Two young cousins embark on a dangerous journey into the infamous Bell Witch Cave in Adams, Tennessee – one of the South’s most haunted spots!
While our story is fiction, The Bell Witch Cave is a real place. To learn more about the legendary Bell Witch hauntings, or how to visit her Tennessee cave, keep reading after listening to The Bell Witch Cave Audio Story.
Table of contents
The Bell Witch Cave – Audio Story
Liz was 16 years old and sitting right in the middle of what she called “Nowheresville, USA” – Adams, Tennessee. Why her parents thought she’d be happy spending the weekend here with her “country cousins” while they were gallivanting about in New York City on vacation was beyond human reason. “It’s a peaceful place to visit,” her parents had said. “It has beautiful, scenic farmland – very bucolic.”
More like bubonic, Liz thought, with a terminal disease of the drop dead dull.
Her country cousin Jimmy, also 16, was no help. He seemed to think dodging cowchips was an athletic event. Nashville was Liz’s home; Nashville was where things were happening. All her friends were off to Halloween parties and spooky movie marathons. “Child’s play,” her father had said. “Halloween was meant for the young ones to trick and treat – older, mature folks had more serious business.” Yeah, Liz thought, like seeing Broadway shows and dancing in Manhattan nightclubs.
Liz walked out on the porch and watched the sun set over the peaceful fields. Oh well, she thought, at least I brought my music. She put on her earbuds, pressed “play” – and the battery died. Liz ripped the earbuds out and sighed – wasn’t anything going to go right?
“Country cousin” Jimmy walked out and joined her on the porch. I might as well hang out with him, Liz thought. It’s better than talking to the plants – but not by much.
Liz turned to him and said, “So Jimmy, what do you do around here besides milk cows and bring in the crops?”
Jimmy shrugged, gazed out at the fields and answered with his lazy rural drawl – “Oh, I don’t know. Fishing, ball games. I like to read, watch TV…”
“Oh, come on. There must be something to do around here. What’s the coolest thing about Adams, Tennessee?”
Jimmy thought about that question a bit and said, “Well, we got the Bell Witch Cave.”
Now that sounds somewhat interesting, Liz thought. “Why’s it called the Bell Witch Cave?”
Jimmy seemed real reluctant to talk about it. “Cause they say it’s haunted,” he said.
Liz rolled her eyes – sometimes getting Jimmy to talk about things was like pulling eyeteeth. “Whoa, don’t stop there – come on, what’s the story? You ever been there? Did you ever see any ghosts?”
“Well, I’ve only been there once with some friends. It was kinda icky and muddy, and full of spiders and all.”
Liz was now really getting impatient. “Tell me about it, Jimmy! Come on!”
Jimmy sighed, sat down and told her the story:
“Well, a long time ago, there used to be this old farm out there. That’s where the Bell family used to live back in the 1800s. They were pretty successful farmers – had a nice house, slave quarters and all. They went to church every Sunday and all that, so everybody in town liked ’em.
But one day, they started getting haunted by this weird spirit. It started out looking like an old buzzard sitting out on the fence. Then it turned into this dog-like creature. Then they saw this mysterious old woman walking around in the orchard. One day, she just vanished into thin air.
But then she came back as a ghost. At night, they could hear her flyin’ ’round the house making these horrible sounds. She’d keep ’em up all night, knocking on doors and windows, making these sounds like wings flapping against the roof and animals fighting and scratching. Then she started getting physical – pulling the blankets off their beds, punching ’em, pinching ’em and pulling their hair.
One day, she started talking to ’em. She’d make fun of ’em, argue with ’em about the Bible, sing these nasty drinkin’ songs. They asked her over and over again why she was bothering ’em. She told ’em lots of things, like she was the ghost of an Indian whose grave had been disturbed, or a dead settler who’d come back looking for buried treasure.
But most folks believe she was a witch conjured up by this crazy old woman named Kate Batts. Kate Batts lived next door to the Bells. And she hated the father, John Bell, ’cause he ripped her off in a slave deal one time. In fact, the witch said several times that she was gonna kill John Bell one day.
Not long after that, John Bell got real sick and was taken to bed. The next morning, they found him dead. The witch started laughing and said she’d poisoned him. Sure ‘nough, when they looked in the medicine cabinet, they saw that his medicine had been switched with a vial of poison.
The witch laughed and carried on all during John Bell’s funeral. Then she told everybody she was leaving, but would come back one day. No one heard from her again for a long time.
But some folks in town believe that the Bell Witch has come back. They say if you make fun of her, or tell folks you don’t believe in her, that bad things will happen to you. And some say you can hear her laughin’ in that cave on the old Bell property, just waiting to put a fright into anybody who dares to go in there.”
When Jimmy finished his story, he was certain that Liz would be scared to death. To his surprise, she was more excited than ever. Her eyes bulging, she squealed, “Let’s go!”
“What? Are you crazy?” said Jimmy. “Come on, it’d be fun!”
“I ain’t goin’ in there,” protested Jimmy. “It ain’t safe. It’s muddy and dark and full of spiders…”
“Oh, come on,” interrupted Liz. “I’m not supposed to go out after dark without permission. And it’s on private property.”
“We’ll sneak the car out.” Jimmy was running out of excuses.
“It’s too far to go,” he said.
Liz gave him a teasing smirk. “Oh, I see,” she said, “you’re chicken, aren’t you? Squawk! Squawk! The country boy’s a chicken! The country boy’s a scaredy cat!”
Well, that did it – Jimmy wasn’t about to be called a chicken by no girl, especially his holier-than-thou, citified cousin. Later that night, when his parents fell asleep, Jimmy grabbed the flashlight and the car keys, and Liz taught him how to sneak a car out in the middle of the night. They quietly pushed the car out of the drive, then down the road a bit and – VAROOM! – started the engine away from the house.
When they got near the cave property, Jimmy pulled over, killed the engine and headlights, and quietly got out of the car. As they crept down the road, Jimmy was relieved to see that the current landowners’ farmhouse was dark and quiet. Jimmy and Liz hid themselves in the shadows away from the bright moonlight and snuck around the house.
They slowly made their way across the overgrown field until they finally saw it – a gaping, black hole yawning ominously out of the side of a steep rocky bluff. As they climbed up the slope toward it, Jimmy held back a bit, a twinge of fear shooting through his body. But Liz grabbed the flashlight and barreled inside more excited than ever. Jimmy sighed, took a deep breath, and entered slowly behind her.
Liz and Jimmy squeezed their way down the tight, dark, winding tunnel. In the dim flashlight beam, they could see eerie rock formations hanging from the ceiling and jutting out of the floor. Water was dripping everywhere, and their feet made squishing sounds as they moved through the muddy floor. Somewhere in the dark depths, they could hear rocks plopping, along with strange sucking sounds – but no witches laughing or moaning.
Liz kept moving rapidly forward with Jimmy tailing behind until they reached a tiny crack between two massive, fallen boulders. She squeezed her skinny body through, but Jimmy, who had a few pounds on her, couldn’t fit. Liz shined her flashlight around and mockingly called out into the darkness, “Here we are, you ol’ Bell Witch! Come on out and show yourself! Oooooooooo.”
Hearing no reply, Liz turned back toward her cousin and grinned. “Oh, well. Guess she’s out painting the town, Jimmy.”
“I can’t get through those rocks,” he said. “C’mon, let’s get outta here. There’s nothin’ back there worth seein’.”
“I want to keep going,” answered Liz from the other side. “Just wait for me here.”
“You can’t go back there by yourself. You ain’t ever been in a cave before. It could be dangerous.”
“I didn’t come all the way out here to stay for five minutes,” said Liz. “Just wait for me. I’ll be back in a little while.”
“No,” barked Jimmy. “I’m responsible for you!”
Liz hesitated a moment, then said in a mocking tone, “Well, if you can’t get through these rocks, I guess you can’t stop me now, can you?”
Now Jimmy was really getting tired of this cocky cousin of his. He had risked his neck sneaking out, going on private property, and all just to prove he wasn’t scared for some stupid reason. But what he didn’t want Liz to know was that he really was getting scared.
“I’ll wait for you outside,” Jimmy said gruffly as he turned and walked back in a huff.
Liz laughed after him and continued into the cave. As she crept further down the dark tunnel, she saw more strange rock formations in beautiful colors and shapes. To her, the cave was hypnotizing and otherworldly, unlike anything she had ever seen before. She wandered further and further down the tunnel in a trance, losing track of direction and time, always wondering what was beyond the next turn.
As she continued on, the ceiling pressed down lower and lower, forcing her to crawl on her knees. Suddenly, the passage ended in a tiny crawl space, leading on to who-knows-what. Now totally hypnotized by the cave, Liz couldn’t stop herself from continuing on. She wiggled into the tiny crawl space head first, pushing herself a little more and a little more until…
She got stuck.
As she tried to wiggle herself free, rocks and gravel fell around her, wedging her in even tighter. She called out for Jimmy, certain he was still somewhere near by, but he didn’t answer. Stupid boy, she thought. Then, of all the darn things, the flashlight went out, plunging her into total darkness.
Liz’s could hear her heart pounding in her chest. “Be calm,” she said to herself, “just be calm and try to move real slow.” But she was totally stuck in the crawl space, with escape all but impossible. She was really getting scared now.
Then, from somewhere deep in the cave, she heard eerie sounds moving toward her. At first, they sounded like scratching noises, then like someone gasping for air. As the sounds got louder, she thought she heard a scraping sound, like feet dragging on the cave floor.
Liz called out in the direction of the noises: “Jimmy, I’m stuck. Pull me out of here, come on.”
There was no answer except for the scraping, gasping sounds moving closer and closer.
“Jimmy come on, quit playing games. Fun’s over.”
There was still no answer.
