The Bell Witch Information Page (Adams, Tennessee)

This page serves as a clearinghouse for the reader submissions I receive about The Bell Witch phenomenon. As I’m not an expert on the subject I cannot vouch for the veracity of the contents of reader submissions.

If you have anything to contribute, you can contact me at obiwan@ghosts.org.

The Story

“The Bell Witch” haunted the Bell home in Tennessee in the early 1800s. The “witch” was actually a poltergeist, which performed annoying acts like throw things around and scream or knock loudly at all hours. John Bell, the father, died during the Bell Witch’s tenure. Some claim he was poisoned by the Witch. Betsy Bell, John’s daughter, is suspected of having faked the whole thing. Reliable records are lacking, and given the rule of not being able to disprove a negative, we’ll probably never know whether the Bell Farm was truly haunted.

Bell Witch Reader Comments

From: (Vexedglorious20@aol.com)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Bell Witch
Date: Sunday, October 17, 2004 5:37 PM

Hello,

I’ll have to go and get this whole story from my Grandpa, but my grandparents are from Tennessee. My grandfather used to be a singer/songwriter. One day him and a co-worker were writing a song about the Bell Witch when the legs of the chair my grandpa’s friend was sitting in folded underneath him. It wasn’t even a folding chair! Sorry, if I am wasting your time, but I was excited when I saw the Bell Witch stuff on the site, because I didn’t know it was so well known!

Thanks,

Tiffani Dawson

From: EHUD3@aol.com
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2000 00:27:20 EDT
Subject: Just a note about Brent Monahan
To: obiwan@ghosts.org

Hi,

I was up late looking over sites when I noticed yours. I don’t know that someone hasn’t pointed this out yet, but just in case, let me.

You state that Brent Monahan’s book, “The Bell Witch, An American Haunting” is he compiled manuscript of Powell. It is not. Brent Monahan’s book is a total work of fiction. I did not this myself when I first read it, but in truth, the book is fiction. If you look on the copyright page, you will note that the Library of Congress has listed this as a book of fiction 3 different times. Plus, according to Pat Fitzhugh, Monahan himself told Mr. Fitzhugh that the book was a piece of fiction.

I apologize if you already know this and I wasted your time. I just didn’t think the main page of your Bell Witch info should state the info concerning Monahan without noting that the book is total fiction.

Good luck with the site. I hope I didn’t upset you or waste valuable time. I got fooled by Monahan in the beginning myself.

From: aih50691@uxa.cso.uiuc.edu (Aaron I. Hilbun)
Newsgroups: alt.folklore.ghost-stories
Subject: The Bell Witch
Date: 5 Jan 1995 03:21:12 GMT

For some reason, everything I have read about the Bell Witch so far on this newsgroup has described her (it?) as a poltergeist, and I am not sure this is the case. I think the Bell Witch is something far more sinister. I am a former resident of Montgomery County, Tennessee, which borders Robertson County (the town of Adams where all this took place is about a 30 minute drive from my parents’). So, I got all the necessary indoctrination from the old timers in the area about the Bell Witch. I have also done some reading on the phenomena myself. Here is the story I usually relate to people:

In the early part of the 19th century, a young farmer named John Bell moved to Robertoson County Tennessee from North Carolina. The woman from whom John Bell bought his farm, Kate Batts, claimed that she had been cheated by Bell, but no one paid any attention to her and dismissed her claims as the senile ramblings of an old woman. Kate Batts then swore that she would get even with John Bell, even if she had to come back from the grave to so. Meanwhile, the Bell family had gained a reputation of being one of the most devoutly religious, upstanding families in the community, so people wondered why they had been singled out for such suffering. Incidentally, sometimes the Bell Witch is referred to by Tennesseans as “Ol’ Kate.”

The problems started around 1817, after the death of Kate Batts. As John Bell was inspecting his rows of corn one day, he saw an odd bird with almost human (not having features, but uncanilly resembling human features) features sitting on a fencepost. He raised his shotgun and shot at the creature, but it remained unscathed and flew off unharmed. Several days later, he encountered a snarling dog-like creature in the corn, and once again shot at it, but the creature just disappeared before his eyes. The Bell children began seeing odd creatures in the woods surrounding their farm and a mysterious old woman could be seen sometimes wandering through their orchard. Then came scratching, knocking sounds as if some animal were trying to get inside their house, but upon opening the door saw nothing. Eventually the noises moved indoors, the loud sounds of wings flapping against the ceiling and dogs fighting.

In 1818, John Bell came down with a mysterious illness that affected his tongue and jaw and made chewing and swallowing difficult for him. The mysterious events of the Bell home also spread throught the community. The Witch then started to speak – and threaten the life of John Bell. People came in droves to witness this phenomena. Those who spent the night were subjected to derisive laughter and having the sheets yanked off them. One man from the area, Frank Miles, a rather large, stout, person came to the Bell house and volunteered to crush the Witch in his powerful grip. He spent the night at the Bell home waiting for the opportunity to give the witch a thrashing, but instead had his sheets yanked off as well and the witch struck him on the face and head with some of the most powerful blows he had taken. The witch then screamed at him to give up, because he could not win a struggle with a spirit. Another visitor was Andrew Jackson, who was to later become president. At the time, Jackson was living about 35 miles away on the outskirts of Nashville, and Jackson, being the “macho guy” of the early 19th c., decided that he could “tame this monster.” As they neared the Bell farm, one of Jackson’s companions began to speak ill of the Witch. Suddenly the wagon wheels locked up, and as much as the driver whipped the horses, the wagon would not move. Suddenly, a sharp voice rang out – “Go on, old General.” The wheels then moved freely and Jackson’s party proceeded. They were not disappointed when they arrived at the Bells’. Betsy Bell screamed all night from the pinching and slapping she received from the Witch, and Jackson’s covers were ripped off as quickly as he could put them back on, and he had his entire party of men were slapped, pinched and had their hair pulled by the witch until morning, when Jackson and his men decided to hightail it out of Adams. Jackson was later quoted as saying, “I’d rather fight the British the New Orleans than to have to fight the Bell Witch.”

