Bell Witch Haunting



                           Some legends never die.


The Bell Witch haunting began in 1817, as John Bell, a well liked farmer and religious leader, was inspecting his crops and noticed something bizarre. He saw a creature resembling a mixture of a dog and rabbit, and quickly fired at the beast. However, the strange creature vanished before his eyes. Terrifying events would soon follow. It started with the Bells hearing "beating" sounds on the outside walls of their house. Soon other unexplained noises were heard around the Bell house such as scratching and knocking sounds.

Over time the Spirit seemed to be growing in strength, from subtle poltergeist-type activity to loud sounds such as dogs and cats fighting, chains being dragged, furniture moving and physical attacks such as scratching, spitting, pulling hair and slapping. A gurgling noise turned into whispers. It sounded like faint, whispering voices --too weak to understand-- but seeming to be a feeble old woman crying or singing hymns. The voice grew in strength over months and images started being seen: a girl sitting in a tree, then gone; a deformed dog, then gone; a dead family walking, then gone. The encounters escalated and the Bells’ daughter, Betsy, began experiencing brutal encounters with the entity. It relentlessly pulled her hair and slapped her, often leaving visible prints on her face and body for days at a time. The evil disturbances grew over the next year to the point that it was time for John Bell to share his "family trouble" with his friends and neighbors to try to put an end to it.

John first told his neighbor and closest friend, James Johnston, a pious man who dismissed the noises as someone playing tricks, the wind or some such thing; but he assured John if there was an unnatural reason for the noises, “with the help of God, they would send this devil back where it belongs”. Johnston quickly changed his mind about the cause of the disturbances and the ease in which it would be sent away later that night when he met his adversary. All of Johnston’s efforts to rid the Bell family of their visitor proved fruitless, even when he brought in a close friend, Reverend Gunn, a fiery Methodist minister. The activity increased, especially in the girls’ room, where it came in the darkness of night and the victims only had candlelight to protect themselves. The creature horrified its victims with noises that happened with no source, snatching their hair and ripping their covers away from the bed. The light was blown out and a touch or cold breath was felt, or worse the unseen attacker left its mark, but vanished when the light returned.

Word soon got out and began to spread about the activities. As the haunting gained notoriety, investigators and curiosity seekers from all over the country came to the Bell’s house to speak with the Spirit, which was heard almost nightly. Over time, its voice strengthened to the point that it was loud and understandable. It sang hymns, quoted scripture, carried on intelligent conversation and once quoted word-for-word two sermons that took place at the same time thirteen miles apart. During none of this time did anyone know who or what the entity was, or its purpose for tormenting the Red River settlement. The Spirit took on different personalities. It seemed to like some people and at times even took on an angelic personality. At other times, it was demonic and viciously attacked people and cursed wildly, as it did every time it would see John Bell. When asked who it was and where it came from, it always gave different answers. But one night, when it was asked when it would leave, the Spirit answered “not until it sees John Bell good and dead in his grave”. When asked why, it refused to answer.

The Spirit turned its vengeance not only toward John Bell, but also his daughter, Betsy, and her engagement to Joshua Gardner, which the Spirit vowed to put an end to. It attacked Betsy constantly when she would see or speak of Joshua. John tried to move Betsy away, but the evil intruder only followed her, forcing her to return. Angered by the treatment of Betsy, Frank Miles, the strongest man in Robertson County and John Jr.’s best friend, confronted the Spirit when it was attacking and cursing Betsy, whom he lovingly referred to as “Little Sister”. Frank quickly found he was no match for the Spirit, who beat him brutally. To Betsy and everyone’s heartbreak, she broke her engagement with Joshua and he soon left town never to see Betsy again. After Joshua left, Lucy, John’s kind and much loved wife, became very ill and was not expected to live. To everyone’s amazement the vile creature was saddened and refused to leave Lucy’s side. It dropped grapes and nuts into Lucy’s lap apparently from nowhere and encouraged her to eat. It sang old gospel hymns to her and rejoiced at Lucy’s recovery.

The "Spirit" continued to express its dislike for "Ol' Jack Bell," and relentlessly vowed to kill him. After years of torment, John Bell’s health diminished as the Spirit continued to mentally and physically abuse him causing him often to be gripped by seizures. In a final effort, a well known voodoo man named Dr. Mize was called in to try to rid the house of its hideous visitor. The man ended up fleeing, begging for mercy; as did all the others who came to combat the Spirit. Shortly after Dr. Mize left, John was viciously attacked by the Spirit. He told his son he could fight no more and was helped to bed. He never left it again.

On the morning of December 20, 1820, after a long battle with a crippling nervous system disorder, John Bell took his last breath. Immediately after Bell’s death, the family found a small vial of unidentified liquid beside his bed. John Bell, Jr. gave some of the liquid to the family’s cat and the cat died almost instantly. The "Spirit" suddenly spoke up exclaiming, "I gave Ol' Jack a big dose of that last night and that fixed him!" John Bell’s funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Robertson County, hundreds of people attended; including the gloating Spirit, who cheerfully offered mourners a concert of bawdy drinking songs.









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Directed by Ric White
Produced by Linda Thornton
Ric White
Written by Ric White
M.V. Ingram
Starring Doug Moore
Stephanie Love
Amber Bland
Ric White
Music by Billy Stallings
Distributed by Shoreline Entertainment
Release date(s) March 27, 2004
Running time 95 mins.
Language English