The Hanging Tree Of Bedlam: Second Coming


On the southern edge of Bedlam, back in 1869, stood a tall old oak tree. Its 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 its 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 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 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 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.



33 thoughts on “The Hanging Tree Of Bedlam: Second Coming

  1. Well, that was a nasty joke they pulled.
    i do believe that nature can influence our souls.
    i feel quite the same peace standing on my favourite cliff overlooking the sea

  2. I do believe I’m understood. That’s good. Thank you, Kokot,
    for stopping by and taking the time to read a longer piece.

    My question is: Can our souls in return have an influence on Nature?
    Or, are we simply resigned to the designs She has in store for us?

    Being overly sensitive does seem to have its good and not-so-good
    points. What is of interest to such a soul as this — is the experience,
    and the feelings brought to the surface by an individual’s constitution
    matter much more than any reason that attempts to answer — Why?

  3. Bedlam is what we call the sport rivalry between Oklahoma University and Oklahoma State University here in Oklahoma. I had never really given the word bedlam a second thought until I read this.
    I have been researching my genealogy on both side of my family and relatives on both of my parents families respectively have requested information I find regarding Belle Starr.
    My great grandmother’s name was Rosetta Reed on my mother’s side and on my fathers side there was a Shirley and a line of Stanfords from Missouri. It should be some interesting tales to say the least. My dad always said this state was founded on Outlaws and Indians but he neglected to say that I was too! 🙂

  4. So you’re an Okie, eh? To cool! I live in Lincoln, Ne.
    Home of The Huskers! But I’m originally from Sedalia, Mo.
    1st 16 years of my life, I was a Tiger fan only. Now I’m both.
    And they play each other tomorrow with a lot on the line.
    You do do football then, don’tcha? I figure ya do. 😉
    What happened to them there Sooners last week? He-he.
    I did research the word bedlam ‘for I used it. So I know, yeah.

    Why you brought up genealogy is beyond me at this juncture.
    My Dad also did tons of research. Family’s been in mid-Mo. since
    1800 or so. Mom and Dad are still alive and live down there now.

    Dad’s a big fan of the country/western singing cowboy scene.(TV)
    Probably why I wrote this as well as I did. Started writing a short
    story last year, too, about this very tree. Couldn’t finish it then,
    and I still haven’t finished it. Short turned into 35,000+ words. Ha!

    Anyway…what’s your name? I need something to call ya…proper 🙂

  5. Yeah …Sooners got whooped by the best Tiger team that Missouri has probably ever had. I hope they do the same thing to the ‘huskers just to be fair.
    I brought up the Genealogy as it seems very closely tied to outlaws…particularly the kind that were hung or chased in Indian territory. There seem to be many tales that keep popping up that remind me so much of your writing .it gives me a familiarity to what they might have faced or went through as they approached their ends as you started telling in this. Seems kinda cool on the parallel researching…I guess the timing is what is so good about it.
    Masterpieces were not all done in a day you’ll get there
    My name is Stuart Steele

  6. Well, okey-dokey! Stuart it is. I’m coming to think I’ll be rooting for the Tigers. I’ve seen the Huskers win Nat’l Championships. It’s only fair, yes.

    The Outlaws and Jesse James…I do see what you mean. Interesting.
    Funny how they used to make heroes out of bad guys. Black Elk’s vision
    still stands true. Why we rush to jump off the dark cliff is beyond me.

    My Gothic/Western story led me into subject matter that I’m not sure how
    to deal with. Next time, if there is one, I’ll make sure I have an ending
    before I even get started. I don’t know what I was thinking…good grief.

    (I’m afraid it’s my love of happy endings that’s doing me in.)

  7. Dearest Uncle Tree… did you feel the need for a prequel to the sequel?

    A most macabre twist explaining the jaunt towards the tree that originally moved me so much… a joke… hmmm. I’m wondering if I like it.

    Many of your pieces nudge the question in my mind of whether or not you are a minister of some sort or the other. Science, perhaps? 😉 This was one of those pieces.

