ADAMS, Tenn. (WKRN) — “That must be old Kate.” Generations of the Bell family and community members in Adams, Tennessee have used that phrase to explain the unexplainable.
The Bell Witch legend dates back two centuries and may be the most notorious ghost story in America.
It’s been the center of numerous articles, books, documentaries and movies.
The origin of the Bell Witch remains a mystery. In one account, the spirit itself claimed to be a person buried in the woods and the grave was disturbed, according to an article from the Tennessee State Library and Archives about myths and legends in the state.
But the story that sticks with locals starts with the Bell family purchasing farmland in 1804. John Bell, his wife Lucy, and their nine children lived in a house on 1,000 acres on the Red River in Robertson County.
“We’ve had odd things happen since I was little,” said Robert Bell, a fifth-generation descendant of John Bell.
According to the folklore, Bell got into a dispute over the sale of a slave with one of his neighbors, Federick Batts. Then it was rumored that Bell and Federick’s wife, Kate, got into an argument.
Many at the time believed Kate practiced Black Magic, and that she was the one who created the Bell Witch spirit that allegedly killed Bell.
In 1820, Bell became sick because of all the torment from the witch. When his son was trying to take care of him the witch claimed to have said that she “got him this time” and that he would “never get up from that bed again.“
After Bell’s death the witch apparently fled to the nearby Karst Cave.
While strange events don’t occur as much as they did in the early 19th century, Robert Bell said he still has encounters from time to time. “My first encounter – my grandmother lived four doors down from us and she lived by herself and would take a nap every afternoon, and she was awakened by a crash, and it scared her so bad, she called up to the house, and I went down with my dad, I was seven years old.”
He added there were dishes in the kitchen floor, and the strangest part about the incident is that not one dish was broken. “Dad said ‘well that must have been old Kate.’ And my grandmother said ‘well, I guess it was.”
Many also claim they experience encounters with the Bell Witch at Karst Cave. It’s become an attraction for thousands of visitors every year. The cave is on the National Historical Registry, added in 2008.