The Bell Witch

On an overcast day in 1817, John Bell was inspecting his corn field. He had spent the last few years acquiring the land adjacent to property he had purchased after moving his family to Tennessee from North Carolina, and the farm had grown large and prosperous.

Up ahead in the middle of one of the corn rows, John thought he saw something move. As he got closer, the sight almost made his heart stop. The animal appeared to have the body of a small dog, but the head of a rabbit. He did what every pioneer did when they came across something unexplained and frightening, he shot at it.

He missed both times. It seemed to smile and wag a paw at him before vanishing.

And so begins the story of the Bell Witch, one of the oldest and possibly the best documented case of a haunting in America. The genealogy of the people who lived on the Bell farm can be traced all the way up to today, the depositions are complete, and the paperwork is accurate. Many people who had nothing to gain by telling their stories have sworn to the eerie voice and laughter, the singing, and most of all, the taunts and abuse suffered by both John Bell and his youngest child, Betsy.

Later that same night, the family heard the sounds of beating on the side of their home, and every night after that the beating noise became louder and stronger. One night John Bell threw open the door and yelled into the night

"What is it? What do you want?"

The haunting became persistent and often times violent, especially against John Bell. Both John and Betsy were slapped, pinched, and relentlessly taunted, John even to his deathbed. Only minutes after he breathed his last breath, his son found a vial of blue liquid. Kate's voice rang out in the room, "I got ol' Jack good that time!" (The entity, now called Kate often referred to John Bell as Jack) The son reportedly gave some of the liquid to the family's cat, which went into convulsions and died within minutes.

Kate also had conversations with the Bell children. She reportedly liked to quote scripture, sing hymns loudly, and discuss current events. She was adamantly against Betsy's decision to marry a local boy, Joshua Gardner, and tormented them when they were together to the point where Betsy eventually, tearfully, broke off the engagement.

Nights were anything but quiet around the Bell home. The sounds of rats gnawing on the bedposts and covers being jerked away by unseen hands made a restful sleep impossible. Two of John Bell's sons had fought under the command of Andrew Jackson at the battle of New Orleans, and the future President made a visit to see the Bell Witch for himself. Upon their arrival, Kate tormented one of Jackson's men, who claimed to be a "witch tamer," so relentlessly that the men begged Jackson to take their leave of the place, and the party stayed only one night.

One day Kate told Lucy Bell, John's wife that she was leaving and would return in seven years. Seven years later she did, tormenting John Bell Jr in much the same way she had his father and making three chilling predictions--in hindsight--regarding both world wars and the great depression. She vowed to always torment and eventually kill all of the male descendents of John Bell, and was supposed to make another appearance in 1935. As of 2006, there have been no reports by direct descendents of the Bell witch legend, even though many of the family members still live in the area, which is now Adams County.

Some investigators of the unexplained feel that by shooting at and "taunting" the entity first, he brought this century long haunting on himself. Other's believe that the Bell Witch, commonly referred to as "Kate," was an obstinate neighbor, Kate Batts, who had a bitter disagreement with John over property ( some legends say it was slave) rights. This was only a hundred years after the Salem witch trials, and old women who lived alone were still suspect for strange goings on. Some believe that this is a classic case of poltergeist activity, because "Kate" never manifested physically and poltergeist activity is often associated with a girl entering puberty, as was the case with Betsy Bell. Other's have no reasonable explanation at all.

But there was a cave that Betsy and Joshua used to play in while they were still courting, and it still sits on the Bell property today. Unusual mist around the mouth of the cave can not be explained by geological studies, and sometimes the air is thick, heavy, and you might feel a pinch on the back of your ear. The cave is open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. only on weekends for most of the year, and is located at 430 Keysburg Rd, Adams, Tennessee. You can also see a replica of the cabin that the Bell family lived in during the time of the attacks.

Click here to go to the Bell Witch Cave's Haunt Spot and see what others have experienced.

