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Charming legend surrounds Louisville tree

Witches' Tree

LOUISVILLE (WDKY)-- Old Louisville is a great place to take a stroll under stately trees, but there's one tree some people steer clear of.

It's at the corner of 6th and Park, known as The Witches' Tree.

"It's gnarled and twisted. It looks like it has a story to tell," said David Domine, an author and tour guide in the historic neighborhood.

He retells the legend of the tree each time he leads a walking tour.

Here's how it goes: There used to be a beautiful maple tree here, where witches gathered to cast spells and mix potions. But in 1889, the city of Louisville announced it would chop the tree down to use as a May Pole for a spring celebration. The witches warned officials to leave the tree alone but they cut it down anyway. And as the tree fell, the witches scattered, cursing the city as they fled.

The next spring, as plans were being made for May Day, a terrible tornado hit the city. It leveled hundreds of homes and businesses and killed more than a hundred people. Domine says many of the people who died were on the city's May Day committee.

Legend has it that when the twister moved through this neighborhood, lightning struck the stump left behind when the maple tree was felled.

"There was a tremendous explosion, a shower of sparks and flame and smoke.," Domine said. "The tree we see here today they say magically sprang up from the earth to replace the one stolen from the witches. They say its current appearance is more appropriate for witches."

Of course, you don't have to believe is magic and curses to enjoy a good story. People visit the tree because they like surprises and you never know what you're going to see.

"Over time, more and more people have realize you've got to leave something here.," Domine said, pointing out the trinkets scattered around the trunk and hanging from branches. "A lot of times before they go to the track, they'll leave a horseshoe. That's supposed to bring good luck. Or they'll tuck in coins or leave beads, especially after Mardis Gras and things like that."

The tree has become so well-known, it even has a Facebook page. Domine says it's maintained by modern-day witches who post spells against people who steal trinkets from the site.

"They're equal opportunity witches though, because when people leave nice things, they'll give them a good luck blessing."


People who live in nearby apartments have become used to the traffic around the tree. It has a charmed life and it's unlikely city officials will ever want these one removed.

"I wouldn't recommend cutting it down," Domine said. "It didn't work out well the last time they did."

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David Domine has written about the tree in two books: "Voodoo Days at La Casa Fabulosa" and "True Ghost Stories and Eerie Legends from America's Most Haunted Neighborhood."

Email story ideas for Spirit of the Bluegrass to: mbartlett@foxlexington.com


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