Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Bell Witch and Her Cave


Last summer, The Colonel and I visited the Bell Witch Cave in Adams, Tennessee. To tell you the truth I was a bit apprehensive about visiting the cave. The Colonel told me stories about how those who wished to visit the cave sometimes had their plans thwarted by the Bell Witch. The Colonel really wanted to see the cave so I agreed to accompany him.

Before I take you along on our visit to the Bell Witch Cave I must first tell you about the Bell Witch.

The Bell Witch haunting (1817-1821) is a legend centered on the 19-century Bell family of Adams, Tennessee. John Bell Sr. was a farmer alongside the Red River. According to the legend the Bell family came under attack by an invisible entity described as a witch. The witch was able to speak and affect the physical environment. Some accounts record the witch had the ability to be in more than one place at a time, cross distances with rapid speed and have the power of prophecy.

The witch was named 'Kate'. Physical activity centered around the Bell's youngest daughter, Betsy and John Bell, Sr. 'Kate' expressed particular displeasure when Betsy became engaged to a local man named John Gardner.

The haunting began in late summer of 1817 with John Bell Sr. witnessing the apparition of a dog with the head of a rabbit. Bell fired at the animal but it disappeared. Activity moved into the house with sounds of scratching, knocking and lip smacking. Sheets were also pulled from beds. The activity grew intense as 'Kate' pulled hair, slapped, pinched and stuck pins in the family with particular focus on Betsy. Friends of the Bell's would come to the home and try to help them against the witch but no help could be given. Legend has it that even future president Andrew Jackson was intrigued with the story. He and his men were frightened away by the witch while traveling to the Bell farm to investigate.

At times, 'Kate' displayed a form of kindness, especially towards Lucy, John Bell's wife, "the most perfect woman to walk the earth", according to the witch. She would give Lucy fresh fruit plucked from the air and sign hymns to her. 'Kate' also showed John Bell Jr. a measure of respect.

Referring to John Bell Sr. as "Old Jack", the witch claimed she intended to kill him and signaled this intention through curses, threats and afflictions. The legend climaxes with John Bell being poisoned by the witch in 1821 and soon after Betsy called off her engagement.

'Kate' told the family she was going to leave but return in seven years. In 1828, she returned as promised to Lucy and her sons Richard and Joel with similar activities as before, but they chose not to encourage the witch and 'Kate' appeared to leave again.

Before our tour of the Bell Witch Cave we had a tour of a replica of the Bell home. The replica is not located on the original site of the Bell home. The original site is some distance away on private land. While touring the rooms of the house we learned of the legend through an audio program. The audio program was well done and very informative. 


Now, let me tell you a bit about the Bell Witch Cave. The cave is a Karst cave (formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone). It is approximately 490 feet long. The cave is located on property once owned by the Bell family. Many believe that when the witch departed, she flew to the sanctuary of the cave.

Legend has it that young Betsy Bell and some of her friends had gone to explore the cave. While there, one of the boys crawled into a hole and became stuck. A voice cried out, "I'll get him out" and the boy felt hands grasping his feet and he was pulled out of the hole. The invisible Bell Witch then gave the young explorers a lecture on reckless cave exploring.

Our tour guide for the cave was the owner of the cave. We had a private tour, as no one else was (brave enough to be) on the tour that day. The approach to the cave was a long, down-sloping, gravel trail that was beneath the canopy of very welcomed, shade-giving trees.




The closer we came to the cave's entrance, the cooler the temperatures were. It was very refreshing as the day of our visit was hot and sticky. We finally made it to the cave's entrance and our guide was waiting for us.



We navigated the the few steps down and towards the gated entrance of the cave. Our guide unlocked the gate and we stepped inside the Bell Witch Cave.


We walked through a wet, rocky tunnel that was at times a bit narrow. Our guide showed us some interesting things along our way.




An Indian grave site.


Deposits of flint hanging from the ceiling.


Cave features that looked like icing.


A formation that looks a bit like a mooning man.


And finally, a witch's profile (her long nose is pointing left).

We turned around and made our way back to the entrance of the cave.


Thankfully we did not experience anything paranormal as we toured the cave. The outside of the cave entrance was impressive with the imposing rock walls.



Remember when I said that visitors to the Bell Witch Cave sometimes had their plans thwarted by the Bell Witch? Well, the morning we were to head to the cave began normally. We had a yummy breakfast at the hotel, checked out and got into our car in the parking lot.

The Colonel inserted the key, turned it and was greeted by a clicking sound...our battery was dead. We called AAA and got a jump. We decided a trip to the local Wal-Mart auto shop was in order. We had our battery tested and it was found to be in working order...hmmm...Bell Witch trickery?

So, with a nice purring engine we drove along the beautiful country roads to the Bell Witch Cave. We pulled into the grass parking lot and walked to a little building and purchased our tickets. 

