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the Red Book

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Sandra
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« on: April 09, 2007, 10:21:04 pm »

The "Red Book"

The most complete version of the Bell Witch story is contained in a book written by Martin Van Buren Ingram entitled:  An Authenticated History of the Famous Bell Witch.  This book was first published in 1894 and is the earliest and still the best account of the legend.  The original 1894 edition appeared in a white cover;  this original edition is extremely rare and is quite valuable.  Even the Tennessee State Archives has lost its copy (undoubtedly stolen) of the 1894 edition.   

In 1961 a reprint was issued with a red cover. In Robertson County, Tennessee this red-covered book is commonly referred to as the "Red Book" as opposed to the black-covered "Black Book" that was written many years later (first published in 1934) by Dr. Charles Bailey Bell, a great-grandson of John Bell.  At this web site the terms "Red Book" and "Black Book" are used throughout, to indicate either the M. V.  Ingram or the Charles Bailey Bell book, respectively.

Red Book Availability

The last reprint of the Red Book, of which I am aware, was made in 1971.  Accordingly, a copy of the Ingram book is now very difficult to obtain.  Even many of the Middle Tennessee libraries no longer have copies because of thefts - mainly by school children!

Electronic Version of the Red Book

The Ingram book is now in the public domain.  Accordingly, for the convenience of serious students of Bell Witch folklore, I have appended an electronic, hyper-linked version of Ingram's book to this web site.

Red Book Prose

The Red Book was produced during the early 1890's and was written in the style of the period.  Also, even though Ingram was a journalist, his prose was apparently never reviewed by an editor before publication and contains many spelling errors and some obvious grammatical errors. The sentences run on forever and are filled with commas.  Also, paragraphs often run on for several pages!  As a result, the book is very difficult for people living in our "instant communication" era to understand, especially for persons used to 15-second video/sound bites.  However, other than correcting the spelling, fixing some of the most glaring grammatical mistakes, and cleaning up some of the language (offensive by today's standards) that Ingram used to describe the speech of African-Americans, the book is reproduced at this site exactly as written by Ingram.
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Sandra
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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2007, 10:22:05 pm »

Bell Witch of Tennessee


It is not the purpose of the writer to present a romance for the entertainment of lovers of fiction, nor to establish a theory to please the fancy of adherents of so-called theosophy, but simply to record events of historical fact, sustained by a powerful array of incontrovertible evidence, as it comes to hand, testifying to the most wonderful phenomenon the world has any account of a visitation known as the “Bell Witch,” believed at the time by many to have been of supernatural origin; which appeared in Robertson County, Tennessee, some seventy-five years ago, inflicting unendurable suffering on John Bell, the head of the family, and was said to have ended his life and which also awakened a sensation that has lived through a generation. The writer is aware of the fact that the average person of today eschews the belief in the existence of witches, ghosts, and apparitions, as a relic of past superstition, and as a subject for ridicule; nevertheless, spectres stalk the earth today just as they did hundreds of years ago, the only difference being that we now place a different interpretation upon them, calling them spirits, fantasies, psychic manifestations, etc., instead of ghosts and witches, and people who laugh at the superstition of our fathers only need be put to the test to prove this fact. However, this is not the place for moralizing, nor will the writer find any occasion for drawing on his imagination for a vivid description of goblins and devils incarnate, or for painting the revelry of unknown demons on a mission of torment, to, make the hair Stand on one's head, or cause the unregenerated to shun neglected grave yards. This part of the story is told by others who mingled with the familiar spirits, held conversation with the invisible, took part in their worship, participated in the ghost dances and midnight revelries, held councils with the spooks, witnessed the jack-a-lantern performances, saw unshapely sights and horrifying transformations, and felt the warm blood curdle in their veins.

The author only assumes to compile the data, formally presenting the history of this greatest of all mysteries, just as the matter is furnished to hand, written by Williams Bell, a member of the family, some fifty-six years ago, together with other corroborative testimony by men and women of irreproachable character and unquestionable veracity.

It may be a strange story, never theirs it is authentic, not only as recorded by Williams Bell, but transmitted to the present generation of the surrounding country through family reminiscences of that most eventful and exciting period of the century which set hundreds of people to investigating, including Gen. Andrew Jackson, and is recognized in every household as a historical truth.

No one denies or doubts the existence of witchcraft, etc., during the dark ages, and it may be accepted as equally true, that just as enlightened Christianity has progressed, the deviltry of the past decades has kept pace with the advancement, in transformations, assuming other forms and new channels for mystifying people; such as spiritual séances, mind reading, hypochondria, hypnotism, electrical phenomena, etc.; to satisfy that innate theosophy of the human family, or idle desire to comprehend unrevealed mysteries of God and nature. However this may be, there is not one person in a thousand who does not hold to some kind of superstition, and those most given to ridiculing the belief in witchcraft of past ages, believe in omens, prognostics, dreams and revelations. They carry a rabbit's foot or buckeye, keep a horse shoe over or under the door, see spectres stalking around a table of thirteen, or could not be induced to start a journey or begin any work on Friday, and since people of the present day cannot explain the phenomena in spiritual manifestations, mind reading, electric wonders, etc., their ancestors may be excused for believing in witchcraft, inasmuch as they accepted the. Bible for the guidance of their faith and believed all it says on this subject, as they did that pertaining to the soul's salvation, and sought to put away witchcraft, that Christianity might prevail.

M. V. INGRAM


 
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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2007, 10:22:49 pm »

Introduction

Before entering upon an investigation or going into details of the acts and demonstrations of the Bell Witch, it is proper that the reader should know something of the Bell family and citizens of the community who witnessed the manifestations, expended their energies in trying to discover the origin and force of the phenomena, and who in connection with the Bell family, give credence to the truth of these statements. The story will not be altogether new to thousands who have heard graphic accounts from the lips of the old people who witnessed the excitement and have, perhaps, also read short newspaper sketches. No full or authentic account, however, has ever been published. Newspapers were few and far between at the time these events transpired, and there were no enterprising reporters or novelists abroad in the land. Several writers in later years undertook to compile the story, but could not obtain the authentic details. Williams Bell, it seems, was the only one who kept a diary of what transpired, which he put in shape in 1846, twenty-six years after the culmination of the tragic events in the death of John Bell, Sr. It appears also that he was inspired to write the sketch by the intensity of the living sensation that sent a tremor through every nerve of his body, as it kept fresh in the memory of every one, the astounding manifestations that continued to be rehearsed at every fireside and in every social gathering, taking on new phases and versions far from the truth. Some enterprising person, wise in his own conceit, undertook to solve the mystery, and failing to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion, gave currency to a suspicion that the young daughter, Betsy Bell, actuated by her brothers, John and Drewry, was the author of the demonstration, and that the purpose was to make money by the exhibitions. This version found lodgment in many minds not acquainted with the facts, and the discussion became very distasteful and irritating to the family, and Williams Bell determined to write the incidents and truth of the whole story and let the public pass upon the injustice of such a judgment. After it was written, the brothers consulted over the matter, and finally for good reasons then existing, agreed not to publish the statement during the life of any member of John Bell, Sr.’s immediate family. Williams Bell died a few years after, this, and gave the manuscript to his eldest son, James Allen Bell, who has carefully preserved it. The writer was raised within a few miles of the Bell place, and has been familiar with the witch story from his youth up, and becoming intimately acquainted with Joel and Allen Bell during his residence in Springfield, about 1867 applied to Joel Bell for the privilege of writing the history then, while himself, sister Betsy, Frank Miles, Lawson Fort, Patrick MeGowen, Johnson, and others acquainted with the facts, were still living.  Joel Bell assented to the proposition, but Allen Bell declined to furnish his father's manuscript, and the matter was dropped until recently. Since the death of all of the family who were victims of the frightful disturbance, Allen Bell has consented to the use of his father's statement in connection with other testimony. The further explanation of the Publication of the history of these stirring events, after the lapse of many years, will be found in the following correspondence:

 

ADAIRVILLE, KY.

July 1st, 1891

M. V. Ingram, Esq., Clarksville, Tenn.:

DEAR SIR - Some years ago, while you were engaged in publishing a newspaper at Springfield, Tenn., Uncle Joel Bell applied to me for the manuscript of my father, Williams Bell, stating that the application was made at your request for the purpose of incorporating the same in a full and complete history of the so-called Bell Witch, which proposition I declined to accede to at that time, for several reasons that need not now be mentioned. However, one objection was, that after writing his own memories, and the recollections of other members of the family, father consulted with Uncle John Bell in regard to the matter, and they determined that in view of all the surrounding circumstances, it was best that it should not be published during the life of any of Grandfather John Bell's immediate family, and he gave me all of his notes just before his death with this injunction. So many painfully abhorrent misrepresentations had gone out concerning the mystery that he desired the writing should be preserved, that the truth might be known in after years, should the erroneous views which had found lodgment concerning the origin of the distress continue to live through tradition handed down to an enlightened generation under a version so disparaging.  This history was written by father during the Fall and Winter of 1846, and is the only sketch ever written in detail by any one cognizant of the facts and demonstrations.  Now, nearly seventy-five years having elapsed, the old members of the family who suffered the torments having all passed away, and the witch story still continues to be discussed as widely as the family name is known, under misconception of the facts, I have concluded that in justice to the memory of an honored ancestry, and to the public also whose minds have been abused in regard to the matter, it would be well to give the whole story to the World. You having made the application years ago, and believing you are capable, and will if you undertake it, being already acquainted with many of the circumstances, compile a faithful history of the events, I am willing to let you have this manuscript and notes, on the condition that you will agree to include all other corroborative testimony still to be had, and write a deserved sketch of Grandfather John Bell and family, and those associated with him in any way during the period of the unexplained visitation which afflicted him and gave rise to the excitement.

Respectfully,

J.A. BELL


CLARKSVILLE, TENN.

July 5th, 1891

Hon. J. Allen Bell, Adairville, Ky.:

DEAR SIR - In reply to your favor of the 1st inst., I remember distinctly the discussion be­tween Mr. Joel E. Bell and myself in 1867, in regard to the publication of the history of the Bell Witch, and also his after report of the interview with you, which caused the matter to be dropped. Joel Bell was a gentleman whom I esteemed very highly for his moral worth and generous friendship. His earnestness impressed me with the views so decidedly expressed in favor of the publication then, believing the facts would correct the erroneous impressions which had been created. I will accept your proposition and undertake to compile such testimony as may still exist; as you suggest, and will endeavor to make a faithful record of the facts. I have always regarded the so-called Bell Witch as a phenomenon for which the Bell family, who suffered the infliction and misfortune, could in no wise be responsible, but were entitled to all of that sympathy so generously bestowed by the good people of that community who knew John Bell only to honor him. But in undertaking the work, it shall not be my purpose to account for the series of dramatic events that so confused and mystified people at that time, but compile the data and let readers form their own conclusion. I believe the publication will do good, not only in correcting a false impression, but will recount historical events and facts concerning the most remarkable visitations, in the early part of the present century, that ever afflicted any community, giving the present generation some idea of the grounds for the superstition that possessed the early settlers of this country.

Very truly, your friend,

M. V. INGRAM

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« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2007, 10:23:47 pm »

The Early Settlers - Society and Religion - Kate the Witch - The Bell Family – The School Master and Betsy's First Lover

More than one hundred years ago, the Star of Empire took its course westward, following the footprints of the advance guard who had blazed the way with blood, driving the red man, whose savagery rendered life unsafe and civilization impossible, from this great country, then, as now, teeming with possibilities. Couriers carried back the glad tidings of peace and safety, and a glowing account of the rich lands, fine forests, great water courses - rivers, creeks, brooks, and bub­bling springs. In short, the land of milk and honey had been discovered in Tennessee, then the far west, and the flow of emigration from North Carolina, Virginia, and other old States, became steady and constant, rapidly settling up the country. They were of the best blood of the land; men of brawn and brain.  They came with the axe, the hoe, the plow and sickle. They brought with them their customs and notions of civilization and Christianity, having the Bible and the American Constitution for their guide. Wild speculations and schemes of laying out great, cities and building railroads, had not entered the dreams of men then.  Good lands and farm­ing was the object, and only young men of muscle, nerve, honesty of purpose, and a courageous disposition to work, possessed of self-reliance and frugal habits, were among the immigrants.

Along with this tide of immigration came John Bell and his amiable wife Lucy and family of promising children, also a number of likely Negroes, then slaves. They landed with their train of wagons and splendid teams in the west end of Robertson county, Tennessee, near where Adams Station is now located, on the Southeastern line of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, in the year 1804, and met with a hearty reception by old friends who had preceded them. There was general rejoicing in the community over the accession to the quiet happy neighbor­hood. Mr. Bell purchased a home partially improved, with good houses, barns, and a fine young orchard, surrounding himself with about one thousand acres of the best land on Red River; and settled down for life, clearing more land and opening a large and fertile farm.  His commanding appearance, steadfast qualities, and force of character, at once gave him rank and influence in the community.  Mrs. Lucy Bell was an exemplary mother among matrons, ruling her children with the glowing passion of a tender loving mother's heart; even the stern husband yielded to every glance of her gentle piercing eyes and loving smiles.  Everybody was in love with Mrs. Bell, and wondered at the power of her influence, and the charming discipline exercised in her home. It was indeed a happy and very prosperous family, as every one recognized.

The principal families composing this delightful neighborhood at that time were Rev. James and Rev. Thomas Gunn, the pioneers of Methodism; William Johnson and James Johnson, the founder of Johnson’s Camp Ground, and his two sons, John and Calvin Johnson; John Bell, Jerry Batts, the Porters, Frederick Batts, the Long family, James Byrns, the Gardners, Bartletts and Dardens, the Gooch family, Pitman, Ruffin, Mathews, Morris, Frank Miles and brothers, "Ninety-Six" Needham, Justice and Chester; and just across Red River, between that and Elk Fork Creek, was the large Fort settlement, the Sugg family, McGowen, Bourne, Royster, Waters, Thomas Gorham, Herring, and many other good people.  Rev. Sugg Fort was a pioneer Baptist minister and a man of great influence. These people raised large families, and formed the aris­tocratic society of the country, and no man whose character for morality and integrity was not above reproach was admitted to the circle. The circle, however, widened, extending up and down the river, and into Kentucky, embracing a large area of territory.  Open hospitality characterized the community, and neighbors assisted each other and co-operated in every good move for the advancement of education and Christianity.  They established schools, built churches and worshipped together.  Churches took the name of the river, creek or spring of the location, and it was nothing uncommon for people to go ten or fifteen miles to church and visiting.  The Baptist took the lead in building houses of worship, Red River Church being the first established in that community, which was in 1791.  It still main­tains the name and organization under the con­trol of a new generation, but has changed the location, moving a short distance to Adams Station, building a new and more commodious house.  Drake's Pond Church on the State line, one mile east of Guthrie, Ky., was the next con­gregation of worshippers organized.  This church was held by the Predestinarian Baptist when the split took place in the denomination later.  Rev. Sugg Fort was pastor of both churches, and the two congregations visited and worshipped with each other a great deal, the churches being only seven miles apart. The Methodists, in the meanwhile, established several churches in the circle, presided over by Rev. James and Rev. Thomas Gunn, who itinerated a wide scope of country, evangelizing with great success, and it was not uncommon for them to travel fifty miles to marry a couple or preach a funeral.  The people of the Bell neighborhood were about equally divided in their church affiliations between the Baptist and Methodist, but toleration, Christian fellowship, and a spirit of emulation prevailed.  They wor­shipped together, and the ties of friendship grew and strengthened; families intermarried, and these fond relations still exist in the present generation.

Like all new countries, the settlement became infested with robbers and horse thieves, and it was almost impossible for any one to keep a good horse.  It seemed that the legal authorities were powerless to detect and break up the vandalism and the situation necessitated some active meas­ures on the part of the citizens. Nicholas Darnley, who lived on the Tennessee side of Drake's Pond, several of 'the Forts and Gunns, taking the matter in hand, quietly organized a large vigi­lance committee to ferret out such crimes, and were not long in detecting the criminals. The ring leaders of the band proved to be men connected with respectable families; one lived in the bend of Red River below Port Royal, and the other a highly connected citizen of Kentucky. The regulators took the two thieves into the dense forest and swamps between Drake's Pond and Sadlersville (as now known), strung them up to limbs of trees and whipped them from head to foot with keen switches.  The men were then set free, and warned that if caught again after three days they would be hung.  The thieves emigrated at once, crossing the Mississippi River, and finally settled in Louisiana, reformed, lead­ing more honorable lives, and soon became extensive cotton planters and died respected, leaving handsome fortunes.  Both raised large families, ignorant of this stain, and therefore their names are prudently withheld from this sketch, but the circumstance, which was not very uncommon in olden times, illustrates the fact, that the hickory used by our fathers was more potent in correcting bad morals than the penitentiaries of today, and was not less humane.  Convicts who darken the door of a modern prison, suffer the same character of punishment, laid on with greater brutality, and other cruelties, and rarely is one ever reclaimed.  Whatever may be said of the barbarity of the old whipping post law, it was certain punishment for the convicted, and a greater terror to law­breakers, than the penitentiaries of the present day, and was more effective in every way, giving bad men a chance to reform.  No criminal cared to show his face in the community after going to the whipping post.. They invariably moved and led better lives.

The principal trading points for this locality at that time were Port Royal, Tenn., and Keysburg, Ky., the oldest towns in this country and just as large then as now; also Adairville, Ky., 8pringfield, Clarksville, and Nashville, Tenn.  Merchants bought their goods in Philadelphia and New Orleans, hauling them out by wagons until steamboats were brought into use. People, how­ever, bought but very few goods. They raised cotton and flax, sheep for wool, and made their clothing at home, using the hand gin, cards, spinning wheel, and old-fashioned loom, and had a cobbler to make up the hides, tanned in a neighboring tannery on shares, into shoes. Doctors were scarce in the country, and the few located at the trading points, did the medical practice of the entire country, riding from five to fifteen miles to see patients.

Some twelve years have passed since John Bell commenced a happy and prosperous career in his new home on the south bank of Red River in Robertson County.  A very interesting family of children have grown up, and fortune has smiled on him at every turn.  He has become one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the community, respected for his integrity of character, Christian devotion and generous hospitality.  His house had become the home of every passing stranger, and neighbors delighted in frequent calls and visits.  Many were the pleasant social gath­erings at the Bell Place, in which Prof. Richard Powell, the handsome bachelor school teacher, found pleasurable mingling.  He was a man of culture and force of character, distinguished in his profession, which was a high calling at that day and time.  Every one liked Dick Powell for his fine social qualities and genial manners. He kept a large school in the settlement, and was the educator of several of Mr. Bell's children, espe­cially his young daughter Betsy, whom he gave four years of tuition, and relished every oppor­tunity for praising her virtues to her mother, telling Mrs. Bell what a bright, sweet girl she was, and no one was disposed to controvert his judgment on this point. Betsy was now ripening into lovely girlhood, and the lads who had grown up with her under Richard Powell's tutorship, were as firmly impressed with her charms as was the teacher.  However, the boys were yet a little shy of any demonstrations giving expression to their convictions, as Betsy was considered too young to receive the attention of beaux, and bashful youngsters made excuses for calling at Mr. Bell's to visit his boys.  There was one very gallant youth, however, who made no effort to disguise his admiration for the blue-eyed beauty, and his attentions to Betsy were not discouraged.  Joshua Gardner was a very handsome young man, graceful in appearance and cultured in manners, and very entertaining socially.  He was of a good family, and had won the distinction of being the sprightliest youth in School.  Every one conceded that Josh was a fine fellow, who would make his way in the world, and his attentions to Betsy were not displeasing to the old folks nor her brothers.

About this time a mysterious visitor, claiming to hale from the old North State, put in appearance, taking up headquarters at John Bell's, and persisted, in spite of opposition, in remaining indefinitely to fulfill certain missions.  This was "Kate" the witch, which the reader is doubtless growing very impatient to know something about. The first evidence of the mystery, or the appearance of things out of ordinary course of events, occurred in 1817.  Mr. Bell, while walking through his corn field, was confronted by a strange animal, unlike any he had ever seen, sitting in a corn row, gazing steadfastly at him as he approached nearer.  He concluded that it was probably a dog, and having his gun in hand, shot at it, when the animal ran off.  Some days after, in the late afternoon, Drew Bell observed a very large fowl, which he supposed to be a wild turkey, as it perched upon the fence, and ran in the house for a gun to kill it.  As he approached within shooting distance, the bird flapped its wings and sailed off, and then he was mystified in discovering that it was not a turkey, but some unknown bird of extraordinary size.  Betsy walked out one evening soon after this with the children among the big forest trees near the house, and saw something which she described as a pretty little girl dressed in green, swinging to a limb of a tall oak.  Then came Dean, the servant, reporting that a large black dog came in the road in front of him at a certain place, every night that he visited his wife Kate, who belonged to Alex. Gunn, and trotted along before him to the cabin door and then disappeared.

These strange apparitions, however, passed for the time unnoticed, exciting no apprehensions whatever.  Very soon there came a strange knocking at the door and on the walls of the house, which could not be detected.  Later on the disturbance commenced within the house; first in the room occupied by the boys and appeared like rats gnawing the bed posts, then like dogs fighting, and also a noise like trace chains dragging over the floor.  As soon as a candle was lighted to investigate the disturbance, the noise would cease, and screams would be heard from Betsy's room; something was after her, and the girl was frightened nearly out of her life.

Mr. Bell now felt a strange affliction coming on him, which he could not account for. It was stiffness of the tongue, which came suddenly, and for a time, when these ·spells were on, he could not eat.  He described it as feeling like a small stick of wood crosswise in his mouth, pressing out both cheeks, and when he attempted to eat it would push the victuals out of his mouth.

