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The Bell Witch

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Even if they do exist, ghosts and poltergesists hardly ever hurt anyone. The case of the Bell Witch, a poltergeist that plagued the Bell family from 1817 to 1821 is one of the very few hauntings on record in which a victim was apparently murdered by the ghost involved.

As in many poltergeist cases, the haunting began with a series of strange noises. At first the family heard scratching and nibbling noises that sounded like rats gnawing at the furniture. Then they heard the sound of an invisible dog clawing at the wooden floor, and a frantic flapping against the ceiling as if a large, invisible bird were trapped inside a room. But no rats or other animals were found in the house.

As time went on, the sounds changed. They began to include noisy showers of pebbles clattering on the roof and the slow, scraping sound of a heavy chain being dragged across the floor.

The family got really scared when the unnerving noises began to sound more human. Whatever, or whoever, was haunting the house started to make gurgling and choking noises, and a revolting lip smakcing sound.

The ghost gradually became noisier, and eventually it could be felt as well as heard. One evening, seven year old Richard Bell- who later wrote an account of the haunting, entitled Our Family Trouble- was lying in bed when he suddenly felt someone pulling his hair. He couldn't see anyone, but the invisible force pulled so hard that Richard screamed in pain, terrified that his scalp would be ripped off.

At the same time, his sister Betsy, who was 12, screamed as well. The exact same thing was happening to her.

Betsy Bell now became the focus of the haunting. She was slapped in the face by an invisible hand, which left a red mar. She tried spending a night away from the house, but the ghost followed Betsy wherever she was staing and continued to slap her, so she came home. By now, the family feared that they were victims of witchcraft, which many people believed in in those days.

Betsy's parents John and Lucy Bell didn't want to tell anyone about the starnge events. John Bell was a prosperous cotton faemer, and his devoutly Christian family was well- respected in the area. The Bells knew that if anyone heard baout the supernatual goings on in their house, they might even be accused of witchcraft themselves.

As things got worse, the family at last decided to confide in a friend, James Johnson, who tried talking to the witch. As he asked it questions and urged it to speak, its voice gradually changed from a gurgle into a distinctly human whisper.

The witch also became louder and more violent, frequently hitting Betsy and her father, John Bell. Betsy had fainting fits and trouble breathing. Was the spirit taking its energy from her- or was she faking it?

A doctor tested this by touching Betsy's throat when the witch was speaking. He said he was sure her larynx was not moving, so the voice could not have been hers.

On one occasion, a visitor to the house actually claimed to have caught hold of the spirit. William Porter described how he had been lying in bed when his bedclothes were pulled off him. Porter bravely leaped on then and bundled them up, crying "I have the ghost!" He was sure he had caught something, as the bundle felt heavy and gave off a revolting smell.

Porter tried to lug the thing he had caught to the fireplace, planning to throwi it into the flames. But the bundle got heavier and heavier, and the stink became to terrible that he was forced to drop the sheets and run away from the room. When he went back in, the ghost was gone.

The Bells family's poltergetsi was particularly puzzling because it seemed to have two different personalities. It tormented Betsy and her father, but it also had a kinder side. It madenuts appear out of thin air for Lucy Bell when she was ill, calling "Luce, poor Luce, how do you feel now?" Exotic fruit appeared at her bible meetings, and once the witch produced a basket of bananas, oranged and grabes at a birthday party for one of the children.

More than three years passed in this way, and the family got used to their strange guest-although John Bell was so persecuted by it that he became very depressed.

When Betsy was sixteeb, she got engaged to a local boy named Joshua Gardner. She seemed happy and excited about the wedding, but the witch had other ideas. It moaned and groaned begging "Please, Betsy Bell, don't have Joshua Gardner".

Then it began making disguisting comments about the couple, embarassing Betsy in front of all her family and friends. At last she was forced to break off the engagement.

The worst, however was yet to come. John Bell, whome the witch had always hated, became very ill. He took to his bed, but even then the ghost would not leave him alone. It screamed and ranted, threatenign to kill him.

Finally just before Christmas 1820, John Bell slipped into a coma. His son John Junior went to the medicine cabinet, but instead of the prescribed medicine, he found an unfamiliar bottle, full of a dark, smoky liquid.

The witch's ghostly voice boasted that it had put the bottle in the cupboard and poisoned John Bell with the contents. "It's useless for you to try and relieve Old Jack," it crowed. "I have got him this time; he will never get up from that bed again!"

The family doctor examined the bottle and decided to test the liquid on the cat. After tasting it, the animal jumped into the air, whirled around, and died. The next day, John Bell was dead too.

The witch now seemed satisfied. After siging some rude songs at John Bell's funeral, it began to fade away. Finally in the spring of 1821, the family heard something heavy falling down the chimney. A large ball, like a cannonball, rolled out onto the hearth, the burst in a puff of smoke. Then the voice called out: "I'm going and will be gone for seven years. Goodbye to all!"

The haunting ended t hat day. Seven years later, there were indeed a few signs of the witch, including scratching sounds and moving bedclothes; byt they lasted only two weeks. Before leaving for good, the witch told Jogn Junior that it would return after another 107 years-but there is no evidence that it did.

Some people thought Betsy Bell had faked the haunting. But there were so many witnesses that this seems unlikely. Ghosthunters who visited the house determined to expose a hoax were defeated by the case.

Perhaps the Bell Witch really was a poltergeist, produced by Betsy's mind. It may have expressed feelings she could not admit to-such as hatred of her father, or reluctance to marry Joshua Gardner. However, if it really did murder John Bell, it was the strangest and most powerful poltergeist ever recorded.

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You told the story the same as my cousin's grandmother did. They are decendants of John Bell, and I'll never get tired of hearing that story. If you ever get to see the renactment on Discovery, it is good and scary.

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Me and my college bud's are going to the Bell Witch cave some time soon.


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Ahhhhhhhhhh *nods sagely*

Great story and thanks for posting it grin2.gif

The Bell Witch ~ one of the most famous cases of a Poltergiest haunting in the world....

There are lots of theories behind this particular story.

The 'witch' used to pick on Besty & and John Bell ... and some researchers suggest that John Bell had been sexually abusing Besty. Could her anger, shame and frustration have externalised and caused this haunting?

Also, the poisoning. Isn't it more feasible that John Bell was so very exhausted by the haunting that he actually committed suicide?

Just a thought!

Hammy x x x

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Okay........*takes deep breath and prepares to ramble*

How did it get a personality?

Because it was a Tulpa? An engery force created by a person.....these things can get out-of-hand and develop their own personalites! I promise I will try to find some articles on this for you Sarki!

Remember what an increadable force the human mind is!

Well, some of the time grin2.gif

Hammy x x x

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