FACT CHECK: Does this bicycle, engulfed by a tree trunk belong to a child soldier? Find out the facts…

Environment International Misleading

The interaction between human and nature is inevitable. Sometimes, this interaction leads to disastrous situations. However, sometimes it creates attractive co-existence. Here is our fact check into such a scene into the story behind the viral image of a bike tree.

Social Media Notes

A Facebook user added a photo of bike stuck into a fully grown tree with the following narration.

“A tree that grew around an abandoned bike that was left many years ago. Vashon Island, Washington State. Legend has it, in 1914, a boy left his bike chained to a tree when he went away to war. He never returned, leaving the tree no choice but to grow around the bike. Incredible that this bike has been there for 99 years now.”

Facebook | Archived

Due to the curious nature of this post, we decided to do an investigation related to this.

Fact Check

We detected a few basic errors in the facts of this social media post as the USA was not involved with World War I in 1914 as mentioned in this post. They joined World War I in 1917 despite the fact that it started in 1914.

Britannica | Archived history.state.gov | history.com

When we did a reverse image search about the viral social media image and found that the bike tree is actually located in Vashon Island, United States, as claimed in social media posts.

ABC NEWS reported the story back in 2013 as seen below.

abcNEWS| Archived

According to this story, in 1954, a widower named Helen Puz received the bicycle as a gift from someone in the community. She gifted it to her 8-year-old son Don. However, Don didn’t like it as it was a bicycle what girls were riding usually. So, he abandoned the bicycle in the woods and told his mother that he had lost it.  Mother also didn’t care too much about the incident. After decades she learnt from a local newspaper article that someone had found a bicycle five feet high in air and it embedded in a tree.

Don, who was 8 years old when he had abandoned the bicycle in the wood, was able to identify the bicycle which entangled and engulfed in a tree despite the fact he saw the bicycle after few decades according to a local newspaper.

Web | Archived 

Image of Don Puz posing with the bike can be viewed in his Facebook account as well.

Facebook | Archived

Tourists from all over the world come to see this tree in the Vashon Island and more details about this can be found here.Archived.

The bicycle is too old now. And some parts of the bicycle have vanished and deteriorated. However, tourists continue to visit this unique sight and take photos. There is a question as to how did the sapling tolerate the heavy weight of the bicycle and grow with it? Professor of Biology, Elizabeth Van Volkenburgh, University of Washington explained to Vintage News that most likely, when the tree was young and strong, someone might hang the bicycle on the tree. More details about this can be taken from here.Archived.

Also here is an article with images of similar incidents where different objects have grown with and around trees.

Here is the Sinhala version of this fact check done by our Factcrescendo Sinhala Team

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According to our investigation, we found out that while the location of the bike tree was correctly mentioned as Vashon Island, Washington many of the other facts mentioned in the viral posts were not factual.

The bicycle doesn’t have any connection with a child soldier or to the year 1914. This bicycle was abandoned in the woods at Vashon Island, Washington by Don Puz, an 8-year-old child in the 1950’s as it was a ladies bicycle which he didn’t like.  After a few decades, both he and his mother, Helena Puz had identified the bicycle.


Title:FACT CHECK: Does this bicycle, engulfed by a tree trunk belong to a child soldier? Find out the facts…

Fact Check By: Kalana Krishantha 

Result: Misleading

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