Monday, December 14, 2015

Let's Bring Cursed: The Bell Witch to a Merciful Close

First off, let me apologize for not posting this blog earlier. I'm recovering (slowly)from strep and not only could I not blog about the show, I couldn't even watch the show.

Only so much crap one can endure when sick. 

Apparently, I didn't miss too much since the first thing that happened the final episode was a pagan ceremony to appease the 'sentinel' that started the curse because John Bell desecrated the land--a ceremony that goes back centuries and was even mentioned by Julius Caesar in his self-aggrandizing book Commentaries on the Gallic Wars. Ancient Druids used to burn actual people, but later ones, instead of burning a human (as we Christians would be doing only a few centuries later) constructed an effigy of straw or wicker and set it on fire on the summer solstice. Pagans, Wiccans, and other non-Judeo-Christian religions and/or groups still practice this ceremony today. In fact, the ceremony has evolved into a popular kind of festival such as the Burning Man Project in Black Rock City, Nevada.  And if you look closely at the straw man John sets on fire, you'll note its similarity to the little corn dolly that showed up dangling from a tree in an earlier episode as well as the ones that showed up randomly in The Blair Witch Project--and the universality of the figure is probably the only thing that is keeping the Blair Witch producers from suing A&E for copyright infringement. 

I have to wonder, though, if there's a tongue in cheek nudge involved from the producers of Cursed. Maybe the 'straw man' is representative of how we usually use the phrase--an argument or position that is offered as a deliberate red herring by someone to his opponent, and then defended by him in such as manner as to deflect his opponent's real interest away from something that he wishes to hide. A sham argument, in fact. An intentional and premeditated falsehood, used to completely obfuscate the originator's real purpose or vulnerability. 

At any rate, the burning of the straw man was touted as the way to appease the sentinel who was cursing the Bell family as a result of the desecration of sacred land. It is irrefutable that there are many Native American burial sites in and around Adams and on the old Bell homestead. There's even an empty grave in the Bell Witch Cave. Contemporaries of the haunting themselves believed that there was potentially a Native American tie to the entity, and I know for a fact that belief has persisted through the oral and written legends in the area.

But something doesn't quite ring true on that front for me. Remember when we discussed what type of haunting the Bell Witch was and I hypothesized that the entity was inhuman. Never having walked the earth as a human, that would relegate the spirit to a demonic-type haunting--something that I believe is borne out by the events of the Bell haunting and the torments employed against not just the family but neighbors, slaves, and even total strangers. In fact, John Zaffis appeared to share my opinion on the show--which makes me wonder something very basic.

They had a foremost demonologist on set and yet they still thought burning a Blair Witch effigy in a mockery of an ancient pagan ceremony was going to resolve the 'curse' aka/the haunting on the Bell land? I refuse to believe that Zaffis was standing behind the camera going, "Yeah, man--burning a six foot tall corn dolly will solve all your problems." And so, I have to believe that no one bothered to ask Zaffis what to do.

And the only reason they wouldn't have? Because there was never any intention of resolving the haunting, and because there was never any curse. So imagine my surprise when--shock!--the ritual didn't work.

I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that if someone is going to undertake 'magic'--and make no mistake, that's what this ritual was intended to be--then that person needs to

1) Believe in the religious/magical source of the ritual.
2) Know what they're doing.
3) Mean it.

I don't think any of those elements were in place.

Which brings us to Pastor James Vivian.


Folks, I've been in that cave countless times. I've explored the land. I've gone to the cemeteries both during the day and in the middle of the night. I've heard organ music in a field in the middle of nowhere, dodged creepy animals sitting in the middle of the road, and when I knocked on Mr. Eden's door while he was at the store heard the furniture shifting around inside the house. And believe me when I tell you, sitting in the Bell Witch Cave shouting "I break the curse!" isn't going to do a damn thing but make whatever inhabits that place laugh. A lot. Loudly.

Kind of like I did.

Keep in mind, too, that the Bells were devout Christians, and two of their staunchest allies and supporters during the haunting were the two local ministers. But that didn't affect Kate, because she not only could quote chapter and verse of the Bible, sing hymns, and argue theology but she actually attended church services both with and without the family. Facts which are documented both within and outside the family. So while I cannot dispute the power of prayer, I have to say with one hundred percent certainty that nothing has changed in Adams--or the cave.

Also, too, I seriously doubt that the current owners of the cave (who are turning it into a tourist spot) would permit anyone to exorcise their pet profit-making scheme. No way. Adams doesn't have much--a deserted pre-Depression downtown of crumbling buildings no bigger than a block, a Dollar Store, a community center. The annual Adams Threshers Show is awesome fun, but aside from that all that's there are farms and the Witch. That's it. So the idea that they would jeopardize that is ludicrous.

In the end, A&E's Cursed: The Bell Witch was nothing but...well...bullshit. It was obviously a (poorly) scripted show, that distorted the legend and the history in order to make spurious and patently ridiculous claims regarding this so-called curse that, according to John's own pre-show monologue, apparently only has affected what? Three guys in two hundred years?

Some curse.

And what's lost in Hollywood crapola like this is the REAL legend, the REAL human witnesses, the REAL toll upon the small frontier community of Adams. And not only that, but the absolutely ridiculous way the show portrayed the people of Adams, Robertson County, and Tennessee is grossly insulting and stereotypical. Showing people at a local diner as suspicious people who have it in for the two 'investigators' is just stupid. And throughout the whole affair, the two men--who are from Mississippi, after all, and should be careful about what they condescend to--acted as if they thought their lives were in some kind of danger, running around in the woods with their guns AS IF A BULLET COULD STOP A GHOST.

Almost criminally negligent, in my opinion, and the show's producer's should never be cut loose ever again in public to film any sort of *reality* show ever again.

So there you have it. We all wasted five weeks of our lives on a show that was a piece of garbage, with absolutely nothing to recommend it from beginning to end. If you are interested in the Bell Witch, I recommend that you get the books by MV Ingram and Charles Bailey Bell. They will tell you the real story. Go to Adams, and meet the wholly friendly and kind folks who live there. Go through the little museum and the restored slave cabin, check out the cave and the cemetery. And go in October, so you can check out the play that my old friends from the theater department at APSU put on there every fall. They are all much better actors than I ever was, and I had a nice little career on the stage for a full decade after leaving the area.

Because you'll find out everything you ever wanted to know about the legend that way, instead of wasting your brain cells on a farce like Cursed: The Bell Witch.

A&E should be ashamed of itself. This whole ordeal has convinced me of one thing at least.

I'll never watch another show on that channel, and I strongly advise you to do the same.

So let's toss this stupid straw man on the bonfire, watch it burn, and head to a bar. Much better way to spend our time.