In the low, rolling hills of southern Chatham County, south of Siler City in the woods near Harper’s Crossroads, lies one of the most famous places in North Carolina and perhaps one of the most haunted places in the world.
It has been the subject of persistent local legends and lore, which frequently allege that the Devil “tramps” and haunts a barren circle of ground in which nothing is supposed to grow. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.
The Devil’s Tramping Ground is a mysterious, perfectly round and absolutely barren circle about forty feet in diameter. Not a tree, not flower, no lowly weed or even a single blade of grass will grow in the limits of the circle. Seed sowed there refuse to sprout. Any vegetation transplanted there will wither and die.
And, what’s even more strange, any object left in the circle at dusk will have been violently moved outside its bounds by dawn.
Dogs tuck their tails between their legs and whimper when brought near and will dig their heels into the sand, refusing to be brought into the circle.
According to local legend, men have tried to spend the night in the circle, but no one has succeeded and remained sane. Something they see on their vigils drives them out of their wits, never to recover. For the Devil’s Tramping Ground has earned its name. It’s said that here that the Devil himself walks at night.
In his Tramping Ground, the Devil spends his nights pacing around and around in a circle and turning his bitter mind towards ways to bring human souls to damnation.
The scorching heat of his cloven hoofprints is what kills the vegetation and has rendered the soil barren. He angrily brushes aside anything left in his path, his great strength easily able to toss aside the heaviest objects.
And, because when he walks in his private spot on earth, the devil drops the illusions with which he disguises himself when he appears to men, and in his natural state, the face of this fallen angel is so horrible that no man can see it and remain sane.
The mystery of the Devil’s Tramping Ground has been known since Chatham County was founded shortly before the War for Independence. From generation to generation, the story has been passed down, and despite efforts by scientists to explain this barren patch of land, no satisfying explanation has ever been given.
So if you’re driving on State Road 1100 in rural Chatham County at night and you pass a curve in the road where there’s a narrow path leading off into the woods, if you see a shadowy figure moving between the trees it’s best to drive away as fast as you can and never look back until you’re long, long gone.