The Bell Witch: An American Haunting


Tennessee is home to one of the most disturbing ghost stories of all time: the Bell Witch. There are several books about the witch, but many Americans heard the story for the first time in the movie An American Haunting, which was released two years ago and based on actual events.

The Bell Witch is a story about John and Elizabeth Bell and their children, who lived in Adams in Robertson County in the early 1800s. Each year, close to Halloween, Tennessee State Museum re-enactors dress like daughter Betsy Bell and tell this story:

"Kate Bates was a member of our small community. One day, she and my father argued over a business deal. Over time, she became more and more displeased with my father, and legend has it that she cast a spell over my family, cursing us to be haunted for life.

"From then on, our family was visited by an apparition or ghost. She wasn't a friendly ghost, so we referred to her as a witch. She became known as the Bell Witch.

"At first, the Bell Witch couldn't speak, and she communicated in soft, whistlelike sounds. Gradually, her voice developed, and she felt free to communicate with us verbally. In the meantime, she was torturing our family. At night, my sister and I would lay in bed gripping our covers tightly because she would be pulling them off from the end of our bed.

"Occasionally, she would hit us or scratch us, and she wouldn't stop even when we cried. She teased and tormented everyone in my family except for my younger brother, John Bell Jr. She liked John and would protect him from harm and would harm those who were cruel to him.

"Eventually, the Bell Witch killed my father by poisoning him. She put black, poisonous liquid in his food. The curse of the Bell Witch continued for years, so my brothers, sisters and I were forced to leave home. Our friends and neighbors would often come and stay in our home to experience the haunting for themselves. We even had visitors from other cities who traveled to Adams just to see or hear the Bell Witch. My parents would feed and house our visitors, hoping that the visitors would experience the haunting, too.

"The people living in Adams were so tired of the Bell Witch and her trickery that they excommunicated her from the town and ordered her to live in a cave on the outside of the city, where she still lives today.

"If you are brave enough, you can go to Adams, Tenn., and visit the cave where the Bell Witch was sent to live. However, I want you to be very careful!


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