He will give his angels charge of you,
To guard you in all your ways.
петък, 2 януари 2015 г.
The famous pre–American Civil War haunt-
ing of the Bell Witch involved poltergeist phenomena and
spectral creatures, and, according to legend, tormented
one man to death. The haunting excited the curiosity
of many people, including General Andrew Jackson. The
story exists in several versions, three of which are pre-
sented here. The fi rst is probably closest to the true anec-
dote, as it allegedly is based on the diary of one of the
Bell sons, Richard Williams Bell. The third version has a
modern sequel. The different versions demonstrate how
stories change in retelling.Legend #1
John Bell was a prosperous farmer who owned 1,000
acres near Adams, Tennessee. He had a beautiful wife,
Lucy, and eight children. They were all devout Baptists
and model citizens. In 1817, their lives inexplicably were
turned upside down. The fi rst signs were spectral crea-
tures witnessed by Bell. One was a large, doglike thing
that vanished when Bell fi red upon it with his shotgun.
The other was a large, turkeylike bird.
Following the appearances of the creatures, the home
was plagued with knockings,
, and scrapings on
the outside doors and windows. Sounds that resembled
giant rats gnawing the bedposts and giant dogs clawing
the fl oor were heard. These phenomena went on for about
a year, and then covers began to be pulled off beds and
invisible hands slapped faces and pulled hair. Particularly
tormented was the Bells’ 12-year-old daughter, Betsy, who
was slapped, pinched, bruised and stuck with pins. Betsy
was so affl icted that at fi rst the family suspected her of
perpetrating a trick on everyone else.
At fi rst Bell was determined to keep the haunting a
secret, but it became intolerable for the family. Bell at last
ded in a neighbor, James Johnson, who discovered
the offending spirit seemed to be intelligent, for it would
temporarily desist when beseeched in the name of the
Lord. Johnson advised forming an investigatory commit-
tee. With that, word went out, and the Bell home became
the object of great curiosity.
The spirit began to whistle and then to speak. It gave
various identities. It said it was “a Spirit from everywhere,
Heaven, Hell, the Earth. I’m in the air, in houses, any
place at any time. I’ve been created millions of years. That
is all I will tell you.” On another occasion, it said it was
the spirit of a person who had been buried in the woods
nearby, and whose grave had been disturbed. The bones
had been scattered about, and a tooth was under the Bells’
house. The spirit was looking for the tooth. The Bells
searched, but no tooth was found.
On yet another occasion, the spirit said it was the
ghost of an immigrant who had died and left a hidden for-
tune; it had returned to reveal to Betsy the location of the
money. The spirit gave a location, and the Bell boys dug
for hours without fi
nding a thing. That night, the spirit
laughed over the joke.
The townspeople came to think of the spirit as a witch.
The spirit agreed, saying, “I am nothing more nor less
than old Kate Batts’ witch, and I’m determined to haunt
and torment old Jack Bell as long as he lives.” Kate Batts
was a hefty local woman married to an invalid. She had
once been dissatisfi ed with business dealings with Bell
and had threatened to get even. She was still alive. From
then on, the spirit was called “Kate.”
“Kate” made almost daily appearances at the Bell home
and visited everyone else in Robertson County as well,
abusing them with her caustic tongue. She made predic-
tions about the future, including the Civil War and the
two World Wars of the 20th century. But her primary pur-
poses were to torment “Old Jack,” as she called Bell, and
to torment Betsy in order to dissuade her from marrying
a young man named Josh Gardner. “Kate” did not disturb
Lucy Bell, nor Betsy’s favorite little brother, John Jr.
“Kate” grew so famous that General Andrew Jackson
decided to visit and bring along a “witch layer,” a profes-
sional exorcist. Just outside the Bell farm, however, the Jack-
son carriage suddenly stopped and the wheels refused to
budge. “Kate’s” voice then manifested, promising to appear
that night in the home. The carriage became unstuck.
Later in the evening, “Kate” manifested with phantom
footsteps and a voice. The witch layer attempted to shoot
her with a silver bullet (see
) but was slapped about
and frightened out of the house.
John Bell fell victim to repeated bouts of illness, for
which “Kate” claimed responsibility. While he lay sick in
bed, twitching and jerking, the spirit cursed him continu-
ously. Finally, the ordeals wore him down and he told one
son that the end was coming. He went to bed and never
His family found him in a stupor on the morning of
December 19, 1820. A strange bottle was found in the
medicine cabinet. When the liquid was administered to
a cat, the animal went into convulsions and died. “Kate”
exultantly declared that she had poisoned him with the
liquid while he was asleep. Bell died the next morning.
“Kate” shrieked in triumph.
The torments of Betsy began to diminish, encourag-
ing her to announce her engagement to Gardner. That
brought on a renewed attack from “Kate.” In despair,
Betsy broke the engagement and married another man,
“Kate” announced to the Bell family that she would
leave for seven years and marked her pledge with a can-
nonball-like object that rolled down the chimney and burst
like smoke. As promised, “Kate” returned seven years later
and plagued Mrs. Bell and two sons with scratchings and
the pulling off of bed covers. They kept the return a secret,
and the torments stopped after two weeks.
