Who will win, a future president or a potty-mouthed ghost? In this Halloween episode, we tell the legend of The Bell Witch, one of America's first popular ghost stories.
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Join brothers Brandon and Nevin on their crazy trip through time as they dive into some of the weirdest (but true!) and most interesting bits of world history. Laughing Historically is a fun educational web show that’s teacher/classroom friendly and great for kids of all ages!
Before Jason, before Freddy, before Casper, There was The Bell Witch, one of America’s first popular monster stories.
1804, John Bell and his family move to a farm in Adams, Tennessee and start buying up lots of land, including some from their neighbor, Kate Batts. Batts felt cheated by the deal, but soon falls ill. On her deathbed, she swears to haunt John Bell to death from beyond the grave.
Legend has it, in 1817, things start getting weird in the Bell Family house. It begins with noises within the walls, escalating into people being pinched and slapped relentlessly, objects being thrown and animals being spooked! No one could see the ghost, but they could definitely hear her and her constant taunts.
Soon, the word gets out and the house becomes a tourist destination, with people coming from far and wide to visit the property and the foul-mouthed ghost. Its not long before the story reaches a hot-headed General in Nashville whom the three oldest Bell boys had served under, named Andrew Jackson.The future president had made a name for himself in The War of 1812 as a rowdy man of the people.
In 1819, he assembles a posse of men to go after the Bell Witch, including a self-proclaimed “witch-slayer," (who doesn't have a name, so let's call him Phil). Jackson loads up a wagon and heads to Adams, Tennessee. Why? Mostly for fun.
A few miles before they reach the Bell farm, the wagon freezes in place on a clear road. The horses pull as hard as they can, but it's like the wagon is glued to the ground.
Jackson raises his hands and says "By the eternal, boys, it's the witch!"
From the bushes comes a shrill metallic voice,
"All right General, let the wagon move on, I will see you again to-night."
The wagon starts to move again but the men can find no trace of anyone in the area, so they press on.
Jackson arrives at the Bell House at nightfall. As the family settles in for the night, the men gather around the fire, waiting.
After several uneventful hours, Phil the witch-slayer springs to his feet, lifts up his pistol and explains he has been packing silver bullets and the witch must be afraid.
"Well then she should show her braggart's colors," says Jackson.
Immediately, the witch screams out,
"Here I am, as promised, General and ready for business..."
An invisible force starts beating Phil brutally. He tries to fire his pistol, but it won't work.
"I'll make it easy, go ahead and shoot for Christ's sakes!"
But no one can see anything and Phil can't fire his gun.
She slams Phil against the wall, drags him across the room by his leg, and kicks him in the butt right out the door.
"There's one more fraud among you and I will reveal them before the night's over!"
Jackson's men beg him to leave.
"I'd rather fight the British again over this witch!" He says, but makes them stay, so he can figure out himself who this fraud was.
They all settle into their tents outside the house for the night with the witch continuing to verbally abuse them, most of which was calling Andrew Jackson's wife fat.
No one knows exactly what happened next, but Jackson and his men were spotted the next morning in Springfield on their way back to Nashville. Jackson would never speak of this event, most likely because he was too embarrassed and with the dirtiest election of all time coming up, he probably didn't want it brought up.
While Jackson would go on to become President, the witch continued to haunt the Bell Family until John Bell's sudden death in 1820. After he died, the witch sang out to the family that she had poisoned him. To the townspeople, whom this was all pretty common-place, this seemed about right. It remains the only recorded ghost murder.
Today, there is a memorial on the Bell farm, the only one in The United States devoted to a ghost. As for Phil, well he went on to become known as President Abraham Lincoln.