Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Bell Witch's North Carolina Connection

I just finished watching An American Haunting, loosely based on the Bell Witch. (Not to be confused with Bell South.) I put this one in the queue after recently learning about the urban legend. But is it Urban Legend? It is, according to the legend, the only documented case of super-natural phenomenon ever witnessed by enough people to say that it actually occurred. It's also said to not only have haunted the original Bell family but a subsequent family some thirty years later.

There's plenty of information online, but I'll give you the Cliff notes. Coincidentally, this story has some North Carolina connection: John Bell, who was from Edgecombe County, North Carolina. John eventually moved to Tennessee (good going there Tex) where he and his family basically encountered the events of the modern Hollywood tale of Poltergeist. So many people witnessed the supernatural phenomenon that even President Andrew Jackson decided to roll on by and investigate why John Bell's estate was apparently the doorway to something not from this world.

Several publications, including The Saturday Evening Post and other news magazines of the time documented the events in their columns:
This witch was supposed to be some spiritual being having the voice and attributes of a woman. It was invisible to the eye, yet it would hold conversation and even shake hands with certain individuals. The feats it performed were wonderful and seemingly designed to annoy the family. It would take the sugar from the bowls, spill the milk, take the quilts from the beds, slap and pinch the children, and then laugh at the discomfiture of its victims. 
Now the movie I just watched, An American Haunting, is a movie loosely based on the story of the Bell Witch, but it attempts to explain the haunting through molestation of his daughter. The only thing that I don't get is the ending. Why does the future owner of the Bell Estate go running after the car yelling "David" when she sees Betsy Bell in her living room? Does this mean the dad is going to molest that girl?

Critics claim all the subsequent re-tellings of the haunting are nothing more than that: a story, passed down from a diary of William Belle in his memoirs. Some suggest even it was a fabrication by a modern day journalist who attributed his fictional tale to Bell, only to deflect his attempts at cashing in with America's infatuation with ghost stories.

Today there is even a historical marker for the Bell Witch near Adams, TN and the plantation of the Bell's, along with the Bell Cave which is curious roadside attraction. The house no longer stands, but at least one structure from the time does exist today on the land where the Bell Witch supposedly did (or does) haunt.

Is it another case of some one's practical joke? A fictional tale or true proof of an actual haunting? I could care less as long as someone explains the darn ending of the movie.