John Bell endured such things for a long time, perhaps a year or more, hoping that the disturb­ance would cease, charging his family to keep the matter a profound secret and they were loyal in their obedience. As frightful as were the demonstrations, not a single neighbor or friend outside of the family had any knowledge of the facts until the affliction became insufferable when Mr. Bell, in strict confidence, laid the mat­ter before James Johnson and wife, narrating the circumstances, insisting that they should spend a night at his house, hoping that Mr. Johnson could throw some light on the mystery.  The wish was very cordially acceded to and at the hour of retirement Mr. Johnson led in family worship, as was his custom, reading a chapter, singing a hymn, and then offering prayer.  He prayed very earnestly and fervently for a revelation of the cause, or that the Lord would remove the disturbance.  As soon as all were in bed and the lights extinguished, the frightful racket com­menced, and presently entered Mr. and Mrs. Johnson's room with increased demonstrations, stripping the cover from their bed.  Mr. Johnson was astounded and sat upright in bed in wild amazement; but he was a man of strong faith and cool courage, and recovering from the confusion he collected his wits and commenced talking to the spectre, adjuring it to reveal itself and tell for what purpose it was there. The effect of the entreaty convinced Mr. Johnson that the demonstrations came from an intelligent source of some character, but beyond this he had no conception whatever. He however insisted that Mr. Bell should let the matter be known, and call in other friends to assist in the further investigation.  This was agreed to, and there was no end to the number of visitors and investigations. Kate, however, developed more rapidly, and soon in answer to the many entreaties, commenced talking, and among the first vocal demonstrations, repeated Mr. Johnson's song and prayer offered on the night of his first visit, referred to, word for word, personating the old gentleman, assimilating his character so perfectly that no one could distinguish it from his voice and prayer.

Kate had now become a fixture, attaining eminence as chief among citizens, at home in the excellent family of John Bell, Sr., and distin­guished as the Bell Witch.  He, she, or it - whatever may have been the sex, has never been divined - made great pretentious for religion taking Mr. Johnson for a model of Christianity, calling him "Old Sugar Mouth," frequently observing "Lord Jesus, how sweet old Sugar Mouth prays; how I do love to hear him."  Kate delighted in scriptural controversies, could quote any text or passage in the Bible, and was able to maintain a discussion With the ablest theologians, excelling in fervency of prayer and devo­tional songs - no human Voice was sweet.  Kate made frequent visits to North Carolina, John Bell's old neighborhood, never absent longer than a day or an hour, but always reporting correctly the news or events of the day in that vicinity.  With all of these excellent traits of character, Kate behaved badly toward visitors and all members of the family except Mrs. Lucy Bell, to whom the witch was devoted, declaring that "Old Luce" was a good Woman, but manifesting very great aversion for "Old Jack" - John Bell, Sr.  He was most detestable and loathsome in the eyes of Kate, for which no cause was ever assigned. But the witch often declared its purpose of killing him before leaving the place.

Kate was also averse to the growing attachment between Joshua Gardner and Betsy Bell, and remonstrated, punishing Betsy severely in divers ways for receiving his devoted attentions. Esther, Betsy’s older and only sister, married Bennett Porter, just before the witch had fully developed, and Betsy was now the pride and pet of the household.  Like all other girls, however, she made bosom companions of two of her female associates. These were Theny Thorn and Rebecca Porter.  They were Betsy's seniors by one or two years, but were both vivacious, charming girls, and had many admirers.  Becky Porter was a sister of Bennett Porter, and Theny Thorn was the adopted daughter of James Johnson and second wife, also a niece of Mrs. Johnson, who had no children, and they were greatly devoted to her.  In fact she was petted and almost spoilt, and knew them only as father and mother.  The three girls were classmates in school, close neighbors, the families all on the most intimate terms, and they grew up together like sisters, almost inseparably attached to each other, going together in society, and were the chief attraction for all the young men in the country.  Especially was young James Long devoted to charming Becky Porter, and Alex. Gooch felt a strong pulsation in his heart for lovely Theny Thorn.

Kate the Witch never slept, was never idle or confined to any place, but was here and there and everywhere, like the mist of night or the morning sunbeams, was everything and nothing, invisible yet present, spreading all over the neighborhood, prying into everybody's business and domestic affairs; caught on to every ludicrous thing that happened, and all of the sordid, avaricious meanness that transpired; divining the inmost secrets of the human heart, and withal, was a great blabber mouth; getting neighbors by the ears, taunting people with their sins and shortcomings, and laughing at their folly in trying to discover the identity of the mystery.  Kate, however, held fast to Christianity, and was a regular fire-eating Methodist while associating with "Old Sugar Mouth" and his son, Calvin Johnson; was a regu­lar attendant at Mr. Johnson’s prayer meetings; calling the amens, thumping on the chairs, and uttering the exclamation "Lord Jesus."

People now concluded that a good spirit had been sent to the community to work wonders and prepare the good at heart for the second advent.  Kate's influence was something like that exercised over a "whiskey-soaked town" by Rev. Sam Jones at the present day, only more forceful.  The sensation spread hundreds of miles and people were wild with the excitement, and traveled long distances on horseback and in vehicles to witness the demonstrations, and Mr. Bell's home was continually overflowing with visitors and investigators.  John Bell's hospitality, however, was equal to the great strain. He fed all visitors free of charge.  Citizens of the community soon learned to respect.  Kate's presence and councils, as they feared and abominated the witch's scorpion tongue. Everybody got good; the wicked left off swearing, lying and whiskey drinking, just ns people do now for Rev. Sam Jones.  The avaricious were careful not to covet or lay hands on that which belonged to their neighbors, lest Kate might tell on them.  No man allowed his right hand to do anything that the left might be ashamed of.  No citizen thought of locking his smoke house or crib door, or of staying up through the night to guard his hen roost or watermelon patch.  Negroes were too sleepy to leave their cabins after night, and white people went out only in companies after dark to attend prayer meetings.  The wickedest man in the country could break new ground all day with a fiery team and kicking colts, singing psalms, and never think of cursing, though he might be laid out in a trance a dozen times by a punch from the frisky plow handles.  No incident out of the regular routine of every day transactions occurred that the witch did not know all about the affair, and would tell the circumstance to some one in less than an hour.

What a great factor in politics this warlock would be at the present time?  The whole country would vote Kate an honorary life membership of both houses of Congress, and the right to preside in all departments at Washington, with the privilege of compelling witnesses, books, papers, and giving reports to the newspapers.  The witch might also spread out over the entire land during election times to warn the people who was fit for office.  If so, only those commended by the mage would ever attain to office, for no amount of money could bribe the witch to conceal the schemes and purposes of designing men.  Whatever else may be said of the Bell Witch, Kate evinced an exalted opinion and profound respect for an honest man, and never hesitated, when occasion seemed to require, to remark the distinction of character in men, as in the case of the two brothers, John and Calvin Johnson.  John was pronounced a sly trickster, frank and genial in his outward appearance and association, but secretly planning in his own mind some crafty scheme to detect the mysterious oracle.  Calvin, however, was an honest man with a pure heart, free from guile, and he was permitted to feel the gentle pressure of the seer's velvety hand, which, when laid on others, produced a smarting sensation, like the chastising palm of an irate mother when laid on a disobedient boy.  However, this semblance of deep piety did not hold out.  It answered a good purpose in the prayer meetings, serving to promote Christian Fellowship and unify different denominations in devotional exercises, in alternate meetings at Brother Johnson's (Methodist), and Brother Bell's (Baptist) but Kate at last undertook too much for the most renowned wizard.  Satan, it is said, was once a respected angel, and becoming too presumptuous, fell from his high state, and so from the same kind of rashness Kate "tumbled.''  This came of attending the preaching of Rev. James Gunn and Rev. Sugg Fort, thirteen miles apart; on the same day and same hour, trying to reconcile the Arminianism of the one and Calvinism of the other, mixing Methodist fire with Baptist water.  This was too much even for so great an oracle as the Bell Witch.  The preachers were all right, and their sermons and doctrines both got taken one at the time, and a regenerated person could, hardly miss heaven on either line, but it would perplex an angel, much less a presumptuous zealot, to run on both schedules at the same time.  This is what Kate undertook to do, and succeeded to the extent of taking in both sermons; but the mixture was too strong for the Witch's faith, and the whole stock of piety was soon worked out at a discount.  After this Kate backslid and fell from grace, took up with unregenerated spirits, held high carnivals at John Gardner's still house, coming in very drunk, cursing and fuming, filling the house with bad breath, spitting on the Negroes, overturning the chairs, stripping the cover from the beds, pinching and slapping the children, and teasing Betsy in every conceivable way and to such an alarming extent that her parents feared for her to remain alone in her room a single night, and when it was not convenient for Theny Thorn or Rebecca Porter, or both to stay with her, they sent her from home to spend the night. This is something of the general character of Kate, the unknown citizen, which is authentically recorded in detail by Williams Bell and others further on.



 
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« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2007, 10:24:41 pm »

Biographical Sketch of the Bell Family
 and Reminiscences


  John Bell, Sr., was born in 1750 in Halifax County, North Carolina. He was a son of William Bell, a thrifty farmer and prominent citizen. John was given a good country, school education, and was brought up on the farm, where he acquired industrious and steady habits in youth, and grew to manhood noted for his indomitable energy and perseverance, combining all of those good qualities which fits a man for usefulness and success in life, coupled with good practical sense and a keen quick perception. In the meantime he learned the cooper's business, which was a valuable trade at that day, and with all he was a handsome,  prepossessing gentlemen.

In 1782 John Bell wedded Miss Lucy Williams, daughter of John Williams of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, a man of considerable wealth and prominence in the community.  Lucy was a very handsome, winsome lady, possessing those higher qualities of mind and heart and grace of manners which go to make up that lovely female character she developed all through life, as the reader has already been informed.  John Williams approved the match, and gave his daughter a young Negro woman, Chloe, and her child, named Dean, and with the means John had saved up, they bought a farm in Edgecombe County, beginning a prosperous career.  They both embraced the Baptist faith and became earnest Christian workers, living up to their reli­gion through life.

Twenty-two years of prosperity having now attended the happy union, John Bell and wife found a large family growing up around them – six children had been born to them, and Chloe had eight, that had become valuable as slaves - a family of seventeen.  There was absolute necessity for more elbow room; more land to give their boys a chance in life. Then it was that Mr. Bell determined to emigrate to Robertson county, Tenn., settling, as he did, on Red River, some forty miles north of Nashville, which history the reader is already familiar with.

At the time the remarkable events in this history begun, they had nine children, seven sons and two daughters:  Jesse, John, Jr., Drcwry, Benjamin, Esther, Zadok, Elizabeth, Richard Williams and Joel Egbert.  Benjamin died young; Zadok was educated for the bar, and became a brilliant lawyer. He settled in Alabama, and died in the flush of young manhood, having a promising future before him.  The other seven lived to mature age, honored and useful citizens.

John Bell made it a rule to owe no man. He paid as he went, and accumulated rapidly from his farm by economy in management.  He was always forehanded, having money ahead, and was accommodating to his neighbors, who were not so fortunate.  He was as firm in his convictions as he was dignified in character and generous in hospitality, consequently he was a tower of strength in the community. His sons and daughters, and the present generation of grandchildren, have been no less honored, and no family name has made a stronger impress on that county.

The first marriage in the family was that of Esther, who wedded Alex. Bennett Porter, July 24th, 1817, Rev. Thomas Gunn officiating at the altar. Esther was a very prepossessing young lady, gifted with many graces and charms which made her attractive.  Bennett Porter was also popular, and the wedding was quite a noted event. Jesse Bell, the eldest son, married Miss Martha Gunn, daughter of Rev. Thomas Gunn. This marriage took place several months later. Both couples settled in the neighborhood, making a fair start in life, sharing the confidence and good will of the community.  A year or two after the death of John Bell, Sr., the two families emigrated to Panola County, Miss., where they settled for life and raised large and interesting families, and have many descendants there at present. John Bell, Jr., the second son, was said to be the very image of his father, and developed the old gentleman's character to a great degree, and was distinguished for his firmness and stern integrity.  He was a successful, farmer and a progressive citizen, and enjoyed the fullest confidence of the community. He served as magistrate during a term of years. John Bell, Jr., married Elizabeth Gunn, daughter of Rev. Thomas Gunn, and raised an interesting family. He died in 1861.  John, Jr., Drew, and Alex. Gunn engaged in flat boating in 1815. They built generally two or three boats during the summer season, in Red River, at Thomas Gorham's, now known as the Sugg mill place.  The boats were constructed of rough hewn and sawed timber, and were cabled to the bank, awaiting the Winter or Spring rise in the water, when they were loaded with all kinds of produce, tobacco, flour, corn, oats, bacon, whiskey, dried fruits, butter, turkeys, chickens, eggs, etc., and were cut loose on the first current of sufficient tide to float the crafts out, each boat having two men at the oars and the captain at the stern with one oar, to steer the boat in the proper current to avoid snags and breakers, as the craft drifted on with the flow to the great Father of Waters, and down to New Orleans, the southern mart. This was the only way people had at that time for shipping their produce to market, except by wagons. It was very slow, but generally sure, and always got there with the tide that left Red River.  Each one of the partners would take charge of a boat as captain or master, and first loaded, first off.  After arriving at New Orleans, and selling the cargo, the boats were worthless except for fuel or second-hand lumber, and they were sold for what the timber would bring, and the boatmen made their way home as best they could, generally walking, and arriving in time to build more boats for the next season.  A bill of lading for the last one of these trips, still in existence, was made out to Alex. Gunn, April 1818, for fifty hogsheads of tobacco weighing 64,166 pounds gross, probably not over 52,000 pounds net, every hogshead numbered, for which he brought in returns a draft on a Nashville bank for $1,000, two hundred pairs of boots, $800, and $211 in sugar and coffee. This was probably after paying freight charges, about three cents per pound, for the tobacco.  About this time two steamboats, the General Green and the General Robertson, entered the Cumberland River, driving most of the flatboats men out of the business, having a monopoly of the shipping trade up to 1822, making Clarksville the principal shipping point, which was then a town of only forty families - 215 white population, and a number of Negroes.

The want of some satisfactory explanation, or the failure of all investigations to throw light on the witch mystery, gave rise to a speculative idea that John and Drew Bell had learned ventrilo­quism and some subtle art while on these trips to New Orleans, and taught the same to their young sister Betsy, for the purpose of attracting people and making money. This conjecture was widely circulated, and checked many people in their purpose of visiting the scene of the excitement.  Notwithstanding this explanation was accepted by many, it was the silliest of all solutions attempted.  If the parties were able to perform such wonders, they only had to make the fact known to have reaped a fortune. But to the contrary, they tried to keep it a secret, and when known it brought both suffering and loss to the family.  Moreover, John Bell, Jr., was absent, visiting relatives in North Carolina, six months or more during the height of the excitement, and he could not possibly have had anything to do with it.  Drew was also absent at times, and still no difference was observed in the manifestations when they were both absent or present. The witch entertained visitors in the reception room just the same when Betsy was present or retired to her own chamber. There was also knocking on the doors and outer walls, and rattling on the house-top heard, when every member of the fam­ily were known to be within.  And as soon as the family and visitors retired for sleep, every room full, doors and windows securely closed, the cover was stripped from every bed and pillows and sheets jerked from under strong men. If the Bell brothers and sister, had been capable of making such demonstrations, could they have continued the exhibitions so long undiscovered by the shrewd detectives who were constantly on the alert?  Or would they have heartlessly inflicted so much distress upon their father and family?  No one in that community, familiar with the facts and demonstrations, knowing the affections of the children for their parents, and devotion to each other, ever believed it.  They knew it was impossible.  Betsy was not only frightened, but was severely punished in so many ways that she cheerfully submitted to any and every investigation proposed, even to the ridiculous treatment of cranks, conjurers, and witch doctors, in the hope of relief from some source. Drewry Bell never married.  He lived quite a secluded bachelor's life, accumulating considerable property.  He died at his home in that vicinity January 1st, 1865.  It is said by neighbors that he lived under forebodings and dreadful, apprehension that the witch would visit some calamity on him.  He charged every strange noise and occurrence to the haunt, reciting mysterious occurrences to his friends, believing that the spirit was ever present about his premises, and through fear he kept some man employed on the place to keep him company.

Richard Williams Bell settled on his portion of the land inherited from his father's estate, buying other interests, and devoted himself to agriculture. He was endowed with a strong intellect, and was the most cultured of the family, noted for his splendid business qualifications and frugality, and especially was he distinguished for his integrity of character, his deep piety and devotion to his religious principles, his tender nature, and promptness in lending a helping hand where help was needed, he was one of nature's noblemen - a good man and valuable citizen. He had not an enemy in the broad land. His neighbors trusted him implicitly, and relied upon him as a true friend and safe counselor in all things, and his name is cherished to this day by all who knew him.

Williams Bell was a boy at the time of the witch affliction, which the Bell's have always alluded to as "our family trouble," but he was old enough, and probably just the right age, to receive a deep and lasting impression of what occurred, what he saw, felt and heard, things that were well calculated to impress a boy's mind.  He waited upon his father during the last year of his life, and when able to go out, accompanied him wherever he went about the farm or in the neighborhood, witnessed his contortions and excruciating sufferings, and heard the derisive songs and fearful anathemas pronounced against him by the witch - terrifying invectives that were cal­culated to appall the stoutest heart and leave an impress seared as by fire. The imprint was never erased, and every recurring thought of the dire events came like a convulsing nightmare. After mature years he consulted with his brothers and sister Betsy, comparing their recollections with the notes of his own memory, from which he wrote the thrilling details of  "Our Family Trouble,'' and no reader who ever knew the writer will question the truth of a single word of it, no matter what may be their faith or opinion concerning the mystery, or their views about witch­craft of olden times. Williams Bell died October 24th, 1857, at the age of forty-six years, just in the prime of life and his greatest usefulness.  He left a good estate for his widow and children. He was three times married, his first wife being Sallie Gunn, daughter of Rev. Thomas Gunn; second marriage with Susan Gunn, daughter of Rev. James Gunn, and third wife, Eliza Orndorff.  James Allen Bell was the eldest son by his first wife. He received careful training at the hands of his father, and developed steady business habits and strong convictions, attaining to prominence quite early in life, taking a leading place in politics and public affairs, and about 1870 was nominated by the County Democratic Convention and elected by the people to represent the county in the State Legislature.  At the close of the term he sold his farm and other interests in Robertson County and moved to Adairville, Ky., engaging in the tobacco business, where he still resides, and is highly esteemed by the people of both Logan and Robertson counties. He married Miss Eugenia Chambers, a lady of many personal charms and accomplishments.  They have raised three children, a son and two daughters, of whom they have just cause to feel proud.  Williams Bell’s youngest son, Ninyon Oliver, by his last marriage, is a substantial farmer and owns a fine home adjoining the old Bell place in fact his farm includes the old residence site and surroundings.

Joel E. Bell was the youngest child of John and Lucy Bell. The writer enjoyed a personal acquaintance with him for twenty-five years, and learned to appreciate his warm and generous friendship. He was a man of noble impulse, clear practicable head and settled convictions, favored by an indomitable spirit full of fiery enthusiasm, and always left a strong and pleasing impress on those with whom he came in contact.  He took a leading part in all matters looking to the advancement of the public welfare, and his zeal for the accomplishment of whatever he undertook knew no bounds.  He was a strong Baptist, a religious enthusiast, always overflowing with the love of God, and his last days were spent in zealous work for the Master's cause.  He attended the associational meetings, delivered happy little speeches pregnant with practical ideas, infusing spirit in the members, giving freely of his own means for the advancement of religious enterprises. There are but few Baptist ministers and prominent laymen in Tennessee and Southern Kentucky Who do not remember old Brother Bell with tender emotions.  He died in 1890 at the age of seventy-seven years, ripe for the enjoyment of that sweet repose which remains for the righteous.  Joel Bell sold his farm in the west end of the county, the place now occupied by Lee Smith, about 1855, and moved to a large brick dwelling at the cross roads four miles north of Springfield - the Adairville road - where he died.  He was twice married, and was fortunate in both matches.