The character of the Witch was enigmatic. While she tortured John and Betsy Bell, and the slaves the Bell owned (she would periodically flog them), she was kind to Mrs. Bell singing to her and comforting her and doing some household chores when Mrs. Bell was ill. She was also known to sing hymns and preach not only to the Bells’ but others in the community. Young Betsy was madly in love with a fine young schoolteacher, Joshua Gardner, and it pleased both families when they announced their engagement. But the Witch said if she married Josh Gardner, she would never know a moment’s peace and would pinch and slap her until she bled, and also tied her hair in knots. Finally, Betsy called off the engagement. The Witch was somewhat appeased saying that there were good reasons. In 1820 John Bell was once again stricken with the ailment of the jaw and tongue except much worse now. His face was constantly contorted in pain. At times his condition seemed to be improving, but the Witch said she would kill him. In his last days as he tried to walk around his yard, the Witch would knock his shoes off his feet and knock him too the ground. His son, John Jr. would tie the shoes to his feet as tight as possible, but that did not deter the Witch and in fits of rage would beat him terribly, sending him to bed and needing a doctor. The doctor prescribed a potion and left. John Bell then got violently ill and died December 20, 1820. The doctor called for the medicine bottle that he had left, but it was no where to be seen, and in its place was a thick dark liquid that defied analysis. The witch laughed loudly and said she placed it there. Early in 1821, the Witch declared that her work was finished and left, but promised to visit the Bells again in 7 years. The Witch came in the same manner, with scratching noises, but stayed only a few weeks and bothered no one in the Bell household (only Mrs. Bell and the two youngest sons remained). A final promise was made – to return in 107 years. The year would have been 1935. If the Witch did return, no one has come forth and spoken about it.

Sorry if this has been a little rambling, but these oral tales are sometimes hard to commit to writing. There is an interesting note, there is a cave on the old Bell farm (which I have personally visited) which supposedly is the seat of all the supernatural activity. When some of the Bell children played in this cave, something weird would always happen to them. It is easy to dismiss this as a sort of post script attatched to the story by a later generation, until I read that the native Americans of the area regarded the cave as spiritual, long before the Bell family came to Tennessee. When all these factors are taken into consideration, it is difficult indeed to say just what sort of manifestation for sure the Bell Witch was. If you’d like to read more about this, two good books are: The Bell Witch of Robertson County, Tennessee, by Charles Bailey Bell (John Bell’s great grandson I believe) and The Bell Witch by Charles Edwin Price.

Aaron I. Hilbun, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

From: raystwo@webtv.net (Raymond Speer)
Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1999 21:17:51 -0500 (CDT)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Bell Witch

When I was in college, I tried to find confirmation for the tale that Andrew Jackson witnessed the antics of the Bell Witch. Despite my best efforts, and a survey of printed and manuscript sources, I found no evidence that the future president had even visited the Bells, much less witnessed a mysteriously stalled wagon, or heard the Witch or observed a friend being pestered by the Witch.

Jackson was the target of negative campaigning in the 1824, 1828, and 1832 presidential elections. His enemies depicted Jackson as a buffoon, a military tyrant, a drunkard, a bigamist, a pimp, a madman, a killer, a crooked businessman, an Indian lover, an Indian hater etc. etc. Had Jackson ever voiced support of any ghost story — and certainly if he had been a witness to the paranormal — it seems certain that his foes would have publicized such a fact to cast ridicule upon Jackson. Since no such assertions were ever made, it seems plausible to conclude that Andrew Jackson never made claims of witnessing any supernatural phenomena.

The tale of the Bell Witch as it is now told seems extremely newsworthy. A family tormented by a spirit, and that entity driving one member of the family to his death!!! Good Lord, that is headline material in 1820 or any other year. So why is it that there are no contemporary reports of the Bell Witch in newspapers and periodicals in Tennessee or elsewhere in the USA? I cannot believe that the tale could be ignored by the press of the day, particularily as the Bells are reported to have been open about their ordeal and the Witch is reported to have been constantly manifesting herself. Contemporary Tennessee papers printed the names of participants in turkey shoots — you cannot tell me that an editor that desperate for news is going to ignore a visitation by a ghost/witch/monster/whatever!

In sum, I can only assume that (a) the manifestations of the Witch were more subdued than the stories indicate, or (b) the whole tale is a load of fiction.

From: NytexShade@aol.com
Date: Fri, 3 Oct 1997 21:00:02 -0400 (EDT)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Bell Witch

The Bell Witch was not actually Kate Batts’ spirit, it was a spirit of some other kind. Kate Batts was still alive, but not well liked, and the townspeople named it after her. The ‘witch’ was fluent in Bible verses and folklore, and had the ability to travel distant places within an impossibly short time, now or then. Many people witnessed the events of the Bell witch, including then General Andrew Jackson.

Please get the story straight, as this is my favorite ‘ ghost ‘ story.

Date: Mon, 10 Aug 1998 12:59:07 -0700
From: Joy Eden (joyeden@bellsouth.net)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: bell witch

Ten years ago I married into the family that owned the Bell Witch Cave Farm in Adams, TN. Then I did not believe that anything special was there, but was soon convinced otherwise. Strange things are still going on in the area of Adams, Tennessee. We had a mobile home on the hill above the cave entrance and many strange things happened there. We now live about a mile away and strange things are still happening to us.

