At Felons Oak, on the edge of Langridge Wood, a mammoth oak tree had the same grisly function as above Nether Stowey. Felons sentenced to death were hung in the tree on a particularly strong rope and left there to die. They remained suspended, as an example, until the rope broke and their bodies fell to the track.
In Coleridge's day, Bridgwater Assizes was pursuing a 'zero tolerance' policy towards what was considered the rampant lawlessness in the area. Petty thieves were whipped and even deported, while horse-stealers were sentenced to death.
Long-term suspension of a decomposing corpse was used as a grim deterrent, with the public encouraged to participate in the ritual. There are records of group executions at Ilchester Gaol being celebrated with rowdy 'Hanging Fairs'.
Locals claimed that dark powers enveloped Felons Oak as a result of its gruesome history, and if you visited after nightfall your own neck would start to tingle ominously. When the oak was finally felled, after standing there for more than 300 years, the rumour was that if you put your ear to its stump you would hear the rattle of chains.