We walked towards the Historic District, past the House of Forty-Four Ravens, past Poe's studio, past the old Jenkins Undertaker's House, and past still the old Mill.
The sun set, and our new Scoutmaster Steven stopped us next to a strange looking tree. The tree was a sturdy wide oak. What made it strange was the branch that stood at a right angle, and it was the perfect height to hang a man from. Steven smiled, and pointed down the road.
"Down there is the old historical Lenoresfield jail," the Scoutmaster said, pointing down the road. "There's not much down there anymore, except for the historical museum, but that's not why we've gathered here." He smiled. "I've already got a cache of firewood for us to light our fire, Howard, why don't you build it for us?" he asked. I nodded and set about building the fire in a teepee with the kindling beneath it. I then struck my flint and sparked life to the fire. We smiled and roasted weenies over the fire, and later we made some S'mores.
The fire started to die down a few hours later, and the woods seemed more ominous than they had in the day time, and our troop huddled together, when Steven decided it was time for us to swap ghost stories, since it was after all Halloween. He started first.
"How much do any of you know about this tree?" Steven asked, tapping the trunk of the tree. None of us knew much about it. He nodded. "I didn't think so, it's not taught until the eighth grade," he said, smiling as he looked around. "Unless of course, you participate in the Halloween trip to it. Most of you were too young or didn't want to go last year, but I can tell. The older boys convinced you this time."
We nodded, indeed they had convinced us. "This tree is called the Gallows Tree," he said speaking quietly, his voice barely a whisper. "It has hung at least sixty-five of the most hardened criminals in Lenoresfield, and would have hung a sixty-sixth, if the prisoner hadn't escaped." He smiled and looked around. "Prisoner Sixty-Six's was a woman by the name of Susann Smithy, and she was married to the blacksmith. She was accused and convicted of the murder of her husband and witchcraft, and the judge decided to hang her, before burning her body at the stake. The hanging was to take place on the sixth of June 1615, the day after the trial.
They had the noose set up and Susann could see the tree from her cell. She decided that night she wasn't going to die by hanging.
"So as the legend goes, she prepared a spell to help save her life. It took her six hours to cast. The sun rose and they brought her right here to this tree. They started to hang her, when suddenly the sheriff himself dropped dead. Folks claimed they saw his ghost rise up from his body and cut the rope. They also swear that as Susann ran, the ghost swore to follow her and her kin, killing them should they ever come beneath the tree. They found her dead that Halloween beneath the tree, her neck with rope burns as though she'd been strangled. They say that you can still hear her scream in terror every Halloween too, and her and the Sheriff's ghost re-enact their death every Halloween."
After Steven finished his story, we huddled together, terrified that we might hear her scream and witness her brutal death by the ghost of the sheriff and his grisly rope. We fell asleep around 10 PM, and awoke two hours later to the terrified screams of Scoutmaster Steven. He was swinging from the Tree, a rope around his neck.