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« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2007, 10:25:30 pm »

Betsy Bell and Her Trials

Elizabeth, the youngest daughter of John and Lucy Bell, was born in 1805, and was only twelve years of age when "our family troubles" commenced - a light, hearted, romping lass whose roguish beauty and mischievous glance made the hearts of the boys go pit pat, while she yet enjoyed most the gay notes of the woodland songsters, or a stroll with her associates in search of wild flowers, berries, etc., along the riverside where the murmuring waves lent an enchantment to the pursuit.  Betsy, however, developed rapidly, and at the age of fifteen had ripened into lovely young womanhood, and was noted for her extraordinary beauty and winsome ways.  She was a blonde, symmetrical in form, presenting a charming figure of uncommon grace, with a fine suit of soft silky hair, which hung in beautiful waves, in contrast with her fair complexion, and with all, there was enchantment in the mischiev­ous twinkle of her large deeply set blue eyes.  She was also characterized for her keen wit and sparkling humor; nor had her domestic education, that which added most to a young girl's popularity in olden times, been neglected, to all of which must be added industrious habits, gentleness and womanly dignity.  It is no wonder that she was the pet of the family and the favorite in society, nor is it surprising that young Joshua Gardner should have lost both his head and heart in admiration for the fair beauty in whom the observing bachelor school master discovered so many charms. Gardner had now become very earnest in his devotions, and was never more happy than when in her society.  And it was said that the sentiment was reciprocated, he being the first young man to impress her with his attentions.  In fact their fondness for each others society became the subject of general remark among the young people.  They were regarded as lovers, and Joshua was the recipient of many congratulations on his good fortune in winning the affections of the fairest beauty in the land. The affiance was marked by a passionate tenderness and adoration which neither could well conceal, and it was given still more notoriety by the witch, whose keen observations and cutting remarks frequently drove them from the presence of other company, for a walk in the lawn or seats under the favorite pear tree. However, it was the manner in which Kate appeared that caused serious forebodings.  It was a soft melancholy voice, sighing in the distance and gradually approaching nearer with gentle pleadings in loud whispers, "Please Betsy Bell, don't have Joshua Gardner. Please Betsy Bell, don’t marry Joshua Gardner."  Over and over was this entreaty earnestly repeated by the mysterious voice in the most beseeching and supplicating tones, so doleful and disconsolate that it caused a shudder to creep over every one who heard it.  It was so intensely persuasive, gentle and sweet, so extremely mystifying, that it not only bewildered the lovers, but brought perplexity and confusion into every social, circle where the matter was discussed as the most absorbing theme.  Why should Betsy Bell not wed Joshua Gardner?  He was handsome and gracious, well educated, intelligent and entertaining, high spirited, industrious and energetic, and noted for his strict moral character and pleasing deportment; he was highly connected and possessed sufficient means for a good start in life. His integrity was above reproach, and he stood before the community as a model young man. Then why this dismal foreboding of the witch?  Why should Betsy Bell spurn his manly devo­tions?  No one could surmise or conjecture a single reason, and all hearts warmed in deep sym­pathy for their betrothment. [sic] Betsy had suffered extreme torture, the anguish of terror by contact with the frightful ghost, and was deeply impressed with the witch's earnest solicitude as a premoni­tion of some dire consequence.  Joshua, however, was stouter of heart. The burning passion which thrilled his soul was like a consuming flame, and grew stronger as the persecutions increased.  He had his own opinions and conjectures about the mystery, and though he could not solve it, he was willing to brook all danger of the witch's power to visit distress or greater evil than had already been inflicted, and he was ready to endure all for the sake of her whom he loved so tenderly, madly. He was assured that Betsy loved him as passionately in return.  Hers was a stronger, a more rational devotion, looking also to the future, weighing deliberately the consequences that might result from a mistake, and thought it best to prolong the engagement and await further developments, hoping that the mystery might be solved or the witch would disappear, leaving them in the full enjoyment of each other's love and all of their sweet anticipations of uninterrupted hap­piness.  This was the agreement, and there was no abatement in their devotions; the attachment grew stronger and the ties more tender and pas­sionate.  Betsy was not without friends, sympathy and consolation all through this long and trying ordeal.  Her parents were deeply sensible of her sufferings and the cloud of sorrow that overshadowed her, threatening to crush the spirit and hope of her young life, and did all that was in their power to alleviate her distress.  Her mother, Mrs. Lucy Bell, whose influence was the controlling power, and swayed like magic in mold­ing and shaping the character of her children, was watchful of her every want and care.  The brothers were not negligent in. providing diversions for her relaxation.  Theny Thorn and Becky Porter never deserted her in moments when courage was needed to withstand the dreadful scenes that were enacted.  They witnessed the fearful convulsions of hysteria which so frequently came on suddenly, with the announcement of Kate's presence, suppressing her breath until life was almost extinct. They had heard her frantic screams from violent pain, complaining that the "old thing" was sticking pins in her body.  They had heard the sound of the blow, and saw the tinge left by the invisible hand that slapped her cheeks.  They had seen her tucking comb snatched by magic from her head and slammed on the floor, her beautiful hair dis­heveled and all tangled in an instant, and heard Kate's hilarious laughter enjoying the freak.  They had witnessed her shoes coming unlaced and slipping from her feet at the witch's suggestion, and observed many other terrifying and tormenting acts, accompanied with vile threats, while watching with Betsy night after night, gossiping with the witch that she might have some rest.  But few girls could be persuaded to withstand such frightful scenes under apprehensions of greater calamity, but timid as they were their sympathy and devotion made them strong; courageous to endure and suffer with their friend in any misfortune that might come. Their presence and sympathy encouraged Betsy to bear her persecutions, and hold out bravely in the hope that the mystery would soon be dispelled.  James Long and Alex. Gooch were frequently around contributing to some diversion, and Joshua Gardner continued his rapturous attentions, foregoing every desire of his own heart for her pleasure and comfort.  Prof. Richard Powell had ended his career as a pedagogue and was not so much about the Bell home.  He had entered the political arena and become a leading politician and foremost in all public affairs. He was several times elected to the State Legislature, where he distinguished himself as a lawmaker of ability and gained wide popularity.


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« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2007, 10:27:37 pm »

The Homestead -- Graveyard -- Witch Stories

and Surroundings




The Bell Homestead

The old Bell farm is about one mile from Adams Station, a village that sprang into existence in 1859-60, during the building of the Edgefield and Kentucky Railroad, which is now the Southeastern branch of the Louisville and Nashville system.  It lies on the south side of Red River, bordering some distance on that pretty stream, stretching back nearly one mile over a beautiful fertile valley.  The greater portion of the farm was cleared by John Bell during the first twenty years of the present century.  Here Dean, the faithful Negro who proudly mastered the big wagon and team in the train from the old North State, that landed the family safely, deserves honorable mention. He was noted for being the best axe man and rail splitter that ever entered the forest of this country.  He was small in statue, but powerfully muscled, and no two men were ever found who could match him in felling timber, he taking one side of a tree, against two men on the opposite, and invariably cutting the deepest kerf; and so with the mall and wedge, he could beat any two of the best rail splitters in the country. Dean was as proud of this distinc­tion as ever John Sullivan was of his pugilistic championship, and he was indeed a valuable man in the forest at that time, as he was faithful and useful every way, and Mr. Bell thought a great deal of him and treated him kindly, as he did all of his Negroes, but money could not buy Dean.  Red River is a bold strong stream, with some interesting scenery, and bubbling springs bursting out along its banks.  During the early settle­ment the stream abounded with game and fish, furnishing much sport for the natives, and young people frequently gathered at favorite places for picnics and fishing frolics.  The noted spring mentioned by Willams Bell in this sketch, designated by the witch as the hiding place of a large sum of money, breaks out on the southeast corner of the place, near the river, from which flows the bubbling waters of lethe.

The residence was a double log house, one and a half stories high, a wide passage or hallway between, and an ell-room with passage, the build­ing weather-boarded on the outside, furnishing six large comfortable rooms and two halls, and was one of the best residences in the country at that time.  It was located on a slight elevation in the plane, nearly a half-mile back from the river, a large orchard in the rear, and the lawn well set in pear trees.  The farm has been divided and the old buildings were long since torn away and the logs used for building cabins, still stand­ing on the Joel Bell place, now owned by Lee Smith. No one cared to occupy the premises after the death of Mrs. Lucy Bell, when it was vacated, and for some time used for storing grain.  The only sign now remaining is a few scattered stones from the foundation, and three of the old pear trees that surrounded the house, planted about the time or before John Bell bought the place, some ninety years ago.  One of these trees measures nearly seven feet around the trunk; it, however, shows signs of rapid decay. The public highway, known as the Brown's Ford and Spring­field road, ran through the place within one hundred yards of the house, and it was no uncommon thing during the witch excitement to find a horse hitched to every fence corner of the long lane, by people calling to hear the witch talk and investigate the sensation.  Many stories were told regarding spectres and apparitions of various kinds seen, and uncommon sounds heard along this 1ane - strange lights and jack-o-lanterns flitting across the field.  There is nothing, how­ever, authentic in reference to these things except the incident told by Dr. Gooch, who saw the old house enveloped in flames, and the musical feast at the spring, related by Gunn and Bartlett.  There were many superstitious people in the country who believed the witch was a reality, something supernatural, beyond human power or comprehension, which had been clearly demonstrated.  This is the way many reasoned about the mystery.  Kate arrogantly claimed to be all things, possessing the power to assume any shape, form or character, that of human, beast, varmint, fowl or fish, and circumstances went to confirm the assertion.  Therefore people with vivid imaginations were capable of seeing many strange sights and things that could not be readily accounted for, which were credited to the witch. Kate was a great scapegoat. The goblin's favorite form, however, was that of a rabbit, and this much is verified beyond question, the hare ghost took malicious pleasure in hopping out into the road, showing itself to every one who ever passed through that lane.  This same rabbit is there plentifully to this day, and can't be exterminated.  Very few men know a witch rabbit; only experts can distinguish one from the ordinary molly cottontail.  The experts in that section, however, are numerous, and no one to this good day will eat a rabbit that has a black spot on the bottom of its left hind foot.  When the spot is found, the foot is carefully cut off and placed in the hip pocket, and the body buried on the north side of an old log.

 

 

The Bell Graveyard

Some of these people believed the spook escaped from an Indian grave on the Bell place, by the reckless disinterment of the red man's bones, but Kate's own statement, which was afterwards contradicted, is the only shadow of evidence found to sustain this opinion.

The Bell graveyard is located on a gravelly knoll about three hundred yards north of the side of the old dwelling, where repose the dust of John Bell, Sr., his wife Lucy, and sons Benjamin, Zadok, and Richard Williams, the last named who tells the story of  "Our Family Trouble."  A beautiful grove of cedar and walnut trees surround the sacred spot, keeping silent watch over the graves of loved ones whose bodies rest there.  Wild grape vines, supported by large trunks, spread their far-reaching tendrils over every branch and twig of the trees, forming a delightful alcove.  Native strawberries grow all about, and wild flowers of many varieties blossom in their season, filling nature's bower with grateful fragrance, and decorating the graves in living beauty.  It is here that the wild wood songsters gather to chant their sweetest lays, and the timid hare finds retreat and hiding from the prowling huntsman.  Sweet solemnity hovers over the scene like the morning halo mantling the orb of light in gorgeous beauty.

There are numbers of unregenerate men who can perhaps muster sufficient courage to pass a city of towering shafts and monuments, but can: not be induced to approach near so sacred a spot as this after the sun has hidden his face behind the shadow of night.  It presents nothing fanciful, or inviting to their view, but rather a scene of the ideal home of weird spirits. But to people who trust Providence, admire tile beauties of nature, and fear not devils, this bowery alcove of woodland trees, evergreens, vines and flowers, sheltering sacred dust, appears one of the most lovely and majestic spots on earth.

Let those who feel the need of it, have magnificent stately monuments and lofty shafts mounted with a dove, or a pinnacle finger pointing heaven­ward, but give me such a paradise of living green as this, planted and nurtured by the hand of the All Wise Creator, where angels may delight to meet and commune, breathing sweet incense distilled by the zephyrs from nature's own flowers, keeping vigilance until the last trump shall sound, and why should I care for a granite shaft reaching to the skies, or grumble at a poor scrawny spook for wanting to hide beneath its cover, to catch a pure breath while hazing around to avoid Satan?

On the opposite side of the river from the Bell place, is the William La Prade farm, now owned by M. L. Killebrew, and just below Killebrew's, all between the river and Elk Fork Creek, is the Fort settlement, a large and influential family, distinguished among the pioneers, and whose descendants still maintain the honored name.  On the east was located the Gunns and Johnsons, all having good farms.  James Johnson and two sons, John and Calvin, were Bell's nearest neighbors, and next the Gunn families.  James Johnson was a grand old man.  He was the founder of Johnson's Camp Ground on his place, which was kept up by his sons, the Gunns and other good people, 1ong years after his death, as late as 1854.  Great crowds of people from a circle of twenty or thirty miles, gathered there annually, spending weeks in a season of religious enjoyment.  Many descendants of these excellent families - Gunns and Johnsons - make up the present citizenship maintaining as a precious heritage the good names left to them.  Also the Goochs, Longs, Porters, Jerry Batts, Miles, Byrns, Bart­lett, Ruffin, and other good names among the early settlers, are still well represented.

One mile above Bell's the Clark brothers had a mill to which the early settlers carried their grain and grist.  Later, Fort's mill was built below, and several other mills erected on Elk Fork.  Morris & Merritt bought out the Clarks and converted the old mill into a cotton ginning, thread spinning and wool carding factory.  It was said that the witch took up at this factory after seven years absence and return.  The manager told the story to customers, that frequently after shutting down the mill, the operators would hardly reach home before the machinery would be heard apparently in full movement, and returning hastily, opening the door, he would find everything perfectly still as he had left it. There is, however, no evidence to be had now verifying the statement.

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« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2007, 10:29:45 pm »

Mrs. Kate Batts and the Witch

It is proper that the reader should, before perusing "Our Family Trouble" and other accounts of the witch, be introduced to Mrs. Kate Batts, who was a noted lady in that community, remarkable for her eccentricities, who survived long after John Bell and is well remembered by many citizens still living.  There were two Batts families, who were in no way related.  Jerry Batts was a very prominent man, and his descendants make up part of the present good citizenship of that community.

Frederick Batts and wife Kate had three children, Jack, Calvin and Mary.  They had no relatives and lived very much unto themselves.  Their children died in advance of the turn of life and the family has become extinct.  The boys were all, spindling and gawky, and very droll, and did not take in society. Mary, however, was a beautiful bright girl and very popular.  Frederick Batts was an invalid, a helpless cripple, the greater part of his life, and his wife Kate assumed control of the farm, the family and all business affairs, and was successful in accumulating by her management, keeping the one idea of money making before her.  They were well to do people, owned a very good farm, a number of Negroes, and were forehanded, having always some money to lend.  Nothing of a disreputable nature attached to the family character.  They were respectable people, except for Mrs. Batts' eccentricity, which made many hold the family at as great a distance as possible.  She was a large fleshy woman, weighing over two hundred pounds, and was headstrong and very exacting in her dealings with men.  She was exceedingly jealous of her rights, not always knowing what they were, conceiving the idea that everybody was trying to beat her out of something.  Her tongue was fearful.  She did not hesitate to tackle any man who came under the ban of her displeasure, with a scourge of epithets. This, however, was tolerated as a weakness, and excited the sympathy of the better class, who humored her whims, but no one cared to encounter her organ of articulation when she was in a bad humor, and especially the ladies, who were generally afraid of her, and could not endure her methods and dominating spirit.  The superstitious believed that she was a witch, and this conjecture was strengthened by her habit of begging a brass pin from every woman she met, which trifle was supposed to give her power over the donor, and some ladies were careful to put their pins far away when "Old Kate" came in sight.  Notwithstanding Mrs. Batts was around every few days, traveling her circuit once a week, trading and gossiping, the superstitious were careful to keep their apprehensions concealed from her.  They were all smiles and joy, and spared no opportunity to make "Aunt Kate" happy in everything but one - and were exceedingly regretful that there was not a pin on the place.

Mrs. Batts kept her Negro women employed mostly at spinning, weaving cotton, flax and wool, making jeans, linsey, linen, etc., and knitting stockings after night until late bed time, and always had something to sell, and would buy all the surplus wool rolls and other raw material wanted in her business, and this furnished her an excuse for visiting regularly over the neighborhood.  Mrs. Batts was very aristocratic in her own conceit, believing that her property entitled her to move in the highest circle of society, and she put on extraordinary airs and used high sounding bombastic words, assimilating, as she thought, aristocracy, which subjected her to much ridicule and made her the laughing stock of the community.  Moreover, she was anxious to give her timid boy, Calvin, a matrimonial boost, and never hesitated to invade the society of young people, who were amused by her quaint remarks.  The girls, however, dreaded her presence in mixed company, lest she should unwittingly say something to cause a blush.  However she never neglected to put in a word for her noble boy, who resembled a bean pole.  "Girls, keep your eyes on Calvin; he's all warp and no filling, but he'll weave a yard wide" - referring to her own large proportions.

Mrs. Batts kept an old gray horse expressly for the saddle.  Old Gray was saddled every morning as regular as the sun shone, though Aunt Kate was never known to ride.  She invariably walked, carrying a copperas riding skirt on her left arm, two little Negro boys walking by her side, and Phillis, her waiting maid, in front leading the old gray horse. This caravan was known as "Kate Batts' troop."  No difference where she went, if entering the finest parlor in the country, Aunt Kate would habitually spread the copperas skirt over the seat offered her, and set on it.  With all of these peculiarities and eccentricities, "Sister Kate" was an enthusiastic Christian, always expatiating on the Scripture and the goodness of God, and would have her share of rejoicing in every meeting, and it never required an excess of spiritual animation to warm her up to business.  She was a member of Red River Church and a regular attendant, always late, but in time to get happy before the meeting closed.

 

 

Kate Batts and Her "Troop"

On one occasion, Rev. Thomas Felts was conducting a revival meeting, which had been in progress several days, and a deep religious feeling had been awakened, the house being crowded every day with anxious people.  Just as Parson Felts had concluded a rousing sermon awakening sinners to repentance, and called the mourners to the front, and the whole audience engaged in singing rapturous praise and transporting melody, the Batts’ troop arrived.  Phillis observed "Old Missus" had already caught the spirit and was filling up on glory, hurriedly hitched Old Gray and made a rush for the house.  The meeting had reached its highest tension, the house was packed, and the congregation on foot singing with the spirit.  The interest centered around Joe Edwards, who was down on his all fours at the mourner's bench, supplicating and praying manfully.  Joe Edwards was a good citizen, but a desperately wicked and undone sinner, and everybody was anxious to have him converted.  Especially were his religious friends in deep sympathy, sharing the burden of sorrow he was trying to throw off, as he seemed to be almost at the point of trusting, and the brethren had gathered around, instructing and urging him on.  Just at this critical moment Sister Batts rushed in, and elbowing her way into the circle, she deliberately spread her copperas riding skirt all over Joe Edwards and sat down on him. The poor man did not know what had happened; he felt that he was in the throes of the last desperate struggle with Satan and that the devil was on top.  He shouted and yelled the louder, “Oh I am sinking, sinking. Oh take my burden Jesus and make the devil turn me loose or I will go down, down, and be lost forever in torment.  Oh save me, save me, blessed Lord."

A good brother invited Sister Batts to another seat, but she politely declined with a flourish of big words, as was her custom when putting on dignified airs. "No I thank you; this is so consoling to my disposition that I feel amply corrugated.''   "But," insisted the good deacon, "you are crowding the mourner."  "Oh that don't disburse my perspicuity; I'm a very plain woman and do love to homigate near the altar whar th'r Lord am making confugation among th'r sinners."  "But, Sister Batts, the man is suffocating," still interposed the deacon.  Yes, bless Jesus, let him suffocate; he's getting closer to th'r Lord," exclaimed Sister Batts.

The situation had now become serious.  The whole house had caught on, and was bursting with tittering laughter.  Sister Batts felt the foundation beneath her giving away, and was caught by two brethren just as she threw up her hands, in time to prevent a still more ludicrous scene.  Joe Edwards rose up shouting joyously for his deliverance, as if some unknown spirit had snatched him from the vasty deep.  Sister Batts clasped her hands and shouted, "Bless th’r Lord, bless my soul, Jesus am so good to devolve His poor critters from the consternation of Satan's mighty dexterity."  The affair had reached such a comical and extremely ludicrous stage, that the audience could no longer restrain its resistibility to a simper, and many left the house hurriedly for au outdoor open air free laugh.  This ended the service, breaking up the meeting. The preacher could do nothing but dismiss the remainder of the congregation, who were suffering from a suppressed tittering sensation, holding their sides out of respect for the minister and religion.

Phillis was a strong believer in “Ole Missus.”  Describing the incident she said: "I neber seed Satan whipped outen er meetin so quick in all'er my bawn days.  Sooner an Ole Missus sot down on dat man de devil tuck out under der flo an de man hollered glory, glory, lemme up, lemme up.  Ole Miss paid no tention tu enybody.  She sat dar, an menced gittin happy herself, an all de folks in de house menced shoutin'.  De man he got so full of glory he ware gwinter git up anyhow an menced drawing hiz hine legs up sorter like er cow, an den drapped back, kase Ole Miss ware still dar, an she want’er gwineter git up tell ole Satan wuz mashed clean outen him.  Hit made Mister Joe Edwards sweat like er hoss, but he am got mighty good ligion now, dat will last him tell der next meetin.”

------------------------------------------

As soon as the loquacious visitor developed the propensity for articulation, people became importunate in their entreaties, begging the mysterious voice to disclose its character, nature, who or what it was, and what its mission, to which importunities various answers were given, but no explanation that seemed to satisfy the anxious curiosity.  Finally Rev. James Gunn undertook in a conversation with the gnome to draw out the information.  The goblin declared that it could not trifle with a preacher or tell Brother Gunn a lie, and if he must know the truth, it was nothing more nor less than old Kate Batts’ witch, and was determined to haunt and torment old Jack Bell as long as he lived.  This announcement seemed to fit the case precisely and satisfy a certain element to a fraction.  Less superstitious and more considerate persons did not expect the witch to divulge the truth, and of course did not believe a word concerning Mrs. Batts' agency in the matter; that was impossible.  But the explanation pleased those, who wanted it so.  It served for a brand new and most startling sensation in the mysterious developments, and all tongues were set to wagging.  Men and women looked aghast, and said that was just what they had believed all the while.  Various suspicious circumstances were recalled to confirm the witch's statement.  The most inconvertible evidence was that a certain girl in the vicinity was given the task of churning, and after working the dasher diligently for two hours without reward, and no signs of butter coming, she declared that old Kate Batts had bewitched the milk and she was determined to burn her.  Carrying out this decision, she stuck an iron poker in the fire, and after it had come to a white heat, she soused the iron into the milk, setting the churn away; then making some excuse for the visit, she called on Aunt Kate to ascertain the result of her experiment, and found Mrs. Baits sitting in the corner nursing a burnt hand, which had been badly blistered through a mistake in taking the poker by the hot end that morning.

Another circumstance, Mrs. Batts had been heard to speak harshly of John Bell in regard to a transaction she had with him years back when he first moved to the settlement, declaring that she would get even with him.  Mrs. Batts was not in the habit of saying many good things about any one, unless she got the best end of a bargain in her dealings, but it is most probable that the old transaction referred to had been for­gotten by both parties until brought out by the witch, and John Bell hardly believed Mrs. Batts capable or culpable in the mystery.  However, many were satisfied with the explanation, and from this time on the witch was called "Kate," and to this name the incomprehensible voice was always pleased to answer.  But there was music in the breeze when this new sensation reached the ears of Mrs. Batts.  Her eyes flashed fire, and her tongue was let loose at both ends, rolling off epithets like streaks of lightning.  She kept every path in the neighborhood hot for a month trying to find the “corrigendum who dared to splavicate her character with the spirifications of John Bell's witch.  She would show him the perspicuity in the constipation of the law.”  Sister Batts, how­ever, never found the author of her discomfiture.  The corrigendum was a shapeless, invisible, irresponsible thing, and not subject to the law.