Before “Kate” left a second time, she visited the home
of John Jr. and pledged to return in 107 years—in 1935—
when she would bring bad tidings for Tennessee and the
entire country. The year came and went without incident,
but the area around the Bell farm is said to be haunted still.
The Bells never understood why they were singled out
for such an unearthly attack. It is not known what the
real Kate Batts had to say about it. Theories have been
advanced that Betsy may have been a poltergeist agent.
She was the right age, around puberty, and her strict Bap-
tist upbringing may have caused repressed sexual guilt.
She also may have had subconscious resentment toward
her father. However, there is no evidence that she was
unhappy or repressed. And, while the spirit did plague
Betsy the most, it roved all over Robertson County and
meddled in everyone’s affairs. Perhaps the intense resent-
ment and hatred bottled up in the real Kate Batts created
that took on a life of its own.
John Bell was a wealthy planter in North Carolina who
hired a foul-tempered overseer. The overseer abused the
slaves and, some say, had an eye for Bell’s oldest daughter,
Mary. Bell and the overseer had many clashes, which esca-
lated until Bell lost control and shot the overseer to death.
At his trial, Bell pleaded self-defense and was acquitted.
After that, however, the Bell fortunes began to turn
sour. The crops failed and he had to sell his slaves. Soon,
he was broke. He sold his land and moved his family to
Tennessee to start over again on a small piece of land near
the home of Andrew Jackson.
Strange things began to happen in the Tennessee
home. The children awoke in their beds each morning
to fi nd their hair tangled and their nightclothes snatched
off. An old black woman told Bell his family was haunted
by a witch, the “ha’nt,” or ghost, of the dead supervisor.
She offered to spend a night under the children’s bed to
nd out for sure. In the middle of the night, the Bells
were awakened by a horrible scream. They found the
woman in a panic, claiming the ha’nt had pinched her,
stuck her with pins, snatched the kinks out of her hair
and whipped her.
The terrifi ed Bells told their neighbors, including Jack-
son, who did not believe in ha’nts. As soon as he said so,
he was struck by an invisible force which knocked his hat
off his head and sent it fl
ying. Mary, meanwhile, began
to suffer nightmares in which a cold and heavy weight
pressed the breath and life out of her chest. (See
.) The ha’nt appeared in her mirror and spoke to her.
These phenomena continued as Mary grew older. The
ha’nt scared off all her boyfriends so that she received
no marriage proposals. One night, the ha’nt spoke to the
Bells from the andiron in the fi replace, telling them that
he was in love with Mary and wanted to marry her. The
Bells refused. The next day, Mary began to droop about,
and her condition worsened over time until she was so
ill she could not get out of bed. For a month she lay in
bed, not responding to the ministrations of a doctor. One
night, as her mother held her hand, she sat up suddenly
and said she saw the ha’nt, and thought she was going to
love him. Her face lit up with happiness and she died.
On the day of her burial, a great black bird with a bell
tied around its neck appeared in the sky over the funeral
procession. The bell tolled the most mournful note ever
heard. The bird continued to circle over the mourners
until Mary’s grave was covered, and then fl ew away, the
sad tolls of the bell lingering in the air.
In the early 1800s, John Bell of North Carolina became
engaged to a widow, Kate Batts. He soon discovered she
had a nasty temper. He tried to break the engagement, but
she refused to allow it. One day, she fell on his farm, hit
her head on a bucket and knocked herself unconscious.
Bell thought she was dead, and he dragged her body into
the root cellar and locked the door.
She awoke the next night, however, and began moan-
ing and calling to John for food and help. He ignored her
pleas, and two days later, she died. John surreptitiously
took her body away and left it on her own farm, where it
was found by a neighbor.
Happy to be rid of Batts, Bell married another woman
and moved to a farm near Adams, Tennessee, north of
Nashville. His happiness was shortlived, for soon after
their arrival, horrible hauntings began. A huge black bird
ery eyes and a terrible stench dive-bombed him
while he was plowing his fi eld. At home, strange noises
were heard, and his three sons (presumably by a previous
marriage) were awakened by what sounded like a giant
rat gnawing at their bedposts.
The poltergeist phenomena were followed by a disem-
bodied spirit, whom the family called “Kate Batts’ witch,”
and who exhibited great hatred for Bell. One morning in
1820, the spirit announced that she had poisoned Bell
during the night. He was, in fact, dead.
The family was haunted by the Bell Witch for one
more year. Then, after a seven-year absence, the spirit
returned again to torment the family with knockings,
scratchings and the like. Once again, the spirit left and
swore to return.
The Bell Witch hauntings did not end with the death of
John Bell in 1820, or the end of his family. After the death
of Lucy Bell, the land was divided, and Joel Bell inherited
the piece on the Red River. Joel eventually sold the land
to his brother, Richard, who had the farm adjoining John
Bell’s property. Family members and visitors continued
to experience odd phenomena, such as the mysterious
breakage of objects, howling noises outside the house,
and bed linens being torn off the beds.
