The Bell Witch of Tennessee

A retelling of the spirit that haunts Robertson County, Tennessee.

Back to Article
Back to Article

The Bell Witch of Tennessee

Thomas Edwards, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

There are many ghost stories that make their debut as a whisper at a midnight campfire. It’s stories of ethereal objects, creatures. Stories of seeing something long gone make a nebulous return. They’re made to keep you alert and look around, just waiting for your mind to see something that isn’t there. Ghost stories are agents of anxiety, and the best of them are the ones the orator genuinely believes in.

One ghost story made its debut in a small, solitary cabin in the deep woods of Robertson County, Tennessee. This cabin was property of the Bell family, of North Carolina origins. The Bells were a wealthy group, who bought out 1,000 acres of land in the Tennessee County after collecting their fortune back home. The parents, John and Lucy Bell, had nine children, of which two died young in age. Remnants of the Bell family still roam Tennessee today.

Their cabin, and by extension their family, was tormented by a neighbor spirit, whose grave was disturbed, its teeth and bone scattered from its resting place. The spirit was mad. It wanted its tooth back, which was buried under the cabin.

At first, the spirit manifested as simple apparitions. They saw unearthly beings roam the forest, as odd sounds echo across their rooms with violent temperature. The spirit  came closer and rest it’s cold hands on the children of the household, who were struck and bruised by beings that weren’t there. Sometimes it even annoyed the slaves who slaved away in the farm, beating them or trampling the land as a cursed beast.

The spirit was a witch content with simply terrorizing the family. She didn’t want to kill them all, nor did she want their company forever. The witch wanted the Bells gone.

How she would go about fulfilling this goal was nothing short of insanity, which was likely what she tried to plant in her victims. Neighbors were driven away, and visitors were given a reason to never come back. Friends and spouses were given appropriate treatment and bullied like anyone else. Even when the Bells managed to leave their property, the witch would follow and beckon them back, or else.

Attempts to dispel the witch were unanimously unsuccessful. William Porter has wrangled the wraith in bed sheets one night, and struggled to throw her into a lit fire before losing his grip and falling defeated. His brother, Bennett, shot at conjurations from the witch, but was never met with the permanent result he wished for. A Kentucky doctor, who was more than intrigued by the demon, attempted an exorcism on the cabin. Little did he know that the witch would just terrorize him too, and he gave up in minutes.

Even the Andrew Jackson of presidential fame found himself fascinated by these happenings. He came to the Bell property with his merry men in wagons, which were halted suddenly when the ghastly figure greeted the general and faded away. Later on she would weed out a weakling in his company, bluffing out a proud witch hunter on the behalf of Jackson’s doubt. The witch was eager to thin out his crowd, as was he, but his men had enough of the visit and implored their leave from the wicked place.

Everything culminated in the passing of John Bell, who had enough of the hauntings and fell to his bedside incapacitated one morning. The witch had poisoned him mid night, and cackled at the family’s attempts at resuscitation. At the funeral, she stood on the wayside singing songs to herself at the dismay of grieving mourners. She found this end satisfying, and her activity waned and waned until the witch was that of mere rumor. It seems the destruction of the cabin brought about the end of another entity, and it can only be assumed she finally got the tooth that beared the weight of the floorboards once again.

People still encounter, and report of the witch today. The cave nearby the original resting place of the cabin is visited often by aspiring or veteran ghost hunters, who are in all situations scurried off by racket before seeing the witch in physical form. Nevertheless, the whispers and cold touch of the witch are ever present and haunt visitors still.

At heart, the spirit was a troublemaker. She did what she did because in all cases, it was obvious she was having fun while doing so. The witch laughed at her own jokes in spite of the Bell family and heckled people who tried to stop her. When relatives and visitors showed no resistance to her trickery, she rewarded them with her acquaintance. She acted all the same as her mortal counterparts and simply wanted to return to her grave undisturbed. It would be a just cause, if she wasn’t so mean—and so she rests in the cave near the once occupied property, slumbering peacefully, awaiting for a new, uninvited guest to mortify.


This tale was recounted from the following sites: