Monday, October 26, 2015

A&E's Cursed: The Bell Witch Episode 1--Thoughts on the Premiere,Fact Checks and BS Meter From Someone Who Knows

Author's note: This is a stream of consciousness style post, with my reactions to the show. I'll follow this up with a regular post in the blog series later tonight or tomorrow. 

To start off with, I am approaching the debut of this show with an extremely jaundiced point of view. As I mentioned in a previous post, Kate aka the Bell Witch made a point of letting the Bell family know that she/it would not haunt their descendants and that the family was not cursed. Considering the plethora of lawyers, politicians, physicians, and major landowners in the Bell family, and the long and prosperous lives of the first and second generation Bells that I am aware of, it's hard to consider them 'cursed'. And let's be for real--every family has members that die young, tragically, or suddenly. That alone cannot constitute a 'curse'--otherwise we'd all be cursed. And just from watching the intro of the show, the bullshit meter goes off.

So yeah. Bullshit from the start. And now John, the Bell descendant who believes the family was cursed, is thinking that the locals are staring him down, so that means they're hiding something? Oh for Pete's sake! The locals aren't hiding anything, dude. You're in the middle of nowhere with a camera crew. Of course they're staring at you. Believe it or not, camera crews aren't a normal thing in a country diner in Montgomery/Robertson County.

The "Pat" relating the legend is Pat Fitzhugh, an author that I've referred to in previous posts.Naturally, you can't get any nuances from a two-minute discourse of the general aspects of the legend. However, his "lot of people" believing that the witch was Cate Batts bit is BS. In his book, Pat Fitzhugh does offer source material for the historical aspects of the case, but little of that was evidenced in the conversation they just had. Also, it's a huge leap from asking Pat Fitzhugh if he feels the Bells were cursed--to wit, the Bell family in the 19th century--and Fitzhugh saying "it seems that way" and then driving around in the truck afterwards with the comment "Pat said the Bells are cursed." I have a feeling that Pat Fitzhugh's portion of the show was edited heavily, with an eye to focusing the through line on the premise of this "reality" show instead of what really happened.

So it's already very apparent to me that this show isn't going to focus on the historical aspects of the Bell Witch haunting, but is instead going to attempt to create an extrapolation that the hundreds of Bell descendants in the modern day are cursed so that they can exploit the legend which is only a couple of years away from its bicentennial anniversary. They are creating an alternate storyline here, one that is going to play loose and free with the actual legend,

Question: Why in the world do these two guys need cameras to record 'evidence' on the front porch of a relatively new house that isn't on the Bell farm? And what kind of evidentiary trail do they expect to discover two centuries later in relation to John Bell's death?

Umm, A&E--there are lots of Bell family members in and around Adams, as the large Bellwood Cemetery can attest.

Congratulations! They actually went to the correct site of the original house! Down in that sinkhole, are the foundation stones and some rotted timbers that were left behind after the original house was torn down and its materials taken for other uses.

*psst!--Anyone else think that encounter with "farmer Joe" felt a little staged?*

I've skirted that field many a time heading from the big public cemetery to the actual Bell cemetery and the cliffs on Red River that house the cave. The big woods to the left of that cornfield is a gnarly tangle of poison ivy, honeysuckle, briars, May apples, and thick brush. There's also a dry stream bed with discarded tires, etc, and some fairly rough terrain. But in order to get to the areas of current paranormal activity, that's where you have to go. Through the woods, not a tent in the field next to it.


Like, oh--I don't know--the motion detectors might be picking up rabbits, squirrels, possums, deer, and other wildlife that is absolutely inundating those woods. Don't forget the raccoons and skunks either. And let's be for real here--you're a quarter of a mile away from the Bell's private cemetery where John Bell Sr and his wife are buried, and half a mile from the cave. Why are you camping out in a cornfield instead of the real centers of interest where paranormal activity has been documented in the past? And why did "Farmer Joe" show up, shooting a gun, on an ATV to kick you off his land, but suddenly be cool with it when you pull out a tent and build a campfire in his cornfield for you, your friend, and your dog? What--you couldn't camp out in the woods that are right there instead of tearing up Farmer Joe's crops with your campsite? Heck for that matter, you could just take a canoe tour and see it all for a minimal fee. 

By candlelight. Fifty bucks a pop.

Plus there's a perfectly nice pair of motels less than fifteen miles away. Just take 41 back to Clarksville, and there's a Motel Six right there. You can use your cameras and censors to catch truckers in the parking lot. Those motion detectors will be going off all night, by the way. You're in the woods. Duh.

And as expected--absolutely ridiculous. The stuff moving "right in the wood line", dude? It's called wildlife. It's stuff that lives in the wild. Your dog's not scared because it's probably another dog. Or a possum. And no, there aren't any damn grizzly bears in Farmer Joe's cornfield in the middle of Robertson County, Tennessee.

You didn't sleep because you were in a tent in the middle of a cornfield--and where you're set up is about half a mile from the highway, and easily seen from the highway, the cemetery, the church across the street, and anyone driving through the four building strip that comprises Adams.

And...oh HELL no! Are they REALLY stealing crap from the Blair Witch Project? Do they REALLY expect anyone to believe that someone in Adams sneaked up on two guys in a tent in a cornfield and hung a corn dolly from a tree in the middle of the night to scare them? Seriously?

