400 rednecks shoot guns to scare away the tree witches [insane footage]

In Cherryville North Carolina, somehow this is legal. Watch how many of them hurt themselves.


“Supposedly all the guns firing scared off the witches, out of the trees, and got rid of the bad things and brought in the good for the next year,” said Judy Houser.

Look at how unbelievably unsafe this is. Where the hell are the police? These people do not know how to fire their guns, and you see several of them get injured. Look how they hold their weapons!

This went on for 18 hours, starting on midnight (technically this was January 2nd. The last shot is supposed to be fired in about at 6:30PM.)

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, TL;DR for the rest of this post. But it’s totally worth it.

These guys have a website

But as you start to dig deeper into this concept it just gets worse. A lot worse.

Via the Cherryville Shooters themselves:

The history of the Cherryville New Years Shooters basically can go back thousands of years. The “Chant” and producing loud noise is a ritual that has been in existence since the 1300’s.

The tradition centers around the “Chant”. The origin of the “Chant” is unknown but the version that is cried today is of  Old English grammar. There is a possibility that it has been translated from other languages over the years.

Their Ridiculous ‘ancient chant’ is not ancient or a chant.

The group’s website tells a tale of an Old English chant being handed down from ‘who knows what languages’. Perhaps, thousands of years.

But look at it:

Good morning to you, sir. We wish you a happy New Year,

Great health, long life, which God may bestow

So long as you stay here below. May he bestow the house you’re in,

Where you go out and you go in. Time by moments steals away,

First the hour and then the day. Small the lost days may appear,

But they soon mount up to a year. Thus another year is gone,

And now it is no more of our own, but if it brings our promises good

As the year before the flood, but let none of us forget

It has left us much in debt, a favor from the Lord received

Since which our spirits hath been grieved. Marked by the unerring hand,

Thus in His book our record stands. Who can tell the vast amounts

Placed to each our accounts? But while you owe the debt is large,

You may plead a full discharge. But poor and selfish sinners say,

What can you to justice pay? Trembling last for life is past

And into prison you may be cast. Happy is the believing soul,

Christ for you has paid the whole. We have this New Year’s morning

Called you by your name, and disturbed you from your rest,

But we hope no harm by the same. As we ask, come tell us your desire,

And if it be your desire, our guns and pistols they shall fire.

Since we hear of no defiance, you shall hear the art of science.

When we pull trigger and powder burns, you shall hear the roaring of our guns;

Oh, daughters of righteousness, we will rise and warm our eyes

And bless our hearts, for the old year’s gone and the New Year’s come

And for good luck, we’ll fire our guns!

This is clearly not Old English. Old English is nearly indecipherable by today’s standards. Middle English takes a lot of getting used to. But what we see here is thoroughly modern English, with a few grammar quirks. Also, I don’t see anything in there about chasing demons, witches, or anything of the sort. It’s all about converting people to Christianity, and well… shooting guns.

Etymology reveals that the word ‘science’ in the modern sense of “non-arts studies” is attested from 1670s. The pistol originates in the 16th century, with the word ‘pistol’ entering English lexicon around 1570.

(Wikipedia entry on Old English)

The history of Old English can be subdivided in:

  • Prehistoric Old English (c. 450 to 650); for this period, Old English is mostly a reconstructed language as no literary witnesses survive (with the exception of limited epigraphic evidence).
  • Early Old English (ca. 650 to 900), the period of the oldest manuscript traditions, with authors such as Cædmon, Bede, Cynewulf and Aldhelm.
  • Late Old English (c. 900 to 1066), the final stage of the language leading up to the Norman conquest of England and the subsequent transition to Early Middle English.

The Old English period is followed by Middle English (12th to 15th century), Early Modern English (ca. 1480 to 1650) and finally Modern English (after 1650).

So it’s a mystery to me as to why so much age is bestowed on this chant. This chant is only being ‘cried’ by one last township from some supposed tradition that was widespread.

Guess what I found! The pre-plagiarized version of the chant.

First of all, it’s not a chant. It is a hymn. It was written by British Anglican priest John Newton who lived from 1725-1807. Newton was a slave trader, attempted military deserter, a slave dealer, and even a slave himself after being kidnapped by Africans. He wrote ‘Amazing Grace’, and was very successful in England.

He stopped participating in the slave trade in 1788, decades after becoming a priest and writing his famous hymns. He claims his Christian faith forced him to stop. He claims he wasn’t a ‘full Christian’ until this time, despite decades of fame to the contrary.

