Killer witch may have taken life of homeowner
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.