As mentioned in Monday’s post, today’s post may have a bit of deja vu. On Friday I wrote about The Devil’s Tree in New Jersey, today’s post is about Florida’s own Devil’s Tree. I do need to warn you readers that the history behind the tree is pretty dark. If you don’t want to read about it, please either scroll down past the next section or come back Friday for a not so dark post.
Florida’s Devil’s Tree is located in Oak Hammock Park in Port St. Lucie. The tree’s evil is due to one man, Gerard John Schaefer. Schaefer had a horrible childhood that shaped his adult years. As a child, he was abused often by his father. Since his father would punish him for both his actions and his sister’s actions, Shaefer suffered from gender dysphoria. In private he would dress women clothing while hurting himself. He both hated and loved women. As he grew older, he would walk in the woods that would become Oak Hammock Park. He came across the tree that would later be known as The Devil’s Tree and he became obsessed with the tree. He would tie himself to the tree before hurting himself as a self imposed punishment.
As an adult, Schaefer became a police officer. He would find young women who were hitchhiking and lure them into his car with his badge. Feeling safe to be with a police officer, the girls wouldn’t question him when he drove them into the woods to his tree. At the tree he would tie the girls up before sexually abusing them and psychologically abusing them for days before killing them.
Schafer was able to get away with this for many years before getting caught. He was in the middle of torturing two young women, Nancy Trotter (17 years old) and Paula Sue Wells (18 years old), at the tree in July 1972 when he was called to respond to an police call. Feeling cocky because he hadn’t been caught yet, he left the girls tied to the tree. The girls were able to escape while he was away. When he found out that they have run away, he called his police department and told his captain that he had done “something foolish”. He was arrested for kidnapping the girls but he was able to make bond easily.
The next year he lured two 19 year old women to the tree. Collette Goodenough and Barbara Wilcox were tortured and tied to the tree for several days before Schaefer killed both of them and buried them under the tree. The bodies wouldn’t be found for four years when two fishermen noticed ropes hanging from the branches leading to ground where bones were protruding.
Schaefer was arrested and convicted in the murders of Goodenough and Wilcox. Four more bodies were found and were tied to Schaefer. In jail, Schaefer claimed to have killed over 30 women. He was stabbed to death while in jail.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY AROUND THE DEVIL’S TREE
Since the revelation of the murders, many different types of paranormal activity has been reported. Visitors to the park claim to hear to women screams coming from the woods around the tree. Cameras don’t want to work correctly around the tree. Cold spots have been felt randomly in the woods. People have reported seeing apparitions and shadow people in the woods. The women’s restroom is also claimed to be haunted with several reports of shoadow people being seen in the mirrors and screaming being heard coming from one of the stalls.
Since the murders discovery, various reports of tree being the site of satanic rituals have been reported. People often reported seeing hooded figures in the woods. In 1993, two boys claimed that two hooded figures chased them out of the woods before vanishing at the tree line.
When the park was being developed, several attempts to bring down the tree failed. Chainsaws that were brought out to cut down the tree, suddenly wouldn’t work. When taken to another job site, the chainsaws would suddenly work again despite not being fixed yet. Since chainsaws wouldn’t work, workers brought out a two man manual saw to try and cut down the tree. The saw’s teeth came off as they tried to cut it down. Anyone that messed with the tree, whether it was to trying to cut it down or just general disrespect, the perpetrator typically experiences misfortune shortly there after. Some reports claim that they were involved in horrible car accidents, having a heart attack or other sudden health issues pop up. In 1992, to try and reduce the amount of negative energy around the tree, a Catholic priest came out and preformed an exorcism. Judging by the amount of modern day reports of activity, I don’t believe the exorism worked.
Do you think the activity in the park and around the tree is due to the murders that happened there? Do you think the spirits being heard and seen belong to the bodies already found or to bodies of victims not yet found? Do you think they will ever find peace? Let me know in the comments below what your thoughts are.
Come back Friday for a lighter post. Friday’s post talks about a hotel and a restaurant that see a lot of paranormal activity. Definitely places you will want to add to your trip if you like spooky places.