Ghosts of Tennessee: The Bell Witch

In The Taw Ridge Haunting, (Book 5 of the Jack Raven Ghost Mystery Series), Jack goes to the fictional town of Taw Ridge to help a spirit check out of the Herman Hotel in this small town in Tennessee.

The Bell Witch

Illustration of Bell Home

Of all the ghostly legends in Tennessee, the most famous is the Bell Witch.

From 1817 to 1821, the Bell family was said to be haunted by an invisible entity named Kate Batts, who was later branded a witch.

John Bell moved his family from North Carolina to Red River Tennessee. He was a farmer and an elder in the local Baptist Church. By all accounts Bell was a decent and well-liked man. Then the hauntings began.

The first known haunting was when John Bell witnessed a dog with a rabbit’s head. He attempted to shoot the creature,  but it disappeared.

Afterwards, the family heard noises in the home such as scratching and knocking. Later the witch started pulling hair, slapping, pinching, and sticking pins in the family, especially John and his  youngest daughter, Betsy.

Kate Batts also had a good witch side to her. She was said to be kind to John’s wife Lucy and his son John Jr.  Reportedly, Kate sang hymns to Lucy. No word on how Lucy felt about that.

Batts was able to speak and engage in full conversations with others. She could change form as well as her surroundings and be in more than one place at a time. She was also said to have the gift of prophecy.

The witch’s actions were observed by many in the community, including the clergy. The events subsided only after Bell’s death.

One story  claims Kate Batts tried to kill John with curses, threats and afflictions.  Another story says she poisoned him then sang drinking songs to the mourners.

Another story says she promised the family she would return in seven years. Allegedly, she did in 1828, but was ignored by the family and soon left. But the Bell Witch didn’t go far.

Many believe she fled to a cave that is still located on Bell family farm.  The Bell Witch Cave is in the National Register of Historic Places.  You can visit the cave at 430 Keysburg Road in Adams, Tennessee. 

In 1892, Martin V. Ingram published, An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch.  He wrote that Kate Batts was a poltergeist.  The book was written with accounts from Richard Williams Bell, John Bell’s son.

What Are the Odds?

Sigmund Freud said there are no coincidences, and I have to agree.  I wrote this post after the final edit of The Taw Ridge Haunting.

I picked the Bell Witch because of its notoriety.  It was only afterwards that I recalled my book has not one, but two references to witches.

A brujo who makes Jack a protection doll and a werabana, a Polynesian witch.  Okay, this one could have been just a memory lapse, I definitely have those,  but I wasn’t thinking about it at the time.

In  my book, the hotel’s murders occurred in 2002. Taw Ridge was published September 1.

The Bell Witch movie by Shane Marr was shot in September, 2002. It was released September 1, 2007.  Stranger still, the Bell Witch was said to call John Bell Old Jack.

Spooky enough, but the more I read about the Bell Witch , the weirder things got.

In The Taw Ridge Haunting, the detective assigned to the murder investigation was Ben Radford. I don’t remember how I selected the name. Many times, I take names from my Cat of Day calendar. 🙂

A real life Ben Radford investigated the Bell Witch haunting.  I had never read anything  about the man. Radford is a writer, skeptic, and paranormal investigator.  He wrote Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters in the Land of Enchantment.  In my book, Jack Raven lives in New Mexico.

Radford went to Western Washington University… located in the state where I live.

In the end, Radford concluded that the Bell Witch was nothing more than one of many unsubstantiated folk legends.

I conclude that the witch is  messing with the both of us.

Stay haunted.

Share This:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *