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The Devil's Tree

In Port St. Lucie there’s a big oak in a county park on canal C-24 that has an evil reputation. It is the Devil’s Tree, an old oak tree located in Oak Hammock Park, a place frequented mostly by local fishermen who use the boat launching facilities. I went to Port St. Lucie in search of this wicked oak but only found a few local people that had ever heard of it. Unlike other centuries old legends about ghostly oaks, I was surprised to learn that this legend is not really that old. The story begins on January 8, 1971, long before Hammock Park was built, when a serial killer sexually molested and mutilated two teenage girls and then hung them from the oak tree. The psycho-killer then buried his two victims in a shallow grave beneath the oak. Allegedly, the crazed killer returned on several occasions to have his way with the decomposing bodies.

In January 1977, almost on the fourth anniversary of the heinous crime, two men found the girls’ skeletons along with two deteriorating ropes tied with a hangman’s noose. Ever since then, there have been reports of hooded satanic worshippers dancing around the tree, and some say that you can still hear the screams of the girls.

One allegation has it that before Oak Hammock Park was built, there were several attempts to cut down the oak, but it seems that chain saws refused to work when near the tree. When they tried to cut it down with a two-man cross-cut saw, all the teeth fell out of the saw blade. Needless to say the tree is still standing in a small open area down a nature trail that cuts through a hammock. Witnesses claim that the women’s rest room at Oak Hammock Park is haunted by the dead girls. It is said that strange screams come out of the rest room and doors slam shut. There are supposed to be cold spots in certain areas of the park. What is really strange is that I found no first hand accounts to any of these claims. It was always a case of somebody hearing it from someone else. But that’s what keeps legends alive.

There were so many reports about devil worshipping going on around the Devil’s Tree that in 1992, a priest performed an exorcism and placed a cross at the base of the oak. A few years ago there were some instances where the sheriff department responded to some kind of satanic activity going on in the park. There’s always a little credibility in these legends.

Serial Killer was the Real Devil at the Tree
In Port St. Lucie, FL, there is a little town-owned park that people go to, to fish, or put their boats into the C-24 Canal. In 1973, before the park or any houses were built in the area, the serial killer Gerard John Schaefer. According to a news article: This homicidal Broward County, Florida, ex-policeman, though convicted in 1973 of only two mutilation murders, is believed to be responsible for at least thirty more killings. A sadistic sex-beast by nature, Schaefer would lure young women off the roads with the help of his badge to rape, torture, mutilate and murder.

Schaefer was fond of killing two girls at the same time and did this on numerous occasions. According to one news article: At some point, Schaefer tired of killing victims singly. “Doing doubles,” he later wrote, “is far more difficult than doing singles, but on the other hand it also puts one in a position to have twice as much fun. There can be some lively discussions about which of the victims will get to be killed first. When you have a pair of teenaged bimbolinas bound hand and foot and ready for a session with the skinning knife, neither one of the little devils wants to be the one to go first. And they don’t mind telling you quickly why their best friend should be the one to die.”

Schaefer bound, gagged, raped, hanged, then buried 19 year olds Collette Goodenough, and Barbara Ann Wilcox at the Devil’s Tree. Over the next five days after killing the girls, Schaefer returned to the scene, and committed necrophilia with the bodies. Both bodies were missing since January 8th, 1973, and they weren't discovered until two fishermen came across a tree with two ropes tied around a low branch, and bones protruding from the ground in 1977.

Ever since, people have reported hearing screaming coming from the woods, and hooded figures who chase overly curious thrill-seekers, then vanish in an instant. In 1993, two boys were chased through the woods by these hooded figures, who disappeared by the time the boys reached the main road. Later that same year, an exorcism was conducted, and a cross was erected by the local diocese. In 1994 the cross was knocked over.

When the city built the park, they decided to include nature trails, and they also made plans to cut down the tree to prevent local Satanists from holding ceremonies near the tree. When the men came to cut down the tree with their chainsaws, their chainsaws malfunctioned. When they brought in the manual 2-man saw, the teeth chipped off of the saw. When they tried an axe, the axe head came off of the handle.

There are orbs and ectoplasm pictures that have been taken in the parking lot, but people can hardly ever take pictures near the tree because their cameras malfunction. I get creeped out when I go there, and I refuse to set foot in the woods. I have heard of people feeling cold spots along the trails during the hottest days in July. There are a lot of stories behind the Devil Tree at Oak Hammock Park, but the one I included is the true background story of the Devil Tree. In 1995, Gerard John Schaefer was stabbed to death in prison. If you're ever in the area, the park is located at 1982 S.W. Villanova Rd., Port St. Lucie. –A.C.Y.

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