From: CWyatt12@aol.com
Date: Tue, 1 Sep 1998 00:19:29 EDT
To: obiwan@ghosts.org

ok sorry my first letter sent its self. well anyway reading further on this one paticular web page i read about these “professional” ghost hunters that had seen some mystrious lights in the bell witch cave, so i was hooked on just proving it to my self that the bell witch was real so me and a few curious friends rounded up camping supplies and and a map to find Adams, so we arrived in late may, and by the time we got to adams strange things were happening, as soon as we got to the red river camp site, they were having a wolf festival of some sort although the wolves we camped next to were exstremly friendly we were all preatty scared. well the next day we woke up and had planned to see the cave, but when we got their the lady told us that the rains had been so bad that the cave wasn’t ready to open for the year, well that day we rode all around adams (actually we could have walked it was so small) we tried to talk to people about the ghost and the only person we could talk to is the lady that ran the cave, ever one else would tell us to go talk to the crazy lady that ran the cave, so she became our only supply of knowledge, talking to her we learned one of many things that we hadn’t known, she told us that the spirt had actually identified its self as the spirt of heaven hell and the living earth and that Kate Batts was just one of the many names that she had given to the bell family. Well we were all excited about what we had learned but our first weekend in adams was over. So we came home study some of the bell family geneology at our local library. At the library, I came across some interesting facts about adams and Jhon Bell. I found out about the time that the bell witch haunting took place that Adams was competiting with the neigoboring town Springfield to have the a railroad station come through. Well Jhon Bell not only being a community leader in Adams was really like Adams Mayor but since adams did not have a court system set up his political life in Adams is not recorded, but everything else is. Well we decided to give it one more chance. But this time we bought some more exspensive gear like night vision goggles mobile radios etc. We stayed at the same red river camp site, talked to the same people, but on the second nite we planned our main course, we had teams of two with drop off points by the bell family farm, we mapped it were we would cover the farm and meet back up well we did, we took pictures saw the remains of the original bell family house Jhon Bell and Jhon Bell Jrs. burial sites but still no sign of the spirt, so the next day we got into the cave, the lady that owns it let us go to the second level and take pictures, after it was all said and done all we had to show is some beautiful pictures of Adams Tn the red river and the Bell family farm, all and all I belive that it was all a big hoax to get the railroad to come through adams but it failed and thats all adams had to hold on to after that, one big lie.

From: DrunkenDoo@aol.com
Date: Sat, 18 Oct 1997 12:32:27 -0400 (EDT)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: bell witch

this may seem a little odd but it was told to me exactly as im writing it….

my english professor at MTSU used to come over some evenings and have coffee and smoke pot and entertain us with literary text….he told us of a decendant of john bell ( i believe his granddaughter) went to MTSU and decided to do a research paper on the much heralded bell witch story. strange occurences from that point on kept the girl wondering if she was doing right. the day before the research paper was due she was scurrying around and photocopying documentation. she then to her dorm room where her roommate was found hanging. on the mirror was written “YOU DIDNT LISTEN”

it could have been a cry of help from a lost roommate, or could it have been one last pilgrimage from the grave to make john bell’s decendants hurt….

i saw the blueprints to the dorms and there is one room boarded up so as not to disrupt activities for the christmas vacation………

From: “Bambi Floyd” (b.floyd@cafe.net)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Date: Sun, 19 Oct 1997 14:45:45 -0500

hello, my name is James Bell, and I believe that I am related to the Bell witch. My sister Rebekah was teased about the relation because she had a black ring that looked weird. I always heard that she promised to comeback and haunt the next John Bell.

One day I discovered, while looking at a family tree my father was making that my brother John is the next in a direct line. I thought that was cool.

James Bell

From: mutthemutt@webtv.net (ernest bohar)
Date: Sat, 25 Oct 1997 13:47:39 -0400
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Christopher Bohar

Hi,my name is Christopher Bohar.I am 13 years old and believe in ghosts.I like your website and the story about The Bell Witch.I would like to ad a footnote to your story on The Bell Witch.In 1993 a ghost hunter was at The Bell Witch Cave on a tour.He took some photos with his camera and the camera was one of those ones that you take the picture and it develops by itself.When his photos turned out a face was in the bottom right hand side of the photo with what looks like a hood on its head.Its eyes and mouth were wide open and the black and white face had no lips.The skin was peeling off the face.When the man saw the photo he ran out of the cave and scared half of the people off the tour.

From: “GLENDA M EDWARDS” (GMEDWARDS@prodigy.net)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Date: Sat, 31 Jan 1998 00:23:17 -0000

Dear sirs,

I was recently doing a little surfing on the internet and came across your website. I live here in Adams, Tennessee, and in fact, have the original bricks from Kate Batts house in my home. I not only grew up with the Bell Witch legend, i lived it. I know first hand and have had real life encounters and have evidence and witnesses to this. I would be glad to assist and give my stories if you would like. please resond to me at sinepari@yahoo.com or gedwards@webtv.net

From: Spooky2329@aol.com
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 19:39:07 EST
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: About the Bell Witch haunting

Hello.

My name is Janice Phillips, and I have read about the Bell Witch Haunting quite a bit becaus I have been interested in hauntings. The person who contributed the story left out a crucial part of the story. The “Witch” mainly affected their daughter( I don’t remember her name) The “Witch” eventually left after the father died. Later on though, their daughter married John gardner, and several years after her marriage the “Witch” returned. It turns out that the daughter’s father, who had married his wife when she was twelve, now in his seventies, became infatuated with his daughter who was supposedly quite lovely (eew, incest) and was molesting her. A poltergeist than developed and eventually killed her father. The daughter recieved the brunt of the poltergeist’s actions, which had become a means of defense for her, because she wouldn’t tell anyone what her father was doing. This became revealed when her husbadn, who had insomnia began wandering around at nighttime, not wishing to wake her up with his stirrings. She became nervous about their daughter and the activity resumed. this was revealed when her husband hypnotized her.

