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.
[Become a fan of Lost Fort Collins on Facebook]
I didn’t know about the cabin. Even about the restoration. Wasn’t that one of the ones that used to stand in Lincoln Park, by the library? I think I’ve been inside that, on some sanctioned occasion. (I feel like I’m the only one in my generation who never sneaked into the streetcar when it was in the park there. Well, there was a fence around it, so I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there.)
Never ever heard of the “Hell Tree”. Ever. But I’ll go out there and take a gander, why not. Interesting note: since the outside potential life span of a cottonwood pegs at (or under) 100 years, our goat farm lyncher would have had to have been stringing up the help no earlier than the 1930s. Any earlier and their feet would have touched the ground.
Sorry to burst your bubble. That’s not the hell tree. You’re not even on the right side of town. The hell tree is off of north Overland.
My bubble is burst, cruel reader. But on the internet it said that the hell tree was at the end of Horsetooth. (Although I did see one account that put it at Bingham Hill Cemetery. Is that where you saw the tree?)
I live on overland that tree in Bingham hill cemetery is another tree here in fortcollins that was used for hanging, but this one here is degfinatly the hell tree I visited it today and it is if you fallow all the way to the end of horse tooth (away from the mountains) and you hit a round about and if you go straight through the round about (no turns) you hit a dirt road and just continue down that road and you will run across it in no time it’s as plain as day
I was always under the impression that the farm belonged to Jim Strang. I don’t know if it’s the same Strang who’s name was on the side of the elevator or not
Here’s an image for anyone interested.
How sad if The Collegian repeated the story without more verification. This is the journalist pool from which The Coloradoan is hiring?
Que lastima indeed! There have been way too many arsons of historical buildings in our area. The real diablos, straight from hell, are the arsonists with the fires they’ve lit.
To clear up some confusion for people:
The Strauss Cabin was built in 1864 and used as a supply depot for stagecoaches. It burnt down in 1999. George Strauss survived the 1864 flood and then survived the 1904 flood, but was rescued the next day. Unfortunately, after being rescued, he died from the exposure he’d endured. Read more about the cabin and Strauss here: http://users.frii.com/uliasz/photoart/lost_colorado/ftcollins.htm
The Strang Cabin was built in the 1880s. It burnt down in 2002 and was located on Strauss Cabin Rd.
The Franz-Smith Cabin was built circa 1882. It was relocated and is one of the structures in Lincoln Park in the museum courtyard. This cabin was built by the Franz family who were German immigrants. It was later occupied by the Smith family from 1936 to 1948. It was restored to 1920′s and 1930′s appearance to tell the story of Depression area farmers and the remodeling older structures during the time of rural electrification.
In 1900, at the turn of the century, the census counted 67 goats in Larimer county. Later, in the teens and 20′s, there were a couple of goat ranches relatively close, but enough of a rarity that the locals were told they might want to go see the goats. These ranches had 700 to 800 goats and they were being raised for their angora wool. One of the ranches was located in Boulder county and the other one (could have been Weld or Larimer) was north and east of Wellington. I also saw a 1920′s ad where someone was offering stud services with the goat they owned. Their property was located west of Shields on Mulberry.
thedpt is right it is off Overland on Michaud LN at the end of the road on the south side before you enter the natural area, but I think it may have been cut down. To make room for a hiking trail, but it was creepy when I was a kid!
Cheriey, I have been flip in my post/comments so far. But seriously, I do want to know more about where the story came from. During what decade were you a kid? And where did you hear the story?
I am 95% sure my great grand parents lived in the house you pictured in the early 50′s. I ran it by my mother when I read this but and she confirmed what I already knew. I’m going to speak to my grandma later this week and I know I have some stories to tell. I’m pretty positive one of my uncles was born in said house.
Norm and I drove past yesterday looking for a blue heron rookery, and I saw a carload of young women stopped to look at the tree. I bet your (Grow Fort Collins) stories are better than the made up ones.
This tree is something I have known about for years! I remember it from when I was in elementary school and I remember the building being burned down when I was young as well. I used to drive by it quite frequently since my parents also lived not far from it. The story you told is the one I heard 20 some years ago. Maybe you need to plan a trip to find out if the stories are true! haha!
i have been there many times and this place is creepy!!! but i want to know what the real story is. did a guy really go crazy and kill his family??? anyone know for a fact???
wow, i can’t believe this is a haunted attraction now. we use to go there as kids in 1998. at that time it had no claims to be haunted. we would spent a lot of time there during the next few years. at all times of the day and never had any paranormal activity happen to us. we use to bring girls there to get them scared. we even brought props to give it a spookier effect. even though it didn’t need it. it was pretty modern on the inside normal electrical plugs, a modern stove that had to been from the 80′s. the carpet looked pretty modern. although one room on the the side where the tree is depicted in the pictures from above seemed out of place and a little more older i think it could of been a cellar because the inside was lined with bricks. i remember you would walk through the back door and be in the kitchen standing at that door, while looking to the front of the house. to the left of you would be that cellar area i think to the right was a small bathroom but a bunch of junk was stacked stacked high in it and it did seem to be just a shower no tub. then you would walk forward and be in a living room area to your left would be a staircase and to your right was another living room area with a fireplace. the upstairs was one big room with a short ceiling. when you would go to the shed by the silos there was the older appliances that looked to be from the 50′s. the most scary part about the place was walking to the animal sheds(whatever they are called) this is when it felt like you was walking around the texas chainsaw massacre movie. we made up so many stories and brought so many people there and as i stated no one ever had a paranormal experience. one thing i can’t recall seeing was a furnace or heating ducts.
now that i think about it there was a fridge. it was right next to the back door on the side with the cellar. on this side of the kitchen was a the stove and sink. dead head before you walked into the living room area with the front door on the left side of the frame was a china cabinet.