A place I visited without the Airstream…
I grew up hearing stories of the Bell Witch. The stories I heard were historical tales of spirit who haunted a family in Adams, Tennessee in the early 1800s. Both benevolent (conjuring grapes for a sick member of the family ) and terrifying (slapping, appearing as a strange animals, and ultimately poisoning John Bell), the witch captured my young imagination. My aunt is a genealogist and believed our family to be descendants of the hauntees: the John Bell family. The story and alleged family connection held high interest to me and I may have told a few elementary school friends that I was related to a witch. Luckily, my parents got no phone calls home and I was never actually scared of the Bell Witch. Though she did say that she would return to the family in a few generations. That time frame has come and gone, however.
When landing at the Nashville airport, I did jump at the opportunity to visit part of the original Bell Farm and do a tour of a cave on the property with my parents and kids. The cave never figured prominently in Bell Witch folklore, and the original cabin was long-ago destroyed by subsequent generations of the Bell Family allegedly because no one wanted to live there. The drive North from Nashville to Adams,TN was through lovely countryside. There were stone houses and tobacco fields. Everything was green. I tried to picture things as they may have looked to a family arriving in the 1800s.
We paid admission for the deluxe cabin and cave tour. The original site of the cabin and the graves of John and Lucy Bell are located on an adjacent piece of property still owned by a Bell family member and not open to the public. I thought I might be special as a visiting descendent of the Bell family, but in fact, the clerk at the hotel where we stayed was dating a Bell descendant. Yes, we are everywhere. . .The tour guide played a recording of a Bell Witch story read by a descendent as we went in various rooms in the cabin.
The cave contained a small stone box grave that had been relocated to the cave 25 plus years ago. Once the grave was moved from alongside the nearby Red River to the cave it had been desecrated by vandals and the contents (the person, sadly) stolen. I still felt it deserved a bit of reverence, which led to me to comment to my son, “Don’t armpit fart by the stone box grave.” Thankfully, he complied. There were some cave formations but they weren’t very dramatic. Another person in our tour group shared a photo that she had captured of some “mist” in the cave. I felt no cold chills down my spine, I did not feel haunted or poltergeisted. I did bash my head against low-hanging cave lump and perhaps the witch made me do that. I do admit to feeling a bit superstitious about bringing my children (since they are also Bell descendants) onto the property. But we all survived. “Ghost Adventures” had recently made a show about the Bell Witch and property. Some tourists were on our tour because of that show. All the increased exposure had resulted in some unauthorized visits to a house owned by a Bell family child in the area that was still standing yet abandoned. Sadly, the owner had it torn down because he feared someone would get hurt. Reality TV aftermath is almost as scary as the Bell Witch.
As we left the farm I stopped to snap a photo of the tobacco fields. They really are lovely. Did John Bell grow tobacco?
And if you think I made everything up about the Bell Witch, here is the Highway Marker to prove that it is true.