A word of caution, do not attempt to call out to Kate or get her to manifest in any way, you might be taking home more than a souvenir.


9 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

May 24, 2008 10:06pm [ 1 ]

The Bell Witch is a true story and the cause behind the haunting was found out. Actually it stopped after the family found out that the father was molesting Betsy. The old lady Kate had found some of Betsy's and the fathers blood stained clothing...her panties and the fathers shirt... by her field partially buried which is why he fueled the "which" theory. Noone would believe a witch now would they???

May 24, 2008 10:07pm [ 2 ]

The Bell Witch is a true story and the cause behind the haunting was found out. Actually it stopped after the family found out that the father was molesting Betsy. The old lady Kate had found some of Betsy's and the fathers blood stained clothing...her panties and the fathers shirt... by her field partially buried which is why he fueled the "witch" theory. Noone would believe a witch now would they???

Jun 26, 2009 9:41pm [ 3 ]

I read this story many times in books I have personally and found it be most interesting. my thoughts now after much thinking is perhaps these voices were created from the minds of either one or other members of the household or that it was a fake to attract attention for the purpose of money making...

nevertheless i found it good reading...

Aug 31, 2009 12:27pm [ 4 ]

The movie American Haunting was a big bag of B.S.It never once,ONCE said anything in the books i have read about John Bell Molesting his daughter.What some of you people need to do is go visit the cave when they have their Halloween ghost walk at the cave.They will tell the whole story about the things that happened.I live just 30 min. away from Adams,TN,I have researched the cave,the land and listened to stories passed down to ancestors of John Bell that still live there in the area and never once they said anything about John Bell molesting his daughter either.Hollywood made up a bunch of crap to add in the true story,how would they know that John Bell done that to his daughter?They don't all they wanted is to ruin the whole legend and story that has been told the same for years.Now people who were interested in the real story are now believing what some Hollywood dumasses are writing and putting on the screen.Read your books and go visit the place you will find out that some of the stuff in the movie never took place.

Jun 5, 2010 7:21pm [ 5 ]

As a family member of both Kate and Lucy, there is no hell like family hell. The facts of the story are untrue. There is no proof John Bell raped Betsy. My branch of the family experiences its own secret torments. We are afraid to talk. I do not want to be called a nut job for what I have been through but, if scientific researchers ask me to go to these places and talk with these entities, okay. If I can get this entity talk would it give future predictions?

May 21, 2011 6:24pm [ 6 ]

well there is no proof that betsy was raped but her father did rape her because of course woman wrent respected and her was punshing her for some unknown reason so the story is real.

John C. Cox
Aug 7, 2011 5:02pm [ 7 ]

I am a Great, Great, Great Grandson of John Bell Sr. through his eldest daughter Eshter's marriage to Alexander Bennett Porter. I was born and raised in Yalobusha County, Mississippi and "Kate" has been a part of my life always. Much in your site is patently incorrect and misleading according to known Bell Family geneaology and the basic facts as laid down by M.V. Ingram (the Harriet Parks Miller stuff is bunk from the first sentence). Anything other than that and the additional information from Charles Bailey Bell's book is supposition and imagination. If you stick to the facts you still have a great story. When you wander into unsubstantiated histrionic blather and plain merchandising (The "Cave" was never a part of the original Bell Farm and the current house is not on the location of the original Bell Home) you call into question everything you write. As far as Nandor Fordor he was on the right track about "subconcious retaliation by Aunt Betsy) but off to the left on motivation. John Sr. did NOT molest his daughter.

Mar 28, 2015 4:06pm [ 8 ]

Dear john cox, I am interested in the facts. Only facts and would love to hear all of the things you have experienced. I am not a news person or out to make money just personally interested. Having grown up with spirits whom follow me from house to house, I have a better understanding than most. If you ever just want to swap stories my email is

Nov 2, 2015 3:10pm [ 9 ]

is the witch still out there

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