The Bell Witch is one, of all the ghost stories that I have ever read, that makes my skin crawl every time I think about it. This "event" began in 1817 in a sleepy little berg in northern middle Tennessee called Adams.
The Bell family were prosperous farmers when their world was turned upside down by poltergeist activity. The two principal targets of this "haunting" were John Bell and his 12 year old daughter, Betsy. This spiritual entity was determined to see John Bell dead. John Bell did indeed die supposedly at the hands of this entity.
All comments I make about this story are based on the assumption that it really did happen. No one can prove that it didn't. This spiritual entity not only conversed with John Bell's family, but visitors as well. It identified itself as the "witch" of Kate Batts. Kate Batts was a neighbor of the Bell's who had some bad business dealings with John over some slaves. It was called the Bell Witch because it tormented the Bell family and called itself a witch.
Was the Bell Witch really a witch or something else?
Instead of a witch, this was more likely some kind of demonic infestation. The pattern for a demonic possession is infestation, oppression, and possession.
Infestation usually begins with strange noises and rappings in the house which is exactly what happened to the Bell family. The classic sound of chains being drug through the house was included in this story. Also, strange animals were seen lurking about the Bell house before the "entity" manifested itself.
Infestation seems to give the demonic being strength as it seems to feed off of the fear of the inhabitants of whatever dwelling it has decided to invade.
Oppression follows infestation. Betsy Bell was slapped and choked by this invisible being and John Bell was made sick by this being. The Bell family was tormented for three years until John Bell died supposedly from the intake of a strange, black liquid. In fact, the tale goes that a drop of this mysterious liquid was placed on the tongue of a cat which immediately dropped dead. "Kate", as everyone came to know the Bell Witch, took credit for the death of John Bell. It is even claimed that "Kate" showed up at John's funeral, laughing and singing as he was being laid to rest.
It seemed that "Kate" had 2 objectives: To kill John Bell and to prevent his daughter, Betsy, from marrying a boy named Joshua Gardner, whom Betsy thought highly of. This aspect of the story reminds me of the Terminator movies, in which androids are sent back in time to try and alter the future. Was "Kate" trying to prevent or preserve some future event by the targeting of the Bell family?
If there was possession in this case, the victim would have been John Bell. He suffered months of abuse by this, what I believe to be, demonic entity. Finally, John Bell died. After John's death, the events surrounding the Bell house subsided. There are rumors that modern day tourists who visit the Bell Witch cave better be careful of what they say (do not mock "Kate") and to never take something from the cave as the witch will bring very bad luck to those people who do.