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Nov 25

The Bell Witch Haunting

Courtesy of:  http://www.bellwitch.org/

In the early 1800s, John Bell moved his family from North Carolina to the Red River bottomland in Robertson County, Tennessee, settling in a community, Red River, which became Adams, Tennessee many years later.  Bell purchased some land and a large house for his family.  Over the next several years, he acquired more land, increasing his holdings to 328 acres, and cleared a number of fields for planting.

One day in 1817, John Bell was inspecting his corn field when he encountered a strange-looking animal sitting in the middle of a corn row. Shocked by the appearance of this animal, which had the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit, Bell shot at it several times. The animal vanished.  Bell thought nothing more about the incident, at least not until after dinner. That evening, the Bells began hearing “beating” sounds on the outside walls of their log house.

The mysterious sounds continued with increased frequency and force each night. Bell and his sons often hurried outside to catch the culprit but always returned empty-handed.  In the weeks that followed, the Bell children began waking up frightened, complaining that rats were gnawing at their bedposts. Not long after that, the children began complaining of having their bed covers pulled from them and their pillows tossed onto the floor by a seemingly invisible entity.

As time went on, the Bells began hearing faint, whispering voices, which too weak to understand but sounded like a feeble old woman singing hymns. The encounters escalated, and the Bells’ youngest daughter, Betsy, began experiencing brutal encounters with the invisible entity. It would pull her hair and slap her relentlessly, often leaving welts and hand prints on her face and body.  The disturbances, which John Bell told his family to keep a secret, eventually escalated to such a point that he decided to share his “family trouble” with his closest friend and neighbor, James Johnston.

Johnston and his wife spent the night at the Bell home, where they were subjected to the same terrifying disturbances that the Bells had experienced.  After having his bedcovers removed and being slapped repeatedly, Johnston sprang out of bed, exclaiming, “In the name of the Lord, who are you and what do you want!” There was no response, but the remainder of the night was relatively peaceful.

The entity’s voice strengthened over time to the point that it was loud and unmistakable. It sang hymns, quoted scripture, carried on intelligent conversation, and once even quoted, word-for-word, two sermons that were preached at the same time on the same day, thirteen miles apart.  Word of this supernatural phenomenon soon spread outside the settlement, even to Nashville, where then-Major General Andrew Jackson took a keen interest.

John Bell, Jr., Drewry Bell, and Jesse Bell, John Bell’s eldest sons, had fought under General Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans.  In 1819, Jackson decided to visit the Bell farm and see what all the hoopla was about.  Jackson’s entourage consisted of several men, some well-groomed horses, and a wagon.  As they approached the Bell property, the wagon stopped suddenly.  The horses couldn’t pull it.

After several minutes of cursing and trying to coax the horses into pulling the wagon, Jackson proclaimed, “By the eternal, boys! That must be the Bell Witch!”  Then, a disembodied female voice told Jackson that they could proceed and that she would see them again later that evening. They were then able to proceed across the property, up the lane, and to the Bell home where Jackson and John Bell had a long discussion about the Indians and other topics while Jackson’s entourage waited to see if the entity was going to manifest.

When one of the men claimed to be a “witch tamer.”  After several uneventful hours, he pulled out a shiny pistol and proclaimed that its silver bullet would kill any evil spirit that it came into contact with.  He went on to say that the reason nothing had happened to them was because whatever had been disturbing the Bells was “scared” of his silver bullet.

Immediately, the man screamed and began jerking his body in different directions, complaining that he was being stuck with pins and beaten severely.  A strong, swift kick to the man’s posterior region, from an invisible foot, sent him out the front door.  Angry, the entity them spoke up and announced that there was yet another “fraud” in Jackson’s party, and that he would be identified and tormented the following evening.

Now terrified, Jackson’s men begged to leave the Bell farm.  But Jackson, on the other hand, insisted on staying so that he could ascertain who the other “fraud” was.  The men eventually went outside to sleep in their tents, but continued begging Jackson to leave.  What happened next is not clear, but Jackson and his entourage were spotted in nearby Springfield early the next morning, presumably enroute to Nashville.

Bell had been experiencing episodes of twitching in his face and difficulty swallowing for almost a year, and the malady seemed to grow worse with time.  By the fall, his declining health had confined him to the house and John Bell breathed his last December 20, 1820 after slipping into a coma the day before.  Immediately after his death, the family found a small vial of unidentified liquid in the cupboard.  John Jr. gave some of it to the cat which died instantly.

The entity then spoke up, exclaiming joyfully, “I gave Ol’ Jack a big dose of that last night which fixed him!”  John Jr. quickly threw the vial into the fireplace, where it burst into a bright, bluish flame and shot up the chimney.

John Bells funeral was the largest ever held in Robertson County, Tennessee and the entity sang throughout the service and continued until the last person left the cemetery.

After his death the entity visited John Bells widow Lucy saying it would return in seven years and it did in 1828.  It spoke mostly with John Bell Jr. and talked extensively about the origins of life, Christianity and accurately predicted the Civil War.

After three weeks, the entity said farewell, and promised to return in 107 years in 1935, and the only direct descendant was Nashville physician Charles Bailey Bell.  Dr. Bell wrote a book on the Bell Witch published in 1934.   It isn’t documented whether Dr. Bell received his visit from the Bell Witch.

Source: http://www.bellwitch.org/story.htm

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