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The Bell Witch Hauntings
Old Bell House
John Bell Farm
In the small town of Adams, Tennessee is the former location of the John Bell Farm. It is said to be one of the most haunted spots in the history of America. Spectral creatures, disembodied voices and poltergeist activity have all been frequently reported. Many have blamed John Bell’s death on the evil Bell Witch.
The story of the witch began in 1817. The Bell’s were successful farmers who began experiencing strange phenomena in their home such as knocking, rapping and scratching sounds. The ghostly entity seemed to enjoy harassing family members by yanking blankets off beds, kicking, scratching and pulling their hair. The Bell Witch singled out 12-year-old Betsy Bell as a special target. She was slapped, pinched, bruised and stuck with pins.
John Bell, fearing ridicule from the community planned on keeping the events secret. However, the terrifying ordeal became too much for him and he soon confided in a friend. The friend formed an investigative committee and it wasn’t long before everybody knew about the eerie occurrences. Some of Bell's friends soon believed the presence possessed intelligence. One day it began to speak and from then on it was seldom silent.
The spirit said it was the "witch" of Kate Batts. Kate had been a neighbor of the Bell's and John had had some unpleasant business transactions with her over some purchased slaves. Since the spirit claimed to be "Kate," that’s what the townspeople called her. Kate appeared daily in the Bell home, inflicting mayhem on whoever was present.
Kate became so famous even General Andrew Jackson paid a visit. Kate was apparently not impressed by Jackson’s high rank as he too suffered her wrath. His carriage wheels refused to turn until she decided to let him leave. Although at times Kate seemed playful pulling pranks, other times she was just downright wicked.
John Bell experienced strange illnesses, to which "Kate" took credit. She poked, prodded and swore obscenities at him. She refused to let the sick man rest. One morning he was found unconscious in his bed. There was an odd bottle of black liquid found next to him and his breath reeked of it. A drop of it was placed on the tongue of a cat which immediately fell over dead. John Bell died soon after. But she wasn’t done with John yet. She attended his funeral, laughing, cursing and singing as he was being buried.
Everyone assumed Kate would leave once her “enemy” had died, but she continued to hang around. She began to harass Betsy, now a grown woman. For some reason she was dead set on her not marrying a man named Joshua Gardner, a man she was deeply in love with. Kate constantly threatened her about the matter and no one ever knew the reason. However, just as strange, she was allowed to marry Richard Powell, a local school teacher.
After that "Kate" soon left, promising to return in seven years. She did come back and haunted the family again for two weeks. This time, before she departed, she appeared to John Bell Jr. and made some predictions which he recorded. They were predictions about the Civil War and later world wars which obviously did happen. She also promised to return again 107 years later which would have been in 1935. But she never returned, to the house at least.
Many believe Kate never left Adams, Tennessee. There is an inconspicuous cave on the side of a bluff on the former John Bell farm people call the Bell Witch Cave. Also nearby is the old Bell family cemetery. Many around Adams believe when Kate departed, she took refuge in the cave. Whether Kate is there or not is a moot point since the cave is a very haunted place.
Bill Edens, a former owner of the property, reports strange events still occur in the cave and near his home he had built on the bluff. Strange entities have been reported there making knocking sounds and performing poltergeist-like antics.
The present owners, Chris and Walter Kirby, also have experienced ghostly encounters in the cave which they have opened as a tourist attraction. Admission is $7 per person. The cave is open May 1st to Oct. 31st and closed on Tuesday. They are open for business at 10:00 AM with the last tour at 5:00 PM.
There are tours of an authentic Bell Family cabin reproduction, complete with period antiques, and tales of the ghostly events in the early 1800's. Cabin tours are $5 per person. For further information call (615) 696-3055.