Posted on: August 22, 2011

The case of The Bell Witch, in Robertson County, Tennessee, has to be one of the most violent and malicious poltergeist outbreaks ever recorded. John Bell was a prosperous farmer and devout Baptist. He lived at the remote farm with his beautiful wife Lucy, and their 8 children. The weird occurrences began when John sighted a large dog-like creature on his farm, and he shot at it with a gun. From then on, the family knew little peace. Poltergeist activity broke out with a vengeance. It consisted of scratching noises on the windows, bedclothes torn off, stones thrown, two of the children, Betsy and Richard, had their hair pulled so violently that Richard said it felt as though someone was trying to pull the top of his head off. Betsy also had pins rammed into her, and the beating of wings could be heard inside the house. Interestingly, gasping noises could also be heard as though somebody was trying to speak but having great difficulty in vocalising.
13-year-old Betsy was at the epicentre of the haunting, and was treated brutally. When the “ghost” slapped her violently around the face, she was sent to stay with neighbours, but the Thing went with her, and she was subjected to further slaps and blows.
For 2 years this terrifying activity continued, and every night the inhabitants at the farm were disturbed by some activity or another. Lights were seen outside the house, stones were thrown at the children, and visitors also suffered having their faces slapped by an unseen force. Sometimes the raps and bangs were so loud that the house literally shook. A strange whistly noise began to be heard, and gradually the entity acquired itself a voice. It started off in a kind of gasping whisper. It told them it was buried in the local woods and its grave had been disturbed. It also told them it was a spirit from everywhere, Heaven, hell, the Earth. “I’m in the air, in houses, any place at any time. I’ve been created millions of years. That is all I will tell you”.
This malicious entity also delighted in coming out with as many offensive remarks as possible, particularly racist ones. The Bells employed a little black girl called Anky, and the ghost directed plenty of venom at her. On one occasion it spat at her so constantly that poor little Anky’s head was almost covered in spittle.
During the ghost’s vocal sessions, Betsy suffered fainting fits and often went into a trance. She also vomited pins and needles, and the ghost spitefully joked that she would soon have enough to set up a shop. John Bell developed a peculiar illness. His tongue swelled, making it very difficult for him to eat. The ghost told John (whom it referred to disparagingly as Old Jack Bell) that he would be tormented for the rest of his life.
The ghost said it was a witch called Old Kate Batts, and it frequently filled the house with the smell of whisky as though it was enjoying a private drinking session. Kate Batts did exist, but she was still very much alive at the time of the haunting. There was no love lost between her and John Bell. They had conducted an unsatisfactory business deal, and Kate had threatened to get even with him. Kate was a keen soothsayer, and she was credited with forseeing the American Civil War and the two world wars of the 20th century.
General Andrew Jackson, a keen amateur psychic investigator, visited the farm. His carriage wheels got stuck in the drive leading to the house, and he heard a voice, claiming to be Kate, saying she would appear at the farm that night. That evening General Jackson heard phantom footsteps in the house. When he attempted to shoot the entity with a silver bullet he was slapped and driven out of the house.
Old Kate (the ghost that is) could have a soft side. When John’s wife Lucy fell ill, it muttered soothingly “poor Luce”. On Betsy’s birthday it materialised a basket of fruit for her. But these were rare occurrences. Betsy became engaged to Joshua Gardner, but the strain of being in a relationship with a poltergeist catalyst was too much for him, and he broke it off.
John Bell suffered for 2 years from his mysterious illness, until he died on 20 December 1820. The strain of it all had been incredible, and on one occasion he was said to have sat down and cried helplessly. As the poor man lay dying the vicious entity went into an orgy of rejoicing, singing rowdy songs and pulling off the bedclothes. It was even rumoured to have tampered with John’s medicine. When the liquid was tested on the family cat after John’s death, the animal died instantly.
With John’s passing the ghost seemed to lose the main focus of its hatred. The haunting calmed down considerably. When John Jnr asked the ghost if he could speak to his father, it replied that the dead couldn’t be brought back. It warned the family that it would return in 7 years time. It did, and made a few half-hearted attempts to revive the haunting, but it came to very little. Betsy was happily married and had moved away, and John Jnr and his mother Lucy ignored it. After a fortnight of faffing about the ghost said it was leaving, but that it would return in 1935. Well 1935 came and went, but Dr Charles Bell, the new owner of the farmer, and a distant relative of the unfortunate John, passed the year in peace.
So what was this awful creature? Some writers have speculated that John had sexually abused young Betsy, and the haunting was a manifestation of his guilt over that, with himself the target of the ghost’s viciousness. After all these years, that is impossible to confirm or deny. Perhaps Kate Batt had somehow conjured up some kind of vindictive tulpas to torment her neighbour.  In Tibetan mysticism a tulpas is a fictional entity, created by intense meditation, willpower and visualisation. The explorer Alexandra David-Neel is said to have created one whilst travelling in Tibet. She created him as a benign, rosy-cheeked monk, but the entity became more vicious and malevolent as time went on, and David-Neel eventually had to de-program him (for want of a better way of putting it).  Kate was certainly an odd woman, with supposedly psychic abilities, but the entity which haunted the Bell household seems far more like a particularly sadistic poltergeist than a tulpas.  The fact is though that the haunting dissipated markedly on John’s death, as if by killing him this savage unknown entity had exhausted the bulk of its rage.



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