E-mail me if you need help understanding this(it is very confusing).

janice phillips

From: WendeeC (WendeeC@aol.com)
Date: Thu, 19 Mar 1998 23:10:01 EST
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: question

I am going to be visiting Tennessee next week and am very interested in the Bell home – or where it used to be. It the cave still open? Are there hotels in Adams?

What can you tell me about visiting the area and investigating?

I have always been interested in the Bell Witch – since reading it at the age of 12! I live in Atlanta and have decided to visit the sight

Any information you can give me would be helpful.

Date: Thu, 09 Apr 1998 17:25:58 +0000
From: katydid3@bellsouth.net
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Belll Witch

I just wanted to respond to the story of the Bell Witch. I, too, am a resident of Tennessee and I’m very familiar with the case. As a teenager I read the book by Charles Bell about his family, but lost it. I could not find the book anywhere. I later discovered it was back in my school library. A few days later, I went to the shelf once again to check it out and it was gone. I went to the librarian to have the book put on reserve for me. The librarian informed me that only that morning a young man, who had checked out the book, house burnt down with the book inside.

This spurred me on to do research about the Bell Witch. There are two legends associated with the book written by Charles Bell. 1) The book disappears and reappears. 2) The book bursts into flames!

No more Bell Witch for me!

From: BHITCH1955@aol.com
Date: Sun, 19 Jul 1998 19:11:56 EDT
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: The Bell Witch

The way I heard the story, is that Kate and John were romatically involved. One day, Kate was thursty, so they went to get a drink. Then Kate hit here head on something in the barn. She died. Then John thought that he would be accused of her death, so he took her back to her own house, where she was later found. The reason Kate haunted John Bell and his family was because Kate thought that John mad her bump her head.

From: DixiChik@webtv.net
Date: Sun, 1 Nov 1998 21:27:38 -0600 (CST)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: BELL WITCH

There is no witch that haunts the Bell place It is spirits of the Indians that rest in the bend of the Red River. Before the hauntings, some of the Bell kids, including Betsy, were playing near the Indian graves and digging, which they weren’t suppose to do. The obviously disturbed the rest of the dead Indians. The spirit first introducd itself as the spirit from the bend of the river. What do you think? E-mail me back.

Beth
Nashville,. TN

Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 18:21:01 -0800 (PST)
To: guestbook@ghosts.org
email hughes_amanda@hotmail.com

I have recently read your account of the Bell Witch and found it very misgiving. Maney of the facts seem less than facts. Joshoa Garde ner was a student of the teacher Betsy eventually married. Not the teacher hims elf. I know this due to a book I have recently read about the Bell witch.This b ook obtaines a primary source document from the teacher himself. Found in the a ttic of a realative of the teacher It also gives the real reason as to why Jon Bell had been haunted and eventally killed at by this”witch”.I am affraid due t o the fact that i have loaned this book out I am unable to supply you with the authers name or the name of the teacher. As soon as I get this book back I will send the auther as well as the name of the teacher, because I feel if you are informing peaple about somthing you should at least have the real facts or supp ly a very good reason as to why iI should believe you over the book I have read

Date: Sat, 12 Dec 1998 18:43:18 -0800 (PST)
To: guestbook@ghosts.org
yourname concerned reader
email bbear181@chorus.net

Just now I read your idea of the Bell Withc story. If I had not already read a book wich gave an eye witness account from the scool te acher, Richard Powell, (of whom Betsy had married)I may have belived it . If yo u are going to post a page about somthing you should probly have a reporter who is able to sort gossip from fact.

First of all Jon jr. was not the one who would tie the shoes of his father bu t the youngest son.Who was not Jon jr. Betsey was not permitted by the witch to marry Josh Gardener, a student of Rich ard Powell, not the teacher himself.ect,ect,ect,ect………………………. ……………… To update or fix your page I suggest you not take the word o f peaple who probly were not alive during that time or else read books containg primary souce docs such as this exspecially when they are available……….. ……… sincerly a concerned reader

From: E. R (vaille22@hotmail.com)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Bell Witch
Date: Sun, 31 Jan 1999 23:19:23 PST

Hiya,

I saw your section on the Bell Witch (your web page very good by the way!!) and it prompted me to write you. Don’t know how interested you’ll be in this, but I find it somewhat interesting…it possibly sheds a little more light on the whole Bell Witch mythos/haunting…then again, maybe not…

2 years ago while in college, I had a course with a prof. with the last name of Bell. One day in class, while in the middle of a discussion about one thing or another, Dr. Bell brought up the subject of the Bell Witch..don’t remember why. Anyways, from out of the blue he asked the class (paraphrased, but close): “Have any of you ever heard of the Bell Witch? If you have, you should know it was a hoax. My great-great.. [I don’t remember exactly how many greats he used] grandmother was crazy. Everyone thinks it was a ghost that killed my family. It was really just her; she poisoned them all.” 3 things worth noting: 1. Dr. Bell is VERY southern (he does hail from Tenn.) and accordingly has his family history traced back to its origins in England. 2. Dr. Bell is getting up there in the years; I’d say he’s in his early 70’s…actually, he retired last year after suffering a heart attack. 3. His sister, Emily, believes in the ghost and even had an experience when she and a friend visited the old family stomping-ground some-odd years ago. According to Dr. Bell, Emily tried to take a brick from the area where the farm was. However, when she tried to leave with the brick, her car…a camero…wouldn’t start. She and her friend also claim to have heard strange voices and moaning… Bell said he was pissed because he had to travel all the way down there to help his sister with the car. Once he got down there, he found that he couldn’t get the car started either. Out of frustration, he took the brick from the car and threw it onto the ground and told emily htat the property wasn’t theirs anymore and to leave “the damn property alone.” He tried the car one more time and it started right up. He claims htat the car wouldn’t start primarily because it was a Camero; he also informed his sister and her friend that the strange voices “were the products of their female minds…” Like I said, VERY souther. Anyways, I found all this interesting and thought id pass it along. Don’t know if it’s all true as Bell indicated, but then again knowing the man, I don’t think he’d lie.