    Either way, you perch on the edge of my periphery quite lover-ly. 🙂

  8. That tree tells me you underestimate its age 😉
    Did you hint about that joke on John in the main story or is my esp playing tricks on me….some call it asp 😉

    Nice work 🙂

  9. This was my attempt to convey the “miracle, mystery, and authority” according to the philosophy of F. Dostoevsky, Penny. After the 17th Chapter of my short story gone long, I realized that only I knew what I was talking about, and so, by way of explanation, I came up with this introduction which would rightfully be placed in the front of my e-book that remains open-ended for I’ve yet to come across the idea that I’ll know is the right one once it finally finds its way to the core of my imagination. Right now, I am not allowing myself to give it much thought. For my part, I found that creating and writing a story without regard for length takes a very long time. Not only that, it’s also all-consuming, and whilst I was at it, I wasn’t really there, psychologically nor emotionally, for my kids. They’re growing up fast, and I want to be here to experience the glory of fatherhood. I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m trying to put my good where it does the most for the best.

    Sometimes knowledge comes to us quite by accident. (My internal jute box just started playing “I Started A Joke” by The Bee Gees.) From what I’ve read there seems to have been a lot of sensitive men who have glimpsed the truth beyond the veil, and so I thought I’d stick up for them.

    Am I a Minister? 🙂 Too funny! Your other list was a fine fit. It’s an honor to know you see me as such, peripherally or otherwise. I graciously thank you for sharing those kind thoughts! It was a treat!

    Take care, be good, and stay safe on this happily hallowed Halloween!
    Hope your healing is coming along as well as you’d like. Luvz & hugz, UT

  10. Is that so, Ed? Well then, you and that age-old tree must have about
    the same amount of rings. 🙂 Else, you wood knot be so close.

    John showed up during the main, but he wasn’t part of the main show, no.
    I already had Matthew, Mark and Luke, so…symbolically, I needed John.
    I found this comment from me to you after the first unEDited edition.

    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 was ‘The Word’ and all. See? M,M,L,J = UT 🙂

    Btw, your astral projection is showing, and a fine looking treat it is.
    He-he! Ha-ha! Ha-Happy Halloween, my friend!

  11. i think we are tied to nature and vice cersa.
    Difference is those cliffs or trees arent really able to choose their company.
    So the influence is one sided. they effect us
    Unless we pull out some TNT or an axe.
    Not fully sure understand the second part of your question. but i’ll try.
    i stand on those cliffs and feel peace.
    Mainly because it doesn’t matter who i am, or what i go through.
    Noone else matters and tension and problems slip away.
    i dont need to understand, the cliffs dont need to understand.
    The only thing that matters is the view and the awe felt when contemplating it

  12. A tree accepting the souls of the departed…I really enjoyed this tale, Uncle Tree. It’s befitting a mighty oak…though I was sad it was called the Hanging Tree. It seems it should have a more majestic memory name. Hope your Hallowe’en was a happy one!

  13. I like the way you answered those questions, Kokot. Thanks! 🙂

    All I have to say is: In evolutionary terms, it is Nature’s selection.
    She decides who comes, who stays, who goes, and who changes.
    Being ‘red in tooth and claw’, if She wants to move a mountain,
    or my soul for that matter, She will. Human free-will is arguable.

    I’m glad you have a place to go. Wish we all did. Peace, bro! UT

  14. Thank you, Ms. Talon! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed this not-too-scary tale.
    Halloween was great fun. We had a lot of trick-or-treaters.
    Hope you had a happy one, too. Majesty? Hmmm…

  15. I got shudders down my spine when it said- haunted..!!
    I had leaned onto the screen gobbling up every word that came to the next one..

    I kind of related this story to the one poem I had read at your site.. about an old oak and people being hung on it..

    I hate myself for not knowing that you do stories too.. I love reading such mystical ones.. Thank you so much for sharing this one.. 🙂

    BTW, I know my country used tree to hang in the earlier days, was it same in the other countries too..?

    Wishing you all the very best with writing more about trees, nature and mystery.. Love xx

  16. Hi there, Olivia! 🙂 (Sorry about the belated reply.)
    I’m happy to know that I was able to draw you in
    and fill you full of frightening tales and hanged men’s wails.

    Yes, this is the prelude to a continuing saga that began
    with a prompt from a prosey piece called “From The Lowest Limb”.

    I’m sure the stuff of trees like me has been used —
    down through the Ages — for many a variety of down and dirty deeds.

    I thank you for the well wishes, young lady!
    Keep on passion it on now! Ya hear? Peace & Luvz, UT

  17. Thank you so much for stopping by my place! 🙂
    I truly appreciate the fact that you took the time to read
    to the end. ‘Tis a treat when new folks come to visit and reply.