So this famous Chant Hymn is written by a Red Coat, a military deserter, and slave dealer who wasn’t even that Christian (whatever that means) until later on. It should be noted that the last few verses were not included in the ‘ancient’ chant – including a line about god moving his bowels.

Furthermore, it turns out that the last bit – the bit about guns – wasn’t in the original. I highlighted the added portions in blue text. This seems to come from around 1800-1850’s.

Remember when you were in grade school and instead of writing your own poem, you just wrote the lyrics to some song? Perhaps you changed a few words here and there, but you know the drill… This ‘ancient’ chant is like that. Except skeeter here might kill someone. This is mostly black powder, but skeeter is still operating under ‘Christian privilege’. Nobody else gets an entire day for their religion, and the police are complicit. The medics’ time and expenses are real, whether the threat is deadly or not.

**Edit: they made a music video that explains everything freaks out my cats.**


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  • papango

    Don’t be too harsh on John Newton, while is realisation that slavery was terrible came late, his writings about the conditions of the trade were very helpful to the abolitionist movement in the UK. He was one of the first people who were actually involved in the trade to set out the conditions and to do so in a way that wasn’t defensive and didn’t downplay the horror. His pamphlet was incredibly popular and his support for Wilberforce was hard for the pro-slavery lobby to refute because he had the experience to back his ideas up.

    He claimed he wasn’t ‘full Christian’ when he was a slave ship captain as a dig at the people who were using biblical references to support slavery. Since these were mostly Old Testament he was suggesting that to be ‘truly Christian’ was to follow Christ and his teachings.

    (You’ll never guess who read Bury the Chains, The British Struggle to Abolish Slavery on the beach this Christmas.)

  • NDDave

    I can see an episode of a crime drama (NCIS, etc) where someone uses this to cover up a murder.

  • papango

    I would watch that crime drama, but I would think it was unrealistic, because nobody is going to be stupid enough to run an event like that. With the chanting and the shooting and the foolery. How stupid do this TV people think we are?

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM.

    There were so many violations of basic weapons safety standards that I’m surprised all of those idiots weren’t arrested for reckless endangerment of each other.

  • Paul Weaver

    The odd firing positions appear to be a misguided attempt at safety – because they are seriously over-charging those guns.

    How much do you want to bet alcohol is a prime ingredient in the festivities as well?

  • jbrock

    ‘Tis Himself,

    Yeah, that.

    From the video I suspect that most of those relics and pseudo-relics were loaded with powder and wads only, using no projectiles–i.e. the retro version of blanks.

    In which case … Uh, somebody might benefit from Googling Jon-Erik Hexum.

    Re “Old English”, that might be a misunderstanding on the part of the journalist covering the event, although I doubt it; I’ve run into enough people who insist that the King James bible is written in Old English.

  • I’m pretty sure the weapons are only loaded with a powder charge, making them just as dangerous as other types of fireworks.

  • Justin Griffith


    Good looking out on the black-powder. But still, so many of them were injured in their segment that this is obviously still a very bad idea.

    And what about the poor tree-witches!

    Also, the Old English line is repeated several times on their website (and quoted here).

  • kristi

    I grew up in Cherryville with this tradition. It was fun for me as a child to witness and many of my uncles probably went out today to carry on doing something that their grandfathers did before them. How kind and broadminded and free thinking of you to classify decent hardworking people as morons and rednecks and idiots. I know that New Years shooting is not as important as, say, organizing an athiest music festival, but it is a beloved tradition that brings people in that little town a lot of joy. The poster above is correct in saying that they use powder and caps only, making it about as dangerous as the fireworks my neighbors have been firing off for two days now. Yes sometimes fingers get singed or some hot powder causes a little burn, but the town sanctions the event so I suppose they can’t be too worried about it. Where are the cops? Probably there watching, and plenty of them are probably participating as well. Nobody seriously believes they are sacring off evil spirits, and in 18 years of seeing it done every year I’ve never heard anyone do that chant personally. So they got some of their information wrong? So fucking what? What is it to you? What does any of it mean to you and what do you think gives you the right to insult and mock them or anyone else? It that how we show how super smart and free thinking we are? By insulting and mocking people we don’t know? It never ceases to amaze me how all the snarky little athiests are always bitching about how everyone needs to tolerate them, yet they seem to have such a problem extending that tolerance to anyone else.