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« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2007, 10:31:44 pm »

[Editor's Note:  Even though he pleads to the contrary, Martin Van Buren Ingram did present his views on the Witch legend in Chapter 7 of the "Red Book."  His position is typical of many thinkers of his time - the Spiritualists of the late Victorian Age.]

Witchcraft of the Bible


Opinions of Rev. John Wesley, Dr. Clark, and other Distinguished Divines and Commentators

The writer has no theory to present regarding the Bell Witch phenomena, nor has he any opinion to advance concerning witchcraft, sorcery, spiritualism or psychology in any form, but prefers quoting from Scripture, and the reasoning of distinguished men, learned in theology, and experienced in psychical research.  He frankly confesses his ignorance of such matters, and the total lack of both inclination and ability to enter into the investigation of the fathomless subject. Having known the history of the Bell Witch from a boy's earliest recollections, and now having collected and compiled the testimony, he is convinced by the overwhelming evidence, that the circumstances detailed by Williams Bell, and supported by others, as unreasonable as they may appear, are literally true - such things did happen, but no further can we venture.

Knowing the character of the men and women who testify to these things, no one can disbelieve them, or believe that they would have willfully misrepresented the facts; nor can it reasonably be said that so many reputable witnesses had fallen into an abnormal state of mind, and were so easily deceived in all of their rigid investigations. A man may be arraigned for trial on the charge of murder, the court and jury knowing nothing about the facts and circumstances, but they are bound by both physical and moral law to believe and find the man guilty on the testimony of reputable witnesses, detailing the facts and circumstances, and yet may form no opinion or idea as to the state of mind or cause that prompted the prisoner to commit the murder. So it is in this instance; the testimony is convincing of the truth of the wonderful phenomena, at John Bell's, but the motive or cause is beyond our comprehension, and to this extent the facts must be accepted.  It would be a shameful display of one's ignorance to deny on general principles the existence of the thing or fact, in the face of such evidence, because he did not witness it, and cannot comprehend it. Might as well the jury, after hearing the evidence, discharge the prisoner on the grounds that they did not see the act committed, and could not believe the man guilty of a deed so atrocious.

The writer, however, wishes to present every phase of the Bell Witch phenomena, together with some quotations from the Bible on which many people in all ages have based their superstition; also the reasoning of some spiritually enlightened and successful ministers of Christ's doctrine, and opinions on ancient witchcraft as presented by the Bible, together with the ideas of modern spiritualism, for the benefit of those who are dis­posed to investigate. Christianity of the present day has generally abandoned the doctrine of "ministering spirits" as a faith leading up to a danger line where there can be no distinction between that and modern spiritualism. Dr. Bond, a distinguished Methodist divine and editor, who has most forcibly combated the faith on the grounds that, that which cannot be explained is not to be believed, and for the best reason that many deeply pious minds have become involved in confusion and error in trying to exercise this discriminating faith, and he argues that all premonitions, omens and spectral appearances are a common phenomena of disordered senses, and that the doctrine of the spirit world is unscriptural and dangerous in the extreme, and that theologians have no right to say that the spirits of the dead live about us, and commune with us, and minister to us.

Notwithstanding all such arguments and the efforts to put away superstition, to ridicule and laugh it out of existence, there is scarcely any one who is free from every form of superstition. Certainly the Christian world gets its superstition from the Bible, if it is not innate, and it is very hard to discard, and still accept all other things that the Book teaches as divine revelation. There are but few people, however, who are willing to admit their superstition, lest they be laughed at and characterized as weak-minded, crazy, etc.  Even Dr. Clark, the great John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, and many other distin­guished writers and commentators, have not escaped this criticism.  Mr. Wesley, however, was bold in speaking his sentiments and rather boasted of his belief in witchcraft. He wrote and spoke about the Epworth ghost that haunted the family some thirty years.

Rev. L. Tyerman, in his Life and Times of Wesley, says Wesley has been censured and ridiculed for this credulity.  Did Wesley deserve this?  The reader must not forget the undeniable, though mysterious, supernatural noises in .the Epworth rectory.  He must also bear in mind that one of the most striking features in Wesley's religious character was his deep rooted, intense, powerful and impelling convic­tions of the dread realities of an unseen world.  This great conviction took possession of the man, he loved it, cherished it, tried to instill it into all of his helpers, all of his people, and without it he would never have undertaken the Herculean labor, and endured the almost unparalleled opprobrium that he did.  Besides his own justification of himself is more easily sneered at than answered.  He (Wesley) writes:

"With my last breath, will I bear my testimony against giving up to infidels one great proof of the invisible world; I mean, that of witchcraft and apparitions, confirmed by the testimony of all ages.  The English in general, and indeed, most of the men of learning in Europe, have given up all accounts of witches and apparitions as mere old wives’ fables. I am sorry for it, and I willingly take this opportunity of entering my solemn protest against this violent compliment, which so many that believe the Bible pay to those who do not believe it.  I owe them no such service.  I take knowledge these are at the bottom of the out cry which has been raised, and with such insolence spread throughout the nation in direct opposition not only to the Bible, but to the suffrage of the wisest and best of men in all ages and nations.  They well know (whether Christians know or not) that the giving up of Witchcraft is in effect giving up the Bible; and they know, on the other hand, that if but one account of the intercourse of men with separ­ate spirits be admitted their whole castle in the air:  deism, atheism, materialism - falls to the ground. I know no reason, therefore, why we should suffer even this weapon to be wrested out of our hands.  Indeed, there are numerous arguments besides this, which abundantly confute their vain imaginations.  But we need not be hooted out of one; neither reason nor religion requires this.  One of the capital objections to all of these accounts is, ‘Did you ever see an apparition yourself?’ No, nor did I ever see a murder; yet I believe there is such a thing.  The testimony of unexceptionable witnesses fully convince me both of the one and the other."

Was Mr. Wesley right or not?  John Wesley was perhaps the greatest evangelist the world has produced since the days of Paul, and now after more than one hundred years can we, judging from his wonderful work, deny that the spirit of God, and even ministering angels as he claimed, attended him in his mighty spread of the gospel?  Was any living man ever endowed with such a wonderful capacity for traveling, preaching and writing, under so many hardships and privations?  And does it not appear that he was inspired and guided by the same power that sup­ported Paul?  The infidel may find some way of denying this, but the Christian believer, hardly.  Then to deny Wesley's teachings respecting Bible authority for witchcraft; or charge his faith to a disordered mind, is to accuse God with raising up a great man to propagate a monstrous error, and furthermore is to discard the hundreds of passages all through the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, and agree with infidelity that all such Scripture is false, and that being false, there can be nothing reliable in God's Word.  For illustration take the case of the witch of Endor, whom Saul approached in disguise after night, because he had ordered all witches and wizards put to death, and the witch of Endor was shy of violating the order.  Now God had withdrawn from Saul and answered him no more, and he sought a familiar spirit, promising the woman that no harm should come to her for this thing. I. Samuel xxviii, 3: Now Samuel was dead and all Israel had lamented him, and buried him. Then said the woman, Whom shall I bring up unto thee? And he said, Bring me up Samuel. And when the woman saw Samuel, Saul asked what form is he of? And she said, An old man cometh tip, and he is covered with a mantle. And Saul perceived that it was Samuel, and he stooped with his face to the ground, and bowed himself.  And Samuel said to Saul, Why hast thou dis­quieted me, to bring me up?

Read the whole chapter - Saul's trouble and Samuel's prophecy of what was to occur tomorrow, etc.  There can be no doubt that this was the identical Samuel who had anointed Saul King of Israel, if the Bible be true; moreover the witch did not know Saul until after Samuel appeared.  This cannot be placed in the catalogue of God's miracles, because it was the woman’s profession; and she is supposed to have brought up bad, as well as good spirits, and she was popularly known in the country as a witch possessing this power, and therefore Saul was directed to go to her. If this be a miracle, then God used witches and wizards to perform miracles, and Paul and others who cast out devils in the name of Christ, were wizards or seers.  How will Christian people who deny Mr. Wesley's position reconcile this question?  Furthermore, additional light on this subject will be found in I. Chronicles xiii. Saul died for asking counsel of one that had a familiar spirit, to inquire of it.  Evidently God did not approve of the works of this woman, though He permitted such works. And why?  Because it is in accord with the philosophy of creation of worlds, the reign of devils on earth, and designs of the Almighty in the scheme of redemption, answers the believers in a spiritual world.  They hold from the teachings of such Scripture, that there is a spiritual world, just as this is a natural or material world.  They hold that the inner man, or life, is a refined substance, which, when separated from the natural body by death, passes into the spiritual world as tangible to those in the spiritual world as the body is to the material world.  Also that bad as well as good spirits enter this spiritual kingdom, and that there is a continual struggle between the good and bad in that world as in this.  They believe that the spiritual body is a very refined substance, like electricity, and that matter is no obstruction to it, that it may and does have communion with the spirit in the body, knows every thought and action of the human mind, our wants and necessities, and therefore departed spirits become ministering angels or spirits to friends in this world, and just in proportion as man lives in nearness to God, spiritually, rising high in the scale of mental, and heartfelt devotion, developing his spiritual nature - that refined substance called animal electricity or magnetism, which is the spirit - so much more is he capable of recognizing the presence of ministering spirits by communication or even by spiritual sight; and that it is through this medium that people see apparitions, receive premonitions and warnings of what is to occur.  These believers hold that the visitation of angels so often recorded in both the Old and New Testaments, were simply ministering spirits, sometimes referred to as angels, and often, as "man" or "men" and spirits.  As in the case of Paul, Acts xvi. 9: when "a man" appeared to Paul in the night, "There stood a man of Mac­edonia, and prayed him, saying: Come over into Macedonia and help us."  Now the question, who was this "man?"  Was he a spirit, a Mace­donian? In Rev. xxii. the angel appearing to John, tells him that he was one of the prophets.  The Psalmist says, "The angels of the Lord encamped around them, and delivereth them."  And again, “He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.” The Apostle Paul says, speaking of angelic spirits “Are they not ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation?”  So it is believed from these and many other such expressions in the Bible, that the atmosphere possesses the property of telegraphing that is yet to be developed and better understood, by which the spiritual world is in constant communication with this, and that spirits travel like thought or the electric flash, throughout all space in an instant, and space is annihilated.  It is, therefore, believed that the principles of the moral government of God are the same under every dispensation, that this could not be. changed in the very nature of God's creation, and that the ministry of angels and exemplified under every dispensation, showing the uniformity of God’s works and government.

The question is asked:  Are angels not men, spirits that once dwelt in the body on earth?  Who was “the man Gabriel” that spoke to Daniel of the four great monarchies?  Who was the prophet that talked to John on the isle of Patmos? Who was the "young man" that stood in the sepulcher, clothed in a long white garment. Who were the “two men” that stood by them at the sepulcher in shining garments, telling the disciples that "He is not here but is risen," as recorded by Luke xxiv?  Who were the “two men” that spoke to the men of Galilee when Jesus ascended from Mount Olivet? - Acts i., 9-11. This faith must be the most comforting thing on earth to the soul that can exercise it discriminately.  But the danger is in going too far, losing sight of God, and relying on ministering spirits, for there may be evil as well as good spirits, and how can one know whether the manifestation is from Christ's Kingdom, or that of outer darkness?  God showed His disapproval of Saul's act in calling up so good a spirit as Samuel through a witch medium, knowing that the Lord had withdrawn from him on account of his wickedness and disobedience; yet the witch was gifted with that power - perhaps just as the present day mediums have developed electrical force.

However, Mr. Wesley was not alone in pro­claiming this belief in a spiritual kingdom and ministering spirits.  Many learned theologians support this doctrine.  Dr. Adam Clarke, the great scholar and commentator, in his Commentary, vol. xi., page 299, says:  “I believe there is a supernatural and spiritual world in which human spirits, both good and bad, live in a state of consciousness. … I believe that any of these spirits may according to the order of God, in the laws of their place of residence, hare intercourse with this world, and become visible to mortals.”  This doctrine is affirmed, from the reason that Samuel actually appeared to Saul; Moses and Elias talked with Jesus in the presence of Peter, James and John, and there are many other such instances recorded.

Dr. Richard Watson, of England, who was regarded as the most intellectual teacher the Methodist church ever had, referring to the case of Samuel, says: “The account not only shows that the Jews believed in the doctrine of apparitions, but that in fact such an appearance on this occasion did actually occur; which answers all the objections which were ever raised or can be raised, from the philosophy of the case, against the pos­sibility of the appearance of departed spirits. I believe in this apparition of the departed Samuel, because the text positively calls the appearance Samuel.”

In his Theological Institutes, a standard work embraced in the course of study for ministers, Dr. Watson says:

“This is the doctrine of revelation; and if the evidence of that revelation can be disproved, it may be rejected; if not, it must be admitted, whether any argumentative proof can be offered in its favor or not. That it is not unreasonable may be first established. That God who made us and who is a pure spirit, can not have immediate access to our thoughts, our affections, and our will, it would certainly be much more reasonable to deny than to admit; and if the great and universal Spirit possesses power, every physical objection at least, to the doctrine in question is removed, and finite, unbodied spirits may have the same kind of access to the mind of man, though not in so perfect and intimate degree.  Before any natural impossibility can be urged against this intercourse of spirit with spirit, we must know what no philosopher, however deep his researches into the courses of the phenomena of the mind, has ever professed to know - the laws of perception, memory and association.  We can suggest thoughts and reason, to each other, and thus mutually influence our wills and affections.  We employ, for this purpose, the media of signs and words; but to contend that these are the only media through which thought can be conveyed to thought, or that spiritual beings cannot produce the same effects immediately, is to found an objection wholly upon our ignorance.  All the reason which the case, considered in itself, affords, is certainly in favor of this opinion.  We have access to each other's minds; we can suggest thoughts, raise affections, influence the wills of others; and analogy, therefore, favors the conclusion that, though by different and latent means, unbodied spirits have the same access to each other, and us.”

Dr. Watson related a remarkable instance which serves to illustrate the views so forcibly expressed, which was published many years ago in the Methodist Magazine, and later in the Baltimore Methodist Magazine.  A man and his wife by the name of James, both of whom died very suddenly, leaving a large estate, as was supposed without a will. There arose serious difficulty among the heirs about the property.  James and his Wife came back (in the day time) and informed a lady where the will was, in a secret drawer, in a secretary. She informed the circuit preacher (a Mr. Mills), who went and found the will, and reconciled the parties.

Bishop Simpson said it seemed to him “as though he were walking on one side of the veil, and his departed son on the other. It is only a veil. These friends will be the first to greet you, their faces the first to flash upon you, as you pass into the invisible world.  This takes away the fear of death. Departed spirits are not far above the earth, in some distant clime, but right upon the confines of this world.”

Dr. Wilber Fisk says: "God has use or employment for all the creatures he has made - for every saint on earth, for every angel in heaven. Oh consoling doctrine!  Angels are around us. The spirits of the departed good encamp about our pathway."

Indeed it is a happy thought, a belief that must keep the soul anchored by faith near to God, a realization that is worth all else in a dying hour.  How many of us have stood by the bedside of a loved and sainted friend, when the shadows were falling, watching every change of expression as they marked the features with the light of joy, while the veil was being drawn, affording a glimpse of the beautiful beyond, and heard the sweet feeble voice utter exclamations of rapturous praise for a vision too sublime to be described?  And have we not felt a sanctifying awe pervading the heart as if conscious that the atmosphere was full of ministering spirits?  Ah!  “I would not live always.”  These are serious thoughts and impression that the living delight to cling to, no matter what may be our opinions concerning the spiritual world.

How anxiously we inquire after the last faint expressions from the lips of dying saints, in the hope of more evidence confirming the faith in a blessed abode, where the soul shall live forever in ecstasy.  Can any one doubt that Bishop McKendree recognized ministering spirits around his dying bed when he exclaimed:

“Bright angels are from glory come,

They are around my bed,

They are in my room,

They wait to waft my spirit home.”

Can any one read the last days and the last hour, yea, the last minute of John Wesley's life, as recorded by Tyerman in his Life and Times of Wesley, vol. iii., beginning on page 651, without feeling enthused by rapturous joy expressed by the great man, or doubt that the same minis­tering spirits that he claimed attended him all through his most wonderful and eventful career, directing his course and warning him daily of some new persecution that was coming, were present, and beheld by him during the last mo­ments as the veil was drawn, when he exclaimed, “I'll praise! I'll praise!” and then cried, “Farewell!” the last word he uttered. Then as Joseph Bradford was saying, “Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and this heir of glory shall come in!” Wesley gathered up his feet in the presence of his brethren, and without a groan and without a sigh was gone.

Indeed there must be something exceedingly comforting in this simple child-like fairly, and it does appear that no one need go astray as long as such faith is well poised in God, looking to Him always for spiritual guidance, rather than relying directly on apparitions, premonitions, and spiritual communications; a kind of self-righteousness, forgetting that God has any hand in the matter, and may permit bad spirits unrestrained, to deceive the believer.

Recurring once more to Saul, who had in his great zeal for God's cause, (or rather his own conceit) "put away those that had familiar spirits and the wizards out of the ]and," and would have slain the witch of Endor had he known of her, as she greatly feared, and cried  with a loud voice when Samuel appeared, Saying, “Why hast thou deceived me? For thou art Saul,” he was conscious of having disobeyed the voice of the Lord, in not executing His fierce wrath upon Amalek, and knew that God was angry and had withdrawn from him; and yet, in his sore distress, when the Philistines were upon him, he did not humble himself in the sight of God, imploring pardon and Divine aid.  He simply “inquired of the Lord, and the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets.”  Saul no doubt thought it was God's business to direct him in saving Israel, and was sulky, and in his own strength, went in disguise to the witch he would have slain, "Wherefore then dost thou ask of me, seeing the Lord has departed from thee, and is become thine enemy," answered Samuel.  Now mark two expressions in this chapter, Samuel xxiii. “What sawest thou?” inquired Saul. "And the woman said unto Saul, I saw gods ascending out of the earth."  "An old man cometh up; he is covered with a mantle.”  It appears from this that the spirit of Samuel ascended out of the earth and came not from above.  Again, Samuel said to Saul, “Moreover, the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hands of the Philistines; and tomorrow shalt, thou and thy sons be with me.”  The question: Where was Samuel that Saul should be with him on “tomorrow” when he fell upon his own sword and was slain as prophesied?  Samuel came up out of the earth and Saul was certainly not in favor with God, to warrant any belief in his ascension to heaven, if Samuel was.

Another reference, Daniel v., gives an account of the hand writing on the wall. Nebuchadnezzar, to whom God had given majesty and glory and honor, but when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed and his glory taken from him, and he was driven from the sons of men and become as a beast fed with grass like oxen, till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men. Belshazzar, his son and successor, knowing this, humbled not his heart, but made a great feast, drank wine and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.  This was not all; he had the consecrated vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the Temple at Jerusalem and desecrated them in use in his drunken revelry. "In the same hour came forth fingers of a man's hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote:  “Then the king's' countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against the other.”  None of the astrologers, the Chaldeans, soothsayers, or wise men of Babylon, could read or interpret the hand writing, and Daniel of the captivity who had an excellent spirit and knowledge, was brought before the king and read the hand writing, “Mene, mene, tekel, upharisin.”  The interpretation, “Thou are weighed in the balances and art found wanting.”  “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.”  Again the question recurs, whose hand was this that wrote upon the wall?  Many believe it was the hand of God, but the Bible says it was “fin­gers of man's hand.”  Daniel says “the part of the hand sent by Him,” (God) and Daniel certainly knew, for he was the only one who could read and interpret, the writing.  Then it was a man's hand and God sent it.  Here again it is claimed that the doctrine of spiritual communication is sustained, and the laws of God being immutable, just what was done then can be done now; and therefore people cannot understand the many mysterious things that occur.  But the moral:  Belshazzar was not so much frightened by the hand writing on the wall, as he was by that inward conscience smiting on the wall of his heart, which awakened him to a sense of his guilt and condemnation, which caused his knees to tremble and smite each other. The handwriting was the warning of his doom, and that was what he wanted to know.  There is not a wrong doer or sinner in this enlightened age, who has not felt this same smiting of the heart.  Conscience is an all-powerful spirit that cannot be resisted though it may not be heeded until the handwriting appears off the wall.

We learn also from reading the Bible that there was another class of extremist, religious bigots, who believed that all spiritual communications were works of the devil, and they made laws to put mediums or witches to death.  II. Kings xxiii, informs us of the great zeal of Josiah for the house of the Lord.  In the eighteenth year of King Josiah the greatest Passover known in all the history of the Jews was held to the Lord.

“Moreover, the workers with familiar spirits and the wizards, and the images and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah, and in Jerusalem, did Josiah put away, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord.  Notwithstanding, the Lord turned not from the fierceness of His great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah.”

This kind of zeal to please God in some other way than by the sacrifice of a contrite heart, and free communion with the spirit of the Most High, has characterized all ages, and down to the present time we find men who have come in possession of great fortunes by stealth and advantage, by which thousands have been impoverished, giving munificent gifts to charitable institutions in the hope of winning favor with God and gaining the praise of religious people, and whose funeral orations team with glowing accounts of their goodness in life.  This was the kind of opposition that John Wesley had to contend with. He was reviled, hounded and vilified by the ablest ministers of the Church of England, books and pamphlets by the score were written, and newspapers engaged in ridiculing his religion. But the great man with a heart overflowing with the love of God and humanity, by a single mild utterance or the dash of his pen, turned all of their anathemas against them.

Witches were burnt at the stake in the name of the church, even in this country. The laws of Massachusetts made witchcraft an offense punishable by death, and the Puritans found no trouble in procuring the evidence to convict the accused. The first execution took place in Charlestown, Mass., in 1648; Margaret Jones was the victim, and John Winthrop, Governor of the State, presided at the condemning trial. Witchcraft was considered a crime against the laws of God, and the persecution continued, and many were put to death all along, but the great crusade occurred in February, 1692, at Salem, when the excitement reached its highest tension. Thirty women were convicted that year on the testimony of children, who claimed that they were tormented by the women; twenty of the number were executed.

Out of such intolerance came the necessity for religious liberty, a division of sentiment on Bible doctrines, and the formation of many sects or denominations into churches, and religious liberty has continued to broaden into a mighty spread of the gospel of Christ through the rivalry of denominations, or rather a spirit of emulation, each striving to do the most for the advancement of pure Christianity.  But for these divisions and religious liberty, zealots would have been burning witches until yet.  And if our churches could all be united into one, under one universal creed and laws of control, as some people desire, we would return to witch burning within fifty years.  The world, and the churches as they are organized, are full of religious bigots, who have no patience with that class professing close communion with God through the medium of the spirit, because they themselves know nothing of such religion.

The Bible has much to say about evil spirits as well as good spirits, and all through Acts we find that Paul often came in contact with those having evil spirits and those who practiced witchcraft, sorcery, etc., but this the reader is familiar with, while there are many authenticated phe­nomena of later days that serve better for the present purpose. No one now doubts the authenticity of the Epworth ghost – “Jeffry.”  Rev. John Wesley published the whole story himself in the Arminian Magazine for October, November and December, 1784.  The demonstrations commenced very much like the Bell Witch, by knocking and other noise just by Mr. Wesley's bed. For some time the Wesley family hooted at the idea of the supernatural, but investigation finally settled them in this conclusion beyond a doubt. It continued to gather force just as did the Bell Witch but never to the extent of talking or speaking. When spoken to, the answers were in groans and squeaks, but no intelligent utterance. It was seen several times and looked like a badger. The man servant chased it out of the dining room once, when it ran into the kitchen, and was like a white rabbit.  Miss Susannah Wesley relates details which point to the presence of a disembodied Jacobite, the knocking being more violent at the words "our most Gracious Sovereign Lord," when applied to King George I, as generally used by Mr. Wesley in his prayers.  This being noticed, when Mr. Wesley omitted prayer for the royal family no knocking occurred, which Mr. Wesley considered good evidence.

The Review of Reviews, New Year's extra num­ber for 1892, which is devoted entirely to the scientific investigations of the Psychical Research Society, contains in its wide scope of investigations more than one hundred phenomena. The story of a haunted parsonage in the north of Eng­land in which the phenomena occurred in 1891, the spirit was more demonstrative than the Epsworth ghost.  The demonstrations consisted in

The rocking of Dr. William Smith's cradle, which occurred in 1840 in Lynchburg, Va., is a most remarkable and well authenticated phenomena. Dr. Smith was pastor of the Lynchburg church and many people Called to witness the strange action of the cradle, which commenced rocking of its own accord, and rocked one hour every day for thirty days.  A committee was appointed to investigate the cause, and the cradle was taken to pieces and examined, every part and put together again, and transferred to differ­ent rooms, and it rocked all the same without any hand touching it. Rev. Dr. Penn undertook to hold it still, and it wrenched itself from his hands, the timber cracking as if it would break in his firm grasp.

Thousands of such phenomena, premonitions, etc., well authenticated, might be cited, but there is nothing on record, or in all history of phenomena outside of the Bible, that equals the deeply mysterious demonstrations of the Bell Witch - seemingly a thing of life, like that of a human being, endowed with mind, speech, and superior knowledge, knowing all things, all men, and their inmost thoughts and secret deeds, a thing of physical power and force superior to that of the stoutest man - action as swift as the light­ning, and yet invisible and incomprehensible.

Spiritualists undertake to account for such mysteries, but theirs is a very dangerous doctrine for the ordinary mind to tamper with.  One is liable to lose sight of God and repose faith in the medium, who is but a human being, and if possessed with power to communicate with spirits, may communicate with evil as well as good spirits. Moreover, it is destructive to an unbalanced mind. All people possess more or less animal electricity or magnetism, which is more largely developed in one than in another, and always more in the medium, whose will power overbalances the other. This force, however, is developed in the practice of methods of commun­ication, and involves the whole mind and will power, convulsing the mind into an abnormal state, subjected to the electric force. Persons who will sit for one hour daily, with their hands on a table, giving all attention to spiritual manifestations, will, on rising, feel a tingling nervous sensation in their arms, and all through the system, which should not be cultivated.  It is better that such investigations be left to the Society of Psychological Research, scientific men of strong minds who have nothing else to do but to demonstrate, if they can, the theory that all such mys­teries are hidden in the yet mysterious electrical force that permeates the atmosphere, the earth and all animal nature, and which is being brought into use, developing some new power or force every day, and prove that we are nearing a spiritual kingdom where the disembodied are to be seen and conversed with.

Man is constituted a worshipping being, conse­quently all men are superstitious, notwithstanding that, nine out of ten will deny most emphatically holding to any kind of superstition. Yet when put to the test not one of common intelligence can be found who has not seen something, or heard something, dreamed something, or experienced premonitions, that left an impress of the mysterious. For instance, a gentleman familiar with the history of the Bell Witch, discussing it with the writer, declared that those old people were superstitious, and he did not believe a word of it; that there was not a particle of superstition in his composition; "yet," said he,  “there was something unaccountable at Bell's, no doubt about that.”  Did he believe it? Why certainly. Another instance: A very able, pious minister, discussing the same subject in connec­tion with the Wesley haunt, said he did not believe a word of such things; it was all spiritualism, misleading and dangerous, and Wesley, great man as he was, was liable to such mistakes in an abnormal state of mind.  Then he related an incident in the early settlement of the country, when our fathers came among the red men. Said he: “My grandfather belonged to the Nashville settlement; he dreamed that the Indians had attacked the little fort in Sumner county, while the inmates were asleep, and killed every one.  He was awakened by the force of the presentment, yet thought nothing of it, and fell asleep again, and dreamed the same thing, the premonition coming the second time with still more force. He was greatly agitated, and mounted his best horse, as quick as he could, running the horse every jump of the way to the little fort.  Arriving he found everybody sound asleep, and aroused the people in great haste, shouting in the camp that Indians were marching on the fort, and the settlers had barely made ready when the enemy attacked. The citizens won the victory, routing the Indians without loss.  But for the dream and grandfather's prompt action, the last one in the fort would have been slain.”  Is this excellent gentleman, believing his grandfather's story, as he certainly does, free from superstition?  Summing up the whole matter, it is useless and silly to condemn that which we know nothing about and cannot understand or explain. It is an assumption of wisdom that discredits our intelligence, and the best way to treat ghosts is to let them alone, never go spook hunting, but if a spirit comes to us, receive it just as a spirit deserves to be treated, and observe the warning on the wall, whether it be written by the hand of a spectre, or indicted by the finger of conscience.


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« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2007, 10:33:57 pm »

Our Family Trouble

The Story of the Bell Witch as Detailed by Richard Williams Bell

This chapter, prepared from the diary of Richard Williams Bell, is the longest in the "Red Book" - about 90 pages.  For the purposes of this web site, breaking up the chapter into six, individually accessible parts is considered advisable.

Part One:


Our Family Trouble

The Story of the Bell Witch as Detailed by Richard Williams Bell

The reader is already familiar with the motives that inspired Richard Williams Bell to write this sketch of "Our Family Trouble," a phenomenal mystery that continued to be a living sensation long after John Bell's death, the mention of which in any Robertson County family, even to this good day, leads to a recital of events as they have been handed down through tradition.

After a brief biography of his parents and the family, which is more fully recorded elsewhere, Mr. Bell goes on writing:

After settling on Red River in Robertson County, Tenn., my father prospered beyond his own expectations. He was a good manager, and hard worker himself, making a regular hand on the farm. He indulged no idleness around him, and brought up his children to work, endeavoring to make their employment pleasurable. Mother was equally frugal and careful in her domestic affairs, and was greatly devoted to the proper moral training of children, keeping a restless watch over every one, making sacrifices for their pleasure and well being, and both were steadfast in their religious faith, being members of the Baptist church, and set Christian examples before their children. Father was always forehanded, paid as he went, was never in his life served with a warrant or any legal process, and never had occasion to fear the sheriff or any officer of the law, and was equally faithful in bearing his share of whatever burden was necessary to advance morality and good society.  In the meanwhile he gave all of his children the best education the schools of the country could afford, Zadok being educated for a lawyer, while the other boys chose to follow agriculture.  Jesse and Esther had both married, settled, and everything seemed to be going smoothly, when our trouble commenced.  I was a boy when the incidents, which I am about to record, known as the Bell Witch took place. In fact, strange appearances and uncommon sounds had been seen and heard by different members of the family at times, some year or two before I knew anything about it, because they indicated nothing of a serious character, gave no one any concern, and would have passed unnoticed but for after developments.  Even the knocking on the door, and the outer walls of the house, had been going on for some time before I knew of it, generally being asleep, and father, believing that it was some mischievous person trying to frighten the family, never discussed the matter in the presence of the younger children, hoping to catch the prankster. Then, after the demonstrations became known to all of us, father enjoined secrecy upon every member of the family, and it was kept a profound secret until it became intolerable.  Therefore no notes were made of these demonstrations or the exact dates. The importance of a diary at that time did not occur to any one, for we were all subjected to the most intense and painful excitement from day to day, and week to week, to the end, not knowing from whence came the disturber, the object of the visitation, what would follow next, how long it would continue, nor the probable result. Therefore I write from memory, such things as came under my own observations, impressing my mind, and incidents known by other members of the family and near neighbors to have taken place, and are absolutely true.  However, I do not pretend to record the half that did take place, for that would be impossible without daily notes, but will note a sufficient number of incidents to give the reader a general idea of the phenomena and the afflictions endured by our family.

As before stated, the knocking at the door, and scratching noise on the outer wall, which continued so long, never disturbed me, nor was I the least frightened until the demonstrations within became unen­durable.  This I think was in May, 1818.  Father and mother occupied a room on the first floor, Elizabeth had the room above, and the boys occupied another room on the second floor; John and Drewry had a bed together, and Joel and myself slept in another bed.  As I remember it was on Sunday night, just after the family had retired, a noise commenced in our room like a rat gnawing vigorously on the bed post.  John and Drew got up to kill the rat.  But the moment they were out of bed the noise ceased.  They examined the bedstead, but discovered no marks made by a rat.  As soon as they returned to bed the noise commenced again, and thus it continued until a late hour or some time after midnight, and we were all up a half dozen times or more searching the room all over, every nook and corner, for the rat, turning over everything, and could find nothing, not even a crevice by which a rat could possibly enter. This kind of noise continued from night to night, and week after week, and all of our investigations were in vain. The room was overhauled several times, everything moved and carefully examined, with the same result.  Finally when we would search for the rat in our room, the same noise would appear in sister Elizabeth's chamber, disturbing her, and arousing all the family.  And so it continued going from room to room, stopping when we were all up, and commencing again as soon as we returned: to bed, and was so exceedingly annoying that no one could sleep.  The noise was, after a while, accompanied by a scratching sound, like a dog clawing on the floor, and increased in force until it became evidently too strong for a rat. Then every room in the house was torn up, the furniture, beds and clothing carefully examined, and still nothing irregular could be found, nor was there a hole or crevice by which a rat could enter, and nothing was accomplished beyond the increase of our confusion and evil forebodings.  The demonstrations continued to increase, and finally the bed covering commenced slipping off at the foot of the beds as if gradually drawn by some one, and occasionally a noise like the smacking of lips, then a gulping sound, like some one choking or strangling, while the vicious gnawing at the bed post continued, and there was no such thing as sleep to be thought of until the noise ceased, which was generally between one and three o'clock in the morning.  Some new performance was added nearly every night, and it troubled Elizabeth more than anyone else.  Occasionally the sound was like heavy stones falling on the floor, then like trace chains dragging, and chairs falling over.  I call to mind my first lively experience, something a boy is not likely to forget.  We bad become somewhat used to the mysterious noise, and tried to dismiss it from mind, taking every opportunity for a nap.  The family had all retired early, and I had just fallen into a sweet doze, when I felt my hair beginning to twist, and then a sudden jerk, which raised me. It felt like the top of my head had been taken off.  Immediately Joel yelled out in great fright, and next Elizabeth was screaming in her room, and ever after that something was continually pulling at her hair after she retired to bed.  This transaction frightened us so badly that father and mother remained up nearly all night.  After this, the main feature in the phenomenon was that of pulling the cover off the beds as fast as we could replace it, also continuing other demonstrations. Failing in all efforts to discover the source of the annoyance, and becoming con­vinced that it was something out of the natural course of events, continually on the increase in force, father finally determined to solicit the cooperation of Mr. James Johnson, who was his nearest neighbor and most intimate friend, in trying to detect the mystery, which had been kept a secret within the family up to this time.  So Mr. Johnson and wife, at father's request, came over to spend a night in the investigation. At the usual hour for retiring, Mr. Johnson, who was a very devout Christian, led in family worship, as was his custom, reading a chapter in the Bible, singing and praying.  He prayed fervently, and very earnestly for our deliverance from the frightful disturbance, or that its origin, cause and purpose might be revealed.  Soon after we had all retired, the disturbance commenced as usual; gnawing, scratching, knocking on the wall, overturning chairs, pulling the cover off of beds, etc., every act being exhibited as if on purpose to show Mr. Johnson what could he done, appearing in his room, as in other rooms, and so soon as a light would appear, the noise would cease, and the trouble begin in another room. Mr. Johnson listened attentively to all of the sounds and capers, and that which appeared like some one sucking air through the teeth, and smacking of lips, indicated to him that some intelligent agency gave force to the movements, and he determined to try speaking to it, which he did, inquiring, "In the name of the Lord, what or who are you? What do you want and why are you here?"  This appeared to silence the noise for considerable time, but it finally com­menced again with increased vigor, pulling the cover from the beds in spite of all resistance, repeating other demonstrations, going from one room to another, becoming fearful. The persecutions of Elizabeth were increased to an extent that excited serious apprehensions. Her cheeks were frequently crimsoned as by a hard blow from an open hand, and her hair pulled until she would scream with pain. Mr. Johnson said the phenomenon was beyond his comprehension; it was evidently preternatural or supernatural, of an intelligent character. He arrived at this conclusion from the fact that it ceased action when spoken to, and certainly understood language. He advised father to invite other friends into the investigation, and try all means for detecting the mystery, to which he consented, and from this time on, it became public.  All of our neighbors were invited and committees formed, experiments tried, and a close watch kept, in and out, every night, but all of their wits were stifled, the demon and kind to her in this trying ordeal.  It was suggested that sister should spend the nights with some one of the neighbors to get rid of the trouble, and all were very kind to invite her. In fact our neighbors were all touched with generous sympathy and were unremitting in their efforts to alleviate our distress, for it had become a calamity, and they came every night to sit and watch with us. The suggestion of sending Elizabeth from home was acted upon. She went to different places, James Johnson's, John Johnson's, Jesse Bell's, and Bennett Porter's, but it made no difference, the trouble followed her with the same severity, disturbing the family where she went as it did at home, nor were we in anywise relieved. This gave rise to a suspicion in the minds of some persons that the mystery was some device or stratagem originated by sister, from the fact that it appeared wherever she went, and this clue was followed to a logical demonstration of the phenomena was gradually developed, proving to be an intelligent character.  When asked a question in a way, that it could be answered by numbers, for instance, "How many persons present? How many horses in the barn?  How many miles to a certain place?"  The answers would come in raps, like a man knocking on the wall, the bureau or the bedpost with his fist, or by so many scratches on the wall like the noise of a nail or claws, and the answers were invariably correct. During the time, it was not uncommon to see lights like a candle or lamp flitting across the yard and through the field, and frequently when father, the boys and hands were coming in late from work, chunks of wood and stones would fall along the way as if tossed by some one, but we could never discover from whence, or what direction they came. In addition to the demonstrations already described, it took to slapping people on the face, especially those who resisted the action of pulling the cover from the bed, and those who came as detectives to expose the trick. The blows were heard distinctly, like the open palm of a heavy hand, while the sting was keenly felt, and it did not neglect to pull my hair, and make Joel squall as often.

The Witch Commenced Whispering

The phenomena continued to develop force, and visitors persisted in urging the witch to talk, and tell what was wanted, and finally it commenced whistling when spoken to, in a low broken sound, as if trying to speak in a whistling voice, and in this way it progressed, developing until the whistling sound was changed to a weak faltering whisper uttering indistinct words. The voice, however, gradually gained strength in articulating, and soon the utterances became distinct in a low whisper, so as to be understood in the absence of any other noise. I do not remember the first intelligent utterance, which, however, was of no significance, but the voice soon developed sufficient strength to be distinctly heard by every one in the room.

A Disturbed Spirit

This new development added to the sensation already created. The news spread, and people came in larger numbers, and the great anxiety concerning the mystery prompted many questions in the effort to induce the witch to disclose its own identity and purpose. Finally, in answer to the question, "Who are you and what do you want?" the reply came, "I am a spirit; I was once very happy but have been disturbed."  This was uttered in a very feeble voice, but sufficiently distinct to be understood by all present, and this was all the information that could be elicited for the time.


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« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2007, 10:35:06 pm »

The Seer's Prophecy

The next utterance of any note that I remember, occurred on a Sunday night, when the voice appeared stronger, and the witch talking more freely, in fact speaking voluntarily, and appeared to be exercised over a matter that was being discussed by the family. Brother John Bell had for some time contemplated a trip to North Carolina to look after father's share of an estate that was being Wound up, and was to start next morning (Monday) on horseback, and this was the matter that interested the family and was being discussed, the long tiresome journey, his probable long absence, the situation of affairs, concerning Which father was giving him instructions. Sev­eral neighbors were present, taking an interest, volunteering some good natured advice to John, when the witch put in, remonstrating against the trip, dissuading John from going, predicting bad luck, telling him that he would have a hard trip for nothing, that the estate had not been wound up and could not be for some time, and be would get no money, but return empty handed. As a further argument to dissuade John, the witch told him that an elegant young lady from Vir­ginia was then on her way to visit friends in Robertson county, who would please him, and he could win her if he would stay; that she was wealthy, possessing forty Negroes and considera­ble money. John laughed at the revelation as supremely ridiculous, and left on the following morning as contemplated, and was absent six months or more, returning empty handed as predicted. Very soon after his departure, the young lady in question arrived, and left before his return, and John never met her.

 

A Spirit Hunting a Lost Tooth

 

The witch continued, to develop the power of articulation, talking freely, and those who engaged in conversation with the invisible persevered in plying questions t6draw out an explanation of the mystery, and again the question was pressed, inquiring, "Who are you and what do you want?" and the witch replied, stating the second time, "I am a spirit who was once very happy, but have been disturbed and made unhappy? Then followed the question, "How were you disturbed, and what makes you unhappy?" The reply to this question was, "I am the spirit of a person who was buried in the woods near by, and the grave has been disturbed, my bones disinterred and scattered, and one of my teeth was lost under this house, and I am here looking for that tooth."

 

This statement revived the memory of a circumstance that occurred some three or four years previously, and had been entirely forgotten. The farm hands while engaged in clearing a plot of land, discovered a small mound of graves, which father supposed to be an Indian burying ground, and worked around it without obliterating the marks. Several days later Corban Hall, a young man of the neighborhood, came to our place, and was told by Drew the circumstance of finding the Indian graves.  Hall thought the graves probably contained some relics which Indians commonly buried with their dead, and proposed to open one and see, to which 'Drew agreed, and they proceeded to disinter the bones. Finding nothing else, Hall brought the jawbone to the house, and while sitting in the passage he threw it against the opposite wall, and the jarring knocked out a loose tooth, which dropped through a crack in the floor.

 

Father passed through the hall in the mean­while, and reprimanded the boys severely for their action, and made one of the Negro men take the jawbone back, replacing all the disinterred bones, and filling in the grave. This was evidently the circumstance referred to by the "spirit," so long forgotten, and to be reminded of the fact so mysteriously was very perplexing, and troubled father no little.  He examined the floor just where the bone dropped when it struck the wall, as the boys had left it, and there was the crack referred to, and he was pestered, and decided to take up a portion of the floor and see if the tooth could be found. The dirt under­neath was raked up, sifted and thoroughly exam­ined, but the tooth was not found. The witch then laughed at father, declaring that it was all a joke to fool "Old Jack."

