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.


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





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Jaggity Lantern video

November 7, 2007 at 8:26 pm (autumn, blog, fall, ghouls, halloween, hayride, journal, masks, monsters, normal, trick-or-treat, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Check out a video I made when Alexander and I took a trip to the pumpkin farm.


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the person I’m not

October 28, 2007 at 12:50 pm (autumn, belief, blog, Blogroll, candy, fall, ghouls, god, halloween, hayride, introspective, journal, judging, judgmental, masks, monsters, prejudice, pretending, punk, rant, reflecting, trick-or-treat, Uncategorized)

I’ve come to realize that the reasons I love fall are plentiful. I love the welcomed change that the season brings. I love the chill in the air, and the crunch of the leaves underneath your feet. I love the colors that surround you as the leaves change. And even though I am not a big fan of the dark (just ask my roomates! I don’t like going out at night) something about the darkness creeping in a little earlier is comforting. It almost helps me unwind for the night a little easier. It inspires me to light my candles and enjoy a book and a glass of wine by the soft glow of the flickering flames.

Halloween is also something I’ve always looked forward to. I know there are so many thoughts on this holiday, but I’m not sure it is appreciate as much as it should be.

Last night I went to Ghouls at Grassmere with my buddy, Alexander, his mom Melinda, and one of their little neighbors, Thomas. There were mini ghouls and goblins walking around everywhere. There were bonfires, and hayrides, and plenty of walking. I have sore feet to prove it and can barely walk today. And who can forget about the candy so plentiful that each and every child was having a sugar induced manic episode.

But I think my favorite part of all was that I got to pretend to be someone I’m not. As an adult, I’ve never really been into dressing up. But over the past few years I’ve gotten used to the idea that it might not be so bad after all. Last night I transformed myself into a punk rocker. Anyone who knows me knows how “normal” I am (and by normal, I mean boring and bland). I am admittedly the least hip person in the world, and I’m ok with that. I prefer my jeans and collared shirt pretty much every day of the week, as long as I can change back into my lounge pants and tshirt as soon as I get back home. But last night I really went all out: Pink and black hair, fake lip/nose piercings, tattoo sleeves, heavy black eyeliner and lipstick. I sort of freaked myself out. But I was so surprised at how much I was able to let my guard down. It’s something I don’t realize is so prevalent in my life until it subsides for a little while. I got some weird looks from people trying to figure out if my piercings were real. I had a couple of people come up and look at my tattoos in awe, only to realize they were fake. For a brief moment of my life, I was part of the edgy crowd. If I had run across anyone I knew, they probably would have no idea who I was. But then, maybe I did run into people I knew, and didn’t recognize them either.

I do believe that is my favorite part of Halloween. For one day out of the year, we lose all of our ideas and pretenses. Our prejudices go out the window. It is a night we are able to just relax a little bit and have fun with the people we are around, whether we know them (or think we don’t know them) or not.

Every year I go trick or treating with Alexander. He and his parents are like my family. I’m usually around at various get togethers they have, and have gotten to know friends and neighbors of theirs. But, when I am out with a legion of masked people, it is hard to tell who I know, and who are just strangers in the mix. I’m forced to treat everyone as if I know them, just in case. Which, really I should do everyday anyway. I have to wonder if that’s really how it’s meant to be. The lines that divide us are faded out beneath the face paint and masks. It allows us all to really come together as one, without our differences being all we can see.

I do believe my new goal in life is to treat everyone as if they are wearing a clown mask. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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