|Damaged 'Castro Tree' (Photo by Melissa Dove)|
Hurricane Nate damaged one of Camden’s spookiest landmarks when that powerful storm passed through Wilcox County in the early morning hours of October 8.
Around 6 a.m. on that Sunday morning, Wilcox County Emergency Management Director Melissa Dove was out surveying the storm damage and was among the first to discover that the old pecan tree in the Roses Express Store parking lot had been severely damaged by the storm. Dove noted that the tree was not entirely destroyed, but one large limb did fall from the tree due to the storm.
Many in the reading audience will know that this tree is the mysterious “Castro Tree,” a lonely pecan tree that has stood for decades behind the old newspaper office on Claiborne Street in downtown Camden. Anyone who has ever visited the Roses Express Store parking lot has likely noticed this large tree behind the small, white block building between Jackson’s Fried Chicken and Railroad Street.
|'Castro Tree' before Hurricane Nate.|
The late Mark Curl, who worked at the old newspaper building for years, coined the nickname for this spooky old tree. When Curl was a young man working at the newspaper in the late 70s and early 80s, he would often take breaks beneath the tree. During this time, Curl was often visited by a young man on a bicycle known as “Castro.” Castro visited Curl like clockwork, and Curl said he always looked forward to talking with Castro, who was described as being a “young, good looking” man, who was “very clean cut.”
One reason that Curl looked forward to Castro’s visits was because Castro provided the newspaper with accurate news tips about what was going on in the local criminal underworld, especially when it came to who was breaking into houses and committing other street crimes. When the newspaper followed up on Castro’s information, he proved to be “very accurate,” Curl said.
Castro’s visits with Curl beneath the tree ended one Thursday when he told Curl that he knew who’d murdered a man who’d been found dead beside Interstate Highway 65 in Butler County. Curl had already finished the paper for that week, so he told Castro to go to the police with his story, and they would meet back up a few days later to do a story on the murder for the next week’s paper.
Castro peddled away on his bicycle, headed towards the police station, and Curl never saw him again. Sometime later, Curl asked the police if Castro had talked with them about the murder, and police told Curl that no one had shared any information with them about the case. Curl had a hard time believing this, and then the story got even weirder.
Castro didn’t go to the police station that day and, to top that off, officers had no idea who Curl was talking about. Curl had a hard time believing that they didn’t know Castro because he’d rode his bicycle up and down the city’s streets for years. Police said that they’d never seen anyone fitting Castro’s description and had no idea who Curl was talking about.
After talking with the police, Curl began to realize just how little he actually knew about Castro. Curl really didn’t know who Castro was or where he’d come from. He didn’t even know Castro’s last name and had no idea how Castro knew the things he knew. Perhaps worst of all, he didn’t know where Castro had gone or what happened to him. He just vanished.
Curl seemed to think that perhaps there was something supernatural about Castro and indicated that Castro may have been some type of ghostly messenger.
In the end, I hated to hear that Hurricane Nate damaged the old “Castro Tree,” and I hope that a portion of this unusual landmark can be saved. If anyone in the reading audience knows any other stories about this tree, especially if you’ve had an unusual experience or seen anything out of the ordinary there, please let me hear from you. Also, if anyone out there has any stories they’d like to share about Castro, please let me know.