The Bell Witch
The Bell Witch
In 1804 a prosperous farmer, John Bell, bought land and moved his family to the lovely area that is now known as Adams, Tennessee. He became popular, being well off and a substantial land owner. In 1817 he encountered problems with a neighbor, Kate Batts, over the purchase of some slaves which resulted in bad feelings.
While hunting one day in one of his cornfields, he spied an animal the like of which he had never seen. It had the body of a dog, but the head had characteristics of a hare. He took aim and shot, but the animal escaped. When he returned home for supper, curious things started to happen.
The family heard odd noises on the outside walls of their home. Thinking it a mischievous neighbor or a small animal, they rushed out to find . . . nothing. As they retired each night, the dark of the children’s room was filled with the sound of rats gnawing their bedposts; the covers were snatched away, the pillows tossed from the bed. When the elder Bells rushed in with candles, there were no rats, only terrified children.
Days passed. Now the sound of faint whispers filled the rooms, at first too quiet to understand. Sometimes the voice sounded like an old woman mumbling, crying and singing hymns. At other times, other voices seemed to fill the room.
Some family members were ignored. John’s favorite daughter, Betsy, was treated to the worst of the tormenting. Her hair was pulled, she was pinched, and slapped, leaving bright hand prints on her face and body that lasted for days.
Becoming desperate, John Bell decided to confide in a friend and neighbor, James Johnston. The Johnstons spent the night and experienced the same ghostly happenings. What or who was this who tormented the family? It was decided that it might be Kate Batts, who had died harboring ill will towards John Bell.
Eventually the voice settled into one recognizable voice that carried on conversations, sang hymns, quoted scripture, and even seemed to develop friendly feelings towards Mrs. Bell. But the “witch” was never seen, only heard.
General Andrew Jackson, who had fought with John Jr. and Jesse Bell in the Battle of New Orleans, learned of the Bell haunting in 1819, gathered up a group of friends, and traveled from Nashville, Tennessee, in a large covered wagon to see what the witch was all about. As the wagon neared the Bell property, suddenly, on a smooth, good road, the wheels refused to turn. The group pushed and pulled, took off all the wheels to check them, but it refused to budge. Finally General Jackson proclaimed “It must be the work of the witch!”. At that moment, a disembodied female voice was herd by all to tell Jackson that he and his men could now proceed and “she” would see them later. The wheels now turned and they continued to the Bell Farm. Among Jackson’s group was one self-proclaimed “witch tamer”. Waving his pistol, he bragged he would kill the witch. He suddenly began shrieking, his body contorting, screaming he was being beaten and stuck with pins. He was released, running from the room as the ghostly voice proclaimed him to be a fraud, and another fraud would be revealed the next day. The frightened men begged General Jackson to leave, but he refused, wanting to know who the other fraud was.
That night General Jackson and his men made camp in the field next to the house. Their tents were disrupted throughout the night by the men’s covers being snatched off, they were slapped by unseen hands and tormented . At daylight they packed up and left, General Jackson saying “I’d rather fight the British in New Orleans than to have to fight the Bell Witch.”
Betsy Bell fell in love with young Joshua Gardener, a young man from a nearby farm. With John and Lucy’s blessing, they became engaged. Betsy and Joshua could not go to the river, or to the cave or the field without the spirit following them, taunting. Finally Joshua’s patience was worn thin and he broke off the engagement.
After the broken engagement the tormenting abated some although the spirit continued to threaten to kill ‘Ol Jack Bell” and continued to torment him, taking his shoes from his feet, and slapping his face.
John Bell suffered a disorder of the nervous system, and experienced seizures. In the winter of 1820, while walking to his pig sty, John Bell was struck down by an illness, possibly a stroke. He lay in bed for several weeks experiencing difficulty speaking and swallowing, until December 19, 1820. When John Bell failed to wake at the usual time, the doctor was summoned. He lay lifeless, a strange odor on his breath. John Jr. went to the medicine cupboard to retrieve John’s medicine. There he found not John’s prescribed medicine, but a strange vial of liquid. Frightened at what might be in the vial, a drop of the liquid was put on the tongue of the family cat which promptly died. The voice of the specter was jubilant, “I gave John a big dose of that last night and that fixed him.” John Jr. threw the vial in the fireplace where it flashed a large blue flame up the chimney. At John Bell’s graveside, the witch began singing joyously a cheerful song about a bottle of brandy until friends and family were forced to leave the service.
After the death of her old enemy, the witch left in 1821, saying she would return in seven years. True to her word she returned to visit John Jr. where she discussed the origin of life, Christianity and the need for spiritual reawakening. She regaled him with prophesies of the Civil War, as well as World Wars I and II, and the great Depression. John Jr. dutifully wrote down the prophesies. When she left, she promised to return in 107 years. According to the descendents, she did not make her appearance in 1935. Or, did she . . .
There is a cave on the Bell property. For many years it has been the site of much paranormal phenomenon. Ghostly lights can be seen, unexplained sounds come from deep within the cave. Strange apparitions are sometimes seen. The current owners have lights strung inside the cave and offer tours for a mere $5. a person. It is a popular attraction in Tennessee near Clarksville. But sometimes the lights in the cave do not light although they may be new bulbs. Don’t expect your cameras, flashes or camcorders to work. Many times they don’t. And if you do get them to work, look for extra things in your pictures. Usually it’s people, or sometimes animals. I’ve personally seen pictures a friend took of his daughter sitting on a picnic table outside of the cave. Behind her was a black cat , in some pictures walking on the table and in some posing for the camera. Of course, there was definitely not a cat on the table when the picture was taken.
At least . . . not one of this world.