Strange circles and mazes can be fascinating and enigmatic.
It is up to the individual to discover their secrets, if they wish to;
And if the secrets aren't immediately obvious, then the more
they become mysterious and strange, until new ideas come along, that is.
THE DEVIL'S TRAMPING GROUND EXERIENCE, PICTURES AND FOREST MAZE
Note: as mentioned in two stories recently published, the photographer forgot to reset the camera date after a battery change. The photos here were actually taken in May of 2015.
If someone really wants to know about a mysterious place it's often best to go and experience the "real thing" itself, as a certain soft drink says about their product. And that's just what an associate and I did not long ago on an excursion into middle North Carolina for spots to explore for future stories on the website. Our first stop was the previous story on Mists and Moonlight about Boone's Cave Park and the astounding photo an associate took at the famed cottonwood tree. We next visited a majestic 18th century house and then a Civil War battlefield.
Our last stop was at one of the two mysterious sites of the four places we visited that is called The Devil's Tramping Ground. The pioneers who settled Chatham County in the mid-18th century discovered this strange 40-foot circle that nothing was growing on, or that anything could be grown on. ( Our visit did discover one of toughest flora in the forest, wire grass, was finally starting to pop up in very, very small patches, here and there, inside its circumference.) As time went on, the place took on a religious connotation in the 18th century and became known as the ground the Cloven Hoof king himself walked round and round at night thinking up diabolical works for humankind.
The Native Americans throughout the centuries avoided the spot like a smallpox- infected blanket and even had their own legend of how the dead zone came to be. That story had two tribes battling it out on the spot and so bloody a battle it was that the ground was soaked with enough blood to kill the soil forever. This would seem to suggest that the circle is very old indeed, made far in the past, with it even phasing out of 18th century Indian remembrance into legend and lore. That is if there was anything to remember in the first place, of course.
So much has been written on the mysterious place over the years let's leave off the rest of its history, except to say scientific investigations over the years found an exceptionally high salt content in the circle's soil. The answer? Certainly. But how it got there and formed into a 40 foot diameter circle is perplexing -- no, more like baffling, to say the very least.
First off we came to a crossroads which had a general store that had three old-timers sitting out front on a bench: here were our sources, about 7 miles away from our objective. One man was mum with a rather sly look on his face when asked about the spot, another talkative chap had one of the usual mundane reasons for the circle, and another man had a bit different take on it which was more in line with my thinking. One of the gents also said the Devil's Road was heavily wooded and to be careful once there as you could easily get lost in its maze of trails and forest. He was absolutely right about that as things turned out.
There were are lot of pull-offs down the long single lane highway that almost had us fooled into pulling off here and there, but when the real thing was encountered there was no doubt about it that this was the famed circle. As an added thought, one of the men mentioned that we should have seen it 20 or 30 years ago- presumably meaning it was more pristine-looking then, than it is now.
On the short walk to the circle it looked like a dump-off in certain spots for discarded junk; like trashed TV's and cans, etc., etc. Perhaps, at least some of these tossed away items, are folks testing the mysterious locale's power of throwing things back out of the circle at night after having them placed there during the day? In retrospect, though, some strange sites may be better off left as they are, or, rather, were - puzzling and interesting but largely left alone, unless shown some proper respect, that is.
For sure, though, one could easily get lost in going down them, and pretty quickly at that. Many had low and overhanging weeds and other year round growing flora type entanglements which suggest no animal or human-being had been down them in a very long time, long enough for these woodland growths to cover over some of the smaller trails.
A cleared spot for crops by both peoples might make it seem so. Many researchers are now theorizing something landed there in past times that put off radiation that neutralized and basically turned the ground to sodium chloride, unsuitable for life, and is only now finally growing back the toughest growth in the forest once again in diverse and small patches, which as mentioned before is wire grass. I know I keep harping on this, but that circle must have been made a very long time ago, we must assume.
It's not just the Indians that avoided the spot, but animals, too; and whether a rural legend or real, it's strongly suggested a visitor not knowingly take a souvenir home with them. According to many books and stories passed down, this brings bad luck and eerie events to the person, even to the point of them driving back and replacing said item exactly where it was found: things like pebbles, plants, twigs, and in particular...the very soil itself.
After seeing something on one of the cable TV channels recently, apparently the same thing, with creepy stuff taking place at home, occurs after folks have taken mementos from the famous, maybe, infamous, is the better word for it, Bell Witch cave in Adams Co., Tenn. Some even refuse to go back to the cave themselves to replace any item(s) pocketed like rocks or dirt, but ask the owners of a store on the site or others to please do it for them.
Folks who have attempted to stay over night there often report eerie happenings as well. Like the feeling of being in a different dimension or something strange for a brief period of time, among other unsettling experiences. Overactive imaginations or unlikely untruths to the legendary nightly frights? or is something else the answer to the perplexing, enigmatic anomaly, its rather small main locale, and the surrounding woods?
Of course, a lot of folks who stay overnight have nothing to report but fun campfire roasts, jokes and high jinks; with the often attending bloated beer bellies, the next day's sore throats from laughing and shouting, and any- thing else in that vein you can think of. Some probably try to spook their companions during the late hours too.
