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The Bell Witch: A True American Horror Story

Autor:   •  January 7, 2019  •  2,307 Words (10 Pages)  •  44 Views

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The idea that an evil spirit was residing in John Bell’s home did not sit well with many members and elders of the church. Many questions where being asked, to which the church had no answer. The Reverend vowed to stand by Bell, however, the church elders felt something had to be done. To add fuel to the fire, John Bell had entered a business dispute with Benjamin Batts, a neighbor and fellow church member, in 1816. The dispute was recorded in the church minutes. Simply put, the dispute centered around the sale of a slave girl. “ Bell purchased her from Batts for $100, but did not get her for several days. Batts insisted that the girl was worth more and that he was at liberty to sell her again. Bell then stated that if Batts resold the girl he would be obligated to give Bell $150. Bell was then given the girl and the bill of sale for her. Batts then showed up at Bells home and gave him $150 to give him back the girl. Bell did and he then proceeded to burn the bill of sale” (qtd. in Fitzhugh 82). The church decided that Bell was in the right of the argument. Batts was unsatisfied with the results and decided to take the case to court, where John Bell was tried and convicted of “usury”. After Bell received negative conviction. Forcing the church to reconsider their earlier assessment of the evidence, and siding with Mr. Batts. A vote was taken, and Bell was excommunicated from the church. Many believed that the true reason for the excommunication from the Red Baptist Church was because of the spirit that visited and haunted his family.

After Bells’ excommunication, the spirit was questioned by a minister who would not stand for its lies that the spirit admitted to being “Old Kate Batts's witch”. Kate Batts, who was alive at the time, was Benjamins Batts sister. She, like her brother, had also gotten into a disagreement with Mr. Bell when the Bells first moved to Tennessee. There was already much speculation about her being a witch, and people took caution when being around her. Kate was also a prime suspect because of the conflicts between the two families. However, there are no available records that undoubtedly connect her to the haunting. The Bells decided to take the spirits statement as a lie, but from then onwards the spirit was referred to as “Kate” or “Old Kate”.

The spirit kept up her antics, reportedly presenting itself as different animals. There was also an incident where she repeated a priests sermon to him, mimicking him perfectly. A particularly interesting account was when General Andrew Jackson, who was not yet president, was told about the happenings in the Bell Farm. He took an interest to the rumors of a witch haunting the home of Tennessee farmers and gathered a group of men to go visit the famous Bell witch, among them a famous witch doctor. The supposed doctor boasted that he would be able to figure out the mystery of the witch in three days time by using a “silver bullet and two inches of a black cat’s tail” (Hartford Herald). All he had to do was rub the tail to his nose and he would be able to see the “invisible world plain to his eye. Then the silver bullet would do the rest” (Hartford Herald). When they arrived to the home, however, his plan did not work and he felt a “rain of blows that sent him howling and scuttling about the room. Gen. Jackson laughed, rolled on the ground and swore: ‘By the eternal boys, this is better than fighting the British!’” (Hartford Herald). The witch kept mocking and making a fool of the seer until he was driven out of the Bell home, much to the amusement of Andrew Jackson.

Overall, the spirit especially focused her efforts on John Bell and his daughter, Betsy. For Betsy the spirit showed what was described as “petulant tenderness”(Hartford Herald), and constantly begged her not to marry Joshua Gardner, a neighbor and friend of the Bells. The spirits interest in John Bell, however, where not as kind. The spirit showed what is described as a “concentrated malignity” (Hartford Herald) towards him. Often wishing him death and stating that it would be the one to kill him. One morning John Bell went out and was suddenly beaten and twisted until a violent seizure overtook him. When he got home he took to his bed and never went outdoors again. Reportedly, his seizure “had been accompanied demoniac singing in the air above him, that at last died to blood-circling shrieks of triumph” (Hartford Herald). He was under bedrest for two months when the witch said “You need not try to wake Old Jack. I have got him this time. He has had his dose, and will never wake again”(Hartford Herald). When the family went to investigate they found Bell in his bed, with a dark vial filled with liquid on his nightstand. The family decided to test the contents of the vial and gave a small dose to their cat. The cat experienced sharp convulsions and was dead within three minutes. Bell was in a stupor, but they could smell the scent of the liquid in his breath. The next morning he was dead. A few weeks passed and then the spirit stated that it would be leaving, but it would be returning in seven years time. There are many different accounts on what happened during those years but the one thing that they all have in common is that Betsy Bell did not go through with her engagement to Joshua Gardner. She later married Schoolmaster Powell, who many of the slaves at the Bell farm suspected was behind the hauntings in order to marry Betsy all along.

While no one has seemed to solve the mystery of the Bell witch, the lore is still alive in Tennessee. One can go to Adams, Tennessee and take tours of the old Bell family farm and the cave that she supposedly moved to. The people there often blame strange occurrences and troubling events on ‘Old Kate’ and use her in order to scare kids into behaving. Some say that they can hear her voice late at night calling out to them. To this day some say that the witch still haunts the land and the Bell's descendants, but no one has been able to prove this.

Although there are different stories and accounts of what happened in the Bell farm, the certainty is that something dark and strange occurred in the years of 1817 to 1828 on the property, and is still being talked about and investigated today.

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References

Fitzhugh, Pat. The Bell Witch: The Full Account. N.p.: Armand, 2000. Print.

Ingram, M. V. "General Andrew Jackson and the Bell Witch." Britannica. Academic, n.d. Web.

N/A, N/A. "History of the Famous Bell Witch and Its Tragic Persecution of an Entire Family in Tennessee."

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