Can plants and trees become ghosts? Can plants be possessed by ghosts? Can ghosts reside inside plants? These questions have been at the centre of a fascinating “yes-no-maybe” centuries old debate between believers and non-believers, a debate that now seems to be raging more intensely than ever before in this social media age. The Spiritual Science Research Foundation which professes to “bridge the known and unknown worlds” says “Yes. Animals, plants and trees can be possessed by ghosts, though it is quite rare for them to be possessed… Ghosts mostly possess those animals or plants that are regressed human beings. By ‘regressed human beings’ we mean human beings who have taken birth as animals to undergo some suffering. Among the plants that are not regressed humans, ghosts reside on those that are already high in Raja-Tama like the cactus. They usually reside on trees to trouble humans passing under or near those trees, and will often possess trees near to where those people regularly go. In the case of trees that are regressed humans, ghosts can reside inside them too.”

In India, the Bhaktivedanta purport of the Tenth Chapter of Krsna, “Deliverance of Nalakuvara and Manigriva” relates the story of these two demigods, who were sons of the treasurer of the demigods, Kuvera. Briefly, Nalakuvara and Manigriva were cursed by the sage Narada and turned into trees, known as twin arjuna trees, in Lord Krsna’s courtyard when he was a child. Curses apart, it is known that earth bound spirits and ghosts create a centre for themselves in people, trees, houses, wells, etc. Trees whose frequencies or auras match those of ghosts are favoured abodes. Cedar wood trees, redwood trees, oaks, peepal trees, banyan trees, tamarind trees, the Indian fig tree are among the favourite trees of ghosts. According to Wikipedia, the Yakshis or Yakshinis “mythical maiden deities of Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain mythology are closely associated with trees, especially the ashoka tree and the sal tree. Although these tree deities are usually benevolent, there are also yakshinis with malevolent characteristics in Indian folklore.”

In Thailand the Nang Ta-khian, a female spirit that appears  as a woman that haunts Hopea odorata trees is the most famous amongst tree spirits In a recent article “They who live up there”, Sumana Roy, author of How I Became a Tree and Missing wrote about other spirits who live in trees: The dryads, shy nymphs who live inside oak trees; the Japanese kodama which looks like an ordinary tree but often bleeds when cut; the ash, the holly—all of them are supposed to house some humanoid creature, the holly, in fact, housing a ghost-like being called the “treeman”. There are spirits who live in the forest and whose appearance and soul are a hybrid of their human and plant beings—the Huldra who moves around in Scandinavian forests and who, in spite of her alloy-like body of human, cow and plant features, seduces men like mermaids at sea; in Germany, the Moss Folk, short creatures with moss-covered faces and bodies….

As Brent Swancer wrote on the mysteriousuniverse.org site, “… some of the most bizarre targets of hauntings and ghostly occurrences are not mere inanimate objects or buildings, but the twisted branches of the various haunted trees of the world. Yes, trees. It is in fact not such a strange notion, as stories of haunted trees can be found throughout history in a wide variety of cultures all over the world.” One of the most famous cases of a haunted, cursed tree he lists comes from the United States where in the State of New Jersey, “there lies a solitary, gnarled oak tree that has become hopelessly entwined with a rich mythology of mystery, menace, and dark curses”.  It is nicknamed “The Devil’s Tree” because of its surreal, “twisted creepy appearance with dead branches extending out into the sky like skeletal hands”. It is said that its notoriety started with a farmer who killed his family and then went to the oak to hang himself. Various suicides and murders were attributed to it over the years.

Swancer says the area was also once a headquarters for a sect of the Ku Klux Klan, and it is said that the Klan carried out murders, hangings, and lynchings using the tree. Over time, it was said that the wicked oak hungrily absorbed the souls of those who died in the violence it seemed to draw itself. It seems the tree emits various gruesome sounds such as grunts, wailing, screaming, and crying.

It is said that some who get too close to the tree will be terrorised by a mysterious, ghostly black pickup truck, which will chase them and harass them until they are well on their way away from the cursed place, after which the headlights and truck will simply vanish… The tree has also been known to draw in lightning, which seems to strike it with unnerving regularity without actually causing it any damage. Those who have touched the tree also sometimes speak of sudden bursts of static electricity, sometimes reportedly potent enough to knock a grown man off of his feet… There are occasional reports of nooses seen hanging from the trees branches and even of human effigies swinging from ropes.

However, the Devil’s Tree is not the only haunted or cursed tree. Neither are haunted or cursed trees limited to the United States. India has an amazing number of haunted or cursed trees with many spine chilling stories hanging from their spooky forms. And spirits, both benevolent and malevolent, who reside on trees and haunt the area around remain to this day an integral part of the folklore of every Indian State. For example, Bengal alone has a colourful variety of spirits who live on trees like the Gachho Bhoot, Petni / Shakchunni,   Besho Bhoot,  Penchapechi,  Brahmodaittyo, Jinn / Djinn, Kola-bhoot, the most common kind of Gachh-petni or ghosts who live in the banana plant.

Obviously, when it comes to documented fascinating or ghastly paranormal phenomena, plants and trees rank among some of the spookiest, a factor now being tapped in the market by putting up possessed or haunted plants and tree saplings for sale. It may sound bizarre but from the feedback, owning one’s very own haunted or possessed plant or tree is evoking tremendous interest and creating quite a bit of a stir world-wide.

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