We toured the Bell's house and the cave as stated earlier and got back into the car. The Colonel inserted the key again with a little trepidation...but the car started right up. Whew!

It was getting to be after lunch time so we pulled into a Sonic and shut the car off. We had an enjoyable, tasty lunch and got ready to hit the road again.

Insert key...CLICK, CLICK, CLICK. 

Our battery is dead once again!

The nice manager (who was young and very nice looking...think young Clint Eastwood) tried to help jump our battery with his huge truck but to no avail. We called AAA once again and had a tow truck come out to jump us. It worked! 

With the engine running, we called Yam to have her Google the nearest VW dealership to our current location (about an hour away). She gave us the pertinent information and off we went. 

We arrived at the dealership around 4 pm and checked in with the service representative. She was able to get our car into a slot in the service area. They tested the battery and it was completely dead. It is a wonder we were able to jump it twice they said. Apparently the Wal-Mart auto shop representative was dead wrong (a huge pun intended).

It was touch and go whether the VW service department had a battery and could put it in before the department's closing time of 5 pm. We may have to wait until the next day. With fingers crossed and some finagling from the very nice service representative, we were able to get a new battery installed in the nick of time.

Bell Witch trickery or just a bad battery? We may never know.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

In Honor of National Poppy Week

(Image from the Internet)

The American Legion launched National Poppy Week this month (22 May through 28 May) as a way to honor fallen U.S. service members, from battlefields of France a century ago to today's global war on terrorism.

After WWI, the poppy flourished in Europe. Scientists attributed the growth to the soils in France and Belgium becoming enriched with lime from the rubble left by the war. From the dirt and mud grew beautiful poppies. The red poppy came to symbolize the blood shed during the battle following the publication of the wartime poem "In Flanders Fields". The poem was written by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea, M.D. while serving on the front lines.

(Image from the Internet)

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row.
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

National Poppy Day occurs annually on the Monday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day is a scared holiday in the United States. It is a time when we pause, reflect and honor those who have died keeping America and democracy safe.

A few weeks ago, The Colonel asked me to create three poppies out of some wood he had in the garage. I took the three panels of wood and drew my interpretation of a poppy on each one. We then took the panels to my Favorite Father-In-Law's garage to use his band saw to cut out the poppies and his belt sander to smooth the edges. Once the poppies were cut and sanded we took them back home.

The Colonel and I bought some poppy-colored spray paint and I used it to put a base coat on each wooden poppy. Once that dried, I mixed other paints to add highlights, definition and a pistil to the flowers. I was pleased with the results as was The Colonel.

One wooden poppy was given to my Favorite Father-In-Law so that he could display it on his house for National Poppy Week, one was taken to the Blanchard House Museum for the same reason and then we kept the last one for our own house's display.





Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My Patriot

(Image  from the Internet)

I was inducted into the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) on March 5, 2016. I can trace my lineage to Eleazer Ingraham, a patriot of that war.

Eleazer Ingraham was born on January 16, 1743 to Henry and Rachel (Hurlburt) Ingraham in Woodbury, Lirchfield County, Connecticut.  He served in the French and Indian War (1754-1763) with his father.

Eleazer enlisted himself in the Continental Army for the duration of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783) along with his father Henry. He served under Captain J. Farrand and Colonel Mosely.

In 1776, every able-bodied man in this (Woodbury) or other western towns of Connecticut, between the ages of sixteen and sixty years, was marched to New York by order of General George Washington. Woodbury during the entire war was headquarters of the recruiting service in this part of Connecticut.

On August 6, 1765, Eleazer married Lydia Guthrie. They had nine children. Their son Philo (28 June 1768-21 August 1842) is the child from whom I am descended. Philo married Arvilla Barney around 1800 in New York.

Arvilla is the daughter of William and Jerusha (Jepherson) Barney. William also served in the American Revolutionary War for New Hampshire. I am in the process of submitting the paperwork to the headquarters of the NSDAR in Washington D.C. in hopes of having him officially recognized as my second patriot.

Now, back to Eleazer Ingraham...

Eleazer and his family joined about 60 other families as they traveled and came to an area west of Seneca Lake in Western New York. There they found waterfalls that provided several sites for grist mills and saw mils. Here they formed the first white settlement during the summer of 1788, which they called Jerusalem.

They were followers of a Quaker sect who, seeking to separate themselves for religious reasons from worldly temptations and persecution, were lead by one Jemima Wilkinson.

Image from the Internet

In 1776, Wilkinson, who was 24 years old at the time, contracted typhoid. She suffered a highly fevered state, leaving her bedridden and near death.

