Friday, October 16, 2015

The REAL Legend of the Bell Witch: Let's Take a Timeout to Discuss Paranormal Hypotheses

I assume that if you're reading this blog series, you have a serious interest in the paranormal. This post involves theories and my own hypothesis regarding the Bell Witch haunting. If you're touchy about your religion, stop reading now. If you're too skeptical to consider paranormal possibilities, stop reading now. If you want to explore the hows and whys of how Kate was able to speak and are willing to range far afield in the process, keep reading. 

Don't be shy about paranormal curiosity. I suffer from it too, and the Bell Witch Legend was the catalyst for that interest. I've mentioned in passing that I had several significant paranormal encounters on or near the land that once comprised the Bell farm and the community surrounding it. Unfortunately, the one manifestation of the legend that I've always really wanted to experience never happened too much around me. Although I have EVPs from the cave, farm, cemetery, and even the old Bell school, I rarely heard a disembodied voice and never actually interacted with one. 

What makes this rather puzzling is the fact that Kate's loquaciousness is the manifestation that sets this haunting apart. The entity's ability to speak was witnessed and documented by hundreds of people, from family to neighbors to complete and utter strangers. Even Andrew Jackson, Old Hickory himself, had a conversation with Kate that is backed up by a number of original sources. So one of the facets of this case that has always intrigued me is Kate's ability to speak. How did the spirit learn to accomplish such a feat? Why did it choose to do such a thing? Why did it stop? And why, despite the continuation of the haunting in the area and especially on Bell land, isn't it speaking now?

Today we have all sorts of tools to investigate the paranormal with--and particularly to communicate with spirits that are haunting a site or person. Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVPs) are a huge part of every ghost hunting group and are featured on every ghost hunting show. Usually, when a spirit voice is recorded, it does so at an audio level and volume that humans cannot hear without the aid of technology. In fact, if all the investigators find evidence-wise at a suspected haunting is three or four EVPs, that hunt is considered a huge success. 

But rarely do the investigators actually hear a disembodied voice interacting with them, and when that really does happen the voice is a low whisper or sounds distant. From all the evidence in the Bell haunting, this was definitely not the case with Kate. Richard Williams Bell described Kate's speaking ability as follows:

The voice, however, gradually gained strength in articulating, and soon the utterances became distinct in a low whisper, so as to be understood in the absence of any other noises. I do not remember the first intelligent utterance, which, however, was of no significance, but the voice soon developed sufficient strength to be distinctly heard by everybody in the room...The voice was not confined to darkness, as were the physical manifestations. The talking was heard in lighted rooms, as in the dark, and finally in the day at any hour.

I believe this is extremely important information as we try to dissect this case.  What Richard Bell is describing is basically that the entity learned how to speak, and as it grew stronger so did the voice. When you add in the following tidbit, the puzzle develops even more strongly:

This new development added to the sensation already created. The news spread, and people came in larger numbers, and the great anxiety concerning the mystery prompted many questions in the effort to induce the Witch to disclose its own identity and purpose.
Italics are mine.

I am not a paranormal expert by any means, but I have a theory involving this phenomenon and the sentence I highlighted is integral to that. I've gone through the source material and assembled a timeline that roughly parallels Kate's speaking ability. Let's put it down in outline form--

1.  The earliest manifestations begin--these are nonverbal.
2.  The Bells suffer in silence for several months, until the episodes become so alarming that John           confesses their 'family trouble' to his minister, Reverend Johnson.
3.  Reverend Johnson believes the haunting is of an intelligent nature, and encourages the Bells to             bring in other members of the community to witness this for themselves.
4.  As people interacted with the entity and encouraged it to communicate, the spirit learned to speak. 
5.  This development brought the Bell's neighbors to witness the entity.
6.  Those visitors, beginning with the preachers, began to urge the spirit to speak more.
7.  At first, the voice was a low whisper but gradually strengthened to a normal human-volume.
8.  When news of this got out, hordes of people began to show up at the Bell farm to witness it.
9.  Kate's voice grew stronger, allowing her to sing, shout, and interact with people who weren't even         close to Bell land.
10. Even more people came to see the famous talking Witch. 
11. Kate began to develop stronger abilities, like omnipresence and apportation.
12. John Bell dies, and the Witch takes credit for that--then shows up at his funeral singing bawdy            songs accompanied by the reek of alcohol, as if it were drunk and celebrating.
13. Once the sensation died down, so did the witch's ability to speak--except for one notable exception that we'll discuss later in this article.

