It all started with the Bell family who lived in Robertson County, Tennessee in the early 19th century. A man named John Bell Sr. and his family were plagued by a supernatural entity that was invisible and had the capabilities to speak and shapeshift. Some claimed the being could be in more than one place at once or was able to reach its destination with superspeed.
The legend came to light with a book by Martin Van Buren Ingram called, ‘An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch.‘ In a literary story, Ingram goes into great detail about the origins of who this witch was and about the Bell family. He explains that the entity was a poltergeist named Kate, as it was said to have named itself ‘Old Kate Batts’ witch’ as it apparently would respond well to it.
The hauntings started in 1817 after John Bell spotted an odd figure that resembled a dog and in response, he shot at it only for it to vanish before him. His children then began seeing strange creatures or entities. His son Drew saw a large unknown bird perched on a tree and observed it until it flew away, while his daughter studied a little girl in a green dress swinging from an oak tree branch. A slave of the Bell family claimed to have been followed by a large, black dog whenever he would visit his wife in the evenings. Then the activity migrated into the Bell home, starting with knocking on the walls and doors along with the sounds of gnawing on their beds, chains being dragged across the floor, and/or hearing unseen dogs fighting. At the time of these events, John Bell developed a random loss of muscle function in his mouth (paralysis). Activity increased and became more physical when the sheets of the children’s beds were being pulled off, they were getting scratched, and their hair started getting pulled. But of the children, Betsy received the worst of the harm as she was also getting stuck with pins, slapped, and pinched.
Desperate to seek help, they turned a family friend by the name of James Johnston. He spent the night at the Bell family home and was awoken by identical experiences. James declared that this force was a spirit like it talked about in the Bible.
It didn’t take long for word about the haunting phenomena to spread like wildfire, attracting visitors who wanted to see the Bell Witch for themselves. The entity would ask them who they were and what they wanted and stated that it was a spirit who was previously happy but had been disturbed. It sent John Bell and Bennet Porter on a hunt for treasure after explaining that its origin was intertwined with the disturbance of a Native American mound that was on the property. The apparition would reportedly carry and enjoy conversation about religion as it recited two sermons – word-for-word – from the Bible. It also indulged in gossip about other households and would leave from time to time to visit them. The spirit would show kindness toward John Bell’s wife, Lucy – it would sing to her and provide her with fresh fruits. And contrary to the respect it had for John Bell, Jr., it expressed it’s want to kill John Bell, Sr. through threats, pain, and suffering, and/or curses.
The legend takes a darker turn as the witch kept her promise and poisoned John Bell, killing him. The family’s mourning was then continuously interrupted by the witch singing songs about drinking alcohol. Seven years later after the witch promised to leave the Bell family, it returned to taunt Lucy and her sons (Richard and Joel) with the same paranormal occurrences as before. But after they denied it attention, the entity fled once again.
The Bell Witch Cave is located near where the Bell Farm used to stand as it once belonged to them. Today, it is privately owned but tours are offered for interested visitors in the summer and in October.
Another piece of the Bell Witch legend involved a young Betsy Bell and a group of her friends heading inside of the cave to wonder and explore. One of the boys crawled into a hole, becoming stuck. An unfamiliar voice said it was going to get him out, followed by him getting dragged out of the hole by his feet. The Bell Witch then gave them a lecture – though still invisible – about dangerous cave exploring.
Whether or not the legend of the Bell Witch was true or a piece of pure fiction, it became exceedingly popular, ringing in visitors and paranormal investigators. The Ghost Adventures investigated the location and a TV series was based on the legend, called Cursed: The Bell Witch premiered 2015.
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Photo by Martin Van Buren Ingram – ‘An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch‘
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