 

The Buried Treasure

 

The excitement in the country increased as the phenomena developed, The fame of the witch had become widely spread, and people came from all quarters to hear the strange and unaccountable voice.  Some were detectives, con­fident of exposing the mystery. Various opinions were formed and expressed; some credited its own story, and believed it an Indian spirit; some thought it was an evil spirit, others declared it was witchcraft, and a few unkindly charged that it was magic art and trickery gotten up by the Bell family to draw crowds and make money. These same people had stayed as long as they wished, enjoyed father's hospitality, and paid not a cent for it, nor did it ever cost any one a half shilling.  The house was open to every one that came; father and mother gave them the best they had, their horses were fed, and no one allowed to go away hungry; many offered pay and urged father to receive it, insisting that he could not keep up entertaining so many without pay, but he persistently declined remuneration, and not one of the family ever received a cent for entertaining. Father regarded the phenomena as an affliction, a calamity, and such accusations were very galling, but were endured. Inquisitive people continued to exercise all of their wits in plying the witch with questions concerning, its personality or character, but elicited no further information until the question was put by James Gunn, then came the reply:  "I am the spirit of an early emigrant, who brought a large sum of money and buried my treasure for safe keeping until needed. In the meanwhile I died without divulging the secret, and I have returned in the spirit for the purpose of making known the hid­ing place, and I want Betsy Bell to have the money." The spirit was then urged to tell where the money was concealed. This was refused and the secret withheld until certain pledges were made that the conditions would be complied with. The conditions were that Drew Bell and Bennett Porter would agree to exhume the money and give every dollar to Betsy, and that "Old Sugar Mouth" (Mr. James Johnson) would go with them and see that the injunction was fairly discharged, and that he should count the money and take charge of it for Betsy. The story was questioned and laughed at, and then discussed. The witch had made some remarkable revela­tions, and it was thought possible there might be something in it, and the proposition was acceded to. Drew and Bennett agreed to do the work, and Mr. Johnson consented to become the guardian and see that the right thing was done. The spirit then went on. to state that the money was under a large flat rock at the mouth of the spring on the southwest corner of the farm, on Red River, describing the surroundings so minutely that there could be no mistake.  Every one was acquainted with the spring, having frequented the place, but no one could have described it so minutely, and this all tended to strengthen faith in the revelation. The spirit insisted that the committee selected should start very early the next morning at the dawn of day, lest the secret should get out, and some fiend should beat them to the place and get the money. This was also agreed to, and by the break of day next morning all hands met and proceeded to the spring. They found everything as described, the huge stone intact, and were sure they were on time. They observed that it was an excellent place for hiding money where no human being would ever dream of looking for a treasure, or care to move the great stone for any purpose, and yet susceptible of such a minute description that no one could be mis­taken in the revelation. They carried along an axe and mattock, and were pretty soon at work, devising ways and means for moving the big rock, which was so firmly imbedded in the ground. It was no light job, but they cut poles, made levers and fixed prizes, after first removing much dirt from around the stone, so as to get under it.  Then Drew and Porter prized and tugged, Mr. Johnson occasionally lending a help­ing hand, and after a half day's very hard work, the stone was raised and moved from its bedding, but no money appeared.  Then followed a con­sultation and discussion of the situation. They reasoned that the glittering treasure was possibly sunk in the earth, and the stone imbedded over it to elude suspicion, and they decided to dig for it, and went to work in earnest, Porter digging, and Drew scratching the loosened dirt out with his hands, and so on they progressed until they had opened a hole about six feet square and nearly as many feet deep, and still no money was found.  Exhausted and very hungry, they gave up the job, returning to the house late in the afternoon much disgusted and chagrined.  That night the "spirit" appeared in great glee laughing and tantalizing the men for being so easily duped, describing everything that occurred at the spring in the most ludicrous way, telling how they tugged at the big stone, and repeating what was said by each one. Bennett Porter staved the mattock in up to the eye every pop, and oh how it made him sweat. It told how "Old Sugar Mouth" looked on prayerfully, encouraging the boys. The dirt taken out was mixed with small stones, gravel, sand, etc., leaves and sticks, all of which indicated that the earth had been removed and put back. Drew, the witch said, could handle a sight of dirt, his hands were made for that purpose, and were better than a shovel; no gold could slip through his fingers. The witch's description of the affair kept the house in an uproar of laughter, and it was repeated with equal zest to all new comers for a month.

 

Priest Craft and Scriptural Knowledge

 

There were but very few churches in the country at this period of the century, nevertheless, ours was a very religious community. Most of those coming from the older States brought their religion with them, and inculcated the principle in their families. The influence of Revs. James and Thomas Gunn, Rev. Sugg Fort, Mr. James Johnson, and other good men, swayed mightily.  Every man erected an altar in his own home, and it was common for neighbors to meet during the week at one or another’s house for prayer and exhortation, and Bible study. In the absence of the preachers, Mr. James Johnson was the principal leader in these exercises, and the meetings were held alternately at his house and father's, and occasionally at one or the other of the Gunn's. There was no spirit of denominational jealousy existing, and all Christians mingled in these meetings like brethren of the same faith. The witch, as it accumulated force, dissembled this spirit, giving wonderful exhibitions of a thorough knowledge of the Bible and Christian faith. The voice was not confined to darkness, as were the physical demonstrations. The talking was heard in lighted rooms, as in the dark; and finally in the day at any hour. The first exhibition of a religious nature was the assimilation of Mr. James Johnson's character and worship, repeating the song and prayer, uttering precisely the same petition made by the old gentleman the night himself and wife came for the purpose of investigation, and the impersonation of Mr. Johnson was so perfect that it appeared like himself present. It was not uncommon after this for the witch to introduce worship, by lining a hymn, as was the custom, singing it through, and then repeat Mr. Johnson's prayer, or the petitions of some one of the ministers. It could sing any song in the hymn hooks of that time, and quote any passage of Scripture in the Bible from Genesis to Revelations. The propensity for religious discussion was strongly manifested, and in quoting Scripture the text was invariably correctly cited, and if any one misquoted a verse, they would be promptly corrected. It could quote Scripture as fast as it could talk, one text after another, citing the book, chapter, and number of the verse. It was a common test to open the Bible at any chapter, and call on the spirit to repeat a certain verse, and this was done accurately, as fast as the leaves were turned from one chapter of the book to another. It delighted in taking issue on religious subjects, with those well versed in Scripture, and was sure to get the best of the argument, being always quick with a passage to sustain its point. This manifest knowledge of Scripture on the part of the witch was unmistakable, and was the most mystifying of all the developments, and strangers who came from a long distance were eager to engage the seer in religious discussions, and were is often confounded; and they were no less astounded when the witch would remind them of events and circumstances in their history in a way that was marvelous. Just here one circumstance I call to mind. The discussion had turned on the command against covetousness and theft. A man, whose name I will call John, put in remarking that he did not believe there was any sin in stealing something to eat when one was reduced to hunger, and could not obtain food for his labor. Instantly the witch perniciously inquired of John "if he ate that sheepskin." This settled John. He was dumb as an oyster, and as soon as the subject was changed he left the company, and was conspicuously absent after that. The result was the revival of an old scandal, so long past that it had been forgotten, in which John was accused of stealing a sheepskin.  This warlock was indeed a great tattler, and made mischief in the community.  Some people very much feared the garrulity of its loquacious med­dling and were extremely cautious, and it was this class who the invisible delighted in torturing most. Nothing of moment occurred in the country or in any family, which was not reported by the witch at night.  The development of this characteristic led the people to inquire after the news and converse with the witch as they would with a person, very often inquiring what was then transpiring at a certain place or house in the neighborhood.  Sometimes the answer would be, "I don't know, wait a minute and I will go and see," and in less than five minutes it would report, and the report was generally verified.  This feature of the phenomena was discovered in this way:  Brother Jesse Bell lived within one mile of the homestead. He had been absent several days on a trip, and was expected home on a certain evening. After supper mother entered the room, inquiring if any of us knew whether Jesse had returned or not. No one had heard, or could inform her. The witch manifested much regard for mother on all occasions, and never afflicted her in any way. On this occasion it spoke promptly, saying: "Wait a minute Luce, I will go and see for you."  Scarcely a minute had elapsed when the voice reported that Jesse was at home, describing his position, sitting at table reading by the light of a candle. The next morning Jesse came to see us, and when told the circumstance, he said it was true, and just at that time there was a distinct rap on his door, and before he could move the door opened and closed immediately.  His wife, he said, noticed it also, and asked me what caused it, and I replied that I reckoned it was the witch.  Every Sabbath service that occurred within the bounds was reported at night, the text, hymn, etc., and the preacher also criticized, and everything of peculiar note was described. The company was treated one night to a repetition of one of Rev. James Gunn's best sermons, preached in the vicinity, the witch personating Mr. Gunn, lining the hymn, quoting his text and prayer, and preaching so much like Mr. Gunn, that it appeared the minister himself was present.

 

A number of persons were present who attended the meeting that day, and recognized the declamation as the same sermon.  Shortly after this, Rev. James Gunn preached on Sunday at Bethel Methodist Church, six miles southeast, and Rev. Sugg Fort filled his appointment at Drake's Pond Baptist Church, seven miles northwest, thirteen miles apart, both preaching at the same hour, eleven o'clock.  It so happened that both minis­ters came to visit our family that evening, finding quite a crowd of people gathered in, as was the case every day during the excitement.  Directly after supper the witch commenced talking as usual, directing the conversation to Brother Gunn, discussing some points in his sermon that day.  Mr. Gunn asked the witch how it knew what he had preached about? The answer was, "I was present and heard you."  This statement being questioned, the “vociferator” began, quoted the text and repeated the sermon verbatim, and the closing prayer, all of which the preacher said was correct.  Some one suggested that Brother Fort had the advantage of the witch this time, that having attended Brother Gunn's service, it could tell nothing about Brother Fort's discourse at Drake's Pond. "Yes I can," was the prompt reply.  How do you know? was the inquiry. "I was there and heard him."  Then assimilating Rev. Fort's style, it proceeded to quote his text and repeated his sermon, greatly delighting the company.  There was no one present who had heard either sermon, but both ministers admitted that their sermons had been accurately reproduced, and no one could doubt the fact, or were more greatly surprised than themselves.



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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2007, 10:36:39 pm »

The Afflictions of Betsy and Father

The reader will understand that no feature of the exhibitions already introduced was ever abandoned, but continued developing virulence, or beneficence and felicity. The practice of pulling the cover off the beds was a favorite pastime, and frequently the sheets would be pulled from under the sleepers, or the pillows jerked from under their heads, and other new performances added to the exhibitions. The most serious consequence, however, was the afflictions of Elizabeth and father. Notwithstanding the invisible agency feigned a tender regard at times for Betsy, as it affectionately called her, it did not cease tormenting in many ways, increasing her punishment. The feint pretext for this was a manifest opposition to the attention paid her by a certain young gentleman, who was much esteemed by the family, often interposing impertinent objections, urging that these mutual relations be severed. At least there was no other cause manifested, or this would not be mentioned. Sister was now subjected to fainting spells, followed by prostra­tion, characterized by shortness of breath and smothering sensations, panting as it were for life, and becoming entirely exhausted and lifeless, losing her breath for nearly a minute between gasps, and was rendered unconscious.  She would revive and then relapse, and it appeared that her suffering was prolonged by the greater exertions used for her restoration. These spells lasted from thirty to forty minutes, and passed off suddenly, leaving her perfectly restored after a few minutes in which she recovered from the exhaustion. There is no positive evidence that these spells were produced by the witch. However, that was the conclusion, from the fact that there was no other apparent cause. She was a very stout girl, and with this exception, the personification of robust health, and was never subject to hysteria or anything of the kind. Moreover, the spells came on at regular hours in the evening, just at the time the witch usually appeared, and immediately after the spells passed off the mysterious voice commenced talking, but never uttered a word during the time of her prostration. In the meanwhile father was strangely afflicted, which should have been mentioned in the outset, but he had never regarded his trouble as of any consequence until after sister recovered from the attacks just described.  In fact his ailment commenced with the incipiency of the witch demonstration, or before he recognized the phenomenal disturbance. He complained of a curious sensa­tional feeling in his mouth, a stiffness of the tongue, and something like a stick crosswise, punching each side of his jaws. This sensation did not last long, did not recur very often, or cause pain, and therefore gave him but little concern.  But as the phenomena developed, this affliction increased, his tongue swelling from the sides and pressing against his jaws, so that he could neither talk nor eat for ten or fifteen hours. In the meanwhile the witch manifested a pernicious dislike for father, using the most vile and malignant epithets toward him, declaring that it would torment "Old Jack Bell" to the end of his life. As father’s trouble increased, Elizabeth was gradually relieved from her severe spells, and soon recovered entirely from the affliction, and never had another symptom of the kind.  But father was seized with another malady that caused him much trouble and suffering.  This was contortions of the face, a twitching and dancing of his flesh, which laid him up for the time.  These spells gradually increased, and undoubtedly carried him to his grave, of which I will have more to say further on.

The Witch Named "Kate"
People continued to ply our loquacious visitor with shrewd eager questions, trying to elicit some information concerning the mystery, which were with equal dexterity evaded, or a misleading answer given.  First, it was a disturbed spirit hunting a lost tooth; next, a spirit that had returned to reveal the hiding place of a buried treasure. Then it told Calvin Johnson that it was the spirit of a child buried in North Caro­lina, and told John Johnson that it was his step­mother's witch.  At last Rev. James Gunn manifested a very inquisitive desire to penetrate the greatest of all secrets, and put the question very earnestly.  The witch replied, saying that Brother Gunn had put the question in a way that it could no longer be evaded, and it would not do to tell the preacher a flat lie, and if the plain truth must be known, it was nobody else and nothing but "Old Kate Batts’ witch," determined to torment "Old Jack Bell" out of his life.  This was a startling announcement and most unfortunate under the circumstances, because too many were willing to believe it, and it created a profound sensation. Mrs. Kate Batts was the wife of Frederick Batts, who was terribly afflicted, and she had become the head of the family, taking charge of her husband's affairs.  She was very eccentric and sensitive.  Some people were disposed to shun her, which was still more irritating to her sensitive nature.  No harm could be said of Mrs. Batts. She was kind hearted, and a good neighbor toward those she liked.  Mr. Gunn, of course, did not believe the witch's statement, but many did, or professed to, and the matter made Mrs. Batts very mad, causing a lively sensation in the community.  Ever after this the goblin was called "Kate," and answered readily when addressed by that name, and for convenience sake I shall hereafter call the witch Kate, though not out of any disregard for the memory of Mrs. Batts, for after all she was a clever lady, and did not deserve the cruel appellation of “witch.”

The Witch Family -- Blackdog, Mathematics, Cypocryphy, and Jerusalem
The next development was the introduction of four characters, assuming the above names, purporting to be a witch family, each one acting a part making night hideous in their high carnivals, using the most offensive language and uttering vile threats. Up to this time the strange visitor had spoken in the same soft delicate voice, except when personating some individual. Now there were four distinct voices. Blackdog assumed to be the head of the family, and spoke in a harsh feminine tone. The voices of Mathematics and Cypocryphy were different, but both of a more delicate feminine tone. Jerusalem spoke like a boy.  These exhibitions were opened like a drunken carousal, and became perfect pandemoniums, frightful to the extreme, from which there was no escape. Father would most gladly have abandoned home and everything and fled with his family to some far away scene to have escaped this intolerable persecution, but there was no hope, no escape. The awful thing had sworn vengeance, and for what cause it never named, nor could any one ever surmise. Nevertheless, when the question of moving was discussed, it declared it would follow "Old Jack" to the remotest part of the earth, and father believed it.  The family was frightened into consternation, apprehending that a terrible crisis was rapidly approaching. Many of our neighbors were frightened away, fearing they would become involved in a tragic termination.  Others, however, drew nearer, and never forsook us in this most trying ordeal.  James Johnson and his two sons, John and Calvin, the Gunn families, the Fort's, Gooch, William Porter, Frank Miles, Jerry Batts, Major Bartlett, Squire Byrns and Major Picketing were faithful and unremitting in their sympathy, and attentions, and consolations, making many sacrifices for our comfort, and not a night passed that four or more were not present to engage the witch in conversation, and relieve father of the necessary attention to strangers, giving him much rest. These demoniac councils were introduced by singing songs of every character, followed by quarreling with each other, employing obscene language and blasphemous oaths, making a noise like a lot of drunken men fighting.  At this stage of the proceedings Blackdog would appear as peacemaker, denouncing the others with vehemence and scurrility, uttering bitter curses and threats of murder unless the belligerents should desist and behave themselves, and sometimes would apparently thrash Jerusalem unmercifully for disobeying orders.  These carousals were ended only by the command of Blackdog, professedly sending the family away on different errands of deviltry, one or two remaining to keep up the usual disturbance in different rooms at the same time.  On one occasion all four appeared almost beastly drunk, talking in a maudlin sentimental strain, fuming the house with the scent of whiskey.  Blackdog said they got the whiskey at John Gardner's still house, which was some four miles distant.  At other times the unity appeared more civil, and would treat our company to some delightful singing, a regular concert of rich feminine voices, modulated to the sweetest cadence and intonation, singing any hymn called for with solemnity and wonderful effect.  The carousals did not continue long, much to the gratification of the family and friends, and our serious apprehensions were relieved.  These concerts were agreeable closing exercises of this series of meetings, and after they were suspended the four demons or unity never, apparently, met again. It was plain old Kate from that time on who assumed all characters, good or bad, sometimes very pious and then extremely wicked.

The Witch and the Negroes
Kate manifested a strong aversion for the Negro, often remarking, “I despise to smell a ****, the scent makes me sick," and this no doubt accounts for the fact that the Negroes were never molested in their cabins after night, but away from their quarters they encountered a sight of trouble. Kate's repugnance was mutual; the Negroes disliked the witch, and were careful to evade all contacts possible by staying in after night, augmenting that natural odor peculiar to the race that was now worth something. They were afraid of the witch, and it was difficult to get one out for an emergency.

This fear was increased by the miraculous stories told by Dean, who was a kind of autocrat among the darkles, and by the way, was a good Negro, father's main reliance for heavy work, and noted for his skill with the axe and maul and wedge.  He was worth two ordinary men in a forest clearing.  Dean could see the witch any time when alone, or on his way to visit his wife, who belonged to Alex. Gunn.  It appeared to him, he said, in the form of a black dog, and sometimes had two heads, and at other times no head. The Negroes would stand around him with eyes and mouth wide open to hear his description of the witch, his encounters and hair­breadth escapes.  He always carried his axe and a witch ball made by his wife, according to Uncle Zeke's directions, to keep the witch from harming him. He came up one morning, however, rather worsted, with his head badly bruised and bloody, and always declared that the witch inflicted the wound with a stick.  Dean's stories are not to be quoted as altogether reliable; he was allowed a wide range for his vivid imagination.

Harry, the houseboy, however, had cause for believing every word Dean told. It was Harry's business to make the morning fires before daylight. He became negligent in this duty, and father scolded and threatened him several times. Finally Kate took the matter in hand, speaking to father, "Never mind, old Jack, don't fret. I will attend to the rascal the next time he is belated."  This passed off like much of such gab, but a few mornings after, Harry was later than ever and father commenced scolding harshly, when the witch spoke again, "Hold on old Jack, didn't I tell you not to pester; I will attend to this ****." Harry had just laid the kindling wood down, and was on his knees blowing the coals to a blaze; when some unseen force apparently seized him by the neck and flailed him unmercifully. Harry yelled and begged piteously, and when let up the witch spoke, promising to repeat the operation if he was ever derelict again. Father said he heard the blows as they fell with force, sounding like a paddle or strip of wood, but could see nothing but the boy on his knees yelling for life. Harry was never late after that.

A rather funny trick was played on Phillis, a twelve year old girl who waited in the house and assisted her mother in the kitchen. We had a log rolling on our place, as was the custom in the country. After the work was over, the youngsters, while waiting for supper, engaged in some gymnastic exercises, trying the difficult feat of locking their heels over the back of their neck. Phillis observed these exercises, and the next day stole away up stairs to test her athletic capacity.  After several unsuccessful attempts, she suddenly realized that her feet had forcibly gone over her head and were securely locked.  Time and again Aunt Lucy, her mother, called and Phillis as often answered up stairs, but never came. Finally Aunt Lucy got her dander up, and picking up a switch started, saying, “Bound I fetch that gal down them stairs." Pretty soon there was a racket upstairs, and Aunt Lucy had worn out the switch before Phillis could explain that the witch had her.

The case of Anky, however, lends more zest to the witch's characteristic antipathy for the Negro. Mother had taken notice of the fact that Kate never made any demonstrations in the cabins, and conceived the reason why, accepting the witch's own statement. She exercised her genius and hit upon a scheme to outwit Kate, which was rather novel in its purpose. However, she turned the matter over in her own mind carefully, and spoke not a word about it, not even to father, for the reason, perhaps, that she was afraid of the thing, and believed she fared best by cultivating the regard it manifested for her; consequently no one knew a breath of her plans until the outcome of the scheme was developed. Anky was a well-developed, buxom African girl, some eighteen years of age -- a real Negro, so to speak, exuberant with that pungent aromatic which was so obnoxious to Kate's olfactory. Mother had determined to cautiously test her plan for getting rid of the witch, telling Anky, in her gentle patronizing way, that she wanted her for a house girl and desired that she should sleep in her room.  The girl manifested some misgivings, but felt complimented by the distinction implied, and enquired of mother if she reckoned the old witch would not pester her?  Being assured that there was not much danger, that Kate would be too busy entertaining the company to take any notice of her, her fears gave way to her plucked up courage and she followed mother's directions to the letter, keeping the whole matter a secret from the other Negroes and all the family until the test was made as to whether the witch would trouble her or not.  So one evening after supper Anky quietly slipped in the room with her pallet and spread it under mother's bed, fixing herself comfortably on it, to await the coming in of visitors and the witch and hear the talking. It was a high bedstead, with a white-fringed counterpane hanging to the floor, hiding Anky completely.  She was delighted, and not a soul except mother knew she was there. Very soon the room was filled with visitors, keeping up a lively chit-chat while waiting the coming of Kate, and mother had taken a seat with the company anxiously waiting to see the outcome of her scheme. Presently the voice of the witch angrily rang out above the din of conversation. with the exclamation, “There is a damn **** in the house, it's Ank; I smell her under the bed and she's got to get out.” In an instant a noise was heard under the bed like that of a man clearing his throat, hawking and spitting vehemently, and Anky came rolling out like a log starting down hill, her face and head literally covered with foam like white spittle.  She sprang to her feet with wonderful agility, frantically exclaiming, “Oh missus, missus, it's going to spit me to death. Let me out, let me out,” and she went yelling all the way to the cabin, “Let me in, let me in.”  The witch then addressed mother, “Say Luce, did you bring that **** in here?”  “Yes,” replied mother, “I told Anky that she might go under my bed, where she would be out of the way, to hear you talk and sing.” “I thought so,” replied Kate, “I guess she heard me. Nobody but you, Luce, would have thought of such a smart trick as that, and if anybody else had done it I would have killed the damn n***r. Lord Jesus I won't get over that smell in a month!”


