It’s vacation week over here at The Lady Dicks, but we don’t want to leave you with nothing. So, we’re releasing the most popular episode we’ve ever released on the Bell Witch Farm.
The Bell Witch is one of the most famous supernatural cases in America. In fact, it was so famous at it’s time that it caught the eye of a future president. On a secluded farm in Adams, Tennessee, the Bell family was taunted and haunted by a witch possibly named Kate. This is their story.
This episode was recorded under the name the “Haunted History Podcast” before we rebranded to The Lady Dicks.
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History of the Bell Witch Farm
Today we are going to be talking about the mysterious hauntings of the Bell Witch Farm. The Bell Witch of Tennessee was said to be a “strange” haunting that occured in Robertson County between 1817 and 1821. This is allegedly the only haunting investigated by a government which concluded that it was a supernatural event according to writer and historian Dan Willoughby. If you have ever seen the movie An American Haunting, this is what it’s about.
In the early 1800s, John Bell moved his family from North Carolina to Robertson County, Tennessee, settling them down in Red River, Tennessee (which later became Adams, Tennessee). Where he purchased 328 acres of land. After moving there, Bell and his wife had three children, Elizabeth (Betsy) in 1806, Richard in 1811 and Joel in 1813.
On one afternoon in 1817, Bell was inspecting his corn field when he came across an animal with the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit. He claimed that he shot it a few times (with a gun we are assuming he had on him at the time), and it seemed to disappear. The family thought nothing more of it until they began hearing beating sounds on the walls of their house that evening. The strange occurrences started with rapping and scratching noises, then escalated to where blankets were pulled from beds and family members were assaulted by way of being kicked, scratched and having their hair pulled.
While he initially attempted to hide these occurrences from friends, John Bell eventually confided in a friend when Betsy woke up with welts and handprints on her face. Then, an investigative committee was formed. The ghost became so intriguing and famous that even General Andrew Jackson visited and experienced the wrath of the ghost that refused to let his carriage wheels turn. And allegedly, that was not his only encounter, an excerpt from an article by Stephen Wagner on ThoughtCo.com says:
Betsy Bell screamed all night from the pinching and slapping she received from the Witch, and Jackson’s covers were ripped off as quickly as he could put them back on, and he had his entire party of men were slapped, pinched and had their hair pulled by the witch until morning, when Jackson and his men decided to hightail it out of Adams. Jackson was later quoted as saying, “I’d rather fight the British in New Orleans than to have to fight the Bell Witch.”
A visitor to the Bell house wrote in a letter found tucked inside a Bible:
There was no angel, it was a demon in the house. Folks sat in the room reading the Bible to wait on the witch ghost.
A particular target of the mysterious torment was young Betsy Bell, a mere 11 years old in 1817 who was slapped, pinched, bruised and stuck with pins. Richard Bell’s diary was found and in it said that eventually the “noises” came inside the house and started tormenting Betsy by slapping her and pulling her hair.
Allegedly, at one point, someone even tried to wrap up the Bell witch and set her on fire.
The spirit “identified” itself as Kate Batts, a neighbour whom John had a bad business experience with over some purchased slaves. Kate made daily appearances and was seldom silent. It seemed that Kate had two main reasons for visiting the Bell home. The main one was to kill John Bell. For what reason no one knows because Kate never gave a reason why. The second reason was to stop John’s youngest daughter Betsy from marrying a certain neighbor boy named Joshua Gardner.
John Bell fell victim to bouts of strange illnesses, for which the ghost claimed responsibility for. And while he was sick in bed and recovering, he was cursed and prodded and not allowed to rest. John was found unconscious in bed one morning, with a “strange bottle” nearby, A drop of the black liquid from the bottle was placed on the tongue of a cat who promptly died. John Bell died on December 20, 1820.
Allegedly ghost Kate screamed in triumph, saying:
Gave old Jack a big dose of that last night which fixed him.
Then celebrated at John’s funeral by laughing, cursing and singing as he was buried.
Kate the ghost stuck around for a bit after the death of her arch nemesis John, to threaten Betsy Bell to not marry Joshua Gardner. The witch never said why, but She was OK with her later marrying her former school teacher, Richard Powell, who developed a fondness for Betsy when she first entered his classroom years before.
It is interesting to note that allegedly the hauntings began soon after Richard befriended the Bell family. And it is said that he was a student of the occult, though this has never been confirmed. Finally, Powell’s first wife died in 1821, the same year Betsy ended her engagement.
Kate then left, promised to return in seven years. She did return in 1828 for a few short weeks. During this visit she allegedly visited the home of John Bell Jr and had talks with him about the past, the present and the future where she made some predictions. Kate also alluded to their being a reason for John Bell’s death, but never elaborated on the reason. After the second visit, she said her next return would be in One Hundred and Seven years. That would have been in 1935. However, some believe that Kate never left the area due to the strange things that occur in and around the town of Adams and the Bell Witch Cave.
The Bell Witch Cave
According to local legend, many believe that after the Witch left the Bell family, she went to the cave. Others believed that it marks the entrance to where the ghost came into the world. The cave itself is located at the centre of a large bluff that overlooks the river, and while the mouth of the cave opens widely but the entrance to the cave itself is gained through a long tunnel. It is incredibly hard to navigate when its wet as steam “gushes” from the entrance and “tumbles” over the hillside.
The Bell witch cave became an attraction due to Bill Eden Who Owned the property for a number of years. Under Psills ownership, the cave attracted thousands of visitors a year (though he was never sure why as no directions were provided). Today, The Bell Witch is still blamed for unexplainable sights and sounds near the old Bell farm.
Visiting the Bell Witch Cave
If you happen to be in and around the Adams, Tennessee area you can actually visit the Bell Witch Cave. It has an overall 3.5 rating on TripAdvisor, and while some people don’t seem to think it’s worth the drive, others think it’s really great.
You can combine your trip to the cave with a visit to the Bell cabin replica. While it’s not the original cabin that was on the farm, you can still have a pretty good time.
Cave tours will run you $12 USD and cabin tours $8 USD, but you can save yourself some cash by combining the two for $8. Check out their website for more information.
The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with the information for Doppelgänger: Myth or Omen? themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:
- Famous Cases of Real Dopplegangers, LiveAbout.com.
- 5 Historical Figures Who Saw Their Doppelgänger… And Then Died, The Confessionals Podcast.
- Doppelgänger, Britannica.
- Tracing the Development of the Doppelgänger, Atlas Obscura.
- 8 Creepy Doppelgänger Superstitions That Will Make You Hope You Never Meet Your Double, Bustle.
- Doppelgangers and Curious Myths and Stories of Spirit Doubles, Ancient Origins.
- What is a Doppleganger? Finding Your Exact Lookalike, LiveAbout.com.
- The Time When You’re Most Likely to See Your Doppelgänger, Vice.
- 4 Creepy Doppelgänger Myths That Will Make You Never Want To See Your Double, Bustle.
The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr. “Throwback: The Bell Witch Farm” was research, written, edited and produced by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.
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