Killer witch may have taken life of home­owner

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - ADVICE - David My­ers (My­ers can be reached at D. My­ers/Trust, P.O. Box 4405, Cul­ver City, CA 90231-4405)

Dear Mr. My­ers:

I en­joyed your re­cent Hal­loween­themed col­umn about haunted houses. But can ghosts ac­tu­ally hurt or even kill peo­ple?

AN­SWER: Some ex­perts on the para­nor­mal be­lieve that they can. Per­haps the most cred­i­ble and well­doc­u­mented case of a mur­der­ous spirit is that of Ten­nessee’s “Bell Witch,” an eerie tale that I re­layed to read­ers al­most a decade ago.

The al­leged vic­tim was John Bell, a Ten­nessee farmer and fa­ther of a large fam­ily. Bell’s trou­bles be­gan in 1817, when he claimed to have seen a de­mon-like beast in his corn­field. He shot at the crea­ture sev­eral times be­fore it dis­ap­peared into thin air. Later that evening, the Bells heard fright­en­ing “beat­ing” sounds on their walls. They rushed out­side with their shot­guns and found noth­ing, but the sounds grew louder and more vi­o­lent as the weeks pro­gressed.

Soon, a quiet voice de­scribed as that of a fee­ble old woman who would ei­ther sing hymns or sob started em­a­nat­ing from in­side the house. The dis­em­bod­ied voice also grew louder as time went by, and the Bells’ small daugh­ter started to com­plain of be­ing beaten by un­seen hands — with cuts and bruises to prove it. John Bell fi­nally asked his near­est neigh­bor to spend the night, but he, too, was awak­ened and then beaten by the in­vis­i­ble spirit.

Af­ter the vi­o­lence spread to other house­hold mem­bers, the Bells were vis­ited by long­time fam­ily friend An­drew Jack­son, the great Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War hero who would later be­come the na­tion’s sev­enth pres­i­dent.

Jack­son brought a small con­tin­gent of troops with him but left af­ter a sin­gle night of ter­ri­fy­ing en­coun­ters that in­cluded one of his own men be­ing vi­o­lently at­tacked by the malev­o­lent ghost. “I’d rather fight the en­tire British Army than deal with the Bell Witch,” Jack­son later said.

John Bell grew ill and fi­nally died on Dec. 20, 1820. His fam­ily found a small vial of uniden­ti­fi­able liq­uid near the corpse and gave it to the fam­ily cat, which died min­utes later. Fam­ily and friends say a bod­i­less voice then filled the room: “I gave Ol’ John a big dose of that last night, and that fixed him!”

As mourn­ers left Bell’s fu­neral a few days later, some said they heard the ghostly voice bel­low with laugh­ter and sing a lit­tle ditty about a bot­tle of brandy. Their ac­counts, as well as those of Jack­son and oth­ers, are per­haps the best ev­i­dence to sug­gest that at least one hu­man life has been claimed by the un­dead.

Real es­tate trivia

A sur­vey by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Real­tors found that 30 per­cent of home­buy­ers would con­sider liv­ing in a haunted house, but that 42 per­cent never would. The re­main­ing 28 per­cent are ap­par­ently caught be­tween two realms of thought.

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