from that day forward. He later claimed to have seen his entire life flash before his eyes, but that’s not all. John also claimed to have seen the lives of a hundred other men who’d made that same walk in days gone by. He hung all the responsibility for what he had seen, and for what he had felt on the hanging tree. The oak tree had kindly fed him this information in such a way that it made him feel as if he were about to enter into its midst. This man had gotten the idea into his head that the souls of those men whose lives he’d seen were somehow inside the tree, and that’s how it came to be perceived as haunted. The legend continued to spread its growth, as did the tree, year after year. It has been my pleasure to spread it around a little bit more as I’ve done today.


Hanging On: The Author’s Guidelines

This particular land of make-believe is based on the spiritual side of man. The beliefs I am exploring within this story include the following: the possibility of intelligence, or a measurable amount of consciousness in all living things; the possibility for communication in the form of an exchange of information between the higher and lower conscious entities; the possibility of immortal souls, personal and unique to each individual, and existing within every human being; the possibility of three co-existing states, or three possible places where a soul might go in order to continue its existence after the material death of its host — Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory; the possibility that by some quirk of Nature a soul might get itself stuck, and may have to continue its existence for a certain amount of time in, and/or around the place that was once inhabited by its host, or possibly the actual place where its host gave up the ghost; the possibility of fallen angels, or free-willed evil spirits that can take possession, and therefore control a person’s body, override their psych, and change their personality. Their possessive capabilities may also extend into the plant and animal world. These evil spirits are not the same as human souls, although they are also immortal. They may leave off possessing a person/animal/plant all of their own accord, or they may be exorcised through the use of certain techniques; the possibility of a soul’s karmic responsibility for the actions taken by its host during its lifetime; the possibility of just reward and just punishment over a given period of time, a time during which the soul may progress from darkness into holiness by the means of sincere regret, all-out acceptance, willful resignation, personally directed forgiveness, and graceful redemption; the possibility of an omniscient, omnipresent, and benevolent God, or Force, of which we are all a living part.

Chapter One:


29 thoughts on “The Hanging Tree Of Bedlam

  1. Chapter Eighteen will be coming up next.
    I know, I should have started with this in the first place,
    but I hadn’t written it yet. I couldn’t afford to let it hang any longer.

    If this is potentially confusing, would someone please let me know?
    Am I out-of-order, or what? I love you people! Thank you, thank you!

  2. Nothing out of order as far as I see Olde Tree……natural progression, dare I say, nicely woven twiggery to those in the twig of Uncle’s blowfogs 😉

    Thank you! We just sits, thou toilest.

  3. I’m glad you think it’s orderly, Ed. I’ll take your word for it.
    Speaking of words…”…on the word of one man.” I thought of
    something this morning, and this ‘one man’ seemed to fit the bill.
    There was one more name I needed to include to fill out the 4 G’s.
    Since…in the beginning, it was ‘The Word’ and all. See? M,M,L,J = UT 🙂

  4. Tree Gawd Dammit!!!

    You have know idea

    How lucky I feel. Your story is awesome. You have integrity. I don’t know what else to say except that to me it seems that you are someone who cares.

    thank you

  5. Thank you, Dusty! 🙂
    I like to ‘make-believe’ I’m understood. There was someone
    in particular on my mind when I wrote the guidelines.
    This is pretty far-fetched, and it could be a stretch
    for some folks, so I gathered myself together,
    and that’s what we came up with. I care
    about some things, just like you do,
    just like everyone does. Some,
    but knot all. Nobody cares
    about everything. No
    one that I know,
    that is. That’s
    the way it

  6. and tree, it’s SNOWING, I had to come thank you too.

    Cuz you are a good story teller, an excellent story teller

    For sure could rival a women at story telling.

    Anyway, thank U tree. You and shadow are truly the ones who I COULD NOT HAVE stayed this long without the two? of you.

    PS that hanging tree in Southern California, is real, it’s located in Calabasas, next to/part of the Sagebrush Cantina. Lived there til i was about ten. Then not doing well enough finiancially to live in the valley my parents moved us to Chico.

    What’s your story Mrs Leaderman?

  7. Are you talking about the old oak tree?
    Which line? Where? Whatever do you mean?

    Thank you! I believe you. A real hanging tree, eh?
    I can dig it. That’s cool. Wish I could visit the place.

    Sorry to hear about your move. I’m a transplant, too.

    Tiger stole that story.

  8. u have no idea how much i like this one, it’s just my thing, really my kind of writing… youre always brilliant uncle! much love!

    – A. B

  9. Thank you, Rhee!

    Next year, just to be a bit more seasonal,
    I’m a gonna hang Santa Claus,
    and ride away on Rudolph’s back
    with the goods close at hand.

    I wish to know what it feels like
    to fly as fast as the speed of light.
    Mach 1000 may set me back,
    so I’ll be sure to leave my self
    a note that says, “I went for a ride,
    and I’ll be back after I get home.”


    Have a sensational Merry Christmas, Butterfly!

  10. Merry Merry Christmas Uncle Tree and you too Ed and even Dusty. Hope all you guys have a wonderful holiday.

  11. Nice story. I also have a blog of short stories….do visit it. I m sure u will like the stories.

    Can do, Collin.
    I’ll take the time to read one of yours,
    and then I’ll comment. There now. It is finished.

  12. I had a sensational merry christmas indeed! how was your christmas uncle? i’m quite smitten by someone… haha, but then, there are the sad parts…. have a merry new year!


  13. Dear Keith,

    You are an amazing poet and a very good storyteller!

    Want to wish you

    a Very Happy New Year

    May all your dreams come true
    Twinkling joys
    In colours of Turquoise
    All lightening up in Brilliance

    All the best from

  14. Hi, Rhee!
    Glad to hear your Christmas was ‘sensational’. Wow! Sounds good.
    But smitten? By love? That sounds like it might hurt. Be careful, dear.

    Christmas with my Mom and Dad, and all my brothers and sisters-in-law,
    and my nieces and nephews, of course, has been postponed until this
    coming Saturday because of the weather, the blizzard, and the snow.

    Thank you for the well wishes! Happy New Year to you, too! UT

  15. Thank you very much for the compliment, dear Mieke!
    I wish you and yours a Happy New Year, too!

    If I could get just one dream to come true, I’d be satisfied.
    It’s been hard enough to keep ‘our daily bread’ on the table.

    I did stop in to see you all at Avtar’s joint — his blog, that is.
    Good to see Craig’s still alive and kicking. I’ll drop a line to Kate, too,
    and let her know what’s going on. Maybe, she’ll drop in and say, “Hi!”

    Presently, I am living in the nostalgic past. “It don’t come easy.”
    You know, it doesn’t. George Harrison was right about that. My Lord!

    Faking it every day, 😉
    Luvz and Hugz, Keith

  16. i have been flying back and forth, keep your butt working uncle tree, post something new… hehe, happy new year!


  17. Pingback: The Hanging Tree Of Bedlam | Uncle Tree’s House – Br Andrew's Muses

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