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« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2007, 10:39:49 pm »

The Mysterious Hand Shaking

The Johnson brothers, John and Calvin, perhaps had more intercourse with the witch than any other two men who visited our place during the excitement. That is they talked more with the invisible, entered more earnestly into the investigation by cultivating friendly and intimate relations.  They were both very honorable men, of high standing in the community, but were very dissimilar in character.  Calvin was a plain unassuming man of strict integrity, free from deception, faithful in everything he pretended, and would not swerve from the truth or break a promise knowingly and willfully under any circumstances.  John was more dexterous, of a shrewd investigating turn of mind, guided by policy, and would make use of all legitimate means at hand to gain a point or accomplish a purpose, and he cultivated the witch more than any one else for the purpose of facilitating his investigations. Kate was very fond of gab, and John Johnson made use of every opportunity to engage the mage in conversation, hoping to draw out something that would give a clue to the mystery, but it appears that all of his wits were baffled, and that the seer was all the while aware of his purpose.  The question arose as to the character of the blows received by so many persons on the cheek after retiring. The sound was like a slap of an open hand, and every one to testified that it left a sting like that of a hand, even to the prints of the fingers being felt. Calvin Johnson conceived the idea of asking the witch to shake hands with him. After much persuasion Kate agreed to comply with the request, on one condition, that Calvin would first promise not to try to grasp or hold the hand that would be laid in his. This he agreed to, and then holding out his hand, in an instant he felt the pressure of the invisible. Mr. Johnson testified that he felt it very sensibly, and that the touch was soft and delicate like the hand of a lady, and no one ever doubted his statement. John Johnson begged Kate to shake hands with him, persisting that he was as good a friend as his brother, but the witch refused, telling John “No, you only want a chance to catch me.”  John vowed that he would not attempt anything of the kind. Kate still refused, replying, “I know you, Jack Johnson; you are a grand rascal, trying to find me out, and I won't trust you.”  Two or three other persons claimed to have shaken hands with the witch, which I don't know about, though many testified to the force of the hand as felt on the cheek.

He Stole His Wife
It was not uncommon for Kate to recognize strangers the moment they entered the house, speaking to them on familiar terms. Here is one instance I will note. Four strangers who had traveled a long distance (whose names I cannot now remember, there were so many unknown callers), arrived late -- on a dark night, and knocking at the door, and were admitted. They were unknown to any one in the house or on the place, but the moment they entered the door, and before they could speak to introduce themselves, Kate announced one by name, exclaiming, “He is the grand rascal who stole his wife. He pulled her out of her father's house through a window, and hurt her arm, making her cry; then he whispered to her, ‘Hush honey don't cry, it will soon get well.’” The strangers were greatly confused. They stood dumbfounded, pausing some time before they could speak. The gentleman was asked before leaving if the witch had stated the facts in regard to his matrimonial escapade. He said yes, the circumstance occurred just as stated.

Detective Williams
A good looking stranger arrived who introduced himself as Mr. Williams, a professional detective, stating that he had heard much of the witch mystery, which no one could explain, and having considerable experience in unraveling tangled affairs and mysteries, he had traveled a long dist­ance for the purpose of investigating this matter, if he should be permitted to do so; further stating that he did not believe in either preternatural or supernatural things, and professed to be an ex­pert in detecting jugglery, sleight-of-hand performances, illusions, etc., and would certainly expose these manifestations, so much talked of if given a fair chance. Father bid the gentleman a hearty welcome, telling him that he was just the man that was wanted. “Make my house your home, and make free with everything here as if your own, as long as you think proper to stay,” said father, and Mr. Williams politely accepted the invitation and hung up his hat. Mr. Williams was rather a portly, strong-muscled, well dressed, handsome gentleman. He was no less self-possessed, and wise in his own conceit, full of gab, letting his tongue run continually, detailing to the company his wonderful exploits in the detective business, and was very sure he would bring Kate to grief before leaving.  A day and night passed and Kate, for some cause best known to the witch, kept silent, making no show except a little scratching on the walls and thumping about the room, just enough to let the company know that the spirit was present.  Mr. Williams became very impatient, appearing disgruntled, and spoke his mind more freely.  He said to a coterie of gentlemen who were discussing the witch, that he was convinced that the whole thing was a family affair, an invention gotten up for a sensation to draw people and make money, and the actors were afraid to make any demon­strations while he was present, knowing his profession and business, and that he would most assuredly expose the trick.  One of the gentlemen told father what Williams had said, and it made him very indignant. He felt outraged that such a charge should be made without the evidence, by a man professing to be a gentleman, to whom he had extended every courtesy and hospitality, and had proffered any assistance he might call for, and in a rage he threatened to order Williams from the place immediately.  Just at this juncture Kate spoke, “No you don't, old Jack, let him stay; I will attend to the gentleman and satisfy him that he is not so smart as he thinks.”  Father said no more, nor did he take any action in the matter, but treated Mr. Williams gentlemanly as he did the others, nor was anything more heard from Kate. The house was crowded with visitors that night, all expectantly and anxious to hear the witch talk, and sat till late bed time awaiting the sound of the mystifying voice, but not a word or single demonstration of any kind was heard from Kate. This confirmed the detec­tive in his conjectures, and he repeated to several visitors his conclusions, declaring that the witch would not appear again as long as he remained. After they were all tired out, mother had straw mattresses spread over the floor to accommodate the company.  Mr. Williams, being the largest gentleman present, selected one of these pallets to himself.  All retired and the light was extinguished, and a night of quiet rest was promising. As soon as perfect quiet prevailed, and every one appeared to be in a dose of sleep, Mr. Williams found himself pinioned, as it were, to the floor by some irresistible force from which he was utterly powerless to extricate himself, stout as he was, and the witch scratching and pounding him with vengeance.  He yelled out to the top of his voice calling for help and mercy.  Kate held up long enough to inquire of the detective, which one of the family he thought had him, and then let in again, giving him an unmerciful beating, while the man plead for life. All of this occurred in less than two minutes, and before a candle could be lighted, and as soon as the light appeared the pounding ceased, but Kate did a good deal of talking, more than Mr. Williams cared to hear. The detective was badly used up and the worst scared man that ever came to our house. He sat up on a chair the balance of the night, with a burning candle by his side, subjected to the witch's tantalizing sarcasm, ridicule and derision, questioning him as to which of the family was carrying on the devilment, how he liked the result of his investigations, how long he intended to stay, etc. As soon as day dawned, Mr. Williams ordered his horse, and could not be prevailed upon to remain until after breakfast.

Kate Gets in Bed With William Porter
William Porter was a very prominent citizen of the community, a gentleman of high integrity, regarded for his strict veracity.  He was also a good friend to our family, and spent many nights with us during the trouble, taking his turn with others in entertaining Kate, which was necessary to have any peace at all, and also agreeable to those of an investigating turn of mind who were not afraid, and this was Mr. Porter's character; like John Johnson, he rather cultivated the spirit, and said he was fond of gabbing with Kate. This seemed to please the witch, and they got along on good terms. William Porter was at this time a bachelor, occupying his house alone. The building was a large hewn log house, with a partition dividing it into two rooms.  There was one chimney having a very large fireplace, and the other end was used for a bedroom -- entered by a door in the partition.  I give this as related by Mr. Porter himself, to a large company at Father's, and as he has often repeated the same to many persons, and no one doubted his truthfulness. Said he: 



 William Porter Attempts to Burn the Witch

“It was a cold night and I made a big log fire before retiring to keep the house warm.  As soon as I got in bed I heard scratching and thumping about the bed, just like Kate's tricks, as I thought, but was not long in doubt as to the fact. Presently I felt the cover drawling to the backside, and immediately the witch spoke, when I recognized the unmistakable voice of Kate. ‘Billy, I have come to sleep with you and keep you warm.’ I replied, 'Well Kate if you are going to sleep with me, you must behave yourself.’  I clung to the cover, feeling that it was drawing from me, as it appeared to be raised from the bed on the other side, and something snake-like crawling under.  I was never afraid of the witch, or apprehended that it would do me any harm but somehow this produced a kind of chilly sensation that was simply awful.  The cover continued to slip in spite of my tenacious grasp, and was twisted into a roll on the back side of the bed, just like a boy would roll himself in a quilt, and not a strip was left on me. I jumped out of bed in a second, and observing that Kate had rolled up in the cover, the thought struck me, ‘I have got you now, you rascal, and will burn you up.’  In an instant I grabbed the roll of cover in my arms and started to the fire, intending to throw the cover, witch and all in the blaze. I discovered that it was very weighty, and smelt awful. I had not gone half way across the room before the luggage got so heavy and became so offensive that I was compelled to drop it on the floor and rush out of doors for a breath of fresh air. The odor emitted from the roll was the most offensive stench I ever smelt.  It was absolutely stifling and I could not have endured it another second.  After being refreshed I returned to the room, and gathered up the roll of bed clothing shook them out, but Kate had departed, and there was no unusual weight or offensive odor remaining, and this is just how near I came catching the witch.”

Our School Day Experience
Major Garaldus Pickering, who was a distinguished man of that day, kept a large school near by, which Joel and myself attended, and had many little experiences with Kate along the way.  The custom was to take in school as soon as the teacher could get there, a little after sunrise, and dismiss about thirty minutes before sunset. Our route was through the woods, and some briar patches and hazel thickets by the wayside. Passing these thickets, returning home, sticks of wood and rocks were often tossed at us, but never with much force, and we soon learned not to fear any harm from this pastime, and frequently cut notches on the sticks, casting them back into the thicket from whence they came, and invariably the same sticks would be hurled back at us. After night Kate would recount everything that occurred along the way.  Even if one of us stumped a toe, falling over, the witch claimed to have caused it, and would describe how it appeared in the form of a rabbit or something else at certain places.  Our most serious trouble, however, was experienced at home, the witch continually pulling the cover off, and twisting our hair, and it was hard for a tired boy to get any sleep.

Joel Severely Whipped
It happened that Joel and myself were left to occupy a room alone one night, and were troubled less than usual in the early part of the night, but Kate put in good time just before day. It was quite a cold morning, and rather too early to get up, but Kate continued pulling the cover off and jerking my hair, and I got out of bed and dressed myself. Joel, however, was much vexed, and said some ugly things about “Old Kate,” and gathering up the cover from the floor, he rolled himself up in it for another nap. Directly the witch snatched it from him again. Joel became enraged, pulling at the cover while Kate seemed to be hawking and spitting in his face, and he had to turn loose the cover. This made Joel raving mad, and he laid flat on his back, kicking with all his might, calling old Kate the meanest kind of names. “Go away from here, you nasty old thing,” he exclaimed. Kate became furious also, exclaiming, “You little rascal, I'll let you know who you are talking to.”  That moment Joel felt the blows falling fast and heavy, and no boy ever received such a spanking as he got that morning, and he never forgot it.  It was absolutely frightful. I could do nothing for his relief.  He yelled frantically with all of his might, arousing the whole house, nor did his punisher cease spanking until father entered the door with a light, finding him almost lifeless.  The blows sounded like the spanking of an open heavy hand, and certainly there was no one in the room but Joel and myself, and if there had been, there was no way of escaping except by the door which father entered, and that would have been impossible unobserved.   

Chasing the Shakers
The Shakertown People at that time kept their trading men on the road continually, traveling through the country, dealing with the people. They went in two's, generally on horseback, and could be distinguished from other people at a distance by their broad brim hats and peculiarity in dress. The two who traveled through our section always made it convenient to call at our house for dinner or a night’s lodging. It was about the regular time for these gentlemen to come around, and near the dinner hour one of the servants came in announcing to mother that the Shakers were coming down the lane. This was a notice to increase the contents of the dinner Pot. 

 

The Witch Chases the Shakers

Kate spoke up immediately, exclaiming, “Them damn Shakers shan't stop this time.”  Father was troubled a good deal by breachy [sic] stock on the outside pushing the fences down, and generally sent Harry, a Negro boy, around every day to drive away stock and see that the fences were up. There were three large dogs on the place that the boy always carried along, and he had them well trained and always eager for a chase, and would start at his call, yelping furiously. Harry was nowhere about.  He was out on the farm with the other hands. But instantly after Kate spoke Harry's voice was heard in the front yard calling the dogs, "Here Caesar, here Tiger, here Bulger, here, here, sic, sic," slapping his hands. Not a soul but the Shakers coming down the lane could be seen. The dogs, however, responded with savage yelping, going in a fury, following the voice that left the way egging them on, and just as the Shakers were nearing the turning in gate, the dogs leaped the fence at their horses' heels, and Harry's voice was there too, hollering, "Sic, sic, take 'em."  The Shakers put whip to their horses and the dogs after them, and Kate vehemently aging the dogs on and hilariously enjoying the sport.  It was a lively chase, and broke the Shakers from coming that way again. The witch enjoyed the sport greatly, laughing and repeating the affair to visitors, injecting many funny expressions in describing the chase, and how the Shakers held on to their big hats.



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« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2007, 10:42:05 pm »

Mother Bell's Illness--The Witch Sings Sweet Songs and Brings Her Hazelnuts and Grapes

 

The story of the hazelnuts and grapes brought to mother during her illness was hard for many to believe, and it may prove a severe strain on the credulity of the reader, but it is nevertheless true, and will be verified by several worthy persons who witnessed the facts and have stated the same to many people. Kate had all along manifested a high regard for mother, often remarking, "Old Luce is a good woman." This was very gratifying to the family; we were all much devoted to her, and this earnest expression of tender respect for her; so often repeated, was to a great extent an assurance that whatever might befall other members of the family, mother would be spared personal affliction. She was fearful of the thing, and could not see any good sense or policy in antagonizing what was now evidently a powerful, intelligent and incomprehensible agency, and therefore she conceived it to be the best policy to cultivate the kind manifestations of the witch, and she exercised all the gentleness of her nature toward Kate, as she did her tender affections for her children. This proved to be the best policy, for it is evident that she appeased the seer's malice in many instances, except in father's case, toward whom the malignity was unrelenting and beyond control. About the middle of September, 1820, mother was taken down with a spell of pleurisy, and then it was that Kate manifested a sorrowful nature, growing more plaintive every day as the disease progressed, giving utterance to woeful expressions that were full of touching sympathy. “Luce, poor Luce, I am so sorry you are sick. Don't you feel better, Luce? What can I do for you, Luce?”  These and many other expressions of sympathy and anxious inquiries were given vent by the saddened voice, that now appeared to remain constantly in mother's room prattling all through the day, changing to a more joyful tone when she indicated any temporary relief. The persistent jabbering and disquietude was enough to craze a well person, but mother bore it all patiently, frequently replying to questions. Sometimes she would reply, “Oh Kate, I am too sick to talk to you.” Then the voice would hush for some time, as if choking expression. When anything was wanted or called for that was needed for mother's comfort, the witch would speak promptly, telling precisely, where the article could be found. And so the strange voice continued from day to day, mystifying everyone who came to visit and min­ister to mother's wants, and it was utterly impossible to distinguish from whence it came, and yet so pathetic as to affect the sympathy of everyone who came within hearing. It was noticeable also that Kate kept quiet when mother was apparently at rest or sleeping. She rested better in the latter part of the night, and was somewhat refreshed for the morning, and as soon as she was aroused Kate was heard inquiring, “How do you feel this morning, Luce? Did you rest well through the night? Don't you want to hear a song, Luce?” Mother was very fond of vocal music, in which Kate excelled, and it was her pleasure to reply, “Yes Kate, sing something sweet.” While the witch sung a number of beautiful stanzas, the following was the favorite, which was sung every day:

 

Come my heart and let us try

     For a little season

Every burden to lay by

     Come and let us reason.

 

What is this that casts you down?

     Who are those that grieve you?

Speak and let the worst be known,

     Speaking may relieve you.

 

Christ by faith I sometimes see

     And He doth relieve me,

But my fears return again,

     These are they that grieve me.

 

Troubled like the restless Sea,

     Feeble, faint and fearful,

Plagued with every sore disease,

     How can I be cheerful?

 

No rhythmical sound or melody ever fell upon the ear with sweeter pathos, coming as it did like a volume of symphony from a bursting heart. I have seen the tears trickle down mother's fevered cheeks, while friends would turn away to hide repressed weeping. Sick as she was, mother never neglected to compliment the song. "Thank you Kate, that was so sweet and beautiful, it makes me feel better," which the witch seemed to appreciate. Mother gradually grew worse, the disease reaching a serious stage. The doctor was still very hopeful, but the family and our good neighbors were feeling the deepest concern. Father became very restless and apprehensive of the worst. Her appetite failed entirely, and this distressed Kate woefully. The neighbors brought all sorts of tempting good things to induce her to eat, and this example the observing witch imitated, conceiving the idea, no doubt, that the most important thing was the discovery of something agreeable to her appetite, and this was the circumstance that seemed to have inspired the action of the witch in bringing the nuts and grapes. Wild fruits were plentiful in the bottoms and woods around the place, and were then ripening. Tim first instance was the appearance of the hazelnuts. The same plaintive voice was heard exclaiming, "Luce, poor Luce, how do you feel now?  Hold out your hands, Luce, and I will give you something." Mother stretched her arms, holding her hands together open, and the hazelnuts were dropped from above into her hands. This was witnessed by several ladies who had called in to see mother, and it was so incredible that the floor above was examined to see if there was not a loose plank or some kind of opening through which they were dropped, hut it was found to be perfectly secure, and not even a crevice through which a pin could pass. After some time the amazement was increased by the same voice inquiring, "Say Luce, why don't you eat the hazelnuts?" Mother replied that she could not crack them. Then the exclamation, "Well I will crack some for you," and instantly the sound of the cracking was heard, and the cracked nuts dropped on her bed within hand's reach, and the same passionate voice continued insisting on mother's eating the nuts, that they would do her good.  Next came the grapes in the same way, the voice importuning her to eat them, that they would do her good.  Mother was thoughtful in expressing her thanks, remarking, "You are so kind, Kate, but I am too sick to eat them."  From this time on mother steadily improved, coming out of a severe spell that held her down some twenty days, and no one could express more joy and gladness than Kate, who also praised Dr. Hopson, the good physician who brought her through safely.  As soon as mother was convalescent, Kate devoted more attention to the entertainment of the large number of visitors who were constantly coming to hear the mysterious voice.  One evening the room was full of company, all deeply interested in discussing the phenomena of the grapes, etc., when the presence of the witch was announced by the voice exclaiming, "Who wants some grapes?" and before any one could answer, a large bunch of luscious wild grapes fell out on Elizabeth's lap. The bunch was passed around and all tasted of the fruit, and were satisfied that it was no illusion.  Kate evinced remarkable knowledge of the forest, and would tell us where to find plenty of grapes, hazelnuts, herbs of every kind, good hickory for axe handles, or tough sticks for a maul.

 

Mrs. Martha Bell's Stockings
 

Kate, as before intimated, visited the family of Brother Jesse Bell quite often, making demonstrations, but never to the extent of the manifestations at home. Jesse's wife, whom the witch called "Pots," observed mother's policy in humoring the warlock, paying kindly attention to its gabble, incurring favor or kindly relations, and she too was treated with such consideration as to relieve her fears of any immediate harm.  Jesse Bell and Bennett Porter had determined to move with their families to Panola county, Mississippi, and were shaping their affairs to that end, as soon as circumstances would admit.  This phenomena I give as related by Martha herself, there being no other witnesses to the circumstance, but I can not doubt her statement, which is borne out by other facts.  Late in the afternoon she was sitting out some ten steps on the east side in the shade of the house, engaged in pealing apples for drying.  She heard a kind of buzzing or indistinct whispering in her ear, and recognized at once that it was the voice of the witch, and spoke to it, inquiring, "What do you want, Kate? Speak out so I can understand you." Then the witch spoke plainly, saying, "Pots, I have brought you a present to keep in remembrance of me when you go to your far away new home. Will you accept it?"  She replied, "Certainly Kate, I will gladly accept any present you may bring. What is it?"  Just then a small roll, neatly wrapped in paper, fell on her lap.  She looked up and around in every direction, but no one was near, nor could she discover from whence it came.  In her confusion the witch spoke again, saying, "I brought it, Pots; see what a nice pair of stockings.  I want you to keep them for your burial, to remember me, and never wear them."  She then stripped off the paper and found a pair of elegant black silk hose, for which she thanked Kate, promising to keep them as requested. Martha said she discovered an ugly splotch on one of the hose, which she was eyeing with much curiosity, when the witch spoke very promptly, remarking, "That is blood. They killed a beef at Kate Batts' this morning, and the blood spattered on the stocking." Martha said she was so disconcerted and perplexed that she could not speak, and Kate departed, or said nothing more.  Jesse Bell came in from the field very soon, and when made acquainted with all the facts as above stated, determined to go at once to the Batts home and ascertain the facts regarding the witch's story of  the butchering that morning. He did not mention the circumstance, but very soon Mrs. Batts expressed herself as very glad that he had called, stating that they had killed a fine young beef that morning, and intended sending Patsy (his wife) a piece, but had had no opportunity, and wished him to take it, which he did.  So this part of the witch's story was confirmed, and Jesse further ascertained from Mrs. Batts that it had been a very busy day, and not one of the family had left the place during the day, or but for the pressing engagement she would have sent the beef to his house. Moreover, Martha Bell had not left the premises, nor had any visitor been on the place.

