John Bell, a farmer from North Carolina, along with his wife and children settled in northern Robertson County Tennessee in 1804. Their farm consisted of 320 acres of rich farm land that laid along the Red River. They lived a quite peaceful life here for the first 13 years. They were members of the Red River Baptist Church where John became a deacon. The family grew and became somewhat prosperous.
In the late summer of 1817 something would happen that would change their lives forever. Some members of the family began seeing strange looking animals around the property. Then late at night they started hearing knocking sounds on the doors and outer walls of the house. Later sounds were being heard in the house. Sounds of a rat gnawing on the bed post, chains being drug through the house, stones being dropped on the wooden floors, then gulping and choking sounds.
The family was terrified but kept the problem to themselves for over a year. When things became intolerable John confided in a neighbor, James Johnson. He invited Mr and Mrs Johnson to spend the night. After several nights of witnessing these strange things, Mr. Johnson suggested that more people should be told. And a committee was formed and an investigation started.
It was not long before people were coming from miles around to hear and witness this unseen force that was terrorizing the Bell home. Before long this unseen force had gained enough strength that it now had a voice. When asked who and what it was, it gave different identities. It once stated that it was the witch of a neighbor woman named Kate Batts. This is what many people believed, and from then on, this unseen force was called “Kate” the “Bell’s Witch”.
It seemed that Kate had two main reasons for visiting the Bell home. The main one was to kill John Bell. For what reason no one knows because Kate never gave a reason why. The second reason was to stop John’s youngest daughter Betsy from marrying a certain neighbor boy named Joshua Gardner.
Over the next three years “Kate” tormented members of the Bell family almost daily. John and his daughter Betsy was the ones who received the worst of the physical abuse. Betsy had her hair pulled, she was pinched, scratched stuck with pins and even beaten. While John Bell began suffering from spells of swelling of the throat and often had the feeling of a stick being stuck sideways in his throat. Then came the twitching and jerking of the facial muscles. Kate would blast him with curses and hideous threats during these spells. As time went on John Bell became weaker and weaker.
Kate was becoming well known and drew large crowds of people. She seemed to be very intelligent in many things: the bible, people’s past and the future. She could be in two places at the same time – miles apart from each other.
She (Kate) finally accomplished her mission for coming to the Bell farm. On December 20,1820 John Bell had died. It was believed that he was poisoned by Kate, and Kate took full credit for his death. And then in March of 1821 young Betsy broke off her engagement with Joshua Gardner.
Kate then bid everyone farewell and promised to return in seven years. She did return in 1828 for a few short weeks. During this visit she came to the home of John Bell Jr and had long talks with him about the past, the present and the future. She made some predictions for the future. Kate also said there was a reason for John Bells death. However she never said what the reason was. After the second visit, she said her next return would be in One Hundred and Seven years. That would have been in 1935. But some believe that she (Kate) never left the area at all due to the strange things that has occurred in and around the town of Adams and the Bell Witch Cave over these many years.
There are many books written about the famous Bell Witch of Tennessee. The legend of the Bell Witch is part of Tennessee history and is still taught in schools today.
If you’d like a much more in depth breakdown of the story, watch the video below.
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