Folklore: The Eerie Curse of St Mary's Church

Find out the twisted tale behind the oak tree that grows through the ruins of this English Church...

Folklore: The Eerie Curse of St Mary's Church
Picture by Shaun Molloy (Instagram: @shaunmolloyart)

In a sleepy village in England nestled in a small wooded area there sits the ruins of a church. If you didn't know it was there you might miss it as the nature surrounding it has consumed it and camouflaged it well amongst the trees. It is one tree in particular situated on the grounds that this tale was born from. A single oak tree that has grown up through the middle of the church.

The location of the tree is peculiar enough but when you explore the folk tale behind why the tree is growing there, the marvel becomes a lot more sinister.

Our legend today originates from a small village called East Somerton, located in Norfolk in the East of England. Norfolk is a place rife with folk tales, perhaps one of the most renowned being the that of the Black Shuck, or Black Dog. However today our story is not about a four legged beast, it is about a sorceress.

St Mary's church is situated on the ground of Burnley Hall and was built in the 1500's before falling into disuse in the 1700's. Our tale takes place at some point when the church was still in operation by the local community.

According to local myths the tree growing up through the church is not a beautiful, natural wonder. Instead, it is the result of a malevolent curse.

The story explains that centuries ago a local woman had been accused of witchcraft and of course, this was a point in history where witch hunts were not uncommon and if the accusation were to fall on your shoulders it was punishable by brutal torture and ultimately, death.

Photo by Halanna Halila on Unsplash

The local witch was caught and taken to the church to be executed. The witch in question had an ailment most commonly associated with pirates of legend - she had a wooden leg. It is said that the witch was brought to the church by the local villagers and buried alive underneath it. Following this, a huge oak tree grew from the witch's wooden leg and as it grew larger it destroyed the church that entombs it and the sorceress it once belonged to.

It is believed by some that walking thrice around the tree will release the vengeful witch's spirit.

Although the most prominent supernatural tale born from the ruins, our unfortunate witch may not be the only other-worldly thing that you encounter in the shadowy woods. It has been said that visitors have seen angry phantom monks walking the grounds, and heard whispers amongst the trees. Others have reported being touched by a ghostly source.

Another theory of the growth of the tree is that a squirrel must have buried an acorn in the deteriorating foundations of the church, which sprouted into the beautiful oak that stands now. Is this a more realistic explanation? Maybe. Does that mean it is true? Perhaps not. Fact can often end up being stranger than fiction.

Whatever phenomenon caused the tree to sprout in this unique location, we will never know. However, the ruins that are hidden in the woodland and dressed in ivy are a beautiful sight, witch or no witch.

I would absolutely recommend a visit to the area if it is accessible to you. Whether you want to investigate the supernatural stories from the site or just observe the beauty of the spot, it is worth the trip. Maybe if you are brave enough you might walk the three times around the tree and find out if the legend is true.

I would love to read about some of your favourite creepy folk tales! Tweet me @curiouslycreepy or contact me on Instagram @creepyandcurious. Always stay creepy and curious, ghouls.

A. N. Merchant
A. N. Merchant
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A. N. Merchant

Sharing factual and fictional stories of the horrific, disgusting, macabre and frightfully peculiar. Appealing to the morbid curiosity within us all.

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