January 10, 2012

Bell Witch Cave

According to the legend, the first reported manifestation of the haunting occurred in 1817 when John Bell, Sr., encountered a strange animal in a cornfield on his large farm in Robertson County, on the Red River, near Adams, Tennessee. Bell shot at the animal, described as having the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit. At a later date the Bell family claimed to hear knocking and gnawing noises on the outside walls of their house. These noises eventually moved inside the dwelling. Some time after the noises began, Betsy Bell (the family's youngest daughter) claimed to have been assaulted by an invisible force. The legend continues with the poltergeist gaining strength, moving various objects about, speaking and having conversations with the family and guests. It identified itself as "Kate Batts", a neighbor of the Bells that John had apparently upset in some way.

Bell Sr., later in life, suffered frequent facial seizures, often rendering him speechless (although Bell's Palsy is named after a different Bell). He died on December 20, 1820. A small vial containing a very powerful poison he allegedly ingested was found near his body. When some of the contents were force-fed to the family cat, the animal died. The vial was then disposed of in the fireplace.
Pat Fitzhugh's retelling of the Bell Witch legend concludes with a statement to the effect that some people believe that the spirit returned in 1935, the year when the witch claimed it would return ("one hundred years and seven" past 1828), and took up residence on the former Bell property. Other sources say that 1935 brought nothing out of the ordinary to the Bell descendants or the surrounding community.

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