theladyinthegraveyard:                       …



one of the most famous legends of American folklore centered on the story of
the Bell family of Northwest Robertson County, Tennessee. John Bell Sr and his
family lived along the Red river, currently near the town of Adams. From 1817
to 1821 the family and the local area came under attack by an invisible entity,
known as the Bell witch. This spirit was able to talk, affect physical environment,
shapeshift, crossing long distances and being clairvoyant. One
of the main source about this legend is “ Authenticated History of the Bell
Witch” written by Martin V. Ingram. The
haunting began in 1817 when John Bell while walking in his corn field witnessed
the apparition of a strange creature. Later he described him as “ body of a dog
and head of a rabbit”. He tried fired the animal but it disappeared. Drew Bell,
John’s son, approached an unknown bird perched on the fence that flew off and
it was of an extraordinary size. The daughter, Betsy, observed a girl in a
green dress swinging from the limb of an oak tree. Dean, the servant, reported
being followed by a large dog on evenings The
family started to be disturbed by rapping on their windows of their cabin.
Later that evening, 12 year old Elizabeth “ Betsy” Bell began to complain that
there was an invisible rat gnawing on her bedpost. At midnight, the entire
family ( John and his wife Lucy, Betsy, John, Drewry, Joel and Richard) were
disturbed by having their covers jerked off their beds. Everyone heard a
strange noise, like smacking of lips ( investigators of ghost phenomenon have
noted the same sound in several investigations) and in general this sound can
be heard before a violent manifestation. When
the family arose the next morning, stones were on the floor of the front room
and furniture had been overturned. The following night Richard was awakened by
something pulling his hair so hard his head lifted from the pillow, Joel
screamed too and Betsy complained a rat was pulling her hair too. John Bell
decided it was time to ask for help so they asked to James Johnson, nearest
neighbor and friend. The tale his friend told him was really a weird one, but
James knew Bell wasn’t a drinker or a liar. Johnson witnessed Betsy receiving
several blows on her cheeks and it stopped when the man invoked Jesus Christ,
so he made two conclusions: the spirit understood English language and Betsy was
the main target of the haunting. This
haunting became famous and it thought it was caused by the ghost of Kate Batts,
an accused witch.  Each day and almost
each night the house was filled with people and somehow the ghost was able to
“feed” itself upon the energy of people. The spirit was able to venture even
outside the house: neighbors and farmers became victims of stone – throwing
attacks from the Bell witch and lights moving around the fields were seen
during nights. Spiritualists, clergymen and people tried to get the witch to
declare herself. At first her voice was a babble, then a whisper and after few
attempts, the ghost spoke in a full toned voice. Betsy was accused of
ventriloquism and a doctor examined her. He placed his hand over the girl’s mouth
and listened at her throat while the voice of the ghost was speaking and she
made no sound. So she wasn’t her to create the voice in the house. The girl
began also to suffer from seizure and fainting, sometimes falling into a trance
very similar to the one experienced by mediums. These events came before the
witch put in an appearance. The witch showed its hatred for John Bell,
declaring his days were numbered. Even before the events, the man suffered pain
in the throat, even experienced paralysis of the mouth leaving him for several
days unable to talk or eat. John
Bell’s physical pains and his daughter’s haunting persecution was no
coincidence for Dr. Nandor Fodor, Hungarian psychologist and psychic
researcher, made the observation that the problem to Bell’s tongue suggests
that he may have been keeping an awful secret that sought physical release. He
also speculated that Betsy, approaching puberty, may have undergone a shocking
sexual experience for which her father was responsible, a part of her mind, to
survive the trauma was split off and became the Bell witch. In
an occasion the witch declared itself to be the spirit of a Native American and
the family started to search for bones ( “ if my bones are all put back
together, I’ll be able to rest in peace) when the family couldn’t find bones on
the property, the spirit laughed and admitted that she was the ghost of Kate
Batts. Kate Batts however was not dead at the time and she wasn’t a witch, she
was just an eccentric old woman who had some disagreement with John Bell over
the property of lands. It
seems that inside the house not only the witch was haunting the family but also
other for nasty entities named Blackdog, Mathematics, Cypocryphy and Jerusalem
( each of them had a different voice) and there was also a strong scent of
whisky in every room in the house. The witch could produced also odd objects
out of thin air. The only one to be spared by the evil pranks was John Bell’s
wife Lucy ( or Luce). In one particular episode in which the woman was
instructed by the witch to hold out her hands, when she did, hazelnuts dropped
into her palms and when the woman told she wasn’t strong enough to break the
shells, the witch did it for her. The
witch was also responsible for the dissolution of the engagement between Betsy
and Joshua Gardner ( or Gardiner) and after this event, the spirit began to
concentrate its energy to destroy John Bell. One day he and his son were
walking and all of a sudden John Bell collapsed. His facial contortions were so
hideous his son told later that he seemed to transform in a demon. John Bell
was brought home to his bed, in grave conditions. Even during this difficult
time for him, the entity would not leave him in peace. On
19th December 1820, John Bell lapsed into a stupor. His son went to
the medicine cabinet to take his father’s prescription and found instead a
smoky vial full of a black liquid. When John Jr. demanded to know where the
vial came from, the witch replied that it placed the vial in the medicine
cabinet after giving a big dose to the dying man. In the vial there was poison.
John Bell passed away few days later. After John Bell’s death, the witch’s
attacks decreased until one night, after dinner, a large smoked ball appeared
to roll out of the chimney and a voice told to the family it would be gone for
7 years. It returned really in 1828, but the disturbances were just small
pranks. The ghost promised to come back in one hundred years and seven.

Source 1: Brad SteigerReal ghosts, restless spirits and haunted places

Source 2: Brent MonahanThe Bell witch: An American haunting

Image: drawing of the Bell house published in 1854