Dutch Elm Disease From Hell

Tuscaloosa Alabama - With the exception of a brief stint in the army, Dale Bradford (72) has lived his entire life at the farm his father began. In his time he seen a lot but nothing prepared him for his run in with the supernatural.

"Back in the middle of January a big storm came up and I knew it was going to be a heavy one," Bradford told me. "I stopped picking weeds in garden and rushed inside. Well, it poured down a good spell and it was thundering and lightning something fierce. At one point I thought lightning had hit the house, it shook so hard. When it was over I went out and saw that the tree closest to the house in the pasture had been hit by lightning. One of my cows had been under the tree and she was deader than a doornail. Blood and cow guts everywhere. I used the tractor and hauled her body off to the back of the field so the smell wouldn't be so bad."

But lightning proved to be the least of Bradford's problems.

"Well I forgot about it until a coupla weeks later when I decided to cut that tree down. It was dead from the lightning and there wasn't any way it was going to grow back anyhow. I was standing by it and thats when I started hearing some kind of sound coming from up under the roots. The roots had been moved around in the earth from the lightning and I could see a hole coming out of there so I got down and stuck my ear to the ground and damn if it wasn't somebody screaming and moaning."

Bradford decided not to cut the tree down and called his neighbor to tell him about what he was hearing.

"Dale is an old timer but he's not one to make things up," Sam Derreck told me. "He's not a joker so when he told me that there was yelling coming up from that dead tree of his I came over to take a look. I heard it too. It'd come in and out, louder and then softer. I was the one that thought to get an old garden hose and stick it down the hole. You can hear it a lot better that way."

"It's even louder at night." adds Bradford.

Dale Bradford tries to get to the root of the problem
Click here to see the movie (727k).

Download QuickTime (movie not working for you? you probably need to download the QuickTime software)

I called the University of Alabama Geology Department and spoke with Professor Vernor Clancy about the sounds.

"Without hearing the sounds myself I couldn't say for sure what it was but I bet it's wind," said Clancy. "There's some soft limestone under Alabama and that stuff gets eaten away pretty quickly by water so most likely when the lightning hit the tree it opened the hole and allowed rainwater to get in. That ate up the limestone until it hit a natural cave formation under the property. I bet there's another opening to that cave somewhere and what you are hearing is wind coming in from that other opening and rushing out of the new hole."

But why is it louder at night?

"Heat from the sun is trapped in the earth and is released at night. The rising heat might cause the air to have less resistance around the limestone and make it rush out of the hole faster.

Bradford doesn't hold much stock in the wind theory.

"Bull, I know what wind sounds like and this ain't wind. I think when the lightning hit it knocked some of that cow's blood in with the ground and opened up a hole to hell. It's the restless dead yelling for salvation. There was a big civil war battle round here and on this property. When men died hard they don't always go easy. Maybe it's them that I'm hearing."

Hear an audio recording of the sounds coming from the tree:
WAV Format (647k) | AIFF Format (647k)

The things I do for a story.


interview with Dale Bradford, January 28th, 1999

interview with Sam Derreck, January 28th, 1999

phone interview with Vernor Clancy, January 29th, 1999

quicktime film by Derek Barnes

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