Paranormal researchers commonly accept the theory that in order for an entity to manifest--that is, to create the visual and audible encounters that inspire fear in us--it will drain energy from something in the environment in order to power that manifestation. These days, there's no shortage of electronic equipment and technology even in the poorest homes that a supernatural being can siphon its strength. But in the 18th century, nothing existed like batteries or computers, so the only thing an entity could have stolen energy from was restricted to what was most readily available. John and Lucy Bell, with a large and thriving family,including several children in or near the age of puberty as well as a small community of slaves, initially powered the spirit's original manifestations--the scratching, the clawing, the chewing, snatching of covers, banging on the walls. It's important to note that speaking didn't occur until after the Bells began to invite people into their home to see the haunting for themselves.

In other words, I've come to the conclusion that Kate only gained the ability to speak when there were enough people present to charge her supernatural batteries. Put it in perspective--the nightly visitors at the Bell farm had traveled long distances by horse or wagon, over roads that we'd consider little more than a game trail through a thick, heavily forested territory, basically so they can witness something miraculous and/or get the crap scared out of them. After the Bells had fed their uninvited guests and stabled their horses, that group of people would congregate in the large central room of the house, getting more excited and more amped up as the sun fell and darkness descended upon the banks of the Red River. The atmosphere would have been charged by anticipation, fear, suspicion, Every little noise would have cranked that energy up more and then, finally, when the whole house was electric with it, the witch would begin to speak. The guests would feed off that, and she would feed off them--until our paranormal AAA is charged full up to the brim. In a cold, dark, and isolated frontier world, that house would have resonated like a supernatural beacon, and the cycle would escalate even more every time a new horse started up the trail to the Bell homestead.

To me, that makes a lot of sense. But then, I run into a problem. With all the energy sizzling through the world these days, spirits holding court in modern living rooms during weekly ghost hunting shows--well, then why in the world aren't all hauntings involving spirits with Kate's gift of gab? Surely, the energy that powers our modern technological-dependent world is more than sufficient to grant any spirit with the psychic fuel it would need to speak. And let's keep in mind, too, that when the Ghost Adventures crew flooded the Bell Witch cave with energy, they too were hearing disembodied voices in the cave when they were outside and no one was anywhere near the instruments. 

Oh, in case you were wondering, the cave is several hundred yards down a precarious cliffside trail from where the GAC guys were hanging out. NO ONE could get into the cave without their knowledge.

NO ONE. And that trail? Running up it in the middle of the night scared half to death sucks, especially when the witch runs you out by turning off the lights and slamming the heavy iron gate behind you.

Just sayin'. Okay, back to the conversation at hand.

For one thing--again, if we accept modern parapsychological theory, there are four accepted types of hauntings: residual, intelligent, poltergeist, and inhuman. The Psychic Library explains this much better than I--interesting reading too. Residual hauntings occur when the spirits do not interact with the living--instead, they replay moments from moments from their life. The Stone Tape theory, first proffered in the 1970s, hypothesizes that certain types of stone  (quartz or limestone are the most commonly cited) actually record events and replays them. So the stereotypical ghost that walks the hall and disappears into a wall every May 1 would be a residual haunting.

Obviously, Kate is not a residual haunt. The Paranormal Network blog has a great explanation of the Stone Tape theory as well as subsequent hypotheses built off the original concept.

