You listen to tales of haunted houses and you tell yourself that this is all folklore, part of numerous beliefs handed down from generation to generation but are just on the brink of being forgotten in modern times.
Recently there was an incident that tells us that such beliefs have not yet been forgotten but are still very much alive today.
Three men who ventured into the southern forests along the Edward Trace Road between Moruga and Guayaguayare related the story of meeting not a haunted house but a haunted tree. This tree is the silk cotton, one of the largest girth-sized trees in our tropical forests.
The three men had decided to go looking for the Moruga Bouffe, a large mud volcano located on the alluvial flood plains of Moruga. The Bouffe is recognised as one of the largest mud volcanoes in Trinidad but is one that is difficult to access though it is a short hike to its site.
Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that because of the muddy conditions trails tend to change. Sometimes there can be more than one trail as these men found out the hard way.
Apparently one of the men had been to the Bouffe some time before so did not think it necessary to take a guide or some such knowledgeable person from the area with them. He later told me that he was sure that they would have met hunters in the bush forgetting that the hunting season has been banned and that any hunter in the bush now would not want to be seen and would hide from them.
The men went into the forest following a lead trail. I’m not sure from his story where he turned off or didn’t turn off but I’m sure most of us realise the direction they took. They eventually ended up at the base of the giant silk cotton tree.
This silk cotton is actually one of the highlights of any hike to this part of the forest but these men were not aware of this. According to Mikey, one of the men, they recognised the tree as a silk cotton tree and stood for some time looking at the huge trunk of the tree and the upper branches that had more size than most of the trunks of the trees around.
They then continued to follow the track but soon realised that they had reached a dead end.
“We went right, left and centre and just confused ourselves more. We even lost the original track we had used to come in. At first we decided to split up but then everywhere looked the same after a while. This is when Blacks said that he heard the tree moaning. I looked up but the branches were not moving, you know how they rub on each other sometimes and groan and squeak. Only the leaves moved. I wanted to laugh but this was not the time. I too began to believe that the spirits from the tree were trying to keep us there. I remember my grandmother warning us not to go near the silk cotton because the spirits would play with us then pull us inside the tree to stay.
Every time we decided to go in one direction somehow we made a circle and ended up right back below the tree. This was getting serious because we ended up making more trails in the bush.
It was Kurt who got up and said listen we getting out of here. Forget that Bouffe today. We not looking for anything in here, it getting too creepy.”
After spending half the day trying to get back to the outside the men eventually met the road some way off the point where they had originally entered the forest. Needless to say being totally disoriented, they did not know if to go east or west along the road until after more than an hour they were lucky that a vehicle appeared.
Later Mikey admitted to me on the phone that they were not really accustomed to the bush and should have had at least one member trained in enough skills to get them back to the outside. He said that I make it look so easy when I talk about it. One thing the three men would not forget is their experience around the silk cotton tree.
“Speaking for the three of us, I think that this could be a very interesting experience for people who visit these sites especially visitors here for the Carnival. I’m not talking about the getting lost part, but the folklore part. It might just turn out to be a very real and interesting attraction to them.”