My Travel Memories: The Bell Witch Cave

I have very little hipster cred, so I’m going take the opportunity to do the hipster thing here and say that I knew about the Bell Witch before it was cool. In 1989, my folks and I were driving from Chicago to visit our family in Florida (remember them?). As we passed into Tennessee, we passed a sign that said, “See the Bell Witch Cave” or words to that effect. My folks were always up for a cave (and for a good supernatural story). So, long before An American Haunting, or Bell Witch: The Movie, we heard the story from the current owners of the cave.

I was looking through the photo album of this trip and saw pictures of a cave. “I wonder if that was the Bell Witch Cave. It would be about the right timing for that.” So I searched for ‘Bell Witch Cave’ on Google Images and saw a (considerably less overexposed) shot of this same location on someone else’s website. So I can say with about 90% certainty that this is, in fact, a picture of the Bell Witch Cave.

According to the legend, in the early 19th century, the family of a farmer named John Bell began to experience something that was generally thought of as supernatural. He, his family, and visitors to his home, heard voices. Sometimes it was the voice of a woman, at other times it was the voices of other people. It was reported that the voices, at one point, began repeating the words of two church services taking place simultaneously in two different churches miles from the Bell home.

The entity claimed to be “Kate Batts’s witch.” Kate Batts was a neighbor that the Bells had had problems with over some kind of economic transaction, either the purchase of land or of slaves. Given the time period that this story took place in, my money’s on the latter. At any rate, the apparition was given the name “Kate” and would apparently respond to that name.

In the end, “Kate,” presumably the spirit and not the neighbor (though in my memory, it seemed that the man telling the story was unclear on this point), fled to the cave.  There are several legends of her interacting with people in the cave.

Do I believe in the Bell Witch? I try to keep an open mind about things like ghosts, because I have seen some things that seem unexplainable (and on several occasions I was by myself, so they couldn’t have been practical jokes or anything of that nature). But I do wonder if the Bell Witch was real or was an attempt to slander a neighbor who had a grievance.

Next up: Stone Mountain, Atlanta. I may have to see if there are any public domain photos of the park because I don’t have a single one in my collection.

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