Bell Witch Cave

Posted by junketseo in Gatlinburg Haunts
Bell Witch Cave - Photo

Tennessee’s Bell Witch Cave has one of the most intriguing and mysterious histories. It is said that a rural family was terrorized for years on their farm by a mysterious entity known only as ‘Kate.’ Kate is now believed to haunt a cave nearby, terrorizing all who dare enter the mouth of the dank and dark enclave.


History of the Bell Family


John Bell was an American farmer who was born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. Bell was an apprentice barrel-maker during his early years and later saw just how lucrative farming could be. He changed career paths and pursued a career in the fields.

John met and married Lucy Williams in 1782 when she was just twelve years old and he was thirty-two. He settled with his child bride on the farm he had bought previously. The Bells prospered on their land and were among the area’s most successful planters. In the winter of 1804, Bell and his family started on a journey that would take them to an area called “Red River.” They settled in the northwest section of Adams, Tennessee. Finally settled down, Bell and Lucy had six children together: Jesse, Betsy, Richard, John Jr., Drewry, and Benjamin.

After John Bell’s death and estate settlement, Lucy inherited a slave of the Bell family named Dean and a 106-acre tract of land that included the Bell home and cemetery. She remained at the homestead until her death in 1838 and is buried on the family plot in the Bell City Cemetery near Adams, Tennessee, along with her late husband and some of their children.

The Legend Is Born

The legend of the Bell Witch centers on the Bell family of Red River, Tennessee. The family endured a spiritual haunting from 1817 until 1821, four years of pure horror. The family was terrorized by an unseen force that went by the name of “Kate.”

One day in 1817, John Bell was out walking around his cornfields when he encountered an unexplainable and strange-looking creature in the middle of a cornrow. It wasn’t like any animal he had ever seen, and he immediately drew his weapon, shooting at it several times. Accounts state that the creature had the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit. This was the very first documentation of the manifestation of the strange entity.

Bell thought nothing more of the occurrence. He figured he was just sleepy, perhaps hallucinating the creature. He headed back inside for dinner and let it go.

Unfortunately, the entity had other plans. After supper, the family began to hear beating sounds on the walls of their home, as if someone was banging on the outer walls, attempting to break in.

The sounds increased in force and frequency, and the Bell family began to grow angry with the noise. Bell and his sons would rush outside as soon as the banging stopped to attempt to catch the culprit of the disturbances.

In the following weeks, the children grew more and more frightened by the noises, complaining that they were being awoken by the sounds of mice and rats gnawing at their bedposts. They also reported having their blankets ripped off of them during the night and their pillows being tossed onto the floor.

Terror Escalates

Time went on, and the entity started to whisper into the ears of the family. They described the voice as a feeble, old woman. The encounters began to escalate — the youngest Bell daughter, Betsy, began to experience truly brutal happenings involving the entity. It began to get physical, slapping her and ripping her hair out. It would beat her relentlessly, leaving bruises and welts all over her.

The disturbances had gotten so bad that John Bell had to finally share the details with a close family friend, James Johnston. Johnston was skeptical, but he and his wife spent the night at the Bell home to see the activity for themselves.

Their skepticism was confirmed as their night began peacefully and relaxing. Once they went to bed, however, they experienced the very same events that the Bell family had been enduring. After their blankets were ripped from their bed, James was physically attacked. He sprang from the bed, demanding that the entity state its name in the name of God. The rest of the evening was quiet, and in the morning, James explained that the entity was a dark one, like a demon straight out of hell.

General Andrew Jackson Pays A Visit

John Bell Jr. and two of his brothers had fought under General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans. Once Jackson heard of the disturbances occurring at the Bell Family Farm, he decided to investigate further. He and his men came towards the property, and as they were crossing a middy river, their wagon became stuck.

After several attempts to free the wagon, Jackson, exasperated, said, “By the eternal, boys, it’s the Bell Witch!” Not seconds later, the entire party heard a disembodied female voice that stated they could proceed and that she would greet them later that evening. Once at the farm, Jackson and his entourage set up their tents and settled in for the evening. That night, the men encountered the witch, some of them feeling pins under their skin, while others were severely beaten. Jackson’s men begged to leave the farm, but Jackson refused. The following events are unclear, but he was seen in Springfield early the next morning and was reported saying:

‘I would rather fight the British at New Orleans than fight the Bell Witch.’

The Witch soon began to take an interest in John Bell alone — she relentlessly vowed to kill him. By 1820, his health had declined so rapidly that the entity took full advantage of him. He passed away in December of 1820 — immediately following his death, the family found a black liquid seeping from the kitchen cupboards.

The state of Tennessee actually attributed John’s death to the witch, making his passing the only one in the state legally caused by an unexplained or ‘paranormal’ happening.

The Bell Witch Today

The Bell Witch Cave is located on the property where the Bell family farm once operated. Many people believe that once the ‘witch’ departed from the family, she fled to the cave’s sanctuary.

By most accounts, the story of the Bell family farm and its happenings here is morbid, but there’s actually a tale of the Bell Witch helping to free a young child from the cave. During an exploration of the dark cavern, a boy got stuck in a hole and called out for help. A woman’s voice answered, saying, ‘I’ll get him out!’ and the boy was pulled by invisible hands out of the hole.

She then gave the children a lesson on safety in the cave and disappeared.

The Bell Witch Cave was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2008.

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Legend of the Bell Witch