It was told to me at my initial interview with a PI team at that American culinary icon, Denny's, by a team member who was a historian and a card carrying member of the skeptics society.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
John and Malcolm were young boys, about eleven or twelve, and had been best friends for years in this small, quiet town. They were outside playing one summer night, around the hour of midnight. No, I do not know why such young boys were out playing at midnight. As you can imagine, in such a small town, at such a late hour the surrounding air was silent, save for the boys hushed voices. The silence was broken by a loud crack , which startled them. (a wizard apparating, perhaps?) The crack was described as being very loud and faithfully copied that of a bat hitting a baseball, when it is hit perfectly square and with due force, usually resulting in a home run. The sound repeated, again and again. The boys rose to investigate.
As they followed the sound they passed an eighty year old neighbor gentleman's house. He was standing on his porch looking toward the area that the noise was emanating from. "What is that, do you think?" he asked the boys. They said they didn't know but were on their way to find out.
They arrived at the back of an abandoned catholic school. There was a large, open field, the grass overgrown so much it reached an adult man's knees. There were two trees in the field and standing next to one of them was a man. He was so thin it looked as though pale skin had been draped over bones and nothing more. He wore dark, ragged pants and a white tank top, you know, the ones they used to call "wife beaters?" He was bald on the top of his head, but had long, straggly hair that brushed his shoulders. He was filthy as well. John said you could even see the grime around his fingernails. The tall grass around him was pushed down, as it is when someone treads upon such things. The man was also holding an axe, which he rose to heave into the tree.
The boys started at the man, silent, then looked at one another with that "Are you seeing what I'm seeing?," silent shock hovering between them. They continued to watch the man swing the axe, making an effort to cut down the tree. His aim was terrible as the axe rarely hit the same place twice. It was bright enough outside that they could see where the bark of the tree had been cut away, the lighter, inside of the trunk showing though.
After standing there, watching the man for an undetermined time, he finally lowered the axe and looked straight at them and smiled. It was not a friendly smile said John, it was downright creepy . Malcolm turned and ran and John, like a sheep, ran after him.
The next morning, first thing, the boys returned to the tree. The grass that had been flattened was standing straight up and the tree itself bore no marks whatsoever. The ground was examined, the tree as well, the boys running their hands over the trunk, revealing nothing.