Bell Witch Marker
Ghost stories abound in the
South, but the Bell Witch tale
in Tennessee is one of the
few memorialized by  a
Witnesses Flee in Panic
This 19th century engraving
shows witnesses being
chased from the Bell home. - The Bell Witch of Tennessee - The Bell Witch of Tennessee
The Bell Witch Haunting - Adams, Tennessee
John Bell Home in Tennessee
The Bell home near Adams, Tennessee, was
supposedly the focus of a noted haunting.
A 19th Century Haunting
The bizarre story of the Bell Witch haunting in
Tennessee may well be America's best
known ghost story.

The story revolves around alleged events that
took place in and around the John Bell home
near Adams, Tennessee, a community just
south of the Kentucky line northwest of
Nashville. Beginning in 1817, the Bell family
and visitors were supposedly terrorized by an
unexplained series of supernatural events.

The "haunting" began when John Bell, who
had relocated to the area in 1804, spotted a
strange animal that is said to have looked
like a dog with the head of a rabbit. He tried
to kill it, but failed.

Then, all sorts of chaos broke out in the Bell
home. The 1913 volume,
A History of
Tennessee and Tennesseans
, summarized
the traditional story of the haunting:

In 1817 the family heard or imagined queer
knockings at night on the walls of the house.
Later on disturbances commenced within the
house - sounds as of rats gnawing the bed
posts, then as of dogs fighting, and then as of
chains dragging over the floor. As soon as a
candle was lighted to investigate the
disturbance, the noise would cease in the
lighted room, while the daughter in another
room would scream in fright  because of
similar noises there.

The haunting seemed to focus on John Bell
and his daughter, Elizabeth or "Betsy," then a

Numerous stories grew about the events at
the Bell home and neighbors reported
witnessing events there as well. As news of
the haunting spread, people came from
considerable distances to learn more about
the strange incidents and most residents of
the area became convinced that the Bell
family was the focus of a "bewitching."

Legend holds that even Andrew Jackson
went up from Nashville to investigate, but
despite the popularity of this claim no
mention of the Bell Witch or Bell family
appears in his papers.

The Bell Witch haunting supposedly reached
its peak with the mysterious death of John
Bell. It is said that he consumed a poison but
that no one knew where it came from.
Blame for the "witching" has been placed by
tradition on a local woman, but there is no
evidence she was involved at all.

In modern terms, the Bell Witch haunting is
what would be described as a "poltergeist
incident." It is also worth noting that it had a
very strong similarity to the well documented
Edgefield Ghost in South Carolina.

The Edgefield ghost, however, was reported
in newspapers of the time while the Bell
Witch story did not receive attention in print
until many years later when a family member
wrote an account of the haunting.

It has since become very much a part of the
folklore and legend of Tennessee and the
South. Many believe the Bell Witch provided
the inspiration for the hit film,
The Blair Witch
and a fairly dubious version was also
presented in the lowly regarded Hollywood
An American Haunting.

The Bell house no longer stands, but there
are several Bell Witch attractions in and
around Adams, Tennessee.
Death of John Bell
It is often incorrectly stated
that the Bell Witch incident
was the only paranormal
encounter in American history
to result in a human death.
Actually, there are other
alleged cases.
An Attempt to Burn the Witch
Another 19th century
engraving shows an attempt
by one of her victims to burn
the Bell Witch.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.