    An early Happy Halloween to you, dear warrioress! Scary T

  18. I just found the perfect picture of Purgatory and added it to the bottom of this post – just because I like this idea of it. Hello all!

  19. I swear to God, I hadn’t heard of this story until now, George.
    Thanks for sharing that. My imagination was all I had to go on
    when I started writing this short story, which ended up, 4 months, 30 posts, and 35,000 words later, basically, as an unfinished novel. I wrote it here, in this house, on the fly. Got carried away, so to speak. Come Christmas-time, I didn’t feel like being scary anymore, and left it at that.

  20. Uncle Tree – I’ve waded through Reader tonight and my eyes are starting to cross from that tiny type. I returned from Reader to find this little gem to read. When I first “met” you I swore I’d go back and read your blog from day one, and I haven’t yet, though I read backwards from the last year as I told you. Please keep sending me the creme de la creme of your posts, like this one. You also told me that you had “a whole book in here somewhere” … please make this post about the hanging tree part of it. It is only fitting that you reblog this to all as we advance to the bewitchin’ time of year.

  21. Thank you kindly, Linda! 🙂 I’m glad you liked my little story.
    I have a million excuses, and they’re all apologetic. My life and living arrangements were so different back in 2009, it’s a wonder I could write 35,000 + words in 3 months time, when all I set out to do was write a short story. I started about 10 days before Halloween, but I got on a roll, and the lines just kept coming. When it got to be Christmastime, I didn’t feel like writing anything scary. But mostly, after that, I couldn’t come up with an ending. I suppose great novelist know their endings before they even start, but I’m not a novelist. I was writing on the fly, and posted chapters twice a week, or so, developing my characters on the run, including my posse, and a long wild chase after the bad guy.
    I taught myself how to make a small town haunted, but really, I knew knot what ghosts did. I’ve never seen one, and still have a hard time believing anyone has ever seen one. In some ways, I know I went over the top with my criminal mind, which I wasn’t familiar with at all. It was weird playing the bad guy, and my heroes were all mixed up.
    The whole of it remains only here on WordPress. I never copied and printed any of it, so it remains open-ended. I did think about publishing it, but that seems like a lot of trouble, and of course, I’d need an editor, another costly endeavor.

    Will this be one of my final regrets at the end of my days? Probably…
    Still, thank you for taking the time to read this part. It’s possibly too long for most of my readers, and trying to sell a book to everybody is a turnoff. I’ve seen others try, and it seems monotonous and painful. Defining success is never easy, and I hope for too much already.
    I’ve not been a good blogger lately, and I apologize for my lack of words and enthusiasm.

    Sincerely, UT

  22. I really enjoyed it Keith – you have a lot of fine words and stories in your blog and I do think you should take it somewhere. I know someone on here who is a retired proofreader and has self-published two books and now working on her third. Are you sure you need an editor if you would self-publish? Maybe when you are ready, maybe after you are retired, I could introduce you if you want – I’m sure if you did work with her, she’d be fairly cheap as opposed to hiring someone from a publishing company. Her name is Ellie, and I think she is about 75 years old and lives in Quebec. In fact, she has a portion of her blog devoted to grammar – she stumps me many times. Here is her site:

    You have a reason to be absent from blogging – I told you before it has been an incredibly tough year for you … you may not have looked favorably upon your impending 60th birthday and I know I did not look kindly toward mine, but you had two deaths in your immediate family and that takes a lot out of one person. It is hard to muster up enthusiasm with all these sad things happening. You feel a little like life has lost its luster … that was me in 2010 … in the space of a year, I got put on reduced hours, then my mom got sick, then I got laid off, then bedridden, then she passed away – life changed so much in the space of 10 months, that I was reeling.

    You once told me, when I said that suddenly people were following me and I was amazed and starting to feel overwhelmed, but it was nice … “be careful what you wish for.” Those words continue to come back … I do love the blogging and the interaction, but there are times when I do feel overwhelmed and can’t seem to catch up. I have been really busy at work, so that has added to that feeling of the flying by the seat of my pants feeling. I seem to be behind in everything in the house, getting things done … it will get better I think.

  23. Thanks for the info, Linda! Once I retire…yes. Well, perhaps.
    Best wishes with your work and your hobby.
    We both know they’re both necessary. Hugz, UT

  24. When you have time to mull it over in your mind. I understand from other people that self-publishing is best as you have editorial control and it is cheaper in the long run. Think on it Uncle Tree … you have a few years to go. Take care – Linda

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