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The Bell Witch

Welcome back to another Weird Wednesday where we explore all manors of hauntings.


Today’s Haunted Location brings us to the Bell farm in Adams, Tennessee and the site of the famous Bell Witch hauntings.


From 1817-1821 the Bell family were haunted by an unknown entity. It is said that while out in the cornfield, John Bell was surprised by the appearance of an animal. This was no ordinary animal, though – it had the head of a rabbit and the body of a dog. He was so taken aback by the sight that he shot at it. The four-plus-year haunting started that night after supper.


The family was interrupted by loud banging on the outside walls of the log house. John and his sons ran out to investigate, but there was nothing there. Nothing they could see, anyway. As time went on the banging continued, and every time someone went to try and catch the culprit, they came up empty handed.


The hauntings continued and, as they did, they began to escalate. What started as banging on the outside walls – which grew in intensity every night, soon turned into terrifying physical contact with the family. The children would wake, crying out, saying rats were gnawing on their bedposts, and something was pulling their blankets and pillows off their beds. The hauntings escalated even farther when the entity began to assault and speak to the members of the family.


As the entity developed a voice, beginning as barely audible whispers that sounded like an old woman singing church hymns, it grew in strength and ability. The voice became clearer, and the entity would sing loudly, quote scripture – including two sermons that were conducted in two separate places in neighboring areas that very same day – and holler insults at John and his family. The attacks became more and more violent as the entity began pinching, grabbing, and hitting.


John, who has asked his family to keep these “family troubles” to themselves, finally called on his best friend, James Johnston. They were skeptical but Johnston and his wife agreed to come stay the night and see for themselves. Their visit was wonderful as can be until they went to bed, which is when they became subject to the hauntings themselves. They heard noises, which escalated much as they had for the Bell family, their bedcovers were thrown from their bodies, and then the entity slapped Johnston across the face.


The main targets of the hauntings over the years seemed to be John Bell and his daughter, Betsy, although the other members of the family were greatly affected. Other People outside of the family, aside from Johnston and his wife claim to have seen or interacted with the entity. Another family friend, William Porter, claims to have grabbed the invisible entity in an attempt to throw it into the fire. He was allegedly unable to do so due to the heavy weight of it and the intense stench that emanated off it.


A man named Dean, who was enslaved by the Bell family, is said to have seen the entity in many different shapes over the years. He encountered the entity so often that his wife made him a “witch ball” to protect him.


Most notoriously, major General Jackson, who John Bell and his brothers fought under, became aware of the situation and went to visit the farm with a group of his men. While there, one of the men claimed to be a “witch tamer” and claimed that they hadn’t seen or heard any ghost activity because he had a gun with a silver bullet that could kill her, and she feared him. Almost instantly, he begam writhing around as though being beaten and shouted saying he felt like he was being stuck with pins. The assault ended when an invisible foot kicked him out the front door, and then the entity’s voice proclaimed that he was a fraud and there was another in the group that she would rid before the night was over.


The men were terrified and begged Jackson to leave, but he was steadfast on staying the night. It is not clear what happened that night, but the next morning, the group was seen in the nearby town of Springfield, heading back to Nashville. Jackson is alleged to have said that he would rather fight the British than the Bell Witch.


After three steady years of haunting, John became ill and died in December 1820. The hauntings gradually lessened before stopping altogether but the family blamed the entity for John’s illness and subsequent death. They believed it poisoned him somehow.


After John’s death, the entity was displeased with the engagement between Betsy and her fiancé, Joshua Gardener. It was said that it commanded Betsy not to marry Joshua and would haunt them mercilessly while they were together. The entity made it impossible for the couple to go into the corn field, near the cave, or down by the river. It became so unbearable for Betsy, that in April 1821, she broke off the engagement. It was shortly after that the entity declared it would leave them but would return in seven years.


In 1828, seven years later, the entity returned and allegedly in lieu of its tradition haunting, spent its time with John Bell Jr, discussing creation, the civil war, Christianity, and the need for a global spiritual awakening. After three weeks it left again, claiming it would return in 107 years.


In 1934, one year before the entity was supposed to return, one of John Bell’s decedents, Dr. Charles Bailey Bell, wrote and published a book recounting the occurrences at the Bell farm. It also included the first known account of the Bell Witch’s conversation with John Bell Jr. Did the entity return in 1935? There is no evidence either way.


To this day, however, people still flock to the Bell farm, where you can visit and go on guided tours. People have claimed to hear and see strange things, including singing and children’s laughter. Photography on the property also poses issues, often coming out blurry or showing ghostly orbs.


Whether the story is true in its entirety or not, it seems that the Bell farm is a spooky place, and maybe always has been.


As always, if you chose to go hunting, remember the rules:







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