Experiencing Nashville: Part Three – The Bell Witch

March 18, 2008 at 7:12 pm (Adams, belief, blog, Blogroll, civil war, experiencing nashville, folklore, ghost, ghost story, ghouls, haunting, historic nashville, history, legend, monsters, nashville, photo, photoblog, photography, pictures, questioning, spirit, struggle, suffering, tennessee, TN, witch) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

For this “Experiencing Nashville” post, I ventured a little farther than I have before. Over the weekend, I took a drive up to Adams, TN. It takes about an hour to get there from here. On a rainy Saturday morning, I loaded into my car and picked up some friends before hitting the road.

I’ve been intrigued by the legend of the Bell Witch for years. I’m such a sucker for anything related to history and the paranormal. I tivo all the Ghost Hunters episodes, and thoroughly freak myself out when no one else is home. I love it.

Here is a little history on the Bell Witch story:

In the early 1800’s, Adams, Tennessee was known as the Red River Settlement. It was an area of vast land with great potential for farming. John Bell and his family moved from North Carolina to the Red River area, aquiring land and developing crops of corn and tobacco. It wasn’t long before strange happenings began to take place on the farm.

It began with a sighting of a strange animal in the cornfield. The family began to hear strange noises, thumbs and scratches on the walls coming from unseen forces. The noises seemed to escalate, then turning into more tangible happenings. Bedsheets were pulled off the bed while the family slept. Pillows were tossed around, and finally, physical assaults on John and his daughter, Betsy.

Over time, John sought out the help of friends and neighbors. They too witnessed the same things the family was claiming to regularly experience. The spirit seemed to acquire a voice, and would verbally taunt the family endlessly. When Betsy became engaged to a neighbor, Joshua Gardner, the spirit strongly opposed and would continue to voice “her” opinion, until finally driving the couple to call it off.

Poor John Bell was relentlessly tortured and taunted. His health grew worse, he began having seizures and eventually became bedridden. After John Bell passed away in 1820, the family found a bottle of a mysterious substance. The spirit boasted of giving the substance to John Bell and “fixing him”. According to the story, she even sang loudly and mockingly at John Bell’s funeral.

The spirit finally decided to leave, promising to return in 7 years. And so she did… although this time, only conversed with John Bell, Jr. and supposedly made several predictions about the coming age, such as the civil war, WWI, the Great Depression, and WWII. Then, the spirit again left, claiming to return in 107 years.

No one knows for sure if the Bell Witch actually returned. It’s possible that she did, in fact, return to the most direct Bell descendant, but no one made mention of it.

On the original Bell farm, there is a cave now known as the Bell Witch cave. It is said that the spirit lived/lives there. Is it another tourist trap to make money off unsuspecting visitors? Or is there any real credence to the stories? Even today, there are reports of strange happenings in the area. While visiting the Adams historical museum (located in what once was the Bell School), I asked one of the employees if there were strange occurences that take places there. She said sometimes things will move around. People will witness strange shadows that are unexplained. There are sounds that are sometimes heard, and lights that are seen in the distant fields.

So, who is the Bell Witch really? There is no way to know for sure. There are many guesses as to the real truth behind the legend. Some theories claim that Native American spirits continue to claim the land that was rightfully theirs. Others say that it was a spirit, demonic in nature, who even claimed to be present at Christ’s crucifixion. The more popular theory is that the spirit was a manifestation of Kate Batts, a local resident, who some suspected of practicing witchcraft. Another theory is that the “spirit” was nothing more than a manifestation of energy that is sometimes brought on by a young girl entering puberty, or even as a result of an incestuous relationship between John and Betsy. None of these claims can really be confirmed or proven… but then they also can’t be disproven.

While visiting Adams, I was a little surprised at how little there really wass to see. There is a little log cabin behind the brick school building, and a graveyard of Bell descendants (apparently the Bell family mostly went on to Mississippi, where they are laid to rest) just down the road.

The cave is inaccessible much of the year, except for the summer months when it dries out. We drove around to no avail, just trying to even find the entrance.

So, decide for yourself on what really can be logically explained away, or just let it continue to be a mystery of the unknown. It’s really more fun that way.

sources:

http://www.bellwitch.org by Pat Fitzhugh

http://paranormal.about.com/od/trueghoststories/a/aa041706.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bell_Witch

http://www.prairieghosts.com/b-cave.html

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5 Comments

  1. ahna said,

    Hi Sally! Thanks for popping by my blog not too long ago. Great to “see” you here in cyberspace. 🙂

    Unlike you, I am totally not into hearing about ghosts or the paranormal. However, I have heard about the Bell Witch from my friend Murray, who grew up out in that area of TN. He was friends with descendents of that family, and has said that he himself has experienced the presence of the Bell Witch. (I forget the details… In fact, I probably asked him to skip them.) But my friend is a smart, really reasonable kind of guy — Vanderbilt grad, owns his own business, etc. So… who knows?

  2. Jamie said,

    I grew up in Robertson County (after my parents divorced my mom moved there from Nashville when I was 7). We went to church with a lot of people who were descendants of the Bell family. Supposedly the Bell Witch even cross paths with Andrew Jackson!

  3. Kathy T. said,

    Ooooh. This is deliciously creepy!

  4. Music City Bloggers » Blog Archive » The Bell Witch Gives Me the Heebie Jeebies said,

    […] that the story of the Bell Witch makes my hair stand on end.  So I was fascinated when I read this by Just Another Pilgrimage about a trip to Adams, Tennessee. It began with a sighting of a strange animal in the cornfield. The family began to hear strange […]

  5. Stephanie said,

    I remember going to the Bell Witch cave when I was in middle school on Halloween. I was terrified and shaking while walking the path to the entrance. Once I got in there I thought “This is what I was so scared about?” Because for some reason, once I entered the cave I was completely calm.

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