Gloria and her friends Sarah and Megan enjoyed riding their horses through the woods next to the riding stable. Many of the old timers at the stable warned them not to pass Black Woods at night on horseback. The haunted woods often spooked the horses - as well as the riders.One particularly beautiful night close to Halloween, the girls rode out further than they intended. The crisp leaves crunched under the horses' hooves, and the girls spent more time than usual exploring an unused trail. The sunset faded, and the girls suddenly realized they would have to pass by Black Woods in pitch darkness. The horses knew the path and picked their way carefully through the woodland trail. As they came to the fork in the trail that led left past Black Woods toward the stables or right towards the road, all three horses balked and refused to turn left.
Gloria said, "Let's dismount and walk them the last little bit. We're almost home."
"You go," Sarah said. She shivered. "I want to ride towards the road and walk on the road back to the stable."
Gloria persisted. "We're going to get in trouble if we walk the horses on the road at night. It's too dangerous. Besides, we're almost back. We just have to get through Black Woods."
Sarah and Meg had already turned their horses and headed towards the road. "Fine," Gloria fumed. "I'll go straight."
She urged her horse forward. As they rounded the last turn into Black Woods, an eerie glow suddenly lit the path in front of her. Gloria urged her trembling horse forward. As she turned the last corner through Black Woods towards the riding stable, the glow became stronger and centered on a huge, lightning-struck oak tree. On the trunk of the tree a woman's face appeared. She glowed with a white light as her lips moved.
"Tell them…," she whispered. "Tell them I'm innocent."
Gloria kicked her horse, but the horse needed no urging. He flew through the woods and stopped at the stable door trembling in fear.
The next day, one of the stable owners, Tommy, stopped by while Gloria groomed her horse. Tommy had heard that Gloria had ridden alone through Black Woods after dark, and so close to Halloween. As she curried her horse, Gloria worked up her courage and asked, "Tommy, why do people say we shouldn't go into Black Woods at night?"
"Because of the Hanging Tree," Tommy said.
"The big oak." It was a statement from Gloria, not a question.
"The very one," said Tommy.
The apparition's words echoed in Gloria's mind. "Tell them I'm innocent." She shivered.
She never rode anywhere near Black Woods or the old Hanging Tree ever again.