Take care
Eric
vaille22@hotmail.com
vaille22@yahoo.com

Date: Fri, 12 Feb 1999 00:08:22 -0600
From: daktari (daktari@concentric.net)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Bell Witch

So much B.S.! The ridiculous theory that John Bell manufactured the Bell Witch “hoax” to draw the railroad to Adams is only surpassed by the ignorance of Ms. Phillips’ slanderous comments about John Bell’s supposed incestual relationship with his daughter Betsy. John Bell was a devout Christian and was considered a paragon of virtue in the Red River community (THE main reason the demon chose to attack him as re- lated by several dependable witnesses to the events). Also, if it was a publicity stunt, why did then President Jackson, a man who was often honest to a fault, attest to the disembodied spirits demonic abilities? By the way, the battle for the R.R. line was between Port Royal and Springfield and resulted in the demise of the former, all of which occured several decades after the disturbance!

There are several points one must consider in the study if this most unique paranormal occurance. First, the Bell “Witch” was not, by def- inition, a poltergeist, a phenomenon which rarely visits violence except by inanimate objects, and NEVER communicates with voice. Next, consider the evolution of the events which included not only telekenesis and disembodied voice but included the ability to be two places at once, incredible knowledge of all which occured within a twenty mile radius, the ability to materialize, shape-shift, to give accurate prophecy (it accurately predicted World Wars I and II!), teleportation of fruits (including tropical varieties!), and possesion of animals and humans.

What you should deduce from these incredible events, which were attested to by well over fifty well known and locally respected wit- nesses, and experienced by hundreds of people who lived in the area, is that this was a well documented case of demonism. As no permanent pos- session occured, it was not a case of possession. It was most likely a multiple entity (a fact which it admitted and demonstrated). It was probably called forth by a local eccentric named Kate Batts, who con- sidered herself swindled by John Bell, and in front of several persons threatened John Bell with a “spell”. Within a month the initial incid- ents began. The demon admitted to being called through a pentagram by Kate Batts, and gave evidence that Batts did indeed practice the black arts. It was limited or bound by Batts at first but Batts, probably overwhelmed by the hatred the community directed at her, lost control and fades into oblivion, most likely becoming insane.

As you might deduce, I am somewhat of an expert in this matter, not only having read M.V. Ingrams text several times, but also the version told by Charles Bell, Edwin Price, and most recently, what is most likely a very accurate account transcribed by Betsy Bell’s hus- band, a natural skeptic who never intended that his version be pub- lished. This version substantiates all the major events in a quite believable manner. I lived in the Red River region for over ten years and I do believe that these horrible yet facinating events did indeed occur, finding not one theory which could prove them a hoax.

Thus I issue this challenge: to any who do not yet believe. Read all the authoritative accounts that you can, and if you still believe it a hoax, spend the night in the Bell Witch cave or in the ruins of the old Bell home, alone, in the dark…a challenge I believe has yet to be completed. The last who tried that I know of were two skeptics from the Nasville Tennessean, a reporter and a photographer, who fled after just a few hours of darkness in the cave, driven out by a screaming entity which thoroughly unhinged the two men…and created two new believers (victims?) of the demonic Bell Witch. I’d advise against repeating their folly. Your life, your sanity, or your very soul could be forfeit! I will return here occasionally to weed out the B.S., including the obviously prefabricated account given by the person (with the “night goggles”, etc.) who has likely not even been to the area! (The Kirby’s, who own the land and the cave, are not thought of as crazy or eccentric, but are really con- sidered quite normal by their neighbors.)

Date: Thu, 04 Feb 1999 20:55:55 -0500
From: kpyatt (kpyatt@net-link.net)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: The Bell Witch

Hi. I just thought that your summary one The Bell Witch–one of the most horrific and terrifying ghost-related events in HISTORY was not in detail enough. I would like to give you more harrowing details, if I could….

First of all, the little children and the adults as well as visitors to the house would be victimized through violent slaps across the faces, the house would shake from the poltergeist, and they hired a little black girl Anky for help around the house. Now, as in most poltergeist cases, a lot of offense was felt. For instance, after the poltergeist (named Old Kate Batts, by the way) developed a voice, she would remark about “the smell of a nigger” and would spit on the poor girl so much that after a while the little girl’s head was full of spittle!! The sound of wings flapping was heard, and after various events, the little girl Betsy was sent to live with neighbors. The poltergeist followed her!! And the poltergeist seemed to take pleasure in torturing John Bell mercilessly. It once told him that he would be tortured till his dying day. “She” fiddled with his medicine, and finally one day it got to be too much for the old man that he just collapsed and cried. Two years later he died and while he lay on his death bed the sound of Old Kate Batts could be heard—laughing. The really odd thing is that Old Kate Batts was actually alive and kicking!!! And she lived close by!!! She (the poltergeist of her) told the farm family, and I quote: it was “a spirit from everywhere, Heaven, Hell, 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.” Many, many other events took place in the Bell house. I got this information from the book The World’s Great Ghost & Poltergeist Stories by Sarah Hapgood. It is a fantastic account of hundreds of ghost stories from around the world, including the date they took place!

Enjoy
Barry

Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 04:09:27 -0500
From: Amanda Wright (topher@bicnet.net)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Bell Witch

I read the site on the Bell Witch and enjoyed. I am from Nashville, TN and wanted to add a side note about the current day popularity of the story. As a child a common slumber party dare was to go into the bathroom at midnight, always midnight, and say, I hate the Bell Witch, 12 times. I tried it many times and it came up at almost every slumber party I ever attended. I never actually got to twelve though.

