I have already done an ATS search for the Bell Witch, and haven’t found any posts on the topic, which surprises me.
Basically, when north-central Tennessee was settled at the beginning of the 19th century, the Bell family of pioneers in Adams county were plagued by
a supernatural presence which had a great deal of hatred for the patriarch, John Bell. John Bell died after being poisoned—he and others claimed
that the witch poured a bottle of unknown contents into his mouth while he was sleeping. Back in those days, any supernatural entity was referred to
as a witch, since witch meant any form of paranormal/e.s.p. activity; i.e. “water-witching” for dowsing.
I think the Bell Witch case is probably the single best documented haunting in the U.S. With several hundred eyewitnesses over the course of at least
three generations, and claims of paranormal presence in Adams county which continue to this day. It is claimed that Future POTUS Andrew Jackson
journeyed to visit the Bell Witch, but his horse refused to go within sight of the farmhouse. Many residents of that area will not say “Bell
Witch” except when giving directions, for fear that they will be attacked, even as much as 20 or 30 miles from the cave.
Here is my own experience:
I have an endless appetite for the paranormal, although I am generally a skeptic. That is one reason I don’t usually post on this paranormal forum;
many here seem to believe anything. Anyway, I had heard the story of the Bell witch from a friend while watching the “Blair Witch Project.” He
was really p.o.’d at the movie, claiming that they had ripped off a TRUE story of his native Tennessee, ruining the name, and making up their own
bad plot. He said that “Blair Witch Project is to Bell Witch as Bram Stoker is to Vlad the Impaler.” He stomped out of the movie.
I was in central Tennessee about 5 years ago now. I was staying at the home of a group of friends just north of Nashville, and I told them over
Sunday brunch that I wanted to go see the Bell Witch. We talked about how several of them had heard that if you sat up till midnight, staring into a
mirror and saying “I hate the Bell Witch,” she will appear in the mirror and reach out and scratch your face. They all said it was a crock, even
though none of them had been there or researched it. I talked about my theories of the paranormal. I told them that even if there were no truth to
the legend, it would be an interesting anthropological expedition, to visit the little town in the grips of the B.W. We all went to different rooms
to take a nap. For my part, I dreamed of I was looking in the mirror over the dresser in the room I was napping in, and that instead of my
reflection, there was a gray humanoid shape in the mirror, that slowly resolved into the image of an old hag in a shawl. She was cussing me for
doubting her. I woke up with my hair standing on end. The other adults in the house were waking up, too. It seems we had EACH dreamed of the Bell
Witch at the same instant.
None of us took the idea seriously, but now we definitely wanted to go and see the B. W. site. I got on the internet, and found a phone number for
tours. I talked to the daughter of the family who runs the site. She sounded like a teenager and said her dad gave the tours, but that he and the
rest of the family were ill. She added that if we wanted to come, she would give us a tour.
We ran to the car and zoomed off with an atlas in one hand and cameras in the other. The countryside is beautiful, rolling hills covered with corn
and tobacco fields. We got lost several times, but finally found the tourist sign pointing to the Bell farm. The Bells have moved away decades ago.
There are only two direct members of the family still alive, from what I remember. They don’t live in North America any more, and only contact the
caretakers via lawyer.
We showed up and the young lady who was very sweet and produced THICK photo albums of various phenomena that had been photographed on the property, as
well as copies of newspaper and magazine accounts of the Bell Witch. She recited a rehearsed lecture, and did a fair job of covering up her boredom
as she went. She also had several thin books for sale, and I bought one of each.
The girl asked if we had flashlights. She kept going in the house and talking to her mom. She had walkie-talkies, and kept testing them over and
over. I could tell that she was generally frightened, but assumed it was just a show for the tourists.
She led us down a gravel path, down to the river below the homesite. You could not have found the cave without a guide, even with the path, which
disappears into the rocky face of a steep hill that must be scaled to get into the cave. There are handrails in the tough spots, but you need to be
basically fit in order to get to it. Turns out the cave is directly below the house, but was undiscovered until members of the Bell family had
already started dying off.
The girl gave an in-depth account of the history of the B.W., and pointed out different parts of the cave. It was nearly 100 F outside, but was in
the low 70’s in the cave. There are blind, eyeless shrimp and crayfish in the creek that flows in the darkness of the cave. Her dad had installed
lights in the ceiling, about a hundred yards into the cave. I realized that the girl was honestly shaking, and in her presentation about every
“page” of information, she’d stop and call her dad by walkie-talkie, to tell him everything was still o.k.
She took us to the end of the lighted portion. She apologized but said that she would not take anyone any further, since flashlights often went dead
for no reason. I noticed that she held onto a wall the whole time. She said that more than once the lights had failed during a tour, and she had had
to crawl out in the dark by herself, leading other tourists who were mad and scared.
As we were talking in the central chamber of the cave, I noticed a cloud of mist forming between us while we were conversing. I asked the others if
they saw it too. All said yes, including the guide. At first I speculated that the cloud was formed by warm air from the outside entering the cave
and moving over the ice-cold water. But the mist was about 45 ft. from the brook, and was not swirling in any air currents. I walked around it,
trying to find what was causing it. No one else could find an explanation. None of us are smokers. The girl was totally freaked out, and started
calling for her dad on the walkie talkie, but it was totally dead. I tried it myself, and the power LED on the unit wouldn’t light up. It didn’t
even click when you keyed the mike, which most will do if they have any power at all. I got two pictures that came out. I wish I owned a scanner so
I could post them. They were taken with a disposable Kodak and printed on regular glossy film. I didn’t know about getting them made to a floppy
disc back then.
Anyway, all of us got pictures, and made our way out of the cave. The lights started flickering as we went out, and I will admit that my heart was
racing and I was leaving. The lights finally failed as we saw the light coming in from the entrance. I will confess that I felt some presence, which
seemed to cling to us the rest of the afternoon, until we had left Adams county, TN.
I remember asking the girl if she was related to the Bells and she said no. Her father had lost his job in Nashville, and saw an ad in the paper, for
farm labor. The job turned out to be overseeing the Bell farm. The lawyers said he could operate it as a tourist attraction if he wished. She said
that a number of families had tried over the years, none staying more than about 5 or 6 years. So I don’t know if her family is still doing it, or
even if it’s still open as a tourist attraction.
I will say that the “fog” seemed aware; as soon as I commented on it, I thought it began moving TOWARDS me. My friends told me (once we were out
of the county) that they had the same impression. I remember that I continued to have weird dreams for about 6 months afterward.
Personally, I believe the Bell Witch is a type of psychic vampire, that has learned to survive the first death, and forestall the dissolution of the
psychic or astral body/self by feeding off of the strong emotions of others, especially their fear.
I also got the feeling that the Bell Witch was not a ghost or human disembodied spirit, but was an elemental that had developed consciousness, and
enjoyed scaring the whole county.
I had occasion to interview a one-time county officer of Adams County a year or two later, and she told me that she agreed with my conclusions. She
said that the creature could sense when anyone in town was thinking about ‘her,’ and would come if they continued to focus on her. She told about
her son giving her a lift to the dentist, and his car stalling out when he had begun talking about what the Bell Witch ‘really was.’ She thought
that the entity had basically migrated to the town of Adams, because there were more people there to be fed by, and that the town itself seemed more
haunted that the Bell farm does now.
Here are some websites:
Anyway, as soon as I can locate a scanner (maybe at kinko’s?) I’ll post the two or three pics I still have.
If you want to visit the Bell Witch Cave, I think you can find a website or call Adams, TN city hall, since it they hope to capitalize on the tourism
that ought to come, but never seems to. Maybe too many people leave scared?