The property continued to be plagued by strange
noises, odd shapes, and unexplained
into the present. In 1969, one of John Bell’s descendants
died of a mysterious malady that struck suddenly, and
resembled the malady described as having struck Bell
himself. It appeared to be a nerve disorder that caused
the woman’s throat and mouth to swell and stiffen and
impaired her ability to talk and swallow.
In 1964, the farm was bought by Bill and Frances
Eden. They lived in the old farmhouse, but soon grew
weary of the noises, apparitions, and other phenomena.
Eden tore the house down and built a new one in its
place—but the phenomena continued, suggesting that
“place energy” might be a factor in the haunting. One
eerie phenomenon was a tall fi gure in a long black cloak
with the collar turned up who would walk up and down
the road. Eden could not tell if it was male or female. The
couple frequently heard voices, the sounds of a woman
screaming, and raspy breathing.
The Edens popularized the cave as a tourist attraction.
After Bill Eden died at home, Frances moved, and
the farm sat vacant for a few years. It was purchased in
1993 by Walter and Chris Kirby, tobacco farmers. They
reopened the cave for tourism. Immediately upon moving
in, they experienced haunting phenomena, which contin-
ues to the present.
In 2006, the fi
An American Haunting
The fi lm was based on a novelization of the Bell Witch
The Bell Witch: An American Haunting,
Monahan. The fi lm portrays a fi
ctional confl ict between
John Bell and Kate Batts and emphasizes the affl
Betsy as more demonic in nature.
The Bell Witch Cave
The cave is located near the farmhouse in the center of
a bluff overlooking the river. A disturbed Indian burial
mound lies on the bluff above the entrance. The cave is
small, but extends deep into the bluff. Due to the nar-
rowness of the passage, visitors can enter only about 500
feet of the cave. In rainy weather, a stream issues from the
Visitors have recorded
(EVP) inside the cave. A bizarre photographic effect
occurs at the entrance: many photographs do not come
out at all, while others have missing people and objects
or show objects not present when the photographs were
taken. Mists also show up on photographs.
A Native American woman’s bones were discovered
during construction work on a nearby road and were
interred in the cave. The bones were stolen. Since then,
bad luck seems to happen to people who take anything
from the cave, such as a stone.
Glowing balls of light have been photographed inside
the cave, and the apparition of a woman has been seen
oating along the passage.
tigator Bob Schott fi lmed what appears to be an interdi-
Explanations for the Bell Witch
From the beginning of the case, skeptics suspected the
haunting was a trick intended to dupe people out of
money. Evidence does not support this theory —too many
people, literally hundreds of them, have witnessed phe-
nomena. Given the unhappy events that took place, it is
not likely that a family would engineer them deliberately.
called the Bell Witch
“the greatest American ghost story” and believed it could
be explained naturally as poltergeist activity generated by
the youthful Betsy, a likely focal point. But other ghost
nd that explanation unsatisfactory.
Batts’s eccentricity made people fearful of her, and
rumors spread that she was a witch. But was she respon-
sible for the spirit that plagued the Bell family? Batts was
an outsider who did not get along well with others. She
had the bizarre habit of asking every woman she met for a
brass pin. She never explained why, and people evidently
were too afraid to ask. However, it was well known that
witches used pins and other personal items in their spell-
casting, and so many assumed that Batts was collecting
material for dark purposes. She was said to bewitch but-
ter so that it would not churn. Batts also alienated people
with her conceit. She considered herself above others and
thought she was entitled to great social privileges.
Nonetheless, Batts was a devout Christian and made
a great show of her faith. When word reached her that
the spirit plaguing the Bell family identifi ed itself as “the
witch of Kate Batts,” she was furious. She vowed to legally
prosecute whoever was spreading this vicious rumor—but
of course no person was ever found, for the source was
the spirit itself.
The identity of the spirit remains unknown to this
day. The spirit said it was a Native American whose burial
rest had been disturbed. The spirit also has been associ-
ated with a woman who was buried in North Carolina,
but without compelling evidence. Another theory holds that the spirit was a poltergeist riled up by the animosity
between Bell and Batts, and exacerbated by the budding
sexual energy of the young Betsy. Still others think that
Batts was indeed a witch who cursed the Bell family with
a nasty spirit.
Beliefs about Batts being a witch followed her to her
grave. She died after Bell, and also long after the haunting
phenomena ceased. But no one would sit the night with
her corpse, which was the custom at the time. Finally a
woman volunteered to do so, if several other women sat
with her. The group claimed they were plagued by black
cats and menacing
all night long.
Troy Taylor calls the Bell property and cave “one of the
most haunted locations in America.” Taylor has proposed
that the witch really was a nonhuman entity that was
activated and released by the disturbance of the Indian
burial mound when it was opened and desecrated long
ago by two boys. The disturbance created an interdimen-
sional portal or doorway through which the spirit was
able to become active in the physical world. It probably
was ancient in nature, and at fi rst took forms it was famil-
iar with—a black dog and a black bird. It then learned
to speak. It was unhappy, perhaps even malevolent. The
spirit may still move in and out of the portal, through the