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    At 8:30 p.m. on March 27, 1890, one of the most devastating tornados in American history ripped through Louisville. The Courier-Journal called it “the Storm Demon.” Whirling down the streets, the cyclone destroyed residences, businesses, churches and the railroad station, claiming over 100 lives. But was the Louisville cyclone conjured by Mother Nature, or something darker? Local legend claims the storm was brewed not by cold and warm air fronts, but witches.

    The Witches’ Tree stands contorted at the corner of  Sixth Street and Park Avenue in Old Louisville. A maple tree once stood there, and it was the favored meeting place for those involved with the dark arts. But in 1889, witches weren’t the only ones who favored the tree: the city’s planning committee wanted to use it as a May pole for the May Day Celebration.


    According to legend, witches warned the city that if they cut down the tree, they would pay for it. The committee chopped it down anyway. Eleven months later to the day, the myth goes, the witches brewed a “demon” of a vengeful storm, and as it tore through the city, a bolt of lightning hit the stump and sprouted the twisted, gnarled tree that stands there today.

    If you visit the tree, you might see charms hanging in an adjacent tree. A horseshoe (an anti-witch charm) dangles among occult symbols, including an inverted cross and sacrificial sheep.

    Photos by Katie Molck

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    About Katie Molck

    Loretta Lynn is the best country music singer of all time and if you don't like pickled foods, you can leave.

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