In 1997 it was decided to cut down a tree, locally known as the stunted tree due to its shape, that was planted by a member of the Dupree family in the late 40’s. The tree had always been an odd shape, and as time passed it started to grow over the pathways surrounding the tomb.
A crew was dispatched to cut down the tree and then grind the stump out. On arrival the few dog walkers were warned off, the area laid out with cones, and the work began. Or it would have.
The crew started to clear away the branches that had fallen, and noticed a pungent smell as they raked away the detritus. There was also a dark thick liquid under the tree and this was initially thought to be sap, however it was slightly more than that as later analysis would prove.
Initially thinking some dead animal had rotted under the drooping branches, they carried on raking. When they pulled out bones that were obviously a hand, they decided to call it a day. Being dutiful employees they contacted the local council, stayed on site until someone in authority arrived, and left. All except one. Martin, Mad Martin.
I recorded a conversation with Martin last year.We met in a cafe, on the other side of town, I bought him breakfast, and eased my way into the a conversation about the tomb, the day he was an apprentice on the crew sent to remove the stunted tree, how he acquired the Book of the Stilled Tongue, and his slow descent into madness.
Much of the conversation was rambling. Some words were partially mumbled through mouthfuls of food, being starving will do this to a persons speech, however Martin was forthcoming about his involvement with the Tomb.
On the 7th January 1997, Martin was part of the crew tasked with the removal. The team supervisor, Phil Williams, took pleasure in telling them the local folklore surrounding the tree and the Tomb. Martin freely admitted to being swept in by the the story.
That crisp January morning, St Winebald Day, the crew arrived, parked up and after a shared thermos of tea, started work. Martin being the ‘boy’ was given the job of getting the area coned off. They began raking out the leaves from under the drooping tree limbs, so they could get a good look at the trunk and cut it as low to the ground as possible.
Once the first rake was dragged through the rotting leaves, the smell hit them. Hard. Phil Williams swore blind they had burst the guts of a dead animal under the tree, and then swore even more as the dark liquid spattered over his shoes.
After much gagging and pulling sweatshirts up to cover their mouths and noses, they resumed work. More rotting leaves and twigs were raked and piled up, although no dead animal. The dark liquid started to pool on the path way, all gave it a wide berth.
Martin was the discoverer of the skeletal hand. Stuck between the tines of his grass rake, fingers entwined in a clasp, the hand emerged as he pulled out the detritus from the base of the tree. Stained dark brown with the liquid and age, Martin thought at first it was twigs, until Phil spoke, pointing ‘Fuck me son, that’s a fucking hand’.
Work stopped, Martin left the rake where he dropped it. Phil radioed the news of the find back into base and they leant against the van, awaiting the arrival of the police. Martin, thought there may have been a grave under the tree that had been forgotten about, and the tree roots had forced the remains up to the surface. There was no grave there, forgotten or otherwise.
The police duly arrived, and the Phil sent the crew home. Martin stayed to observe. The hand was bagged and tagged and the liquid was sampled too, after Martin pointed it out.