The legend begins, that one evening in 1817; John Bell was walking with a rifle upon his large farm along the Red River, when he came upon an animal that at first he thought to be a dog, but soon realized it was unlike any dog he had ever seen.
As he fired his rifle, the animal disappeared. At about the same time his daughter Betsy and son Drewry were walking in the family orchid and noticed an unknown woman walking beside them, as Betsy started to speak to her, she also disappeared.
Later that evening, the family was awakened by strange noises in and about the house, scratching on the floors, rapping on the exterior walls and windows, the flapping of birds’ wings on the roof, the sound of someone choking, and a gnawing sound at the foot of the bed post.
The family members searched in vain for the origin of these strange noises, thinking that it surely must be coming from some animal, prankster, or other explainable source.
These noises went on into the wee hours of the morning. There was no sleep to be had by any until the noises had ceased. These noises started again, each night, day after day, week after week and each night a search for the source turned up nothing. The family kept this as a tightly guarded secret for almost a year.
Within a year from the Bell Witches first ungodly appearance, the disturbances had escalated into heavy pounding on the walls bed sheets being pulled from the foot of the beds, the eerie sound of sucking sounds through teeth and hysterical laughing. John Bell had developed a serious nervous condition that affected his jaw and throat, and gave him great difficulty in swallowing. He thought that whatever spirit was loose in his house had surely caused him this ailment. He finally sought the confidence of a close friend James Johnson.
Johnson had agreed to spend the night in his friend’s home, to experience what John Bell had told him was happening there. Johnson and his wife had enjoyed a good country meal and Johnson began reading from the bible for the Bell family. He ended the evening's festivities by praying feverishly for god to deliver the Bell family, from whatever spirit that hell had sent upon this earth to torment them.
Later that evening as all had retired for a nights rest, the Bell Witch came calling with her own special welcome, for the visiting guest. The sounds started in full volume, as all were startled awake; the sheets were ripped from the Johnson's bed. James Johnson quickly retrieved the sheets and held with all his might as they were pulled from his tightly clinched hands. As the walls shook and the noises escalated, the Johnson's could only shriek in horror to the all too familiar occurrences, which the Bell family had come to know.
With the arrival of the new day, Johnson told his friend that this spirit was much too intelligent and vicious for just the two of them. He suggested that they enlist the help of other friends to put an end to this evil entity.
As each friend was brought into the group, the witch greeted them with the same evil intensity, but she also added a new twist. She quickly found a voice and began to recite the deliverance prayer that James Johnson had uttered on his first night in the Bell house. As the witch learned to speak, it is said that she never shut up from that point on.
It is said that the witch could speak eloquently of two Sunday morning sermons happening simultaneously, at churches located at opposite areas of the county. She could carry on highly intelligent conversations, but spent most of her time gossiping on the members of the community and casting profane triads at the occupants of the Bell household.
The Bell Witch seemed to center her attention on John Bell and his teenage daughter Betsy. They were the ones who suffered the most from the physical wrath of the witch, being repeatedly prodded, poked, scratched, punched and abused by the unknown entity. She absolutely forbade Betsy to marry her suitor Joshua Gardner and she vowed that she would see Old John Bell dead.
The Witch once identified herself as the ghost of an Indian, whose grave had been disturbed by a member of the Bell Family. Town folk quickly associated her with town eccentric and Bell neighbor Kate Batts; who neighbors stated, held no love loss for John Bell or his family.
At the same time that the haunting started, a new schoolteacher named Richard R. P. Powell descended on the town of Adams. He coincidentally held a special love interest in Betsy Bell and happened to teach and live at a schoolhouse adjacent to the Bell property. Powell had a secret wife living in Dickson Tennessee at the time. He later married Betsy Bell after she told Joshua Gardner that she could not defy the witch and marry him.
No matter who was the cause behind the torment of the Bell family, it is said that John Bell fell deathly ill on December 19th 1820, and as two of his sons came in to check on him, they found him unresponsive. They summoned the town doctor who immediately inquired what medicines he was taking. John Bell jr. went to fetch the medicine, only to find a vial of unknown liquid from the cupboard. The witch then spoke up saying "I gave it to him and he's never going to rise" John Bell lingered until his death the next morning. The family had to endure the witches gleeful ranting and singing, until his burial a day later. The witch could hardly contain her excitement, as she had done what she had initially set out to do.
Sometime in 1821, as the Bell family sat around the fireplace, something burst forth in a loud explosion. The witches voice exclaimed, "I am going, and will be gone for seven years, goodbye to all". The Bell family was finally able to find peace after four long years of unbearable torment.
As foretold, the witch returned in 1828, but not to the home of John Bell, but to the home of his namesake John Bell Jr.
The Bell Witch spent the next few months in discussion with John Jr. It is said that he did not try to hide his disdain for the witch for what she had bestowed on his family. The witch talked of philosophy and prophesies. It is said that she predicted the beginnings of the Civil War. The witch left again vowing to return in one hundred and seven years. There are no known documents of her return in 1935.
Although the witch has yet to return, some believe that she never left at all. In and around the town of Adams Tennessee; strange occurrences have continued to happen since the Bell Witch first appeared. Strange lights and sounds in the meadows of the old John Bell farm, strange images from pictures taken in the area. There is a cave located on the old John Bell farm. The current owners provide guided tours when the weather permits. Many people report strange noises and aberrations in the cave and the path leading to it.
Bell Witch Cave and House