The only credible event of this whole section was the camera dying. That's been documented on numerous occasions in Adams. It's happened to me, in fact. And back in the eighties, Unsolved Mysteries tried to film a segment in the Bell Witch Cave but never could get their cameras to work down there, even though they worked just fine on top of the cliff. So that, alone, I find believable.

Despite the corn dolly.

If I don't type anything more than this, it's because I'm laughing so hard I've given myself a stroke. This is so much worse than I thought it would be. What's going to really suck is when/if these two guys stop bumbling around and acting like complete morons and actually catch some paranormal evidence--which is highly likely considering where they are. All this extraneous bullshit is going to completely invalidate any evidence they might accidentally catch.

Townies? THERE ARE NO TOWNIES IN ADAMS! THERE ISN'T A DAMN TOWN.  Population of 633, with a couple of churches, a convenience store, the old Bell high school now a museum cum community center, and Bell Witch canoeing. That's it, besides a bunch of farms, houses, and a few other buildings. It's a rural, unincorporated spot on the map where two rural, two-lane highways intersect. No town. Ergo, no townies.

Wow. Just--I am speechless. Flabbergasted. Stupefied.

There is also no voodoo in Adams. Or witchcraft. Or witchery. That's all horse manure. For voodoo, you're a few states away. And no one in Adams is running around Farmer Joe's cornfield, hanging dolls with human hair and blood on them in the trees. The people in Adams are kind, courteous, incredibly nice normal people. These fools are making them out to be the equivalent of The Hills Have Eyes creeps.

A&E is egregiously misrepresenting the people of Adams and Robertson County. This is absolutely disgusting and wildly inaccurate. It's totally pissing me off.

Next up--the county archives.

The Robertson County Archives, by the way, are NOT in Adams. That would be in Springfield. As for the fact that women didn't participate in owning land in the early 19th century, etc.--I already addressed that in a previous post, concerning Cate Batts's assumption of such a proprietary role due to the disability of her husband. And everything they 'discovered' at the archives could easily have been found in the two primary sources I cite--the MV Ingram book and the Charles Bailey Bell/ Harriet Parks Miller book, both of which contain the written accounts of Bell family members. "All the motives for Cate to do this have disappeared"--right. Exactly. Because Cate Batts didn't curse the Bells. Nowhere, in any source or documentation is there any indication that Cate Batts was responsible for or associated with the events of the haunting. The whole land deal bit, where John Bell supposedly cheated Cate Batts and she cursed him? Yeah, that was made up for a BAD movie.

So much for their vaunted criminal investigation skills. And legend does NOT have it that Cate Batts "started the curse". Because there is no curse. Problem solved.

Tim Henson--the historian. Yep, he's telling the correct story about Cate Batts. Thank goodness someone is finally on track, especially regarding her eccentricity and the fact that the entity claimed to be associated with Cate Batts. But, just as the gravestones for Cate and her husband Frederick have disappeared, so too has any information beyond the few stories related by witnesses and Bell family members that were documented in the primary sources.

And now we're camping out in someone else's woods. Okay. Let's see what happens at the Batts's family gravesite. This should There are things moving in the woods again, huh?  
Gee what could that be?

"A tree as cold as a coca-cola can."

I am shaking from a combination of outraged laughter and outright indignation here. You're in the woods, in the middle of nowhere, at night, and you found a cold tree. Congratulations.

Oh and now there's something hot on a tree. Possum, anyone? Squirrel? Raccoon? Cat? Maybe an owl?

And that's where they ended it? Okay. Wow.

See, here's the thing that viewers aren't being told. The area of the Bell haunting is compact--easily reached all in one night. An experienced paranormal investigator or even someone smart enough to invest the time to figure all this out would be able to thoroughly check out all these places easily in one or two nights--sleeping during the day in a nice comfy hotel bed. It would take these guys ten minutes to walk to the old graveyard; maybe twenty to get to the cave. The folks in Adams aren't suspicious occultists wanting to keep people out. If you knock on the door of the owner of the land and ask if you can investigate a site, they'll be polite to you. They aren't going to shoot at you and chase you down on an ATV.

Make no mistake: there IS an ongoing paranormal event in Adams Tennessee. The haunting has been going on for almost two hundred years. The Bell Witch entity is real, and as some people have discovered to their horror, it will make its presence known swiftly to anyone that is disrespecting it or the legend. There has been Satanic and pagan activity in the area, due to its association with the haunting. This, too, is fact--back fifty years ago. That's why the cave has a big, immensely heavy iron gate to prevent unauthorized access--and has since the sixties.And this kind of exploitation, the bastardization of the legend and the creation of an imaginary "curse" is exactly the kind of crap that *will* lead to trouble. And quite frankly, the actual events of the original paranormal event AND the things occurring now are plenty scary. They don't need to be embellished. What's wrong with relating what really happened? Why try to dress it up with bogus crap?

And trying to portray the good people of Adams as occultists, suspicious of outsiders, hiding the truth from this poor cursed man is just so wrong, so criminally false that I am completely enraged by it. I am going to continue to watch this travesty, and I'm going to continue both this commentary on the show as well as my blog series on the real Bell Witch legend so that you can decide for yourself. And just to lay the foundations for the types of paranormal experiences people have in Adams, my blog post tomorrow will deal with precisely that--my own Bell Witch paranormal encounters.

And believe me--there was no need for any fake corn dollies danging from the trees.