Mandy

From: WYFL32A@prodigy.com ( WANDA D WALKER)
Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 20:46:36, -0500
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Bell Witch

I do not know anything about the Bell Witch but I do know about the Bell Family. My mother is a Bell and she had 12 siblings. I love my mother dearly and she is now 79 years old. Only 1 sister left. Although from Georgia I have to wonder if she was kin to these Bells because there was a mysterious disease that claimed the lives of many including my grandfather, aunts,uncles, and now cousins. The symptoms start in the jaw, cannot swallow and it is called Huntingston Disease.

I wonder if this man had that disease and they did not know what it was. Mama used to tell me stories about sleeping in the same bed with her siblings and the cover rising up off the bed. I had never heard of a Bell Witch untill now and I am sure she does not know. Do you think he could have suffered from this disease? Diane Walker

We have gotten request for samples of My Mama’s blood and we have complied to universities that study this. We got a request for her brain upon her death and I have denied this so I know there is something strange about the Bell Family.

This is not intended for any type of Ghost Story, just a True STORY.

Date: Mon, 19 Jul 1999 01:34:15 -0400
From: Judy Herman (jsing@netconx.net)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: bell witch

ive read all the info on her and being from tennessee myself, well ive heard a story that didnt seem to make it to you. the story i beleive to be true of her is this; john bell and his family moved to this acreage and his children were out playing in the yard. they dug up the earth and found some bones – the skull – aand called to their dad. he said rebury it and as they were doing just that they accidentally kicked the jaw loose. when it was reburied, the hauntings started with a voice saying “i want my tooth back”. guess in the rush to rebury the skull, they had kicked loose a tooth. they searched but didnt find it so the hauntings became worse. she is called the bell witch because she stuck to the bells – especially the children – no matter what. all she has ever asked for is her tooth back. just for added info, when she was alive she was a greedy and determined woman and the whole tooth thing is because she had atooth fixed and had it done with a gold inlay. she was very proud of it and in death was very mad to have it taken from her. she will not rest untill her tooth is found and returned to her.

Date: Thu, 22 Jul 1999 13:26:49 -0500
From: Catherine Parker (cparker@startribune.com)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: Bell Witch correction

Janice stated as a fact that the Bell Witch was a poltergeist entity Betsy Bell manifested as a result of incest. I also read that book, which was a work of FICTION. It was very well done, and told through the point of view of Betsy’s husband, but it was a novel. The author attempted to make it as realistic as possible, and it appears to be a work of non-fiction, but it is a contemporary novel, and not the actual memoirs of the husband of Betsy Bell. I just thought I’d better clear that up—thanks.

From: BoyOfAnAge@aol.com
Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999 21:46:07 EDT
Subject: Bell Witch
To: obiwan@ghosts.org

I wasn’t sure if you were aware, but Andrew Jackson even wrote about the Bell Witch in his journal. It is published (although I do not know in which chronicle). However, the story apparently states that while travelling through Tennessee, Jackson met the Bell Witch. They had tied their horses down to investigate and survey the land. They happened upon this strange yet cynically kind woman. They spoke only briefly but once they returned to where their horses had been tethered, they had vanished. I am not sure if I got all of the intracacies correct, but it is definately a rumor you might want to investigate.

Mike Bolton

From: “mplett” (mplett@ix.netcom.com)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Date: Sat, 7 Aug 1999 20:37:11 -0500

I have done a lot of research on the Bell witch and hope to make a pilgrimage to Adams, TN someday soon. But just to play devil’s advocate, I would like to bring up something I have read about Betsy Bell’s school teacher. You know, the one she ended up marrying after the witch told her to drop Mr. Gardner? One story argues that the teacher was not only a skilled hypnotist, but a vantriliquist as well. Some literature even maintains that the Bell’s house had secret corridors that only he knew about because his father helped to build the Bell’s residence. Some believe that the teacher suspected John Bell of molesting his daughter Betsy, and that the teacher put on this clever witch act to frighten him. And then when Betsy was courted by Gardner, who was in her class, the teacher became insanely jealous and beat Betsy severly enough to break of her engagement. I know this sounds as suspect as the bell witch legend itself, but I think it makes for an interesting argument.

Now that the “Blair Witch” project has caused thousands of people to flock to the tiny town of Burkittsville to see if they can prove the exsistance of what is known to be pure fiction, perhaps people can finally see how a little bit gossip and folklore can cause a nation wide panic. It is likely that the Bell Witch is just an enourmous phenomena surrounding a few slightly unusual events in Tennessee history.

From: Monajuana@aol.com
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 1999 00:14:17 EDT
Subject: A Bell Witch Clarification
To: obiwan@ghosts.org

I have lived in Tennessee almost all of my life, about 2 hours away from Adams, TN. I have never heard the version of the Bell Witch Legend that I am about to share with you told before, nor have I seen it posted in a book or the Internet. It is possible it is out there but I am an avid reader of quality paranormal sites and have yet to come across it. This was told to me by an elderly high school agriculture teacher who in his youth lived in Adams.