  • Looks like a pretty run of the mill tradition to me. Modern day Atheists and Christians alike uncritically claim Christmas to be based on a pre Christ pagan holiday, yet there is very little documentation of the anciency of any of it’s trappings proffered, and that’s just one example of a tradition not dissected. I think maybe these people just scared you with their guns!!! Which was their intent, I suspect.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    And are they shooting live ammo? If so, where do the bullets land?

    Many cities or states have laws against firing into the air because people have been killed when the bullet comes down.

  • Justin Griffith


    The thing that gives me the right to insult this? The first amendment – freedom of speech.

    The thing that gives them the right to act like fools? The same thing. You could also argue that the free exercise clause gives them ‘double right’.

    I’ll even concede that the spiteful use of ‘morons’ is more than a bit heavy-handed given that the guns are actually closer to firecrackers. It’s good to be called out 🙂


    You are speaking of police officers being complicit in allowing an 18 hour religious event to take place, at the expense of others. This not only violates the Establishment Clause, there are clearly many laws being ignored in spite of the Supremacy Clause.

    This statement is relevant but not all-encompassing:

    —In Edgar v. Mite Corporation, 457 U.S. 624 (1982), the Supreme Court ruled: “A state statute is void to the extent that it actually conflicts with a valid Federal statute.” —

    This is not allowed elsewhere. Why? Because it’s an overwhelming display of support for a religious event.

    I wear the US Flag proudly on my shoulder. I affirmed an oath to serve and defend the US Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic.

    This is how I handle domestic. I prefer to use jokes.

    That being said, thank you for the clarity on the issue. I’m slightly modifying the tone in a few spots.

  • I don’t think the bullets coming done kill people, but that may not be the only safety issue here.

  • kristi

    It isn’t a religious event. It is a relatively lighthearted tradition that I have always been told celebrates the german heratige of most of the original settlers of the town. It no more violates any clause of the constitution than a bunch of scotsmen in kilts marching down Hay street. I’m sorry that you feel like anyone who believes differently than you is a domestic enemy. Did you ever stop to think that there are far more important things to spend energy and time on than worrying about how a folksy new years tradition in a tiny little town might be somehow violating your rights? Wish I had that kind of free time.

  • Kristi, I have a question for you. What is the significance of holding the firearms in that special way?

    Also, are there bullets in the guns? Im thinking not.

    Also, are these firearms used mostly for this ceremony? Many seem specially decorated.

    Ok, that was more than one question. And I’ve got one more for now. Is there pigeon shooting in Cherryville?


  • Justin Griffith

    Kristi: You’ve always been told it celebrates German Tradition.

    That is NOT what I was just told. That is not even remotely what I found when I searched further. This is purely religious.

    Why do you think this was on January 2nd? I want you to think about it, if you don’t already know.

    I also want you to read their website, and read about their chant. You’re actively choosing not to accept it as a religious thing. It’s also demonstrably NOT about german heritage at all. If anything, it has roots in Anglican evangelism..

    I do not feel that anyone who believes differently than me is a domestic enemy. I could cite countless examples. That’s unfair.

    Did you ever stop to think that there are far more important things to spend energy and time on than worrying about how a folksy new years tradition in a tiny little town might be somehow violating your rights? Wish I had that kind of free time.

    I live every day like it’s my last. I keep getting threats along these lines, and have direct orders that the public will never ever know about.

    Part of this blog is nervous laughter, quietly hoping that my fellow foxhole atheists aren’t also receiving the heat I am.

    Fuck Cherryville, Fuck Hay street. Let me stop kidding around for once. Let me only have time to do serious shit and never EVER laugh.

    What the shit are you so uptight about if it’s just your german heritage. Would you cry if I said that your beer is over-rated? I wish I had that kind of free time.

    I actually listened to you, and even modified the words here (even leaving traces of my own ignorance in tact – I had no idea those guns were effectively firecrackers at first.)

    Look at Iceland – they are overwhelmingly not religious. But the majority of people there seriously believe in elves. It’s not hurting anyone. But it’s hilarious. Now please grow the ability to laugh at yourself, if you still feel deep connection to the tradition at Cherryville. It’s no better than elves.

  • Midnight Rambler

    Sorry Justin, but I half-agree with Kristi. Sure it’s a stupid, dangerous tradition, but it’s no different from setting off fireworks – the purpose of which, don’t forget, is to scare off evil spirits. And I didn’t get the impression that the woman in the clip believed in witches any more than the jerks who are still shooting off M80s across from my house believe in evil spirits.