Folks from both sides, meaning those who think the answer is a mundane one and those who are more meta-physically minded about its cause, come from all walks of life; so maybe this phenomena is a hit and miss affair- if that's what it is to begin with. But the fact remains, so far no one, so far as I know, has come up with anything but theories- and often very believable personal stories, to help explain the mysterious place to any extent.
What intrigued me almost as much as the sterile ground itself, as mentioned, was all the paths in the woods - going this way and that - with no particular rhyme or reason to a destination or special spot, so to speak, that is. Presumably it was just animal and humans wandering around over time, either more or less recently, that made them, the ones with big widths and the narrower smaller trails.
This should be an unarguable fact, that most, if not all of us would agree on how they came to be; nevertheless, how very odd with, at least it seemed at the time, ubiquitous number of them going here and there in such a way as they do. Yes, certainly, a lot of people have visited the spot over the very many years...but still.
I traversed a couple hundred yards and really got nowhere of what must have been acres upon acres of paths in just that one area. It reminded me of that strange house the widow of the Winchester gun inventor kept building to fool the ghosts of the gun's victims, supposedly seeking harassment, with passageways and stairs that led nowhere, till her inheritance ran-out or she passed and the builders left at once - never to return. Not that the forest paths were ghostly or anything like that (there have been reports of strange-looking figures on the trails though), they just reminded me of that unusual case.
Nowadays in the 21st century, surely few believe Satan goes round and round at night thinking up evil or bad actions for humankind, as said before, or were the ceremonies of Native Americans in the past, dancing in loops, that created the Devil's Tramping Ground. But here's what more and more researchers are believing is the possible answer: As the twin disasters of Fukushima and Chernobyl have recently, as time goes, reminded us, radiation and other unseen physics forces can make an affected area unlivable for life, or dangerously so, and in some cases, for a very long time.
Now here's another idea, albeit out there, perhaps. There was a time when I had a hard time believing in the wee folk, nature spirits and such; until I learned that over 50% of Icelanders believed in them. An intriguing reason, or single example, of why, is that once there was a large stone boulder that stood smack dab in the way of a road being built by the government that had to be rerouted around the large rock after the crew had a fit trying to go thorough or move the stone. Enough very strange things happened for this to occur and cause dismay. And in addition to the Icelanders, there appear to be a lot of believers in countries like Norway, and elsewhere in Scandinavia, as well. In other words, not countries full of foolish, superstitious, dumb ignorant folk.
And lest any think the local warnings about the boulder being an abode best left alone was a joke or prank of some kind, the unfolding of events would seem to prove the people were truly serious about it. Personally, and beside other incidents like the one just told of , the digital taken at the cottonwood tree in the Boone's Cave story that is here on Mists and Moonlight, has made me reassess my former skepticism about such things, or beings, that are called or known by some as nature entities or whatever else they might be. I keep an open mind now.
The point in mentioning all this is that it's not so far-fetched to believe that a "saucer-shaped" UFO landed at the Tramping Ground and sterilized the area of contact. Remember, at the beginning of the modern age of Unidentified Flying Objects these "craft" were called Flying Saucers because that was the appearance of many of them by eyewitnesses back in the 1940s. Starting with Kenneth Arnold's report to newspapers that the ones he saw near Mt. Rainier moved like a saucer would if you skipped it across the water. A great many reports by often very credible people, back then, and even up until today, had and have some with a rounded circumference.
Possibly, hundreds of years, perhaps, even thousands of years ago, something landed in the Tramping Ground spot, maybe in trouble, in need of some kind of repair, and radiation or other dangerous emanations were unintentionally, or even a non-accident, as something unavoidable, leaked out, sterilizing the landing soil area, perhaps even opening up some kind of an on and off again dimensional portal. Certainly, all speculation, though.
And whether connected to any of this or not, the maze in the woods was interesting enough to ponder on and really made it seem as if somebody, or something, was searching for something very thoroughly. This is almost assuredly not the reason for them, however, as obviously they were made after the trees had begun to grow again, from what was more than likely cropland at one time or another. But I don't know the maximum growth, or the heights, those trees can reach, so regardless of anything else, it's a question that would be rather interesting to know the answer to.
All the suppositions on what caused the circle, are only theories, so far as I know. A recent publication and excellently researched and readable book by Nick Pope, John Burroughs and Jim Penniston titled Encounter in Rendlesham Forest: The Inside Story of the World's Best-Documented UFO Incident seems to suggest at the end of it that the craft(s) might have been some kind of time-travelers. However, I won't spoil it for anyone who wants to read the book on why they would have considered this as an answer to what the UFO's origins were.
But could this have been the case to this article's big question? Maybe, but then again, probably not. Regardless of how the once completely sterile circle came to be, the site is off the beaten path and an intriguing and fun place to go for so those inclined to investigate on site themselves and are able to visit it. Just remember, please keep it clean, don't get lost wandering the paths in the woods, and beware the legend of pocketing mementos... especially the earth from inside the circle itself!
A link to directions and more info to conclude this article on a cool place of so much mystery and wonder: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil%27s_Tramping_Ground