John Bell was a very difficult, proud man. Before his marriage he was a bachelor in Adams. He worked very hard to create a prosperous farm and to become a high standing member of the community. Being single, rich (By Adams, TN standards during the time period) and owning his own property, he was actively sought by the single young ladies of Adams and the surrounding counties. John Bell began stepping out with a lady by the name of Kate Batts. John left for a business trip in New Orleans, and was invited to a social event at which point he met and within a short space of time married the Mrs. Bell we have all read about. When he returned to Adams with his bride in tow. Kate Batts was dismayed she had been bragging to the towns people that she was going to marry John Bell she had even gone so far as to order her trousseau embroidered with his initials. When Mr., Bell came back to town with a wife in tow Kate was embarrassed greatly. So she salvaged her hurt feelings and battered pride with gossip about Mrs. Bell. The stories were said to have been rumors that Mrs. Bell had been working in a house of prostitution when John met her, and just that she was a loose woman had became pregnant and he had been forced to marry her. When the rumors reached John Bell he became enraged. He had by this time become Magistrate of the tiny town and wielded enormous political and legal power. He had Kate arrested on trumped up charges and absconded with her out to a tiny line shack bordering his property. He told her that until she renounced her accusations against Mrs. Bell she wouldn’t be leaving. She refused his offer and stayed the night. The next morning he returned to find her just as furious and unremorseful as he had left her. This continued for many days, with no food nor water for Kate. One night as he was leaving she cursed him and his family, but he paid her no heed. The next morning when he returned Kate Batts was dead. John Bell forgot her dying words until 5 years later strange things began to happen and the Tale of The Bell Witch began to circle around Adams, Tennessee and beyond……

Date: Sat, 02 Oct 1999 22:38:35 -0400
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
From: Alice (enigma@mail.tds.net>
Subject: Bell Witch Cave Closed

Greetings-

I am sad to report that upon visiting Adams, TN and the Bell Witch Cave today I found the site closed to the public. It has been closed for the last two months due to a fire on the premises caused by visiting tourists during the drought.(Lit Cigarette, no poltergeist here!) I and three of my traveling companions journeyed some 600 miles roundtrip to visit the cave for the first time based upon the premise that the cave was open seven days a week as reported at several websites and because we were inspired by the stories at your webpage. It would be generous of you to recommend that people phone ahead to see if the cave is back open rather than have them read about the Bell Witch Cave at your site and make a pilgrimage for not.

Although we were able to visit the cemetary and the old school, it seemed rather sad to have come all that way to visit the most haunted place in America to encounter a ‘Sorry, we’re closed.’ We actually met a large family from Missouri at the Bell cemetary who had read about the Bell Witch on your story page and traveled all the way from their homes, only to realize the same frustration and dissappointment as I and my friends. Your kind assistance in this matter might save a lot of people wasted time, gasoline, and frustration.

Thank your for your consideration in this matter. Respectfully- KJP, PA, BP, JH

From: “Joelle Cavitt” (joellecavitt@hotmail.com)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: The Bell Witch
Date: Wed, 13 Oct 1999 16:35:29 -0400

I was reading the Bell Witch comments on your web page. I, too, am from Tennessee, and have noticed that many references address people that “are named Bell and from Tennessee.” There are A LOT of people throughout the state of Tennessee (which–landwise–is a fairly large state, taking six to eight hours to travel from Chattanooga to Memphis) whose last name is Bell, and my guess is that they are NOT RELATED to John Bell. Just a clarfication!

Joelle McCoy
Chattanooga, TN

From: MrShank2000@aol.com
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1999 05:31:29 EST
Subject: Bell Witch,Adams TN
To: obiwan@ghosts.org

Hello,

My name is Richard from Clarksville, TN. Clarksville is only 20 miles away from Adams so I have a brief knowledge on the Bell Witch story. I have been to the Bell Family cemetary and the cave and other eerie places in Adams and I have a question about the cemetery. When you go to the cemetary there is a wall around the immediate family and on the outside of the wall their is a arrow engraved into the stone. I have heard it is impossible to walk around the graves because “something” would push you off. Is there any more info on this?

Richard Herrell
Clarksville, TN

Date: Tue, 2 Nov 1999 20:50:27 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Story Submission
yourname Maria
email BigCoffinHunter@aol.com

I just wanted to add a couple things. First, Richard Powell, Betsy Bell’s husband ,did indeed want the manuscript he wrote to be made public. In the last paragraph of his manuscript, he states to daughter: “I hope that you will have the courage to see that (his story) is made public. There is much that can and should be learned here.” This was to be done aftr both he and Betsy passed away.

Also, by the way, the author who compiled that manuscript was Brent Monahan and the title was “The Bell Witch, An American Haunting.”

I am a new follower of this, so don’t have a lot of knowledge on the subject yet, but appreciate you reading this over.

Maria

Date: Tue, 2 Nov 1999 20:50:27 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Story Submission
yourname Maria
email BigCoffinHunter@aol.com

I just wanted to add a couple things. First, Richard Powell, Betsy Bell’s husband ,did indeed want the manuscript he wrote to be made public. In the last paragraph of his manuscript, he states to daughter: “I hope that you will have the courage to see that (his story) is made public. There is much that can and should be learned here.” This was to be done aftr both he and Betsy passed away.

Also, by the way, the author who compiled that manuscript was Brent Monahan and the title was “The Bell Witch, An American Haunting.”

I am a new follower of this, so don’t have a lot of knowledge on the subject yet, but appreciate you reading this over.

Maria

From: “Michael Plett” (mplett@ix.netcom.com)
To: obiwan@ghosts.org
Subject: My visit to the cave.
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 22:13:40 -0600

I sent a cynical letter to this website a couple of months ago, and since then I have been most fortunate to venture into the cave before on Labor day weekend, before the fire. It was probably the most real and incredible experience I was ever able to witness. My fiance and I brought a poloroid camera and a ton of film to see if we could catch anything unusual photographically. We took turns posing on the rock that sits in front of the cave’s entrance. My picture looks double exposed, but with a different face coming out of mine. The picture of my fiance has white clouds all over him. We also took photos of the cliff that looms over the entrance. These pictures have those familiar “light globes” that are found in photos of the cave. We were the first to meet with our tour guide, Candy, who had a lot of great stories to share. We lingered slowly behind the rest of the tour group and for the entire length of time in the cave, I had a very hard time controlling my camera. Again, this was a polaroid, a no-brainer. The whole camera would snap shut before I could take a picture, and would pop open and snap photos when I wasn’t even touching it. I probably looked like a moron to the rest of the tour group. So I finally gave up and handed over the camera to my fiance. As we left the back room of the cave near Eagle’s Rock, I felt something or someone cold lean up against me from behind. I yelled at my fiance, thinking that he was the one shoving me to the point that I was falling over the wet stones in my path. It turned out he was several feet away from me in the far corner of the back room. He was feeling something strange too, so he started snapping a bunch of photos. When the pictures developed, every single on taken in the back room showed neon fomations in gold, red and green, in all different shapes, in all sorts of areas in the room. In the room where there are no exposed lights. The family of women who run the tours made me promise that I would send them copies of the photos. But because I am such a procrastinator, I still haven’t sent them.

