The Bizarre History Of The Devil's Tramping Ground

Many of the so-called mysterious places in the world, including those mentioned in the context of the supernatural, or UFOs, or other fringe topics, aren't all that mysterious. The Bermuda Triangle, for example, is a heavily-traveled section of the ocean anchored by three major port and tourist-destination cities: Miami, Bermuda and San Juan, Puerto Rico, according to History. The number of planes and ships that disappear and/or encounter calamity there is no higher than any other, similar patch of ocean, according to Fox News. Similarly, across the United States are sections of road where local legend has it that the ghosts of children who died in a horrible accident in the area push a car uphill; in fact, the car is going downhill, and it's all an optical illusion.

However, in North Carolina there's a place that truly is a mystery: a bare patch of earth in an otherwise verdant forest, where nothing (or almost nothing) grows, and where compasses are known to fail. The place is called "The Devil's Tramping Ground," and for a century, its explanation has eluded scientists.

The Mystery Of The Devil's Tramping Ground

About 50 miles south of Greensboro, North Carolina, in a forested, rural area, lies the Devil's Tramping Ground (pictured), according to Atlas Obscura. The only thing that can be said for certain about what goes on there is that nothing (or very little) grows in the roughly-circular patch of earth, surrounded entirely by forest and scrub land. That and sometimes compasses don't work properly in the area, as UNC TV Science points out.

Beyond that, all we have is a century of local lore. The patch got its name because the devil supposedly manifests there so he can plan mischief. One legend is that if a visitor puts anything in the middle of the patch, it will be tossed away by the next morning, because the devil is nothing if not tidy, apparently. Another states that animals give the area a wide berth and won't cross it. Still others say that they've seen red, glowing eyes in the circle.

To prove whether or not the devil actually shows up at night, a local news reporter spent the night there. He was not, as it turns out, menaced by Old Scratch, but he reported hearing "ghostly footsteps" while he tried to sleep.

So What Causes The Devil's Tramping Ground?

Whether or not Beelzebub himself shows up at a particular spot in North Carolina from time to time, for reasons that make sense to him, is going to be impossible to verify as well as being a bit above our pay grade. Similarly, anecdotal reports of items disappearing or animals refusing to cross are just that — anecdotal — and anecdotes are not the same thing as scientific data.

That's not to say that there hasn't been a serious scientific examination of the site. It's just that what science has turned up has not amounted to much. According to UNC TV Science, local soil scientist Rich Hayes found that some of the chemicals in the soil are higher than expected, but not so much so that it's impossible to grow anything there. "What we found out here last time was that we had some elevated readings of certain things inside here. But none of the readings, none of the data we got showed us that plants couldn't live there," he said.

The fact that it's a popular hangout for teenagers looking to sneak a few beers may also be at play here. Fires (and the ash from them), plus a high degree of foot traffic, mean that it's going to be a tough spot for plant life to thrive. That may explain why it's bare now, but that doesn't explain why people noticed it 120 years ago.