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.

1 comment:

  1. it wouldn't be the first time Scot was affected by the paranormal through an automobile.