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The Devil's Tramping Ground

I love urban legends, folk lore, and lost history. That love came from my mother, who was a master storyteller when I was a child. She wowed me with all of North Carolina's greatest urban legends. You had Crybaby Lane, Lydia's Bridge, Roanoke, and my personal favorite... The Devil's Tramping Ground.

If you've never heard of The Devil's Tramping Ground, allow me to tell the tale that haunted me as a child.

In rural North Carolina, about thirty minutes outside of Greensboro, lies a perfect forty foot circle where nothing will grow. Around it is plush grass, trees, and weeds, but nothing dare grows within this circle. People have planted seeds, but they never sprout. Scrubs have been planted only to shrivel up and die overnight. When trash, rocks, or sticks are left in the circle, they are violently removed overnight. A few high schoolers have attempted to camp within the circle, but were driven insane by the sounds of snarls, hoof beats, and the images they saw from the corner of their eyes.

Other reports saying that some have managed to stay in their camping gear within the circle only to wake up in the morning mysteriously outside of it. There are quite a few recollections of hunters running into a strange man wandering the circle late at night whose face seemed to be melting. As soon as the hunters approached the man, their dogs instantly tucked their tails between their legs and refused to come anywhere near the circle or the man.

They say the land is cursed by Lucifer himself. The legend is that he rises to Earth each night and beats his hoofs within this circle while damning men. The heat from his hoofs have made the land barren. It's the pacing that he does within the circle that violently removes anything from within it.

The image of the Devil stomping around haunted me for twenty years. It was such a unique and vivid image I knew I had to see what the Tramping Ground was all about for myself.

When I moved back to North Carolina, I made it a priority to visit the Tramping Ground and I've since gone back once more. Before I get to impressions, here are a few of my favorite pictures from those two trips:

Well... the story was good and the pictures seem to do it justice, but the truth is The Devil Tramping Ground was a disappointment. As you can tell, a campfire has been burned within the circle, and the area was littered with trash and rocks, both inside and outside of the circle. The area around it wasn't plush with vegetation, and there was more evidence of kids hanging out, camping, and partying than there was that the Devil had visited recently.

The Devil's Tramping Ground is truly in a unique spot. It's pretty far out in the middle of nowhere, and you can easily miss where it is without a good GPS or directions. There is a Devil's Tramping Ground Road, but only a small dirt pull off gives you any indication of where it is. The first time I visited, I drove by the pull off. I circled back around, parked, and walked out into the woods and was standing in the circle and didn't even realize it.

Reports about the barren spot date back before the American Revolution. As time has gone on, other theories have been presented for why the spot is barren. On the supernatural side, some believe the soil was radiated by extra-terrestrials who landed a UFO on the spot. Others believe it is the burial site of an Indian chief who was violently murdered. Some more logical explanations were that the spot was once the site of a mill and it was a circle made by a donkey or horse providing power for the mill. However, no similarly designed/sized mill have ever been found. The NC Department of Agriculture took a soil sample and found the soil to be extremely high in sodium, which could mean that it is a natural salt lick.

I've run across quite a few accounts of people who claim to have successfully slept the night within the circle. However, almost every one of these reports mentions something strange happening. Some say they heard footsteps around the tents and others saw eyes watching them from the tree line. One guy said his radar detector went off a few times when it didn't have any power.

I don't know what to make of The Devil's Tramping Ground. My two visits were during the daytime and I experienced nothing spooky about the place. But growing up with such a vivid story in my mind makes it hard for me to not believe. Despite being an overly rational person in most matters, I refuse to give up on the Devil's Tramping Ground because I want it to be true. I want to believe.

The knowledge and exposure I have about The Devil's Tramping Ground is thanks to the internet. As much as I love having so much information at my fingertips, I sometimes wonder whether it’s good for society or not. The current generation of kids won't have urban legends. The logical explanation and debunking is simply a Google search away. I'm not convinced that that is a good thing. Urban legends and folk tales are passed from generation to generation and can make a huge impact on a child, as The Devil's Tramping Ground did on me. I would hate to be robbed of all the nights I spent thinking about the Devil's Tramping Ground, Lydia's Bridge, or Crybaby Lane. There is a certain type of magic that you feel knowing that something supposedly haunted is just a few minutes or hours away.

I refuse to give into my adult mind and reason. I want to embrace the imagination that I had as a ten year old boy and spend this Halloween in fear that the Devil might tramp his way an hour towards my house. That sounds like a lot more fun than sitting around and being all logical.

On a side note: My first trip to the Devil's Tramping Ground didn't result in any spooky feelings, but when I left to go home, I thought I knew a shortcut. I ended up running across an old abandoned farm house. You'd think after watching horror films for my entire life I'd know better than to stop, but I just couldn't resist. I decided to tempt fate and see what was inside.

I was rewarded with a house that had been abandoned since the 1960's. The bathrooms were still stocked, calendars on the floor, old Reader's Digests cluttered the shelves, and two abandoned tobacco barns outback contained lots of creepily left clothing. It was quite spooky. I've posted a few pictures below from that amazing adventure.

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Vaporman87 Posted on Oct 15, 2015 at 07:14 PM

Both of those places look incredibly cool to visit... the barren spot simply because of it's lore and it's placement in the middle of nowhere, and the house because it just looks incredible. Perfectly preserved for decades, ripe with history just waiting to be found, photographed, and researched. What a trip this had to be. This was a fun read!

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