The Bell Witch: A Writer’s BFF

Have you ever heard of the Bell Witch? The Bell Witch Haunting came out in 2004, Bell Witch: The Movie came out in 2005, and An American Haunting was released in May of 2006.  It is  “based on the true events of the only case in US History where a spirit caused the death of a man.” All just an hour from my house!

Ghostliness @ The Bell Witch Cave? (Copyleft Avery Oslo 2010)

How could I *not* go and check it out for myself? A friend and I gabbed over her Beach Boys CD (Shut it. They’re good) on the ride out to the country, hoping that we’d take pictures and find scary two-headed snakes wrapped around our torsos when we later examined them on our computer screens.

For those that don’t know the story, here’s a brief recap:

In 1817, John Bell of Adams, TN, shot at a dog-like creature with a rabbit’s head sitting in his corn field. This marked the beginning of his family’s torment- they heard rats gnawing at their beds, had covers snatched off of them, and were disturbed by disembodied voices, among a load of other poltergeisty goodness. The draw of a story like this is irresistible to a writer, and apparently to a president, too.

Legend has it that the haunting persisted and news of it spread to then-General Andrew Jackson who went to visit the farm. On the way, the witch lashed out at General Jackson’s self-proclaimed “witch tamer.” It was his own fault for being all blustery, if you ask me. Who waves a gun with a silver bullet at a witch-like ghost and claims that all witches were scared of it? It’s like you are begging for a ghostly ass-kicking. So, an ass-kicking ensued.

Then of course the Bell witch kept plaguing the family. Betsy, the little Bell girl grew up and wanted to marry, but alas, the witch wasn’t supportive of her choice in men. The beatings, torment, etc. continued until Betsy Bell broke off the engagement, and the witch returned to haunting the young woman’s father full-force.

To make a long story short, everyone dies (especially Mr. Bell–his death was grisly), and the witch lives on. She even comes back every now and then to make predictions, and the cave and cabin are supposedly haunted to high heaven.

Troy Taylor, one of the Bell Witch historians said that he has “received a number of accounts from people who claim to have taken away stones from the Bell Witch Cave, only to then experience not only bad luck, but strange happenings in their previous un-haunted homes! Chris Kirby has assured me that she has received a number of packages in the mail over the years that have contained rocks and stones that were removed from the cave.”

The Bell Witch Pebble (Copyleft Avery Oslo 2010)

The Bell Witch Pebble (Copyleft Avery Oslo 2010)

So naturally I had to make myself a part of the story. The minute the tour guide told me that the witch can haunt many places at once and will haunt those that take away “souvenirs” from the cave, I had to take the first pebble I could reach. Had to. Heritage preservation be damned.

I didn’t take it because I don’t believe. I took it because I do, I truly do.

I figure that the witch is angry at having to haunt a place like Adams for so long. Don’t get me wrong—Adams is lovely—very green and peaceful with the smell of clover in the air—but for centuries? The poor witch is bound to be bored out of her ectoplasmic skull.

So I took the pebble in order to take the witch on my travels across the Atlantic. Currently, I’m still in Nashville, preparing to leave at the end of the month. She’s settling into my house nicely. It’s been two days, and so far, she has not seen fit to beat me, stick pins into me, rip my covers off, or sing horrible songs at me. I’ve introduced the pebble to the cat, and she sniffed it. I put it on her head and she balanced it for a second before shaking it off and darting after one of the hundreds of lizards in our backyard. No hissing, nothing.

Kitty's not impressed by the Bell Witch (Copyleft AveryOslo 2010)

Kitty's not impressed by the Bell Witch (Copyleft AveryOslo 2010)

I think the witch is excited. She wants to go to Scotland, to West Africa, to the Netherlands, and to Germany with me. She’ll have so many people and places to haunt that she may never want to come back to Adams! I love the idea of a portable witch-ghost and can’t wait to show her my own favorite haunts in Scotland.

Let’s hope the Bell Witch has a few hidden talents. I will certainly find out if she’s any good at inspiring the traveling writer to keep my ass firmly glued to the chair. Stay tuned for ghostly news!



Filed under books, fiction, On Writing, writing

7 responses to “The Bell Witch: A Writer’s BFF

  1. Pingback: The Bell Witch: A Writer’s BFF |

  2. Great post, Avery! Love the story—there’s nothing like a good ghost story.

  3. I love this post and even more than you’re taking a bit of American ghosties with you on your travels!

  4. You are far braver than I! Do keep us posted. It will be disappointing if nothing at least interesting happens. If it does – you will have some great stuff for stories!

    • Well, since thieving the pebble, I have to say life has turned out pretty great. The theory that the Bell Witch desperately wants out of Tennessee holds firm!

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