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The Murder Tree

6 Nov

There is an old story that is sometimes set in Yorkshire, England, sometimes in San Francisco, California and sometimes in Adelaide, Australia that goes something like this: one summer night in the year 1750, 1850 or 1950, a wealthy landowner, rancher or industrialist by the name of Timothy Lance, Thomas Read or Lance Thompson came home to find his wife and two children shot to death in their beds. The murderer was the estate’s head gardener, groundsman or gamekeeper, whose name was Harold Logan, Henry Fish or Logan Henriksen, who was seen fleeing the grounds with a pistol in hand and blood spattered on his clothes. For the rest of his life the wealthy man (we’ll call him Tom for the sake of simplicity) was haunted by the loss of his family and by the fact that the murderer (let’s call him Logan) was never caught and punished for his brutal crime. Tom let his business sink slowly into bankruptcy and spent his final years in an asylum, a mere shadow of his former self. In its day, this was a crime that shocked the nation (whatever nation that really was), but in modern times it’s been all but forgotten except by trivia and history buffs. At least that’s the official version. The truth of what happened that fatal night has never been made public. You see, it’s not true that Logan escaped. He was in fact chased down and apprehended by Tom and his servants on the very night of the murders. The reason that Logan was never seen again is that Tom hanged him from the tallest tree on his estate – an ancient sycamore that afterwards earned the ominous title of the Murder Tree.

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