Truth or Legend? The Bell Witch Haunting

The strange tale of the Bell Witch is one of America’s most famous ghost stories. The spooky legend has terrified thousands and even helped inspire The Blair Witch Project. But is it true?

The Legend

Legend has it that between 1817 and 1821 a malevolent spirit terrorized the prosperous Bell family in Adams, Tennessee. The incidents reportedly started when family members noticed unnatural animals on their property. In one version, a creature with the head of a rabbit and the body of a dog scratched at the Bell’s door. When someone went to investigate, the creature scurried off into the night.

Not long after the sighting, the Bells began hearing eerie sounds in their cabin, sounds that resembled choking, gasping, chains dragging across the floor, and rats gnawing on the bedpost. The sounds quickly escalated to physical violence, with John Bell, Sr. and daughter Betsy suffering most of the abuse. Betsy claimed she was slapped by an unseen entity, while John felt something poking the side of his throat. The witch also yelled, cursed, and threatened the family.

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6 Signs a Ghost Story is Probably BS

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As much as I enjoy writing about ghost legends, I have to admit many (most?) of the tales out there just aren’t credible. Here are six things that make me suspicious.

There Are No Historical Records

Many haunted sites have tragic back stories involving murder, mayhem, heartbreak, and despair. However, there’s often no historical evidence to back up the claims. Take Anna of the 17Hundred90 Inn. Her story is perhaps the most famous ghost tale in all of Savannah, but there’s no record of a woman named Anna jumping from Room 204 (which isn’t all that high, by the way). There’s also no record of a maid jumping from OKC’s Skirvin Hotel, a slave name Chloe poisoning her master’s family, a suicidal bride at the Adolphus Hotel, a jilted bride at the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority house, or a heartbroken woman at Emily’s Bridge. Newspapers at the time would have certainly covered the shocking events, and yet there’s no record.

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