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The Phantom Peace Tree

First Pictures of Peace Tree Being Planted

This is a picture taken by Nick Tighe from The Ursinus Weekly dating to October 24, 1969 during the Peace Tree planting ceremony, but no location is mentioned. Where can it be?

What makes a tree important to the myths and legends that surround a place? What is behind the symbol of the tree and the time that the tree is connected to? What makes this tree so important and why was it’s memory lost?

The story begins when the tree was planted on October 15th, 1969. The Ursinus Weekly published an article on October 24th, 1969 with pictures that spoke on the "tree of life" and how it was part of a moratorium for the Vietnam War [1]. The meaning behind the tree of life was that when anyone saw it, they would stop and remember that time of imbalance and pain that the war brought to our society.

Within cultures, trees have different meanings to folklore, mythology, and legends. Each one (while quite different) shows the strength that trees carry within myths and legends. In African American culture, the act of hanging bottles in trees wards off evil spirits [2]. The trees are a symbol of protection and strength. The reason for trees being involved in mythology is obvious and the idea of a missing tree denotes that the area could be suffering from a loss of strength and safety, which could be where the legend was born from.

When bottles that are hung in the trees sway in the wind, it is said that the sounds created are the spirits moaning [3]. Bottle are used in tree to capture spirits that may be harmful or frightening, while keeping them near us in the tree [4]. One thing one could draw from this connection is that though people fear myths and legends connected to ghosts, they are fascinated by them so they keep them close so that the myth can live on. People need myths in their lives to encourage their imaginations and dreams. Myths are thought of as stories that may have some truth, but are regarded as fairy tales that are realistic but supernatural at the same time. Bottles in trees symbolize the "unseen forces mov[ing] in the world" which are "arresting, beautiful, and bizarre" [5]. The Peace Tree is also an "unseen force" that was haunting, heavy and thought-provoking, which left a void on Ursinus Campus and it's power rippled past campus all throughout the world, even if it was for a short time that the tree was remembered.

1. Schranger, Eileen. "Ursinus Students, Faculty Observe Nationwide Vietnam Moratorium; Hundreds Attend Night Procession." The Ursinus Weekly (Collegeville), October 24, 1969: 1,6.

2. Diane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, and Jeannie Banks Thomas, Haunting Experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2007): 1.

3. Goldstein, Grider, and ThomasHaunting experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore: 1.

4. Goldstein, Grider, and Thomas, Haunting experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore: 2.

5. Goldstein, Grider, and Thomas, Haunting experiences: Ghosts in Contemporary Folklore: 2.