Anybody who doubts the hauntings of the bell witch cave has got to take the pilgrimage to see for themselves. They may never be the same afterwards.

From: JCook56050@aol.com
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 08:58:46 EST
Subject: Answer to your question on Obiwan site
To: MrShank2000@aol.comobiwan@ghosts.org

Dear Richard,

The arrow ingraved into the wall (or in this case you may be talking about the arrow ingraved into the obolisk inside the wall) of the Bellwood Cemetery is a geographical marker. It was placed there by the designer-builder, Lesley Covington in the 1950’s as an indicator of true magnetic north. He uses this to give reference to his directions on the obolisk indicating where the original home and grave of John and Lucy Bell may be found. However, it has been found by measurment that those directions are somewhat off by about fifty or so feet.

As for walking around, on, or through the main plot (which is reserved only for the direct members of the Bell family) I’m afraid that nothing will push you off of a grave or prevent you from an impolite action in the area except perhaps a legal authority. As with any cemetery, I recommend respect when viewing or visiting those who have passed to the other side.

The Bell Foundation continues to take very good care of the grounds. As for the cemetery, it is possibly one of the finest sites of its type in Tennessee built during that period. Covington was a wealthy contractor from the northeast and one generation seperated from the Bell name. Unfortunately, he did not count on the fact that many of the Bells did not prefer to be buried there. So, due to personal or family preference, many of the stones and plots within the wall are unoccupied as grave sites at this time.

Jack Cook
jcook56050@aol.com

From: JCook56050@aol.com
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 1999 10:07:29 EST
Subject: Your comments on the Obiwan ghost site
To: cparker@startribune.comobiwan@ghosts.org

Dear Catherine,

Thought you might want some background on where the concept of Betsy Bell and incest came from in the Bell haunting.

Back around the turn of the century many theorists seemed to be writing detailed accounts of apparitional activity and how such things could be explained by personal torment and emotional problems initiated by sexual abberations. This all came originally from the work of Dr. Sigmond Freud who pioneered the concept of subsconscious influence in human psychological disturbances.

Dr. Freud had a student in Europe by the name of Dr. Nandor Fodor, a psychoanalyst by profession, who eventually wrote many influential papers on the effects of the subconscious mind on the formation of hauntings and parapsychological manifestations. Fodor himself was responsible for many personal studies on the phenomenon of the poltergeist during his lifetime. His most outstanding public works on this subject were published under the titles, “The Haunted Mind” (1959) written by Fodor and “Haunted People: Story of the Poltergeist Down Through the Centuries” (1951) co-written with Hereward Carrington.

In both works Dr. Fodor (who very much agreed with Freud’s views) put forward the idea that Elizabeth Betsy Bell had formed an entity outside of herself in the spirit realm to exact a kind of subconscious vengeance upon her father for committing some kind of sexual acts upon her. Fodor terms this “subconscious psychosis.”

Unfortunately, Dr. Fodor had to rely upon the only known document written firsthand about the haunting by Martin Van Buren Ingram, “The Authenticated History of the Bell Witch”. Ingram’s book is not entirely forthcoming concerning the background of the Bell family or any of the affected families involved in the haunting. Ingram also does not get very deeply into community activities or the history of the region. Thus, in a sense, Nandor Fodor was basing his theories entirely upon the more modern cases he had investigated and upon the only data he had at hand. In all fairness, many of the cases he had studied pointed to the incest problem as a possible cause for some poltergeist hauntings.

Dr. Nandor Fodor is a very learned and engaging scientist for his time, and sheds very good light upon a most puzzling element of human experience. He continues to this day to be used as a source for many parapsychological terms and definitions. His theories are no longer considered state-of-the-art. But, the idea of Betsy Bell being abused sexually by her father must be called into question when all of the facts from family records and historical documents point to other more reasonable causes (if you can call a haunting reasonable!).

As for a novel that puports to tell the story from the point of view of Betsy’s husband, Richard R.P. Powell…… well, I’ve been reseaching this incident for twenty years, and I would literally jump for joy if I could find anything more written by Mr. Powell besides his book written on mathematics (you can find a copy in the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, Tennessee). In fact we know a great deal about his activities as sheriff and state representative of Robertson County. We know a great deal about his personal problems and the stroke that made him an invalid for so many years. But so far, we can’t even find his grave in Cedar Hill. Folks in Robertson County have been searching for him for many years. Did he ever write something on the Bell Spirit? I do not know. But, I suspect not, since his family continued to try to keep the haunting out of the public eye down through the years.

I suppose the best we can do about whether a publication holds the truth is to demand that when a book or story is issued that attempts to sound authoritative, it should include a very good bibliography with references.

Jack Cook
jcook56050@aol.com

Recommended reading

Jack Cook’s Bell Witch Blog Jack spent years of his life researching the Bell Witch Legend and has shared his extensive knowledge in this blog entry.

Before you visit

Please read Pat’s Bell Witch FAQ for all the information you need before planning to visit the Adams, TN area.

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