The Bell Witch Haunting - AKA An American Haunting

The Bell Witch story began in 1817, as John Bell, a well liked farmer and religious leader, was inspecting his crops and noticed something bizarre. He saw a creature resembling a mixture of a dog and rabbit, and quickly fired at the beast. However, the strange creature vanished before his eyes. Terrifying events would soon follow. It started with the Bells hearing "beating" sounds on the outside walls of their house. Soon other unexplained noises were heard around the Bell house such as scratching and knocking sounds.


Over time the Spirit seemed to be growing in strength, from subtle poltergeist type activity to loud sounds such as dogs and cats fighting, chains being dragged, furniture moving and physical attacks such as scratching, spitting, pulling hair and slapping. A gurgling noise turned into whispers. It sounded like faint, whispering voices--too weak to understand--but sounded like a feeble old woman crying or singing hymns. The voice grew in strength over months and images started being seen: a girl sitting in a tree, then gone; a deformed dog, then gone; a dead family walking, then gone.


The encounters escalated and the Bells’ daughter, Betsy, began experiencing brutal encounters with the entity. It relentlessly pulled her hair and slapped her, often leaving visible prints on her face and body for days at a time. The evil disturbances grew over the next year to the point that it was time for John Bell to share his "family trouble" with his friends and neighbors to try and put an end to it.


John first told his neighbor and closest friend, James Johnston, a pious man who dismissed the noises as someone playing tricks, the wind or some such thing; but assured John if there was an unnatural reason for the noises, “with the help of God, they would send this devil back where it belongs”. Johnston quickly changed his mind about the cause of the disturbances and the ease in which it would be sent away later that night when he met his adversary. All of Johnston’s efforts to rid the Bell family of their visitor proved fruitless, even when he brought in a close friend, Reverend Gunn, a fiery Methodist minister. The activity increased, especially in the girls’ room, where it came in the darkness of night and the victims only had candle light to protect themselves. The creature horrified its victims with noises that happened with no source, snatching their hair and ripping their covers away from the bed. At times images appeared to be seen in the darkness, but then are gone. The light was blown out and a touch or cold breath was felt, or worse the unseen attacker left it’s mark, but vanished when the light returned.


Word soon got out and began to spread about the activities. As the haunting gained notoriety, investigators and curiosity seekers from all over the country came to the Bell’s house to speak with the Spirit, which was heard almost nightly. Over time, it’s voice strengthened to the point that it was loud and understandable. It sang hymns, quoted scripture, carried on intelligent conversation and once quoted word-for-word two sermons that took place at the same time thirteen miles apart. During none of this time did anyone know who or what the entity was, or its purpose for tormenting the Red River settlement.


The Spirit took on different personalities. It seemed to like some people and at times even took on an angelic personality. At other times, it was demonic and viciously attacked people and cursed wildly, as it did every time it would see John Bell. When asked who it was and where it came from, it always gave different answers. But one night, when it was asked when it would leave, the Spirit answered “not until it sees John Bell good and dead in his grave”. When asked why, it refused to answer.


Future President, Andrew Jackson even visited the Bells' home. One of Bells’ sons had served under Jackson during the war and Jackson wanted to help in anyway he could. As Jackson‘s party was approaching the Bell home, one of his companions began to boast how he could defeat the ghost. The wheels of the wagons suddenly locked up and no matter what the drivers tried they could not get the wagons rolling. Then the men heard a voice say, "Go on, old General," and the wagons began to move once again. Jackson and his men were harassed the entire night of their stay, being slapped and pinched by the Spirit until day break. They left as early as they could and never returned.


The Spirit turned its vengeance not only toward John Bell, but also his daughter, sweet Betsy, and her engagement to Joshua Gardner, which the Spirit vowed to put an end to. It attacked Betsy constantly when she would see or speak of Joshua. John tried to move Betsy away, but the evil intruder only followed her, forcing her to return. Angered by the treatment of Betsy, Frank Miles, the strongest man in Robertson County and John Jr.’s best friend, confronted the Spirit when it was attacking and cursing Betsy, whom he lovingly referred to as “Little Sister”. Frank quickly found he was no match for the Spirit who beat him brutally. To Betsy and everyone’s heartbreak, she broke her engagement with Joshua and he soon left town never to see Betsy again.


After Joshua left, Lucy, John’s kind and much loved wife, became very ill and was not expected to live. To everyone’s amazement the vile creature was saddened and refused to leave Lucy’s side. It dropped grapes and nuts into Lucy’s lap apparently from nowhere and encouraged her to eat. It sang old gospel hymns to her and rejoiced at Lucy’s recovery.


The "Spirit" continued to express its dislike for "Ol Jack Bell," and relentlessly vowed to kill him. After years of torment, John Bell’s health diminished as the Spirit continued to mentally and physically abuse him causing him often to be gripped by seizures. In a final effort, a well known voodoo man named Dr. Mize was called in to try to rid the house of it’s hideous visitor. The man ended up fleeing, begging for mercy; as did all the others who came to combat the Spirit. Shortly after Dr. Mize left, John was viciously attacked by the Spirit. He told his son he could fight no more and was helped to bed. He never left it again.


On the morning of December 20, 1820, after a long battle with a crippling nervous system disorder, John Bell took his last breath. Immediately after Bell’s death, the family found a small vial of unidentified liquid beside his bed. John Bell, Jr. gave some of the liquid to the family’s cat and the cat died almost instantly. The "Spirit" suddenly spoke up exclaiming, "I gave Ol' Jack a big dose of that last night and that fixed him!" John Bell’s funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Robertson County, hundreds of people attended; including the gloating Spirit, who cheerfully offered mourners a concert of brawny drinking songs.


The Bell’s house, a religious center for revivals and bible studies, became a place of fear and terror. A home of torment for John, Lucy and their seven children. A place of suffering as John’s family and friends watched helplessly as a good husband, father and friend withered away while the Spirit did as it liked. Yet, those who witnessed the demonstrations knew that the Spirit had a wonderful power of intelligence, possessing great knowledge of men and things; a spirit that apparently could read minds, tell men’s secrets, repeat sermons, sing every song in the hymn book and quote scripture fluently with absolute accuracy.


In April of 1821, the "Spirit" visited Lucy Bell and told her that it was leaving but would return in seven years for a visit. Seven years later, in 1828, the "Spirit" returned as promised. Most of this visit centered around John Bell, Jr. The "Spirit" discussed with him such things as the origin of life, Christianity, the need for a mass spiritual awakening and other in-depth topics. Of particular significance were the "Spirit’s" predictions of the Civil War, World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II.


Today, the "Spirit" which haunted the Bell family nearly 200 years ago is believed by many to be the source of numerous manifestations in the area where the story took place. Some believe that when the "Spirit" returned in 1935, it took residence in Adams, Tennessee, once a part of the Bell farm and the site of ancient Indian burial grounds. The faint sounds of people talking and children playing can sometimes be heard in the area.


Over the four year period from 1817 to 1821, hundreds of people witnessed the Spirit’s wonderful and frightful demonstrations; and many of the most reputable people of Robertson County and the area testified to the events, telling their stories over and over. During the time of these exciting demonstrations, ever so many ministers, detectives, wise men, witch doctors and conjurors came to exercise their skills on the Spirit and all were brought to grief in some way, confessing that the phenomena was something beyond comprehension. To this day, no one has ever given an intelligent explanation to the great mystery known as the Bell Witch Haunting...


Compiled by : Currently Unknown.

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