Bell Witch Haunting


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The Bell Witch Haunting is a southern folklore legendary poltergeist tale. Central characters featured in its purported real-life plot were members of the Bell family that lived in Adams, Tennessee during the 1800s. John Bell, Sr. was the family patriarch and breadwinner who eked out a meager livelihood as a farmer.

Basic factual prelude to full-blown haunting by the Bell Witch

In 1817, an unknown woman who practiced witchcraft launched a brutal campaign of malicious attacks and constant harassing acts against John's entire family for some inexplicable reason. Despite strong inferences of no plausible grounds for reasonable suspicion, much less persuasive evidence or conclusive proof, the most likely suspect was a local lady named Kate Batts.

Beyond that basic factual backdrop, written versions of subsequent events vary somewhat, but all spin a convoluted tale that bears uncomfortably close resemblance to other poltergeist legends.

Varying degrees of variations in various written versions of Bell Witch

The Bell Witch saga began with strange noises being heard that came from within walls of the family home. Audible volume steadily rose to an eventual peak with a crescendo of several unusual sounds. Meanwhile, Bell household occupants were pinched and slapped by unseen hands, stationery objects suddenly flew across rooms and animals were "spooked" for no apparent reason.

Per an article published in 1894 titled "An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch," by noted author Martin Van Buren Ingram, the poltergeist was named Kate, who often cursed Bell family members with verbal abuse, vulgar insults and vile name-calling. Such bizarre events seemed to revolve around the Bells' youngest daughter Betsy, and grew much worse after her engagement to marry a gentleman by the name Joshua Gardner.

Multiple accounts relate that Andrew Jackson's fascination with the Bell Witch fiasco grew so intense that he made a trip for the sole purpose of firsthand investigation, but was scared off shortly after his arrival.

Still other accounts claim the Bell family pet was haunted by constant scratching sounds outside the door that started shortly after John Bell found a grotesque creature that was half dog and half rabbit. Finally, a few versions conclude with John's death from poisoning by the witch. Different written versions also diverge as to whether the witch was someone John Bell had cheated or a male slave killed by John.

Unbiased detachment vs. undying engagement with the Bell Witch

Paranormal investigative partners Radford and Brian Dunning reached the conclusion that no evidence of Andrew Jackson's visitation of the Bell Family existed. Additional grounds cited for that dubious attitude were Jackson's fully documented movements around the same time and not a single mention of such as visit in historical references of Jackson's personal writings.

Questionable sources, self-contradictions and suspicious circumstantial factors

The only Bell Witch Haunting account known to exist before Ingram's commentary publication was titled, "History of Tennessee," and published by the Goodspeed Brothers in 1886, longer than six decades after relevant facts reportedly occurred.

All above related details of the Bell Witch legend were drawn from two sources that include partial contribution by the Goodspeed Brothers' article, but primary source reference material came from news publisher Martin Van Buren Ingram material. Three quarters of a century after recounted events supposedly occurred, Ingram wrote a self-proclaimed authentic Bell Witch history based on diary entries written by Bell Senior's son Richard, who was between 6 and 10 years old when the haunting tale reputedly unfolded, but waited until age 30 to write his dairy.

However, Dunning claimed that no one ever saw the diary and no evidence existed that such a memoir ever existed. Dunning then expressed inferential suspicions by opining how "very convenient" it was that anyone with firsthand knowledge of the haunting was deceased and so was everyone with even secondhand knowledge. Dunning went on with explicit allegation that Ingram had made another false statement that a Saturday Evening Post" article featured in 1894 accused the Bells' daughter Elizabeth of manufacturing the witch from whole cloth. According to Dunning, no such article was ever published or even written, for that matter.

Professional evaluator prologues

Radford's self- styled expert opinion is that while Bell Witch provides any paranormal researcher with a valuable footnote by illustrating how easily mistaken identification of legends and myths as fact can occur absent properly verified sources. Thus, there's no real need to reach underlying alleged paranormal activity issues unless and until credible support for its truth emerges.

Furthermore, while Rayford acknowledge of many vague accounts that a witch indeed resided in the local area during relevant times, he pointed out that all facts of any significance were falsified, while other facts derived from by dubious sources. Thus, absent reliable substantiation of actual event(s), there's nothing worthy of further investigation.

Dunning's stated conclusion chalks up Bell Witch as merely one of many other unsubstantiated folk legends with gross embellishment, but popularized by historical fiction writer opportunists. Radford chimed in by reminding that skeptics never bear the burden to disprove anything. Rather, the burden to prove reported claims always remains incumbent on proponents. Author Joe Nickell stated in various writings that many people who knew Betsy well entertained grave doubts about possible fraud. Nickell further opined that Bell Witch is has a suspiciously high level of similarity to "poltergeist faking syndrome," where an ordinary human creates the disturbances, who is typically a child seeking attention.

By contrast, researcher Jesse Glass related finding absolutely no evidence to support Nickell's ghost faking theory during a seven-year study of Bell Witch historical sources.

A true conclusion in more ways than one

Reviewing background research before and during preparation of this content provoked serious thought by its author. For the most part, those deep reflections probably stemmed from a long-standing personal view that paranormal abilities and activities do exist to some general extent, but a vast majority of individual claims thereof are false. Undoubtedly, no deliberate fraud or deception was intended or involved. Rather, humans tend to be more "suggestible" than "skeptical," especially if they stand to accrue some potential or actual gain from the first course.

Nevertheless, it is a well-known, indisputable and immutable fact of life that mere belief in something does not make it true; nor does disbelief in something render it untrue. That universal rule invariably asserts itself, primarily because things, places and external sequential events have an objective existence. Whereas, beliefs are entirely subjective and internally resident matters of perception, not matters of fact. Therefore, as one of the personalities featured herein was quoted as having said in close paraphrase, "myth and fiction are easily mistaken for factual data and events," it's vital to distinguish those directly inapposite phenomena before passing final judgement on any seemingly paranormal phenomena. With strict adherence to that preliminary decision-making protocol, much wiser choices and far more accurate projection of end outcomes will become actually -not just theoretically possible.