The Bell Witch Haunts Tennessee
As a full moon rises over a darkened log cabin shrouded in mystery, tales of the Bell Witch are whispered. Sinister beatings, hideous curses and threats, death by poisoning. Will she appear tonight?
The group huddles together and crosses the threshold into the cabin. Candles flicker as a cold draft brushes our cheeks. And then the story begins… with creakings and groanings, the clank of chains dragging across the wooden floor, the feeble cries of an old woman. A body lies under the bedcovers – did that hand move?
The Bell Witch is not just a legend. The ghost was a sinister entity that tormented a farmer and his family in the small frontier town of Adams, Tennessee in the early 1800s and is still believed to haunt the cave on the property.
John Bell, a farmer from North Carolina, moved to northern Robertson County, Tennessee in 1804 with his wife and family and settled on 320 fertile acres beside the Red River. Life was uneventful until he encountered a strange looking animal in his cornfield one summer’s day in 1817. The creature had the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit. Grabbing his gun, he fired several shots before the animal vanished. That night the strange occurrences began. Mysterious beating sounds were heard on the walls of the Bell’s cabin, sounds that continued every night and grew in intensity.
More disturbing visitations ensued, with alarming results. The bedcovers were mysteriously pulled off, pillows thrown, wailing voices and sounds of rats gnawing wood broke the stillness of the night. Chains clanked invisibly down the stairs and the family was constantly harassed. Bell’s youngest daughter, Betsy, suffered more violent encounters as the evil spirit pulled her hair, stuck her with pins, slapped her face and body and left deep bruises on the poor girl.
Neighbors were invited to spend the night and experienced the same terrifying treatment. Word spread in the surrounding district and soon folk were coming from far and wide to witness the manifestations of the “Bell Witch.” Even General Andrew Jackson, later President of the United States, decided to pay the family a visit with his entourage of soldiers and investigate the rumors.
Bell’s three sons had served under Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans and welcomed the interest of their former commander-in-chief. Despite the bravado of Jackson’s men, one of them was severely beaten by the entity during the night and stuck repeatedly with pins, and the entourage left early the next morning.
The Bell Witch claimed to be Kate Batts, an old neighbor who dabbled in the occult and on her deathbed swore to haunt John Bell and his descendents for cheating her in a land purchase. The evil spirit continued to terrorize the family for several years, revealing her intention to kill John Bell and warning Betsy not to marry her fiancé, Joshua Gardner. The young couple was taunted relentlessly, in the house or when playing by the river or in the cave on the Bell property. Betsy finally broke off the engagement, but not until after the death of her father.
Under constant attack, John Bell’s health declined, ending with his mysterious death by poisoning on December 20, 1820. The Bell Witch gleefully claimed responsibility and was heard singing and laughing loudly as family and friends left the graveyard of Robertson County’s largest funeral.
Exactly seven years later she appeared to John Bell Jr., staying to enjoy many intelligent discussions before leaving again with predictions of future events such as the Civil War and a vow to visit John Bell’s direct descendent in 107 years.
It is believed that the spirit returned in 1935 and took up residence in Adams and the cave that runs beneath the property.
If you’re feeling brave, you can visit the Bell Witch Cave in Adams, Tennessee and see for yourself. Take a candlelight Halloween tour at the haunted Bell Witch Cave and farm, but be prepared for anything! Some experience strange camera malfunctions, others hear voices or see orbs visible in photographs of the log cabin or deep inside the cave. What will you find?