St. Louis resident Jim Probst caught amazing footage last week of a tree burning from the inside out. After posting that video to the internet, amateur demonologists and religious zealots flocked to the video claiming the fire was from the bowels of Hell.
Belief in demons spans millennia with the first recorded accounts originating in the religious beliefs of Semitic tribes living in the Fertile Crescent alongside the Babylonians. Superstition among our ancient ancestors or not, the belief in demons continues today in religious, occult, and paranormal communities around the world.
Last week, the ‘demon tree’ made headlines after Jim Probst of Boulevard Heights in St. Louis recorded a video of a smoldering tree. Probst was out for an early morning walk with his dog when he noticed smoke rising from the nearby Sts. Peter and Paul cemetery. Leaving his dog at home, he decided to investigate. Following the pillar of smoke, Probst eventually found the source; a massive tree being consumed by fire from the inside out. Probst stated in an interview,
What I noticed immediately, walking up to the tree, was all the bark that was everywhere. It was as if the tree had exploded…
The area had experienced a severe thunderstorm the night before, and the tree was struck by lightning. The immense heat of a lightning strike forces all the moisture inside the tree into an immediate boil, and the fast buildup of steam caused an outward explosion of bark and wood. Probst says the wind was very cool and strong that night, so the circulating air and temperature most likely kept the fire from spreading outwards, and kept it contained to the inside of the tree.
It was like stoked coals. It was smoldering, felt like a big campfire. By my own observation, I assumed that a large part of the hole hadn’t necessarily been blown out, but had been cooking since two in the morning.
Probst posted the video to a Facebook group, and media attention grew quickly. Probst was surprised by the attention his video received. However, examining the news media and Facebook comments, much of the hullabaloo circles around the paranormal, and the belief in demons.
When the video was posted to the Weather Channel’s Facebook page, comments began pouring in about how a face could be seen in the embers and flames. One comment states,
I see a face, more eerie is that it took place in a cemetery…
Other comments began popping up along a similar vein. People could see shadows moving around the tree, skulls, and even a set of eyes that followed the camera as it moved around the tree.
One commenter went so far as to say that,
Unclean spirits are everywhere. I saw it [demonic face] immediately. Great discernment because there are still people who can't and don't see it.
The tree was quickly labeled the ‘demon tree,’ and in typical internet fashion, the burning interior was obviously established to be a portal to Hell.
The internet is often a hub of strange and far out ideas that turn perfectly prosaic and natural events into a phenomenon fit for an asylum. The risk is not that the demon hunters are going to convert the rational thinkers into paranormal believers; the inherent issue is that it allows belief to propagate itself, and allows for people of like mind to continue the circle of ignorance instead of expanding into a logical world. In other words, ignorance that communes with ignorance stunts intelligence and reason. Demons may very well exist, or they may not. How the demon question relates to a lightening struck tree however is purely imaginative. The link between the two is a massive leap, a leap that requires blind faith instead of sound thinking.