The Bell’s Witch

historic marker

In Adams, Tennessee you will find the historic marker that tells of the legend of the Bell family and the spirit that haunted them. John Bell moved his family from North Carolina to Robertson County, Tennessee in 1803. He was a farmer and became a leader in a local church. He and his family lived peacefully until 1817 when strange things started happening in and around their home.

Stories differ, but here is a summary of what I was told, read and imagined.


One night in 1817 John Bell was disturbed from a sound sleep by knocking outside his home. When he investigated, he found nothing. He reassured his family and everyone settled down to rest before another busy   

The story would stop here, but this wasn’t a one night occurrence. Instead the noises grew louder with each passing night. One day Betsy, John’s daughter, came in from the yard out of breath, and barely coherent she told her mama what she saw at the edge of the wood.

“Mama, it was a weird creature, ugly, I was afraid. I… I could see through it.” Mama comforted her and put her to bed with a cup of tea. Later she told John about it when he came in. They agreed to be wary and cautious while they were out.

That night the noises moved inside the home. The family got little rest from that night on. The demon moved about in the day as well, slamming doors, breaking glass and other unsettling distractions for the family. Eventually, the demon was strong enough to speak.

“Who are you?” John said.

Many times the unseen being gave different names. This particular night she said, “I am the witch of Kate Batts.” That name was used from then on.

“Why are you here?” he said.

” I am here to kill you, John. Betsy you will not marry Joshua Gardner.”

John had kept the strange haunting a secret for a long time, but eventually the strange noises accelerated to physical torment. Kate pulled Betsy hair, pinched her and beat her. John didn’t fare any better. He often felt as if he was choking, and he developed facial tics. He finally confided in a neighbor, James Johnson. James and his wife spent several nights with the Bell’s and confirmed the noises. James and John agreed to call together trusted neighbors to form a committee to investigate.

News as sensational as the Bell’s witch wouldn’t stay a secret for long. Soon people from near and far traveled to the Bell home to experience the terror of the witch, Kate. Andrew Jackson came from his Old Hickory home to witness the haunting. Everyone who visited came away mystified.

John Bell grew weaker each day, until on December 20, 1820 he died. After her father’s death, Betsy called off her engagement to Joshua. Kate’s mission completed, she left without ever revealing her reason for targeting the family. When she left she promised to return in seven years. Folks in Adams say she did for a visit to John Bell, Jr.’s home. There she spoke with John about the past and the future. She left again and promised to return one hundred and seven years.

Strange occurrences continue to be reported in Adams. Many say Kate never left; she will forever haunt the community, making her presences known in supernatural ways. Martha and I live about 15 miles from Adams. Her daughters and their families live there. The legend lives on to this day.

There have been many books written about the Bell family and the witch. The earliest are Authenticated History of Bell Witch by M. V. Ingram and A Mysterious Spirit by Charles Bailey Bell.

There’s a month-long Bell Witch Fest each October. Tonight, Halloween night, is the last night to visit the Bell Witch Cave for a frightful evening of chills and thrills.

Now you can tell your children, grandchildren or anyone else the story of the Bell’s Witch and her evil torment of the Bell family from 1817 through 1820. Tell them she still roams the woods in Adams and plays wicked tricks on the residents.