Yet another backstory from a non-Disney park, this time for a haunted swing attraction called Hex, located inside the beautiful remains of Alton Towers. This is a transcript of the preshow movie which explains the story behind the attraction, and prompts the guests to enter the newly discovered secret vault... complete with cursed branch.
Hex - The Legend of the Towers
It was on a cold Autumn night in 1821, when the thunder of hooves signalled the return of the wealthy 15th Earl of Shrewsbury back to his home, Alton Towers. As the journey neared its end, a mysterious figure suddenly appeared in the road. The Earl impatiently demanded of the driver why the carriage had stopped. With palm outstretched, an old woman pleaded with the Earl for the charity of a coin. The Earl cruelly dismissed her, and instructed his driver to head back to the Towers. Scorned, the old woman screamed a curse... for every branch of the old oak tree that fell, a member of the Earl's family would die.
Later that very same night, a ferocious storm raged and with one mighty bolt of lightning severed a single branch from the old oak tree. And true to the old woman's prophecy, a member of the Earl's family suddenly, and mysteriously, died.
Shaken by this tragedy, the arrogant Earl ordered his servants that every remaining branch of the oak tree be chained up, in an attempt to prevent further misfortune.
But the story didn't end there. Legend has it, that the Earl became so obsessed with the fallen branch, that he dragged it from the woods to the Towers, and sealed it in a secret vault. There he became locked into a furious battle of science versus the supernatural, conducting bizarre experiments in a desperate attempt to finally banish the evil power of the curse... forever.
Interesting, the chained oak really exists near to the Alton Towers theme park, with the story told in the attraction based on a real local legend of the Witch's Oak Tree in Staffordshire. Rather than an old crone, the legend tells of an old man crashing the Earl's banquet and offering to tell fortunes, only to curse the Earl when he is rebuffed. A history of the legend can be read at the Alton Towers Heritage website.
Apparently, the real reason for the chaining of the oak was that these great trees were hugely prized, but with branches liable to collapse under their own weight.