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The Bell Witch Cave: A Haunting

Updated on May 15, 2019
Cleo Burch profile image

Cleo has been studying the paranormal since he was younger, fascinated by the unexplainable and the history of it.

The entrance to the Bell Witch Cave.
The entrance to the Bell Witch Cave.

John Bell and the Witch

Much like any good tale of a haunting, this story starts back before our modern times, beginning in the ripe year of 1817 and spanning out into the year of 1821. It starts with John Bell, the patriarch of the Bell family, who was the first target of the phenomena within his kin. Soon enough, it would only spread to the rest of his family, including them within the daily torment of it all.

Sheets were torn from the beds as they slept, scratches and bruises appearing on all of their forms mercilessly. This would go on for quite some time, escalating to hair pulling and being outright hit. Soon enough, the invisible torturer would gain a voice, as if the prior weren't all that bad. John Bell, tired of keeping the family's suffering a dark secret, would let a friend in on the happenings. Much to John's surprise, this friend would venture into town and form a full team of investigators, eager to get to the bottom of it and end things once and for all.

The spirit would self proclaim herself to be that of Kate Batts, going as far as to call herself a witch. Not only had she been John's neighbor, but there had been bad blood between the two over a purchase of slaves. It made a bit of sense, now. A bad deal leading to the woman having unfinished business. But it doesn't end there.

Daily visits would continue upon the Bell family, 'Kate', as they called her, never ceasing in her afflictions and only ever seeming to grow in power. Rather than just being confined to the family, people all over Robertson County would make claims that they had seen her. Although it seems for them, it was for show, never violent like it had been with the Bell's.

For four years, the town would endure the brunt of Kate's appearances, a solution nowhere in sight. Then, strangely, John would fall ill. It wasn't consumption, nor was it the common cold. The entirety of the time that John was bedridden, the Witch would spit and scream, always poking at him and never allowing him a wink of sleep. There would come a day where John, his body unable to physically stay awake, would fall into a slumber. He would never wake up. If only to further add to the mystery, a small black vial was found sitting upon his bedside table. Putting two and two together, they came to the conclusion that whatever it was, their beloved patriarch and community member, John, had ingested it. Determined to discover it's properties, they would take the house cat and feed it a drop of the mysterious liquid, only to reel in horror when it dropped dead on the spot.

Even at John's funeral, it is recorded for Kate to have been celebrating the event. She would sing, holler, and even shout her triumphs to the grieving family as John was buried. Later on, it would come to light that she didn't leave once her 'nemesis' had passed on. Rather, she would stay with the family for some time after the passing, never as rambunctious as she had been before. Then, she would be gone, promising to return in seven years.

The Bell Witch did indeed return all those years later, but only hung around for two weeks before leaving the family for good.

Bill Eden, What Came After the Bell Family

Upon what had at one point been farmland to the Bell's, lay a cave, of all things. With lore of the county having been passed about for nearly 200 years after the haunt, many of the current residents believe that Kate never truly left. They believe, that this cave upon the property is where the Bell Witch resides, having never truly departed from this plane of existence after all.

Within the past few years, the normally dry cave has become quite the attraction. It gets thousands upon thousands of tourists each year, all of them arriving in hopes of catching a glimpse of the famous Bell Witch herself. Bill Eden, the man who had come to own the property within the 1900s, was the one mostly responsible for the cave becoming the attraction that it is today.

Bill Eden was a farmer, much like John Bell has been, and didn't actively promote the cave in any way. In fact, the most he had done to it was install light fixtures! However, he would still have plenty of people turning up at his doorstep, hoping to explore the treacherous cave for themselves. Bill, scratching his head as to how they found his property, would oblige, telling them of his own experiences that he had seen.

"Lots of people come out here expecting to see a ghost or a witch of whatever you want to call it. I just call it a spirit - and it looked like a person with its back turned to you. Looked like it was built out of real white-looking heavy fog or snow, or something real solid white. But you couldn't see through it. It had the complete figure of a person till it got down to about its ankles. It wasn't touching the floor at all. It was just drifting - bouncing along."

— Bill Eden, former owner of the Bell Farm property

As above, Bill describes one of his own experiences with the spirit residing within the cave. It wasn't just him that had paranormal encounters with the 'witch', however.

A more popular recalling is about a group of younger people Eden had taken on a tour of the cave. Having already been in there a long while, the tour was drawing to a close as they stood within the back chamber, Bill retelling the group of his own encounters. As if on queue, a woman began to question the stories, as well as the legend itself. Placing herself at the lead of the group as they made their way back to the entrance, she would continue to loudly complain, much to the rest of the groups dismay. Suddenly, she would be shoved backwards, stumbling for a moment before eventually falling to the floor into a sitting position. Shaken up, she would then proclaim that she had been slapped, of all things. Clearly not believing her, Bill helped her off of the floor and swiftly ushered the group out of the cave system. Upon shining a flashlight upon the poor woman's face, a large, red welt in the shape of a hand covered her cheek. I doubt she's much of a skeptic, anymore!

Another tale, one much more harrowing than the last, is about yet another skeptic. A group of soldiers ventured out to the property during June of 1977, one of them in particular boasting about all of the haunted places he had been, but not once had he experienced a haunt himself. Sticking to the same theme as the previous happening we spoke about, the arrogant soldier would experience a fright he wouldn't easily forget. Within the main chamber of the cave, he had been sitting upon the floor, boasting about his lack of hauntings with an unchecked arrogance. As the others rolled their eyes and listened along, he would grow serious, his face draining of all color. Within seconds, he would be begging Bill Eden for help, claiming that it felt as though someone was hugging his ribcage with an iron grip. After helping the hysterical man up and herding the group of soldiers out of the cave, it is said that the soldier would state that he was never to return to the cave, leaving a believer in the paranormal.

Present Day Bell Witch

For some time after the passing of former owner, Bill Eden, the plot of land that the historical sight sat upon went untouched by the hands of humans, falling into the state of disrepair. However, in April of 1993, the Kirby family would purchase the land, returning the Bell Witch Cave to its former glory and more.

Within the summer of 1993, the land was already up and running once again, with tours resuming just as they had before. This time, there were modern light fixtures, wooden walkways to secure the trails, and even an improved path within the area. These improvements are consistently ongoing, even up to present day. But this isn't the end of the haunting, not yet.

Soon after making the land their own, Chris and Walter Kirby would realize that there was much more going on than just a tourist trap. The same phenomena that Bill Eden himself had experienced would happen all over again, but on a much larger scale.

Phones unable to catch a signal, cameras refusing to work or capturing glitched images, even those unlucky enough experiencing an unseen violence, leaving with red welts and scratches. One of the most notable, is the raspy sound of breathing one might hear, just as they enter the cave, only for it to cease as soon as the venture fully within.

Common knowledge within that particular area of Tennessee, is that of a Native American burial ground located above the mouth of the cave. Tied in with this information is another local tradition. It is said that if you remove anything from within the cave, the Bell Witch herself will follow you home, conducting torments of the same measure she had once invoked upon John Bell. To the same degree, others way that spirits themselves with depart with you and remain until you bring back what you have taken.

Activity near and within the cave has only seemed to have grown. Due to the Kirby family and Bill Eden, the area has only gained traction, people coming from all over just to have the Bell Witch Cave experience for themselves. Since the days of Eden, many popular paranormal experts have visited to get their own little piece of the cave, and while Kate is nor longer reigning terror upon the county, we can only hope that the spirits of those there will rest easy.

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