 

Dr. Mize, the Wizard
 

During the period of these exciting demonstrations, ever so many detectives, wise men, witch doctors, or conjurers, came to exercise their skill on Kate, and were permitted to practice schemes and magic arts to their heart's content, and all were brought to grief in some way, confessing that the phenomena was something beyond comprehension. One notable instance was that of Dr. Mize, of Simpson County, Ky., some thirty-five miles away, whose fame as a magician had been widely spread, and many brought word to father of his genius, urging him to send for the noted conjurer. The truth is, father had become alarmed about his own condition.  His spells of contortions of the face, twitching of the flesh and stiffness of the tongue, were gradually growing more frequent and severe. His friends observed this, and also that the animosity of the witch toward him was increasing in vehemence, every word spoken to him being a blast of calumnious aspersions, and threatenings of some dire evil which was horrifying. He had also become convinced from his observations, that this terrible thing had the power, as it claimed, to so afflict him, and that the purpose was to torture his life out, as it also declared; and under these circumstances he yielded to the many persuasions to exhaust all means and efforts to free himself and family from the pestilence.  He consulted with Mr. James Johnson about the matter, who thought it would be well to give Dr. Mize a trial, and farther proposed to go with Drew after the famous wizard.  So it was agreed that Mr. Johnson and Drew were to start on the hunt for Dr. Mize after three o'clock in the morning, while Kate was not about, and clear the neighborhood before the morning hour for the witch's appearance. The whole matter was to be kept a profound secret, and no one was let into the understanding.  Drew made ready to accompany Mr. Johnson on a business trip, to be absent two or three days, and that was all that was known about it. They got off according to the arrangement in good time, and had perhaps passed Springfield before day.  Kate came as usual that morning, observing first Drew's absence, setting up an anxious inquiry for him.  Not one of the family could give any information concerning him, and the witch seemed baffled and disappeared, and was not heard again during the day, but returned that night in great glee, having discovered the whole secret, telling all about Drew and Mr. Johnson's trip. Kate went on to say, "I got on their track and overtook them twenty miles on the way, and followed along some distance, and when I hopped in the road before them, looking like a poor old sick rabbit, 'Old Sugar Mouth' said, 'There is your witch, Drew; take her up in your lap. Don't you see how tired she is?'" Kate continued to gossip about the trip in a hilarious way, manifesting much satisfaction in discovering the deep laid scheme, but no one knew how true the story was until Mr. Johnson and Drew returned the following evening, when they confirmed everything that Kate had stated. Mr. Johnson said that he did not really believe at the time of calling Drew's attention to the rabbit, that it was the witch, but spoke of its peculiar action in a jocular way, as a mere matter of pastime, nor did Drew think otherwise of it.  They found Dr. Mize at his home east of Franklin, Ky., told him the story of our trouble, and the information received concerning his power to dispel witchery, etc. The Doctor said it was out of the ordinary line of phenomena, but he had no doubt of his ability to remove the spell and expose the craft that had brought it on, and he set the time, some ten days ahead, when he would be ready to begin the experiment. Accordingly, the wise man put in his appearance, having studied the question, and was prepared for business, making boasts of his knowledge of spirits and skill in casting out devils, much to the disgust of father, who had about sized him up on sight.  However, like others, Mize was treated courteously and allowed to pursue his own plans. The wizard stayed three or four days, hearing not a breath from Kate. In the meanwhile he found an old shotgun that had been out of repair some time, and he at once discovered that the witch had put a spell on it.  He soon cleaned the old gun, readjusted the lock and trigger, performed some conjurations, making the gun shoot as well as ever.  This much, taken in consideration with the fact that the witch had kept perfectly quiet since his arrival, he considered as remarkable progress, and he doubted the return of Kate.  Certain he was that the witch would hardly show up as long as he remained; witches, he said, were always shy of him. So Mize continued, working sorcery, making curious mixtures, performing incantations, etc., to the amusement of those who observed his actions.  Finally Kate put in, questioning the conjurer impertinently as to what he was doing, and the object of his sorcery. Mize was nonplussed by the mysterious voice, which he had not before heard, recognizing that the witch had come to keep company with him.  He tried to be reticent and evasive, intimating that a witch had no business prying into his affairs.  Kate, however, continued to ply him with hard questions, and finally suggested to Dr. Mize that he had omitted some very important ingredients for his charm mixture. "What is that?" inquired Mize with astonishment. "If you were a witch doctor you would know how to aerify that mess, so as to pass into the aeriform state, and see the spirit that talks to you, without asking silly questions," replied Kate. "What do you know about this business, anyhow?" again inquired the bewildered conjurer. Kate then told him that he was an old fool and didn’t know what he was doing, and then started in to cursing Mize like blue blazes.  Such a string of blasting oaths was never heard, and Dr. Mize was frightened out of his wits, and was anxious to get away. "That thing," he said, knew so much more about witchcraft than he did, that he could do nothing with it. 



Dr. Mize Flees from the Witch!

Mize arranged for an early start home the next morning. Somehow his horse refused to go off kindly, rearing and kicking up. Finally Kate came to the rescue, proposing to make the horse go, and accompany the Doctor home.  Immediately the horse started with a rush, kicking and snorting, and went off at full speed with the Doctor hanging on to the mane. The witch came that night in great glee, describing the trip home with the "old fraud," and the tricks played on him along the way, just as Mize described the affair to his neighbors.

 

The Doubles or Apparitions

 

Much has been talked about Bennett Porter shooting at the witch. Porter, according to his own statement, did shoot at an object that appeared to his wife and Elizabeth, as described by them, but saw nothing himself, except the bent saplings in motion. This circumstance occurred during the time the witch family appeared on scene.  Elizabeth was there on a visit to her sister.  Bennett Porter was absent during the day, filling an engagement at Fort's mill, which was in course of construction, and returned home late in the afternoon. The hens were laying about the stables, which were located on the opposite side of the lane from the house.  Esther started across the lane that afternoon to gather up the eggs. Just as she passed from the yard into road, she observed a woman walking slowly up the lane toward the house, and she hurried on her mission and returned just in time to meet the lady at the front entrance. She recognized the person as one of her neighbors, and spoke to her pleasantly, to which the woman made no reply. She repeated the salutation, which again failed to elicit any response. The woman ap­peared to have taken off her bonnet and let her hair down, and was engaged in combing out her hair as she walked, and stopped just opposite the house, where Esther met her, continuing the combing, and appeared deeply absorbed or troubled.  Esther said she invited the lady in the house, repeating the solicitation several times, to which the woman paid no attention. She felt much chagrined by the strange conduct of her neighbor, and concluded that something was wrong with the lady or that she had become offended towards her, and she passed in, leaving the woman standing in the lane, combing her hair.  She called Elizabeth's attention to the woman and her conduct, and they both observed her still in the same attitude.  Presently she climbed on the yard fence, sitting there some five minutes, still combing her hair, and then she tucked it up in the usual way and left the fence, crossing over into the stable lot, where she could not have possibly had any business.  The lot enclosed some three or four acres, a grove mostly of young saplings on the further side, ill the midst of which was a large knotty log.  The woman walked across the lot, passing around the log, when there appeared three other persons, two younger women or girls, and a boy.  Each one bent down a sapling, sitting upon them and riding up and down, giving motion to the spring afforded by the bush.  While this exercise still continued, Bennett Porter returned home, finding Esther and Elisabeth excited over the strange demonstrations that they tried to point out to him.  He said he could see the bushes in motion, but could not see the persons described. He suggested that they were the witch apparitions, and got his gun, insisting that Esther should shoot at one of the objects.  While he was getting his rifle, the appearances let the saplings up and took positions behind the log, first one and then another showing a head above the log. Esther refused to shoot, but directed Porter to shoot near a large knot on the log, where one of the heads appeared.  He fired and his bullet cut the bark on the log just where he aimed, but nothing more was seen of the four persons, nor could they, as Porter thought, have escaped from the lot without detection.  They all three went to the log, and searched the lot over, and could discover no signs except the bent saplings, and the mark of the bullet on the log.  Now whether these were doubles, apparitions, witches, or real persons, the witch family in their carousal that night made much ado about it, declaring to the company present that Bennett Porter had shot at Jerusalem and had broken his arm with the bullet.



 
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« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2007, 10:44:16 pm »

The Poisonous Vial -- The Last Illness and Death

of John Bell, Sr.


 

I have already written more about this abomination than contemplated in the outset, and still have not told the half; but have presented enough, to which others can testify, to enable the reader to form some idea of the heinous thing, and the horrors that our family had to endure during the early settlement of Robertson county, from an unknown enemy, and for an unknown cause.  Whether it was witchery, such as afflicted people in past centuries and the darker ages, whether some gifted fiend of hellish nature, practicing sorcery for selfish enjoyment, or some more modern science akin to that of mesmerism, or some hobgoblin native to the wilds of the country, or a disembodied soul shut out from heaven, or an evil spirit like those Paul drove out of the man into the swine, setting them mad; or a demon let loose from hell, I am unable to decide; nor has any one yet divined its nature or cause for appearing, and I trust this description of the monster in all forms and shapes, and of many tongues, will lead experts who may come with a wiser generation, to a correct conclusion and satisfactory explanation.

 

However, no part of what I have written would be complete without the finale; the climax which I now approach with a shudder that fills my frame with horror, bringing fresh to memory scenes and events that chilled the blood in my young veins, cheating me out of twenty years of life. It hangs over me like the pall of death, and sends weary thoughts like fleeting shadows through my brain, reviving in memory those demoniac shrieks that came so oft from an invisible and mysterious source, rending the air with vile and hideous curses that drove me frantic with fear. It is no ghastly dream of a fevered brain that comes to haunt one's thoughts, but a sad, fearful reality, a tremendous truth, that thrills the heart with an unspeakable fear that no word painting can portray on paper. Courageous men in battle line may rush upon bristling bayonets and blazing musketry, and face the roaring cannon's month, because they can see the enemy and know who and what they are fighting; but when it comes to meeting an unknown enemy of demonstrative power, with gall upon its tongue and venom in its bosom, heaving bitter curses and breathing threats of dire consequences, which one knows not of, nor can judge in what shape or form the calamity is to come, the stoutest heart will prove a coward, faltering and quivering with painful fear. Why should my father, John Bell, be inflicted with such a terrible curse? Why should such a fate befall a man striving to live uprightly? I would be untrue to myself and my parentage, should I fail to state boldly that John Bell was a man every inch of him and in every sense of the term. No man was ever more faithful and swift in the discharge of every duty, to his family, to the church, to his neighbor's, to his fellow man, and to his God, in the fullness of his capacity and that faith which led him to love and accept Christ as a Savior. No mortal man ever brought a charge of delinquency or dishonor to his door. Not even the ghastly fiend that haunted him to his death, in all of its vile curses and evil threats, ever brought an accusation against him, or uttered a solitary word that reflected upon his honor, his character, his courage, or his integrity.  He lived in peace, and in the enjoyment of the full confidence of his neighbors, and lacked not for scores of friends in his severest trials. Then why this affliction?  Where the cause?  Which no man, saint, angel from heaven, or demon from hell, has ever assigned.  If there was any hidden or unknown cause why he should have thus suffered, or if it was in the providence of God a natural consequence, then why should the torments of a demon have been visited upon Elizabeth, who was a girl of tender years, brought up under the careful training of a Christian mother, and was free from guile and the wiles of the wicked world, and innocent of all offense? Yet this vile, heinous, unknown devil, torturer of human flesh, that preyed upon the fears of people like a ravenous vulture, spared not her, but rather chose her as a shining mark for an exhibition of its wicked stratagems and devilish tortures. And never did it cease to practice upon her fears, insult her modesty, stick pins in her body, pinching and bruising her flesh, slapping her cheeks, dishevel­ing and tangling her hair, tormenting her in many ways, until she surrendered that most cherished hope which animates every young heart. Was this the stratagem of a human genius skilled in the black art; was it an enchantment, a freak in destiny, or the natural consequence of disobedience to some law in nature? Let a wiser head than mine answer and explain the mystery. Another problem in the development of these mysterious manifestations, that has always puz­zled my understanding: Why should the husband and father, the head of the family, and the daughter, the pet and pride of the household, the centre of all family affections, be selected to bear the invectives of this terrible visitation, while demonstrations of the tenderest love from the same source was bestowed upon the wife and mother?  If it was a living, intelligent creature, what could have been the dominating faculty of its nature, which made this discrimination?  Could it have been an intelligent human devotion springing from an emotional nature that could so love the wife and mother, and cherish such bitter enmity for her husband and offspring, both of whom she loved most devotedly?  I think not; only a fiend of a hellish nature, with poisoned blood and seared conscience, if a conscience at all, could have possessed such attributes. Yet we, who experienced or witnessed the demonstration, know that there was a wonderful power of intelligence, possessing knowledge of men and things, a spirit of divination, that could read minds, tell men's secrets, quote the Scriptures, repeat sermons, sing hymns and songs, assume bodily forms, and with all, an immense physical force behind the manifestations.

 

Father continued to suffer with spells as I have already described, the jerking and twitching of his face, and the swelling of his tongue, fearfully distorting his whole physiogamy.  These spells would last from one to two days, and after passing off, he would be up and about his business, apparently in strong robust health. As time advanced the spells grew more frequent and severe, and there was no periodical time for their return, and along toward the last I stayed with him all the time, especially when he left the house, going with him wherever he went.  The witch also grew more angry and virulent in disposition.  Every word uttered to "Old Jack" was a blast of curses and heinous threats, while to mother, "Old Luce," it continued most tender, loving and kind. About the middle of October father had a very severe attack, which kept him confined to the house six or eight days.  The witch cursed and raved like a maniac for several days, and ceased not from troubling him.  However, he temporarily overcome this attack, and was soon able to be out, though he would not venture far from the house.  But it was not destined that he should enjoy a long respite.  After a week's recuperation he felt much stronger, and called me very early one morning to go with him to the hog pen, some three hundred yards from the house, for the purpose of giving directions in separating the porkers intended for fattening from the stock hogs. We had not gone far before one of his shoes was jerked off.  I replaced it on his foot, drawing the strings tight, tying a double hard knot. After going a few steps farther, the other shoe flew off in the same manner, which was replaced and tied as in the case of the first.

 

In no way that I could tie them would they hold, notwithstanding his shoes fitted close and were a little hard to put on, and we were walking over a smooth, dry road. This worried him prodigiously; nevertheless, he bore up strongly, and after much delay and worry we reached the place, and he gave directions, seeing the hogs properly separated as he desired, and the hands left for other work, and we started back for the house. We had not gone many steps before his shoes commenced jerking off as before, and presently he complained of a blow on his face, which felt like an open hand, that almost stunned him, and he sat down on a log that lay by the road side. Then his face commenced jerking with fearful contortions, soon his whole body, and then his shoes would fly off as fast as I could put them on.  The situation was trying and made me shudder. I was terrified by the spectacle of the contortions that seized father, as if to convert him into a very demon to swallow me up.  Having finished tying father's shoes, I raised myself up to hear the reviling sound of derisive songs piercing the air with terrorizing force. As the demoniac shrieks died away in triumphant rejoicing, the spell passed off, and I saw the tears chasing down father's yet quivering cheeks.  The trace of faltering courage marked every lineament of his face with a wearied expression of fading hope. He turned to me with an expression of tender, compassionate fatherly devotion, exclaiming in a woeful passionate tone, "Oh my son, my son, not long will you have a father to wait on so patiently. I cannot much longer survive the persecutions of this terrible thing.  It is killing me by slow tortures, and I feel that the end is nigh."  This expression sent a pang to my bosom which I had never felt before. Mingled sorrow and terror took possession of me and sent a tremor through my frame that I can never forget.  If the earth could have opened and swallowed us up, it would have been a joyful deliverance.  My heart bleeds now at every pore as I pen these lines, refreshing my memory with thoughts of the terror that possessed me then in anticipation of a fearful tragedy that might be enacted before father could move from his position.  That moment he turned his eyes upward and lifted his soul to heaven in a burst of fervent passionate prayer, such as I had never heard him utter before. He prayed the Lord that if it were possible, to let this terrible affliction pass. He beseeched God to forsake him not in the trying ordeal, but to give him courage to meet this unknown devastating enemy in the trying emergency, and faith to lift him to the confidence and love of a blessed Savior, and with all to relieve his family and loved ones from the terrible afflictions of this wicked, unknown, terrifying, blasphemous agency. It was in this strain that father prayed, pouring out his soul in a passionate force that seemed to take hold of Christ by a powerful faith that afforded fresh courage and renewed strength. After he had finished his prayer, a feeling of calmness and reconciliation seemed to possess him, and he appeared to have recovered from the severe shock.  The reviling songster had disappeared, and he rose up remarking that he felt better and believed he could walk to the house, and he did, meeting with no more annoyance as we proceeded on the way.  However, he took to his bed immediately on arriving at the house, and though able to be up and down for several weeks, he never left the house again, and seemed all the while perfectly reconciled to the terrible fate that awaited him. He gradually declined; nothing that friends could do brought any relief.  Mother was almost constantly at his bedside with all the devotion of her nature. Brother John attended closely in the room, ministering to him, and good neighbors were in constant attendance. The witch was carrying on its deviltry more or less all the while.

 

The crisis, however, came on the morning of December 19th. Father, sick as he was, had not up to this time failed to awake at his regular hour, according to his long custom, and arouse the family.  That morning he appeared to be sleeping so soundly, mother quietly slipped, out of the room to superintend breakfast, while brothers John and Drew looked after the farm hands and feeding the stock, and would not allow him to be disturbed until after breakfast.  Notic­ing then that he was sleeping unnaturally, it was thought best to awaken him, when it was discovered that he was in a deep stupor, and could not be aroused to any sensibility.  Brother John attended to giving him medicine, and went immediately to the cupboard where he had carefully put away the medicines prescribed for him, but instead he found a smoky looking vial, which was about one-third full of dark colored liquid.  He set up an inquiry at once to know who had moved the medicine, and no one had touched it, and neither could any one on the place give any account of the vial.  Dr. George Hopson, of Port Royal, was sent for in great haste and soon arrived; also neighbors John Johnson, Alex. Gunn and Frank Miles arrived early, and were there when the vial was found. Kate, the witch, in the meantime broke out with joyous exultation, exclaiming, "It's useless for you to try to relieve Old Jack, I have got him this time; he will never get up from that bed again."  Kate was then asked about the vial of medicine found in the cupboard, and replied, “I put it there, and gave Old Jack a big dose out of it last night while he was asleep, which fixed him.”  This was all the in­formation that could be drawn from the witch or any other source concerning the vial of medicine. Certain it was that no member of the family ever saw it before, or could tell anything about it. In fact no vial and no medicine of any kind had been brought to the house by any one else except by Dr. Hopson, and then it was handled carefully.  Dr. Hopson, on arrival, examined the vial and said he did not leave it, and could not tell what it contained. It was then suggested that the contents be tested on something.  Alex. Gunn caught a cat, and Brother John run a straw into the vial and drew it through the cat's mouth, wiping the straw on its tongue.  The cat jumped and whirled over a few times, stretched out, kicked, and died very quick.



Deathbed of John Bell

Father lay all day and night in a deep stupor, as if under the influence of some opiate, and could not be aroused to take any medicine. The Doctor said he could detect something on his breath that smelt very much like the contents of the vial that he had examined.  How father could have gotten it was a mystery that could not be explained in any other way except that testified by the witch. The vial and contents was thrown into the fire, and instantly a blue blaze shot up the chimney like a flash of powder. Father never revived or returned to consciousness for a single moment. He lingered along through the day and night, gradually wearing away, and on the morning of December 20th, 1820, breathed his last.  Kate was around during the time, indulging in wild exultations and derisive songs.  After father breathed his last nothing more was heard from Kate until after the burial was completed. It was a bright December day and a great crowd of people came to attend the funeral. Rev. Sugg Fort and Revs. James and Thomas Gunn conducted the services.  After the grave was filled, and the friends turned to leave the sad scene, the witch broke out in a loud voice singing, "Row me up some brandy O," and continued singing this until the family and friends had all entered the house. And thus ended one chapter in the series of exciting and frightful events that kept the whole neighborhood so long in a frenzy, and worked upon our fears from day to day.

 

Kate's Departure and Return After Seven Years
 

After the death of John Bell, Sr., the fury of the witch was greatly abated. There were but two purposes, seemingly, developed in the visitation. One was the persecution of father to the end of his life. The other the vile purpose of destroying the anticipated happiness that thrilled the heart of Betsy. This latter purpose, however, was not so openly manifested as the first, and was of such a delicate nature that it was kept a secret as much as possible in the family and ignored when talked about. But it never ceased its tormenting until her young dream was destroyed. The witch remained with us after father's death, through the Winter and Spring of 1821, all the while diminishing or becoming less demonstrative. Finally it took leave of the family, bidding mother, "Luce," an affectionate farewell, saying that it would be absent seven years, but would surely return to see us and would then visit every house in the neighborhood.  This promise was fulfilled as regards the old homestead, but I do not know that it visited other homes ill the vicinity.

 

It returned during February, 1828. The family was then nearly broken up. Mother, Joel and myself were the only occupants left at the old homestead, the other members of the family having settled off to themselves. The demonstrations announcing its return were precisely the same that characterized its first appearance.  Joel occupied a bed in mother's room, and I slept in another apartment alone.  After considerable scratching on the weatherboarding on the outside, it appeared in the same way on the inside, scratching on the bed post and pulling the cover from my bed as fast as I could replace it, keeping me up nearly all night. It went on in this way for several nights, and I spoke not a word about it, lest I should frighten mother. However, one night later, after worrying me for some time, I heard a noise in mother's room, and knew at once what was to pay. Very soon mother and Joel came rushing into my room, much frightened, telling me about the disturbance and something pulling the cover off.  We sat up till a late hour discussing the matter, satisfied that it was the same old Kate, and agreed not to talk to the witch, and that we would keep the matter a profound secret to ourselves, worrying with it the best we could, hoping that it would soon leave, as it did, after disturbing us in this way for some two weeks.  This was my last experience with Kate.  The witch came and went, hundreds of people witnessed its wonderful demonstrations, and many of the best people of Robertson and adjoining counties have testified to these facts, telling the story over and over to the younger generation, and for this and other reasons as before stated I have written this much of the details as correctly as it is possible to state the exciting events. So far no one has ever given any intelligent or comprehensive explanation of the great mystery.  Those who came as experts were worse confounded than all others.  As I before stated, a few mendacious calumniators were mean enough to charge that it was tricks and inventions of the Bell family to make money, and I write for the purpose of branding this version as an infamous falsehood.  It was well known in the vicinity and all over the county that every investigation confirmed the fact that the Bell family were the greatest, if not the only sufferers from the visitation, and that no one, or a dozen persons in collusion, could have so long, regularly and persistently practiced such a fraud without detection, nor could they have known the minds and secrets of strangers visiting the place, and detailed events that were then occurring or had just transpired in different localities.  Moreover the visitation entailed great sacrifice.  As to how long this palavering phenomenon continued in the vicinity, I am unable to state.  It did not disturb the remaining members of the family at the old place anymore.  Mother died shortly after this and the house was entirely deserted, the land and other property being divided among the heirs.  The old house stood for some years and was used for storing grain and other farm products, and was finally torn down and moved away.  Many persons professed to have seen sights and heard strange sounds about the old house and in the vicinity all along up to this day.  Several have described to me flitting lights along the old lane and through the farm, while others profess to have heard sounds of wonderfully sweet music and strange voices uttering indistinct word.  And it is said that such things have been seen and heard at various places in the neighborhood, but I have no personal knowledge of the facts.

RICHARD WILLIAMS BELL


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