Witch’s Dilemma: The Bell Witch Haunting
I decided way back in 2007 that if I ever wrote a book, which at that time I had no plans to do, I would tie it into the Bell Witch Haunting. Well, writing became my job several years later (to see how that happened, read ‘Numbers to Words: My Journey from Engineering to Writing’) and I had my chance to put this documented paranormal/supernatural encounter from Adams, Tennessee into a book.
Once the research began I was hooked and fascinated by the story. Several books have been written on the subject, so I came up with a different angle – what if the Bell Witch’s direct ascendants were alive today and still witches? As we get further into this blog, pay close attention to the names and you will see the bloodline for some of the characters in Witch’s Dilemma, which started to form when the feud began centuries ago. I’ll start at the beginning.
I moved to Tennessee from Georgia in 2000. However, it was not until 2007 that I learned about the Bell Witch. My youngest son had heard about it at school – yes, they teach about this haunting in school – in either his first year of middle school or his last of elementary. Anyhow, he wanted to know if we could go to where the haunting took place in Adams, Tennessee, located in Robertson County, which is a little northwest of Nashville in Davidson County. The drive up would take no more than an hour as it was only roughly 45 miles from Nashville but was located off the main thoroughfare. We decided to head up that weekend, if it was pretty; it was, and we did. This is where the research began.
This is the sign that greeted us as we arrived in Adams, Tennessee. We knew we were in the right place, and began looking over our shoulders, just in case we were on the Bell Witch’s radar.
The next thing that caught our attention was a historical marker that gave some detail about the Bell Witch, and talked about Andrew Jackson – the same Andrew Jackson who was a general and a president, and who I hold partially responsible for the Trail of Tears and the deaths of thousands of American Indians. (That’s right, folks – we were not here first, they were, and this was all theirs until we showed up.)
This marker sits by the road, in front of a rustic type of general store. They sell Bell Witch souvenirs along with other items: Cokes (for those up north, I mean pop or sodas of all kinds), snacks, and a variety of other things. We had enough provisions to last us for a while, so we headed out in search of the Bell Witch. We drove a piece and ran across the Bell family cemetery. I figured if you were going ghost hunting, this was the place to start.
We found no ghosts there, so we loaded back up and headed to the Bell Witch cave and property.
Once there, I came to the conclusion that, whether this haunting was real or not, it was certainly a moneymaker. For a fee you can get tours of the cave and the house, either by candlelight at night or, if you are a little chicken (you know what), by day.
This is the entrance to the Bell Witch cave. They have seasonal hours and restrictions, so check on the link I have posted below for that information.
If you love to canoe or kayak, this is the place to do it; the Red River is right there and the scenery is beautiful.
It’s time to wrap up the tour guide section of this post with these final thoughts. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, you really should think about taking a trip to Adams. There is more to see than just the cave, house, and cemetery. There is the Red River, as mentioned above, and one of the best state parks I have been to. It’s not huge by any means, but it is quiet and peaceful. The park also contains part of the original Trail of Tears, which has been maintained. They have a nice picnic area, hiking trails, and you can fish the Red River, and most of all experience the silence – sometimes an eerie silence. Adams also holds plays and other events, especially in October. My recommendation, since I’m a biker, is to roll the throttle open and head that way then, when the leaves are turning, the air is crisp, and the ghosts are about.
The Legend of the Bell Witch: Summarized
- John Bell, a farmer from North Carolina, settled with his wife and children in northern Robertson County, Tennessee in 1804. Their farm consisted of 320 acres of rich farmland that lay along the Red River. They lived a quiet, peaceful life here for the first 13 years. The family grew and became somewhat prosperous.
- In the late summer of 1817, some members of the family began seeing strange-looking animals around the property. Then late at night they started hearing knocking sounds on the doors and outer walls of the house. Later, sounds were heard in the house – sounds of a rat gnawing on the bedpost, chains being dragged through the house, stones being dropped on the wooden floors, and then gulping and choking sounds.
- It was not long before people were coming from miles around to hear and witness this unseen force that was terrorizing the Bell home. Before long it had gained enough strength that it had a voice. When asked who and what it was, it gave different identities. It once stated that it was the witch of a neighbor woman named Kate Batts. This is what many people believed, and from then on this unseen force was called “Kate”, the “Bell’s Witch”.
- It seemed that Kate had two main purposes in visiting the Bell home. The main one was to kill John Bell. For what reason, no one knows, because Kate never gave one. The second purpose was to stop John’s youngest daughter, Betsy, from marrying a certain neighbor boy named Joshua Gardner.
- Over the next three years, Kate tormented members of the Bell family almost daily. John and his daughter Betsy were the ones who received the worst of the physical abuse. Betsy had her hair pulled; she was pinched, scratched, stuck with pins, and even beaten. John Bell began suffering from spells of swelling of the throat and often had the feeling that a stick was being stuck sideways into his throat. Then came the twitching and jerking of the facial muscles. Kate would blast him with curses and hideous threats during these spells. As time went on John Bell became weaker and weaker.
- Kate Batts finally accomplished her mission for coming to the Bell farm. On December 20, 1820, John Bell died. It was believed that he was poisoned by Kate, and Kate took full credit for his death. Then in March of 1821, young Betsy broke off her engagement with Joshua Gardner.
- The original John Bell family graveyard is on private property and is off-limits to the public. It is not being taken care of and has been vandalized. One story has it that John Bell’s original tombstone was stolen; three days later the boy who stole it died.
There we go. Some of the characters in Witch’s Dilemma are direct descendants of the people listed above. Who are they? And are the ones who are kin to the Bell Witch (Kate Batts) just as spiteful as she was? Do the two families know one another, and if so, do they know they are kin to these people from Adams, Tennessee? The main question is: is the feud still going on between the Batts and the Bells?
Next week will be the last blog of the series. As we can see, strange things happen when there is a witch around, so next week we will get into what paranormal/supernatural events take place in Witch’s Dilemma.
For more information on the Bell Witch and things to do in Adams, Tennessee, follow the links below:
Bell Witch Cave Falls -1909
John Bell Cabin – 1909
Betsy Bell Monument in Cemetery.
The other blogs in the Witch’s Dilemma series: Texas Witching Hour – Book Teaser/Cover Release – Valerie and Associates – Fort Worth Government – LACN Investigations – Rounding Out the Cast – Some Things Can’t be Explained.
Witch’s Dilemma and blog edited by Clare Diston @ Human Voices.