Friday, October 02, 2015

Scary October: The Bell Witch

In celebration of my favorite month, October, I'm featuring a different scary story every Friday. This week I'm telling you about a Tennessee legend...a ghost so scary, they made a movie about her:



Growing up, I always heard stories about the Bell Witch. Legend had it if you went into the bathroom, turned the lights off, and said, "I hate the Bell Witch" 13 times, you'd get a scratch on your face.



Today the Bell Witch is said to be the only ghost to have ever killed a human being. The ghost is thought to be Kate Batts, whose grave is located in this spooky cemetery:



In the early 1800s, the Bell family of Adams, Tennessee dealt with a series of strange events. Most of them centered around their teenage daughter, Betsy Bell, who is depicted in this creepy artist's depiction (from 1894):



The legend begins in 1817, when John Bell supposedly saw an animal in his field that had the head of a rabbit and the body of a dog. Soon after, the family began hearing an obnoxious pounding on the outside walls of their farmhouse each night.


John Bell's Farmhouse

Soon crazy things began happening inside that house. Most of the activity centered around Betsy Bell, who reportedly dealt with being scratched and having her hair pulled regularly. This has led some to conclude that the Bell Witch was actually a poltergeist, since poltergeists are often associated with teenage girls.





Over the years, the story has been questioned by several experts--especially one part of the story that has Andrew Jackson visiting the home. While the former U.S. President's home was in Middle Tennessee, experts have found no evidence of him stopping in Adams, Tennessee during that time. Maybe he never did--this sign indicates he retreated to Nashville after his coach wheels stopped mysteriously.



In 1817, John Bell developed a strange illness that lasted for three years and eventually led to his death. The legend says the Bell Witch poisoned him. Poltergeist theorists say Betsy Bell poisoned him herself. But scientifically-minded people believe he had a neurological disorder that was just unknown to doctors at the time. Still...the legend lives on. 

In January 2015, Ghost Adventures became the first paranormal TV show to visit the Bell Witch Cave:




It has to be true if Zak Douche-Bagans says it is, right?



Come back next Friday for the next stop on my ghost tour:



58 comments:

  1. I'm sure the father died of something they just didn't know about, but it does really add to the legend.

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    1. Even today there are illnesses doctors can't easily diagnose. I can't imagine back then! But some renowned anatomy professor looked at his symptoms (after his death) and diagnosed it as Bell's Palsy.

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  2. Creepy! I'm trying to think if I've ever seen the movie. It sounds familiar....

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    1. I saw it at the theater. I can't remember if I realized it was about the Bell Witch when the movie started but if not, I soon figured it out. I do remember the marketing didn't really emphasize the Bell Witch connection, even here in Middle Tennessee, where people used to know a lot about the legend.

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  3. Glad I didn't read this at night. An intriguing legend no doubt.

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    1. I was looking into going to the cave again for Halloween...they open it to the public. But apparently the owners of the property are rude to visitors and the tour is still lame. It was lame when we went ten years ago. "Here's a cave...don't take anything or you'll be cursed."

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  4. So, did you say it thirteen times? To this day I can't say Candyman five times into the mirror.... I just can't

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    1. I believe we all grew up with the "look in the mirror and say a name 13 times" legend. Candyman was a spooky movie! That's the only time I recall seeing it put into fiction. But the name you say depends where you grew up. I believe the default name is "Bloody Mary," but that game is how I first learned about the Bell Witch. Nope, never made it past three or four times. I couldn't even do it today, even though the logical adult in me knows nothing would happen!

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  5. So it just happened that I visited your blog on a Friday rainy night when I'm home alone. Haha. Oh my, Stephanie. This is an interesting read.

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    1. Oops! The danger of having an international readership! I try to keep these a little on the fun side.

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  6. Legends are just that - legends.There's probably some kernel of truth in there somewhere and it just got magnified all out of proportion. Great storytelling, Stephanie.

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    1. Apparently the Blair Witch Project was inspired by the Bell Witch (the witch herself, I'm guessing). There was a book published in 1894 that seems to have cemented all of these legends as "fact" when in actuality, the book was based on a diary written by one of John Bell's sons--who was only a kid when the events happened. He wrote the diary years later...and nobody has ever seen the diary anyway. All of the people who were directly involved were dead by the time the author wrote his book...but people saw the book as fact and cited stories from it for years.

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  7. I don't really know what my beliefs are regarding poltergeists, there surely has to be something in it. Not sure about ghosts killing people though.

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    1. I think the movie Poltergeist implied it was because the house was on an Indian burial ground? I don't really understand how a teenage girl's crazy moods could make things happen--the movie "An American Haunting" took the poltergeist theory for the Bell Witch, though. I'd never heard that theory mentioned until I saw the movie!

