Most of us learn at a relatively young age that supernatural spookiness isn’t real. Sure, it’s fun to watch and read about tall tales, but there aren’t too many parents telling their kids that there might actually be a monster under their bed.
It’s easy to be skeptical, though, when it comes to certain stories of real-life hauntings. This is especially true when there are multiple witnesses corroborating the story, and even historical documentation.
That seemed to be the case with the story of the Bell Witch. What she supposedly did to one family was horrifying… and she might still be around!
According to legend, way back in the summer of 1817 in the town of Adams, Tennessee, something terrible befell the Bell family. It all started one evening when patriarch John Bell was walking through his 360-acre farm.
It was during this walk that John saw something strange in the corn field: it was what he would later describe as a dog with a rabbit’s head. He shot at the strange animal a number of times and then joined his family inside.
Later that night, the mysterious sounds of knocking and rattling chains were heard by the whole family. Each proceeding night it became louder and louder and was eventually joined by the sound of a strange voice chanting hymns. The Bell children then began hearing rats gnawing on their bedposts. But the horrors were only just beginning…
For over a year, John was so afraid of being called crazy that he told his family to hide what they’d seen and heard. Yet he decided to confide in his best friend, James Johnston, after his youngest daughter, Betsy, woke up with hand prints and welts on her face.
To investigate his friend’s claims, James stayed in the Bell house one night, ultimately confirming that he heard unusual sounds as well. Soon enough, all sorts of people were visiting the house to try to do the same. Even a young Andrew Jackson, back when he was still in the military, tried to visit. But once he arrived at their farm, the wheels of his carriage weirdly became locked.
According to lore, the spirit haunting the Bell family claimed to be a former neighbor named Kate Batts, and she believed John treated her unfairly on a land deal. Not only did she want to kill him, but she was determined to prevent a boy in town named Joshua Gardner from marrying Betsy. Kate, later referred to as the Bell Witch, apparently caused John to suffer several choking attacks over the next few years, which he said felt like a sharp stick in his mouth.
On December 20, 1820, John Bell died after falling into a coma. The family found a vial of poison in the room, and the Bell Witch was allegedly proud to claim responsibility for forcing him to drink. Betsy broke off her engagement to Joshua just three months later.
Apparently having finally achieved what she wanted all along, the Bell Witch bid farewell to the family… although she promised to return someday. She apparently wasn’t lying, because John Bell Jr. said she visited him in 1828 and told him a number of secrets from throughout time, including a prediction of the Civil War.
Not only did strange things continue to happen on the property, but the activity spread to the cave behind the farm; the witch supposedly still resided there. Some people claim that there was never a witch at all, but it was simply someone else trying to force the breakup between Betsy and Joshua.
Betsy ended up marrying Richard Powell, her old schoolteacher who took a liking to her years earlier. Strangely, it wasn’t long after they’d first met that the creepy activity started. Richard was rumored to be an occultist, and in 1821—around the same time that Betsy broke off her engagement—Richard’s wife mysteriously died.
Whether Richard was behind the devious hauntings remained to be seen. To this day, the Bell Witch is said to be the cause of other unexplainable sights and sounds around the property. While the Bell farmhouse may not be around anymore, there is a recreation of the cabin and other attractions at The Bell Witch Cave!
This is definitely a horror story if there ever was one, and the fact that it might be true makes it even more frightening! Would you ever visit those caves?
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