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Legend of the Bell Witch

Updated on April 15, 2013

How many of you have heard of the Bell Witch Legend from Tennessee? It is supposed to be one of the best accounts of a haunting in the United States. Supposedly there were many witnesses to the poltergeist goings on in the Bell home in Tennessee including a future President back in the 1800’s. As many places and things that I have heard of I never heard any great details of the Bell Witch, so I became curious when I stumbled upon a comparison of the Blair Witch Project and the Bell Witch.

I personally thought the Blair Witch Project was quite blown up and did not enjoy it, so I had to look into the Bell Witch as it was being compared to Blair Witch and here is what I found.

John Bell Sr. and his wife, Lucy and their six or seven children, (it depends where you look for the information as to how many children they had) moved to Tennessee along the Red River where they acquired a 1,000 acres of land in 1804. John then went on to build a home for his family along with many other buildings including slave quarters. It took the family 13 years to get the farm into what could be termed a successful farm.

This is where it gets odd, in 1817 as John was walking through his cornfield supposedly an animal that looked like a dog but had more of a rabbits face appeared before him and John did what anyone of that time would, he shot at it. The creature then disappeared and soon after noises began to be heard at the Bell home, knocking and banging on the outer walls, which soon would move inside the home.

Over time the noises grew into what sounded like animals fighting outside, but nothing was there. On the inside of the home the covers began to be pulled from beds and what sounded like whispers could be heard. The noises began to increase and could be heard on a nightly basis in the Bell home, visitors and family alike began to hear a voice, a clear voice, speaking to them.

For a year straight the family was under constant attack by this spirit and finally John Sr. developed a condition that made it extremely difficult to swallow or chew. Was it spirit related or some other affliction? John Sr. supposedly thought it was the spirit as this spirit had made it perfectly clear it hated John Sr. and would see him dead. According to records of this haunting, the spirit hated John Sr. but would never say why, but it seemed to like various other members of the family such as Lucy, John Sr. wife. Betsy the youngest daughter is believed to have been physically abused by the spirit as she was told the spirit did not like Betsy’s suitor Joshua.

Betsy was supposedly tormented by the spirit who would follow her to friend’s homes and would frighten Betsy’s hosts. Betsy was claimed to have been slapped repeatedly and to have her hair pulled constantly and bruise like marks would appear on Betsy. This spirit that torments the family also appeared to know everything about everyone and would often repeat prayers that had been said at the Bell home, often in the voice of the person who said the prayer or even quote scripture from revivals that were taking place miles from the home. Soon the rumors spread of the happenings at the Bell home and nightly large groups of people would come to the home to “see” the Bell Witch.

The Bell Witch continued to torment John Sr. and after four years he appears to have given up and was taken to his bed where he would never again leave alive. It is said that a vial appeared next to his bed with some clear liquid inside and that John Jr. fed some to the family cat and it too died. The witch supposedly began to spout off how it had used the liquid to poison John Sr. But even in death the spirit still would not leave John Sr. and supposedly made quite a spectacle at John Seniors funeral by laughing and mocking the mourners. This was supposedly witnessed by hundreds of people who attended the funeral.

The story goes that the Bell Witch stayed on the property for another year after John Seniors death and then announced to the family that “she” was leaving and would return in seven years. It is believed that the Witch did return very briefly in 1828, but most of the Bell family had either died or moved away. It is said that only John Sr. and his wife Lucy are buried on the property but that their gravestones are long gone, although someone did place a small monument to John Sr. in 1957. It is said that the Bell Witch waits in a cave on the property for unsuspecting visitors to scare. It is also believed that John Sr. himself restlessly wanders the property.

So what do you think? Is this a true story and actually happened to this family long ago, or was it just a great book written for amusement and fantasy? I think anything is possible, but I know how “Hollywood” likes to embellish a story.


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    • JesadaB profile image

      JesadaB 6 years ago from Home!

      Yes that movie was based on the Bell Witch, I never saw it after I read the reviews for it, alot of the reviews were not favorable. I do prefer to read about any haunting instead of watching a movie. Reading about it can be alot scarier to me!

    • New 2011 Mom profile image

      New 2011 Mom 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      This sounds exactly like a horror movie that came out a few years ago called "An American Haunting." It's a very good movie if you are interested in the paranormal, and I would bet it was based off of this story, at least a version of this story.

    • JesadaB profile image

      JesadaB 6 years ago from Home!

      Well there are claims that this entity was heard if not seen by many people and there was another small story about the cave on the property that a boy and his friends went wandering in the caves and one boy got stuck and could not get out. The claim is that he heard a woman's voice say "I'll get you out" and someone grabbed his ankles and dragged him close to the entrance.

    • profile image

      leann2800 6 years ago

      I think maybe part of it is real but it was embeliished by Hollywood.

    • JesadaB profile image

      JesadaB 6 years ago from Home!

      I am glad you liked it,I had never heard of the Bell Witch so was very curious, but found so many different stories about it, it was hard to figure what was supposed to have happened and what could be made up to improve the story. Now I have to go find your hub about it! lol Thanks!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 6 years ago from the Ether

      It's definitely not a Hollywood embellished story. One of my hubs on witches includes this story and it's actually a documented fact that one of our presidents when he was a general (can't remember which one now) went to investigate the house and confirmed that it was indeed haunted by a poltergeist. A disembodied voice of a woman was witnessed, physical attacks, etc. Voted up and awesome!