The legend of the Bell Witch of Tennessee is arguably the most famous haunting in the country, or at least the best documented. It has been the subject of books and movies across 200 years. The Bell Witch remains popular with tourists today – people can visit the Bell Witch Cave, located on the land where John Bell and his daughter, Betsy, reportedly experienced horrific manifestations between 1817 and 1821 in Adams, Tenn.
It began when John Bell spotted a mysterious creature in the cornfield with “the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit.” Soon after the sighting, the Bell children began hearing scratching noises and experiencing various disturbances, thought to be the result of a curse by a local woman with whom John had a property dispute, Kate Batts.
Pat Fitzhugh wrote: “The encounters escalated, and the Bells’ youngest daughter, Betsy, began experiencing brutal encounters with the invisible entity. It would pull her hair and slap her relentlessly, often leaving welts and hand prints on her face and body.” In 1820, John Bell died, becoming, Fitzhugh said, “the only person in history whose death was attributed to the doings of a Spirit.”
He continued: “In 1817, Bell contracted a mysterious affliction that worsened over the next three years, ultimately leading to his death. Kate took pleasure in tormenting him during his affliction, finally poisoning him one December morning as he lay unconscious after suffering a number of violent seizures.”