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The Haunting of the Bell Witch Cave

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Home of the famous ghost witch, Kate, the Bell Witch Cave has been striking fear into locals since 1817. It is rumoured to be Tennessee’s most haunted location, and has inspired both a book, An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, and a movie known as An American Haunting. This famous haunting was also featured on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, a show dedicated to debunking the supernatural. Almost everyone believes the Bell Witch Cave is home to a malevolent spirit, so what’s her story?

In the summer of 1817, John Bell moved his family from North Carolina to Robertson County, Tennessee. Bell purchased 230 acres worth of land, and neighboured a widow and alleged witch, Katherine “Kate”  Batts. Three months in, the Bell family began to report hearing sounds in the night such as knocking, scratching, and even the rattling of chains. Things only escalated, the women in the family claimed to wake up with scratches down their arms and legs and John’s daughter, Betsy, once woke up to her blanket being ripped from her bed and found a decorative pin in her forearm. John collected a “committee” from the town to investigate the seemingly supernatural findings and on this fateful night, the invisible force was given a voice. Several of the men claim the spirit identified herself as “the witch of Kate Batts,”and after that night people all over Robertson county began to claim that they were visited by the witch. The hauntings got so serious that General Andrew Jackson was believed to have once spent the night in town to see what all the fuss was about. He too “encountered the witch” when the wheels of his carriage would refuse to turn while leaving the county.

Oddly enough, there is no evidence of anyone actually intervening or even talking the real Kate Batts. The witch of Kate was believed to be a spirit that was somehow summoned by the living Kate and sent to torture the Bells. Why Kate hated the Bells isn’t certain, but most believe she got into a feud with John over the purchasing of a slave. She had a particular distaste for Betsy Bell, the youngest girl, and even sent her witch to threaten to kill her if she married the man she was betrothed to, Joshua Gardner.

Towards the end of the witch’s rule, John Bell became very ill and often claimed that he could hear Kate laughing at him and prodding him with what felt like a hot poker. Two days later, the family awoke to John dead and suspectedly poisoned. Kate did not disappear after John’s death and was even spotted at his funeral, singing while he was buried. The witch remained for seven more years, torturing Betsy Bell, often reminding her that she could never marry.

When the witch of Kate Batts finally disappeared, her spirit was rumoured to have fled to the caves on the Bells’ property. Betsy, who remained on the land, sometimes would say she could hear Kate crying from inside, it is rumoured the cave is the gateway to whatever plane the spirit was summoned from. Whether or not you believe in the story of Kate Batts and her very complicated haunting, the attraction makes for a beautifully mysterious piece of history.

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The Haunting of the Bell Witch Cave