    Oh, and also one person was killed and another burned down their house in my state with fireworks, so they’re not really any safer either. And that’s not counting the four inspectors who were killed when a storeroom of illegal fireworks blew up here a few months ago.

  • F

    Wow. I lurv me some fucking idiotic and excessive rituals, I do.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh

    @13 Greg, try this site http://www.bobtuley.com/shooting_straight_up.htm

    A bullet hitting the skull at 300 feet per second can do serious damage. And that’s what gravity says it will be traveling at.

    The entry path for the bullet that killed a girl in Phoenix was almost straight down. She was standing in the back yard and it entered the top of her head.

  • Nomen Nescio

    stupid and silly as this tradition certainly is, too many of y’all seem to overlook that they’re using black powder muzzle loaders. getting a bullet into those in the first place is more work and more time — more money, too, even soft lead isn’t free — than just loading a blank charge. odds are excellent that they’re using powder and wad only.

    IMNSHO they should still be firing from their shoulders. i have no clue what the silly-ass gun “holds” they’re using is all about.

  • lordshipmayhem

    “Overloading a firearm” is a phrase that “gun safety” has taken out a restraining order on. Try this stunt of overloading your weapon on any Canadian Forces range, and the safety officer would have your head on a platter. I suspect any range safety officer from any American service (Army, Air Force, Navy or Marines) would have had an identical reaction.

  • Steve

    People have been killed by wads and blanks before. Ever heard about Brandon Lee? The danger is probably far lower with muzzle loaders due to the lower energy, but blanks aren’t harmless at short ranges. There can still be stuff in the barrel that people are hit with

  • Paul Hunter

    Shooting blanks is fun!

    Overloading so much as to get heavy recoil is just plain Stupid!

  • JPlum

    Why do they think the witches are in the trees? And why would the witches be in the trees in the middle of winter? As a former witch I can say that yes, you could sometimes find me in a tree, but that was really more of a spring ritual (at least until the spring I went to the park to climb my favourite tree, as I did every spring, only to find it gone, and in its place a large circle of wood chips).

    In Canada, at least, it is illegal to shoot witches out of their trees, thank goodness.

  • Blackmoore

    Alright, can we stop getting postings about falling bullets? They’re just firing powder.

    Also, @22-Steve, Brandon lee was killed because there was a bullet lodged in the barrel from a previous take that the blank actually propelled. It wasn’t just a blank.

  • unbound

    The first thing that caught my eye was the weird way they are holding the guns. Having been raised hunting all my life (so very comfortable around guns), you’ll have a hard time convincing me that these aren’t drunken red-neck idiots passing down stupidity to their children.

    Is it relatively harmless? From the firearms perspective, I’ve seen dumber things done. As Justin points out, it is being used to sell religion…just because some parents don’t push the religious part with their kids very hard (if at all) doesn’t change what this is all about.

    Personally, I would rather be shooting off fireworks.

  • Aquaria

    I’m sorry that you feel like anyone who believes differently than you is a domestic enemy.

    You fucking liar, he said no such thing.

    Look, cupcake, when people where you live do stupid fucking things, then expect to be called fucking stupid for doing them.

    Don’t like it? Then fuck off.

    Did you ever stop to think that there are far more important things to spend energy and time on than worrying about how a folksy new years tradition in a tiny little town might be somehow violating your rights? Wish I had that kind of free time.

    Just who the fuck are you, you passive aggressive bag of dog vomit, to tell anyone what they can care about, or what their priorities have to be?

    You want to talk about fucked up stupid priorities? Look in the fucking mirror, dumbass. You’re the one who thinks it’s so all-fired important to justify a moronic scumbag tradition like this. Where are your priorities, asshole?

    Fuck off.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh, a vertically fired falling bullet will have a terminal velocity and a certain distance over which it must fall, typically (depending on various factors) to reach that velocity. Then, that’s it, it does not speed up no matter how fast it was fired upwards. That terminal velocity is not enough to kill someone or usually do much damage. It is probably about 100 mph, possibly a bit more. It would not feel good to be hit with something going that fast, but it would not likley be fatal.

    A bullet that is “falling” because it is still returning to earth having been fired up at an acute angle is not a falling bullet. It is a bullet that has been fired from a firearm and may still be going quite fast and, as well, if fired from a rifle, it may be spinning rapidly making it more dangerous. That could be fatal, and that is probably the kind of “falling bullet” that is reported now and then to kill people.

