Have you ever heard of The Cora Tree on the Outer Banks? Yeah, us neither until we began to learn about this absolutely wild tale of the Outer Banks’ very own witch trial! Caution to the wise, this story contains some elements of blood, death, and torture. If you’re a little squeamish, we can understand if you want to skip out on this creepy tale. Check out some of our other OBX ghost stories of the past here instead. If you’re still along for the ride, buckle up, buttercup and let’s learn about The Cora Tree on Hatteras Island.
Who Was Cora?
In the early 1700s, a woman named Cora and her baby arrived in Frisco. Not much is known about Cora’s life before her arrival on Hatteras Island. However, it has been reported she was never seen without her precious babe. Cora made a life for herself in Frisco. She built a shack for her and her baby away from the rest of the village. Cora was very quiet and kept to herself. If you’ve read or watched Where The Crawdads Sing, you know that “The Marsh Girl”, Kya, was very similar. Unfortunately, when it comes to people who just want to be to themselves and mind their own business, other people tend to think they’re up to something and are up to no good.
Keep in mind, witch trials and accusations ran rampant in the late 1600s and early 1700s in America. Rumors began to spread around Hatteras Village about who Cora was, why she was so reclusive, and why she was a single mom. Rumors ran rampant. Tales of Cora touching a cow and its milk immediately drying up to her child being born out of wedlock spread. Apparently, a boy in the village teased Cora’s child one day. Cora shot him a nasty look, and the boy suddenly fell ill and almost died. Cora also always had an abundance of fish in spite of the local fishermen never being able to catch any. All of this had to mean one thing. That coincidences happen and Cora was a woman of the woods and nature. WRONG! She obviously had to be a witch!
Enter Witch Hunter Extraordinaire: Captain Eli Blood
Captain Eli Blood and his crew arrived on Hatteras Island shortly after Cora. Eli was your quintessential, self-absorbed leader. He was a self-proclaimed defender of the people and a professional witch hunter. He gave himself extra points for being from Salem, Massachusetts. If you ask me, he gives Gilderoy Lockhart energy from Harry Potter, but I digress.
When Eli and his crew landed in Frisco, his crew decided to set up camp on the outskirts of town on the beach. Eli? He decided to set up camp in the middle of town so he could partake in the hot goss with the locals. The locals informed Eli that the terrible weather, the child and animal sickness, and the shipwrecks that happened were all Cora’s fault. It didn’t take Eli long to become suspicious that Cora was a witch. When a local man washed ashore with “666” carved into his forehead while Eli was there, it confirmed his suspicions.
Get In Loser, We’re Witch-Hunting
After Eli’s witch suspicions of Cora were confirmed, it didn’t take him long to put on his superhero cape and save the town. He had to take upon the duty to protect the people of Frisco from Cora’s witchy ways. Captain Eli Blood gathered an angry mob to storm Cora’s shack to take her and her baby against their will. Eli was from Salem. Salem, Massachusetts was the largest witch-hunting location at this time. Eli knew the tests to perform to confirm that Cora was indeed a witch.
The Witch Tests
The first test? He would cut Cora’s hair with a knife. If the hair didn’t cut, that was a telltale sign she was a witch. Her hair didn’t cut and was “stronger than wire rope” according to Eli.
The second test? Eli bound Cora’s legs and feet and threw her into the sound. If she sank, she was a normal human…but if she floated? Yep. A Witch. Take a wild guess at what happened when Cora was thrown in. Yeah, she floated like a summertime pool float.
The final test was a bit witchy if you ask me. It consisted of himself and 3 other men pricking their fingers into a bowl of water. The bowl of water was then mixed into a froth. When the froth settled, Eli and other volunteers saw the faces of Cora and Satan appear. With this last test, Cora and her baby’s fate were sealed.
With Cora failing all 3 witch tests, there was only one solution. To kill her and her baby. They had to be burned. When Eli decided to light the torch to end Cora and her baby, locals started to think “hmmm, maybe this is a bit much”. They began to protest Eli’s solution. Local, Captain Thomas Smith grabbed Eli’s arm to stop him from burning Cora and her baby at the tree. As soon as Thomas grabbed Eli’s hand, a loud clap of thunder arose.
A bolt of lightning directly hit the tree Cora and her baby were tied to. Everyone was thrown to the ground from the force of the lightning strike and their ears rang from the thunderclap. When the smoke cleared and senses were restored, the villagers noticed that Cora and the baby had disappeared. The ropes where they were once tied up were now loose. The tree was burnt and splintered from the lightning strike. The trunk of the oak tree was ripped open and a big, heart-shaped hole had been burned into the tree. The large capital letters C O R A etched in the very same spot where Cora and her baby had been tied up…
The Cora Tree Today
That very same tree stands proudly at 50175 Snug Harbor Drive in Frisco today. Resort Realty actually has homes available to rent in the subdivision where The Cora Tree stands. You can see them here.
We don’t know everything that happened in this Hatteras Island tale. What we do know? The folklore of Cora and her baby, and the oak tree that’s still standing is a wild one.
For more in-depth info on The Cora Tree, check out this amazing post by Island Free Press.