Thursday, July 14, 2011

Freakish True Ghost Story-The Bell Witch


The Bell Witch or Bell Witch Haunting is a poltergeist legend from Southern United States folklore, involving the Bell family of Adams, Tennessee. The legend is the basis of the films An American Haunting (2006) and The Bell Witch Haunting (2004). It is also said that the Bell Witch may have inspired the film The Blair Witch Project'.

According to the legend, the first reported manifestation of the haunting occurred in 1817 when John William Bell Sr. encountered a strange animal in a cornfield on his large farm in Robertson County, on the Red River, near Adams, Tennessee. The animal, described as having the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit, was shot at by John William Bell Sr. At a later date the Bell family claimed to hear knocking and gnawing noises on the outside walls of their house. These noises eventually moved inside the dwelling. Some time after the noises began Betsy Bell, the family's youngest daughter, claimed to have been assaulted by an invisible force. The legend continues with the poltergeist gaining strength, moving various objects about, speaking and having conversations with the family and guests. It identified itself as "Kate Batts", a neighbor of the Bell's that John had apparently upset in some way.
Bell Sr., later in life, suffered frequent facial seizures, often rendering him speechless (although Bell's Palsy is named after a different Bell). He died on December 20, 1820. A small vial containing a very powerful poison he allegedly ingested was found near his body. When some of the contents were force-fed to the family cat, the animal died. The vial was then disposed of in the fireplace.

Pat Fitzhugh's retelling of the Bell Witch legend concludes with a statement to the effect that some people believe that the spirit returned in 1935, the year when the witch claimed it would return ("one hundred years and seven" past 1828), and took up residence on the former Bell property. Other sources say that 1935 brought nothing out of the ordinary to the Bell descendants or the surrounding community.

The earliest written account is at page 833 in the Goodspeed History of Tennessee, published in 1887 by Goodspeed Publishing. The most famous account is recorded in the 1894 book An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch of Tennessee by Martin Van Buren Ingram. A reprint of this book (most of the copies of the original book with a white cover have disappeared), which has come to be called the "Red Book" is similary hard to find. Also, in the middle 1960s a faithful reproduction of the Ingram book in paperback with a white cover and gold printing was sold by subscription to direct descendants of John Bell, Sr. This book too is almost impossible to find today. The original book by Ingram, as well as all the reprints, cites the earlier (though no known copies exist) Richard William Bell's Diary: "Our Family Trouble". Richard Williams Bell lists several witnesses, including General (later President) Andrew Jackson. However, no mention of the Bell Witch was ever made by Jackson in any of his letters, journals or papers. What is known as the Black Book was written much later and it re-told a lot about the Bell Witch, from Ingram's book. It was published in 1934 by Dr. Charles Bailey Bell, great-grandson of John Bell.

Thirteen Tennessee Ghosts and Jeffrey by Kathryn Tucker Windham includes the story of the Bell Witch.
The Guidebook for Tennessee, published by the Works Project Administration in 1939, also contains an account that differs from Ingram's on pages 392–393.

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