An intelligent haunting occurs when a spirit interacts with the humans it encounters. An example of a famous intelligent haunt would be if granny comes into your room and tells you to pick up your trash three years after she was buried. But while the ghost may interact with people, the kinds of phenomena Kate produced is well beyond the capability of most entities.

Which leaves us with two possibilities. The first--a poltergeist haunting--fits the Bell haunting profile extremely well. They are primarily associated with kids (usually girls) when they hit puberty. The resulting hormonal surge is believed to fuel the child's inherent and untapped psychokinetic ability--hence the name, which means "noisy ghost". Poltergeists like to throw things, stack things, open and close doors, and bang on the walls. They like to make things disappear from their normal place and reappear somewhere it would never normally be put--sometimes months or years after they first disappear. And since Betsy Bell was thirteen when the haunting began, it seems to really tie in with this kind of haunting.

But, I think that the fourth type of haunting, an inhuman haunt, is the most likely explanation for what tormented the Bells. An inhuman haunting occurs when an entity that has never lived as a human being is the force that generates the paranormal event. If you read the Psychic Library post, you'll note that they call this fourth and worst type of haunting a demonic in nature.

It is obvious from the documented events of the Bell case that they were dealing with some entity above and beyond what could be considered a "normal" haunting, and most probably one of the strongest entities ever encountered in paranormal history. The appearance of the strange black animals, the injuries inflicted on countless individuals, the specialized torture of its two primary targets John Bell Sr. and his daughter Betsy--all these things don't fall in line with any of the other three categories. When you factor in the evidence of the entity talking and interacting verbally with scores of witnesses, the materialization of fruit and other gifts when Mrs. Bell was ill, and finally the death of John Bell, it's difficult to believe that these events were generated by a poltergeist.

If your spiritual beliefs include a heaven and hell, the concept of demons is something easier for you to accept than for the atheist/agnostic individual. But even if you don't follow a standard Judeo-Christian based religion, logically you have to wonder what type of supernatural agency possesses the vast power required to do what Kate did. Granny who wants you to pick up your trash isn't going to have the ability to stop Old Hickory's wagon trail in its tracks, or to quote verbatim two Sunday morning church sermons that took place at the same time in two different churches by two different preachers several miles apart. But an inhuman entity--a demon--most certainly would.

And if I'm right, that inhuman entity would be able to feed off the human energy streaming toward the backwoods of Robertson County's forest by the wagon. Every new witness gave the entity that much more power, more fuel charging through it. And so an entity that had learned to verbalize found it incredibly easy to whisper, then say a few words, then sentences, then shout, then sing, then communicate with the very people fueling it for days on end.

The paranormal equivalent of a psychic wind turbine farm in a non-ending hurricane.

Think my theory's out there? Well, check out these words that the entity spoke to John Bell Jr. on its return to the Bell farm seven years after it initially departed.

"There are spirits millions of years old, John, that never have been connected with a body, but were created spirits...I have seen over and over again, things happening in the same country for millions of years; the human mind cannot grasp the meaning of always, eternity, or the infinity of space..."{The Bell Witch, Charles Bailey Bell}

Don't worry. You'll hear a lot more about Kate's return visit on a later post. And the fact that she returned and spoke at great length with John Bell Jr. despite there not being crowds of witnesses lends credence to the theory that this isn't just your average ghost.

So that's my hypothesis. The entity at the center of the Bell haunting is, in my opinion, an inhuman entity with far greater power than a run of the mill ghost--and when hordes of people descended upon the Bell farm seeking proof of the paranormal, they inadvertently fueled that entity, not only with enough energy for it to learn how to communicate easily, but also to fulfill its stated purpose for the haunting.

For everything that Kate did from the moment it first scratched on the walls of the Bell homestead was geared toward a single, horrific goal--to murder John Bell, Senior, and to be able to laugh and sing at his funeral.

For more paranormal theories, check out the Long Island Paranormal Investigators website--

Next time, we'll take a look at one of the more spectacular episodes in the Bell Witch case, including a standoff with a future President of the United States.