    The firearms in the video were being shot at a very low angle, really, and that could be dangerous. But, if the guns were not loaded with bullets, it wouldn’t be that much of a problem.

    And, the guns are not loaded, right? I’ve very disappointed that Kristi seems to be gone! Please come back, Kristi, and answer my questions!

  • Sam Chapman

    Sorry dude, but it’s just a harmless celebration to end the old year and welcome the new. I’ve lived in the same county or near by, all of my 48 years of life and I’ve never heard anything about the website, or witches, or of any serious injuries. (The local news always covers it.) I’m a nurse in the local hospital so I’d have certainly heard about serious injuries. And, I’ve seen patients in Cherryville when I did home health; they’re really nice, friendly people for the most part–I just never told them I was an Atheist. HaHa. Some might have brought out the guns that don’t take so long to load.

    It’s just about boys (and some girls) making lots of noise to celebrate the new year.

  • baryogenesis

    @ 25 and others have said that it’s just powder and wads being loaded. That being the case, it appears to be just flash and bang noise-making. Overloading the weapons could be a problem as can be seen at the end of the 2008 video; guns could explode. Why are they holding the rifles near the ground and not shouldering them? I haven’t fired a weapon in a number of years but the memory of the morning after shouldering a 12 gauge shotgun for a few hours…let’s just say the shoulder was really sore (but then I don’t have a lot of meat on bone). Alcohol, trying to out-bang the previous shooter…that’s what’s going on here. Religion? Meh. That whole part of the States is so christian and people are soaked in it in so many other ways…this probably hardly registers.

  • Hey Sam, can you answer my questions I asked above? Thanks.

  • Sithrazer

    Mythbusters did an episode on ‘falling bullets’, and while their methods might not always be sound they did a pretty good job in the research. Bullets that maintain a ballistic trajectory (spin-stabilized, arcing flight path) would remain lethal, but those that did not would have a far lower terminal velocity and be non-lethal.

    It is very stupid and unsafe to fire a loaded gun into the air at any angle. Even blanks can be dangerous if mishandled.

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  • Jeanene Soroa

    Your all right Harold……Gotta get good for the 2012 Extremity Games…GWS

  • Angela

    Ok, I have lived here in Cherryville for my whole life (28 years) and have followed the New Years Shooters several times. This is a tradition carried on year after year to ward off evil spirits and bring good crops for the coming year. The chant is spoken at every single stop they make, which are local residents houses and some businesses alike. Unless you have actually seen the whole thing in person you have no idea what it is really like. They shoot black powder muskets which only use black powder and a cap to make them fire. There are no bullets involved, apparently some people don’t know much about guns. We were settled by German ancestors in the 1700’s and its a tradition that has been passed on for generations. Oh and for those of you asking where the police officers are during all this, they are escorting all the guys around. As far as why they hold the muskets the way they do, its because they aren’t aiming at anything except an open area ( so why use a sight?) and secondly, you hold s musket up to your shoulder and see how many times you could shoot it. Some people on here are apparently the idiots and morons to criticize something they know nothing about. I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog so I could explain the real story behind this tradition. Oh and personally, if you have a problem with our tradition then you are more than welcome to come and tell us to our face. I don’t ridicule other peoples heritage and traditions so why don’t you just let us be. Unless we somehow are personally affecting your life, what does it matter, right? 🙂

  • Bane

    I live near Cherryville and while I am a firm believer in the right to bear arms I do have a problem with the new years shooters. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was only January 1st and 2nd but we have the great misfortune of having one of the participants living in front and behind us. If they are not actual participants then they use the proximity of the tradition to madge a lot of noise. They start in October and will shoot their bp rifles at all hours of the day and night. I am at least 200 yds from each and it makes my dots and windows rattle. They do this right next to the road and with young children nearby. I have seen an ambulance called on at least one occasion. When this jolts you awake repeatedly at 2 or 3 in the morning and scares you and your cat to death it gets to be more than a tradition, it is a nuisance. Dont try to call the police to complain as you will be told there isnt really a noise ordinance and its “just the New years shooters”, like you are the one being the problem. I know for a fact that this practice damages the guns and injures people. Ask anyone with a relative who does it, but doesn’t participate themselves, and they list off the injuries. I am all for tradition but not for using them as an excuse to engage in a public nuisance that doesn’t require three months of practice and could be accomplished using normal hunting loads rather than 2 to 4 times the powder required.