Upon recovering, she claimed to have been sent by God to preach his message. She believed that Christ had entered her body during the illness and that she was now neither female nor male. She claimed to be "a holy vessel of Jesus Christ and God and the Holy Spirit". Jemima Wilkinson said that she was the "Public Universal Friend" and never again responded to her original birth name.

There is not much more I know about my patriot at this time. I am still looking for any information I can. I would like to know more about his military career. What battles did he take part in? I hope to know more one day.

Eleazer Ingraham died in New York sometime after the year 1810 (some records have his death year as 1834). Still more research to perform.

Now, if the NSDAR will approve my paperwork for William Barney (it could take up to a year for supplemental patriots), I will have a post about him later (maybe much later). Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Sawfish Science


There is a newspaper that comes out every Thursday called The Florida Weekly. It is free and The Colonel and I try to pick up the newest edition when it comes out.

A few weeks ago the newspaper had an article about sawfish. They have been cruising the waters for millions of years and are the marine equivalent of living dinosaurs. The water in the local area, the Charlotte Harbor, is the perfect habitat for sawfish, It is a warm estuary where salt and fresh water meet. There are also mangroves here. These features make the perfect spot for sawfish nurseries and playgrounds. Last year an 18-foot sawfish was caught and released on the Naples Pier and an estimated 150-pound one was caught on video off the coast of Sanibel Island.

Sawfish resemble a shark and are in the same family as sharks, skates and rays but with a major difference. The sawfish has a rostrum. A rostrum is a nose extension that can make up to one-quarter of the creature's length, with a menacing set of tooth-like protrusions on each side.


(Images from Internet)

On the verge of extinction; according to National Geographic, sawfish are considered one of the most endangered fish species in the world. All seven species of sawfish are listed on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species.

George Burgess (mentioned in the newspaper article), director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, has said that Southwest Florida residents have the potential of saving the sawfish by alerting his organization as to when and where they spot a sawfish and being careful when they go fishing. If they happen to catch a sawfish they are to release it without taking it out of the water. Taking the sawfish out of the water traumatizes it to a great extent.

In Florida the species is the Smalltooth Sawfish. Dr. Nicole Phillips (also mentioned in the newspaper article) loves rays and sharks and has a fascination with genetics. Her study brought her and her graduate student, Annemarie Fearing to Charlotte Harbor. Dr. Phillips and Fearing conduct sawfish research for the University of Southern Mississippi.

Two sawfish species swam in the United States waters; the Largetooth and Salltooth. The last reported sighting of a Largetooth Sawfish in the U.S. was in 1960. Now they are exclusively found in Australian waters.

At one time Smalltooth Sawfish were found off the East Coast of the U.S. from New York to Brownsville, Texas.

Dr. Phillips' goal, with the assistance of Miss Fearing, is to test the DNA of the rostra of "ancient" sawfish and compare it to more recent ones. Ancient means sawfish that lived within the last 100 years. The last century was chosen because of the significant decline in the sawfish population during this period.

The Colonel and I read the newspaper article (as we waited for our Chinese food order to be filled) and thought immediately of the old rostrum that is hanging on the wall in the museum we volunteer for.

The Colonel emailed Dr. Phillips' grad student, Miss Fearing, and informed her that we had an old rostrum that she may be interested in. He told her the rostrum is likely from the 1920s or 1930s. We have a picture hanging in the museum of Mr. Dan Smith and he is standing near a few rostra and the one on the wall may be one of the ones in the photograph.



Miss Fearing was very interested. She told The Colonel that she would be sending him a DNA collection kit and that he should watch the two tutorial videos on the collection process that she had linked in her email. He watched the tutorials. Now we had to wait for the package to arrive in the mail.

We did not have to wait long for the package. We took it to the museum and opened it up to see what the DNA collection kit entailed.


The DNA collection kit included: Rubber gloves, a measuring tape, tweezers, a box cutter, alcohol wipes, a collection vial and a form to be filled out that detailed the rostrum's size, approximate age and place of origin.

The Colonel took the rostrum from the wall. He set it down on the table to ready it for the DNA collection process. The fist thing we did was get the measurements of the rostrum following the diagram that was attached to the enclosed form. There were three measurements taken: length, width of nose and width of the other end.





Now came time to collect the DNA sample. The Colonel donned the rubber gloves and used the alcohol wipes to clean the box cutter and tweezers.


Once the tools of collection were sanitized, he began cutting pieces of the rostrum from the end opposite the nose. The Colonel would need to cut off some of the light colored tissue within the rostrum and then put it inside the collection vial.




The collection of the sawfish DNA was completed. We sealed the sample, the paperwork and tools back into the FedEx package that we received and dropped it into a FedEx collection box that same day.


Now comes the waiting game to see if the sample is a good one and what our museum's rostrum can do to help protect those sawfish that are still swimming in the waters of Charlotte Harbor.