I think the corner of Horsetooth Road and CR7 should be declared a monument to historical ignorance in Fort Collins.
Look to the Northeast and see what’s left of the Strauss cabin. One of the earliest cabins in the area, restored in the 1990s, and then burned down by some teenagers soon after.
But watch your back. Turn around and you’re looking right at the abandoned goat farm where grows the Hell Tree. The HELL TREE!!!!
That’s where a goat farmer used to hang his workers, until they rebelled and hanged him from the same tree. And now you can see ghosts swinging from the limbs after dark, they say. (Or maybe that’s goats, and the story is just a big dyslexic mix up.)
How do I know about the hell tree? Not from any old timers. Not from the museum archives. They’ve never heard of it.
I got the story from the Internet! On a web site about supernatural phenom. I’m not sure if the story was written by a local, or whether someone far away made up the story in hopes of selling ads for local hotels on his ghost story web site.
It doesn’t matter. The Collegian parroted the story last October, and then some accounts located it on CR7 (though others put it off North Overland, see comments below), and now College students and the internet savvy (or gullible as the case may be) are making the most of its retelling.
But if you know Fort Collins history at all, you know the story is crazy. We NEVER overlooked serial murder. Oh, we could wink at vigilantism and we could bypass the law when struck by moral outrage. We were especially prone to moral outrage.
But hanging the help?
Not on our church-going, temperate watch.
And a goat farm? Goats=Satan. Get it? Maybe if he’d have raised sheep like everyone else, he wouldn’t have gone mad.
The story of the hell tree seems completely improbable to me.
But I will admit, the abandoned farm and that cottonwood do look sinister, don’t they?
Kendra Spanjer, author of Aldo Zelnick fame, encouraged me to look into the Hell Tree story. From what I can tell, the property was turned over to the county in the early 1970s. It’s surrounded by gravel pits and such today.
Thanks Kendra! It made for a very fun afternoon of exploring.
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