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  8. ok freaked me out!! haha I don't really believe in ghosts but I kind of do if that makes sense..lol so I guess I really do but I'm just afraid to

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    1. I've found it's more fun to just go with the story! Makes things more interesting.

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  9. Now this was cool!!
    I love scary stuff because, you know, I'm strange and unusual.

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    1. I think life is more interesting if you keep your mind open to all kinds of different ideas and theories!

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  10. So many legends cropped up back then and even further back because they couldn't diagnose medical conditions and so went the mythical route.

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    1. So true. People would come up with some crazy theories back then!

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  11. I'm familiar with the Bell Witch legend. I researched it extensively, then used it as inspiration for part of a YA Historical Paranormal novel ... which has never been published because it's the sequel to another book ... which never found a home with a publisher. Boooo. Nevertheless, this is a great spooky tale!

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    1. I feel your pain! I spent months researching ghost hunters and haunted places for a series I wrote that was never published. But it's all part of the learning and growing experience, I guess.

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  12. I adore ghost stories and anything horror related so this post is made of win for me! I love it and it's so interesting hearing the back story for things like this too, so cool. I wasn't familiar with this legend either, so it's a new one to go and research some more! Amazing post. Love it - Tasha

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    1. So glad you like scary stuff! And I learned a new saying, "Made of win!"

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  13. Oh my goodness, far too scary for a scaredy cat like me.

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    1. Scary stories aren't for everyone, for sure!

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  14. That's fascinating. I wonder legends like this have more to do with mental illness than anything else?

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    1. I think they have more to do with legends and how they can grow and grow over time. With many of the stories I've been researching and writing about this month, I've found the scariest stories are the ones that happened to the people BEFORE death...most ghost tours are like that. You get scared by the "while they were living" stories and the after-death stories are just, "And now people hear strange noises..."

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  15. This is a spooky legend and you tell it well Stephanie. Ghost story's and the places they supposedly haunt have always fascinated me. We have quite a few of these kind of legends in our area also so there must be some truth to them.

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    1. I think all of it starts with some truth and over time, people just embellish!

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  16. Eeek! I'm equally creeped out and fascinated lol

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  17. I don't like scary stuff. Makes me sleep horribly. I'm just saying.

    Have a fabulous day and weekend. ☺

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    1. Hope I didn't keep anyone up tonight!

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  18. ah!! SPOOKY. I love good ghost stories! We did that too when I was a kid in the mirror but we called her "Bloody Mary".

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    1. Yes, Bloody Mary is the most common use for that game...but I think some areas localize it. It helps if there's a scary story to go with it!

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  19. There is some pretty scary things... I'm not much for folklore but who really knows :S

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    1. It all makes for interesting stories, whether true or not!

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  20. I have read about the Bell Witch and there are some things that are unexplained. I bet the dad might have had Lou Gehrig's disease or something like that

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  21. I've always been intrigued by this legend. Disappointed by the movie version, though.

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  22. Love the spooky post! I saw a special on The Bell Witch that made my hair stand on end. I have to share your post.

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  23. I would love to visit that 'spooky' cemetery. And hope that Betsy found some peace later in life - or death.

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  24. Stephanie, this is such a cool post! I love this! :)

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  25. Stephanie, this is such a cool post! I love this! :)

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  26. I hadn't heard this ghost story before- but it is spooky for sure. The cemetery looks very scary and I can imagine people being dared to enter it. Thanks for sharing!

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  27. Interesting story. Very spooky.

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  28. yes very spooky story, thanks for sharing (I think)

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  29. Ghost stories are fascinating. So many are believed to be true. This is a good one. Thanks.

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  30. Great spooky story, Stephanie. Looking forward to next Friday already :)

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  31. Oh my - this is definitely frightening!

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  32. I actually remember growing up hearing about the Bell Witch. I grew up in North Carolina and had a friend from Tennessee who always liked to talk about her...particularly while we were deep in the woods at night.

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  33. Oh I love ghost stories based on history. They give the goosebumps but I love em!

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  34. I never heard the 13 times thing - but perhaps because I was too busy saying "red rum" into the mirror to get to it!

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  35. That is interesting. Great theme for October, as well; looking forward to seeing more of these. ^_^

    Though I can't help but wonder who came up with the "say this thirteen times" thing, or how someone somehow figured out it worked...

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  36. Interesting story! It does seem rather unlikely that Andrew Jackson would have gone to investigate, though.

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  37. I love scary stories and I completely believe that some houses are haunted!

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  38. Wait. No other paranormal shows visited that cave until earlier THIS year? That's crazy!

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  39. Hi Stephanie .. interesting bit of early history - we read about their lives, and understand their paranoias and then a couple of centuries later science catches up - but wonderful to read about .. cheers Hilary

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