The strange tale of the Bell Witch is one of America’s most famous ghost stories. The spooky legend helped inspire The Blair Witch Project, and some say the Bell entity is still around today, lurking inside an old cave in Adams, TN. Could they be right?
The Legend of the Bell Witch
Legend has it that between 1817 and 1821 a malevolent spirit terrorized Adams’ prosperous Bell family. The incidents started when family members noticed strange animals roaming about 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 sightings, 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 (right) suffering most of the abuse. Betsy complained of slaps and the sensation of pins piercing her skin, while John felt something poking the side of his throat. The witch also yelled, cursed, and threatened the family.
After enduring a year of horror, John confessed his troubles to church members who came to witness the strange events for themselves. Spectators soon flocked from miles around to see the Bell witch in action. The spirit reportedly belonged to a neighbor named Kate Batts and spoke of its desire to kill John Bell and stop Betsy from getting married. The witch eventually got her wish. Betsy and her suitor broke off their engagement and John Bell died of mysterious circumstances in 1820.
While the Bell Witch haunting is one of America’s most famous ghost stories, some say the tale is nothing more than Southern folklore. Critics point out that details of the alleged haunting stem from two sources, both written decades after the alleged events, and that neither provide evidence of the Bell family’s struggles. Regardless of the accuracy of the account, many believe a spirit lurks in a small cave on the former Bell property, and some claim it’s the Bell witch herself.
The Haunting of Bell Witch Cave
Today, paranormal enthusiasts can tour Bell Witch Cave and see a replica of the family’s cabin. Visitors frequently report camera malfunctions and trouble with their car. Some guests claim to hear whispered names and disembodied voices ordering them to leave, while others see strange lights around the cave. One woman claimed the spirit followed her home.
The cave also has a history of unnerving events,or so the stories go. In one tale, a group of college football players held a séance at the cave and were pinned to the ground by an unseen force. No amount of pushing and pulling could budge the terrified young men.
In another story, a boy sneaked into the cave and got stuck between two rocks. The “witch” pulled him out, yelling “I’ve got him!” before launching into a lecture about trespassing.
A third story is also humorous. A small waterfall runs through the cave, and Adams men reportedly bathed in the water before indoor plumbing was the norm in the area. Legend has it that a man forgot his bar of soap one day and hollered for a friend to fetch him something to wash with. Before the friend had a chance to reply, a pristine bar of soap tumbled out of the cave and landed in front of the baffled man.
Whether or not the Bell Witch legend is true, it’s safe to say the story will continue to capture the imagination of generations to come.
Books About the Bell Witch
- An Authenticated History Of The Bell Witch (1894) The most cited source of the Bell Witch haunting.
- The Bell Witch: An American Haunting
- All That Lives: A Novel of the Bell Witch
Have a weird experience at the Bell Witch Cave? Tell me about it!