Liz’s blood was running cold. “Jimmy, I said, get me out of here!”
The eerie sounds kept getting louder and louder as they got closer and closer until Liz could swear they were right on top of her.
Then they suddenly stopped, filling the room with horrifying silence. “Jimmy?” whispered Liz.
AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!! Liz screamed as she felt two massive, cold, scaly, nonhuman hands grab her legs. They yanked her out of the passage like a cork out of a bottle and dragged her deep into the bowels of the cave. She could see nothing in the darkness as she was dragged away.
AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! she screamed.
A few minutes later, the hands suddenly let her go. Liz lifted her head, cleared the mud from her eyes and found herself lying at the mouth of the cave, the bright moon filling the entrance with its blessed light. Cousin Jimmy was there, staring down at her.
As Jimmy lifted Liz to her feet, she teetered unsteadily, trying to catch her breath. “It was you!” Liz gasped. “I knew it. You really had me there. I was sure a ghost had me.” She then smiled and patted Jimmy on the shoulder. “Thanks for pulling me out. That was a good one. You know, you’re not so bad after all.”
Jimmy just stared at her in disbelief, his face white as a sheet. “I…I didn’t pull you out,” he finally replied.
They stared at each other for a moment. Then, from deep in the cave, they heard it – the horrible, cackling laughter of the Bell Witch as she floated back into the darkness. Liz and Jimmy ran back to the car as fast as two human beings could run. Jimmy gunned the engine, and they drove away like lightning, never looking back.
And even though the Bell Witch may return to that cave every now and then, Liz and Jimmy never did.
And that’s the story of The Bell Witch Cave of Adams, Tennessee.
-THE END –
The Real Bell Witch Cave
The Bell Witch Cave is a real Tennessee cavern. As far back as the early 1800s, it served more practical purposes for local residents. But even then, it was also a magnet for curiosity seekers. Our story is based on a documented incident from these early days.
Back then, a group of young boys explored the future Bell Witch Cave, which overlooks the Red River in northern Tennessee. During the wet months, water gushes out of the cave mouth in a spectacular waterfall, making the cave inaccessible. But during the dry months, one can crawl into the muddy cavern, look at the formations and, if one is brave (or foolhardy) enough, squeeze into one of its numerous tight passages.
One boy crawled too far, getting himself stuck in a tiny crawl space. Only using a candle for light, he screamed for help as the wick slowly burned out. Then, in the darkness, he reportedly heard a booming female voice say, “I’ll get you out!” Something pulled his legs and dragged him backwards through the thick mud back to the cave entrance. They never found out who, or what, saved him. But locals believed it could only be one thing – the Bell Witch!
The boys were friends of Betsy Bell, daughter of John Bell, Sr. and Lucy Williams Bell, then owners of the cave property. The Bells were a happy and industrious farming family who moved to Robertson County, Tennessee from North Carolina in 1804. They likely used their cave for cold storage, since temperatures in caves generally hover around 56 degrees year round, making them perfect for food preservation.
The Bell family was devoutly religious and highly respected in this rural Tennessee community. So no one understood why, in 1816, they became the targets of a vicious poltergeist named “Kate,” a.k.a. the Bell Witch. The Bell Witch hauntings would last nearly four years, destroying the Bell family.
Kate could speak to the family, and made no secret of her hatred for John Bell, Sr. According to legend, she played a role in his mysterious death in 1820. She then stayed on the Bell property for another year before announcing she was leaving, but would return in seven years. This she did in 1828, but left again after only two weeks. The remaining family members then died or moved away.
Where is the Bell Witch Cave?
The Bell Witch Cave is located just outside the tiny, once prosperous railroad town of Adams, Tennessee, ten miles northwest of Springfield on Highway 41. From Adams, visitors can take 41 just past the Bell School, turn onto Bell Chapel Road and follow the signs. The Bell Witch Cave is privately owned, and open to visitors.
Some locals claim the Bell Witch still haunts Adams, Tennessee itself. Mysterious noises have been heard in the old town buildings, and sudden accidents (fires, malfunctioning automobiles) have befallen those who claim the Bell Witch is “fake.” Far from disowning the Bell Witch hauntings, Tennessee boosters promote the cave as the region’s major tourist attraction. There is even a Bell Witch Festival in Adams each October.
Nothing remains of the original Bell homestead. Current day owners of the Bell Witch Cave built a replica of John Bell’s cabin, containing period furnishings and a small museum on the Bell Family. But some believe John Bell, Sr.’s restless ghost still wanders his old Tennessee farm.
Although the Bell Witch Cave is small – the tunnel stretches just 500 feet from the entrance – thousands of tourists flock to the site to hear stories of the Bell Witch haunting. Some claim to have “seen” the Bell Witch in photos taken at the site – shadowy figures and misty faces in its murky depths. Others have heard strange sounds like raspy, asthmatic breathing, groaning, or electric “buzzing” sounds. One local reporter even heard a high-pitched scream!
In 2020, the Bell Witch Cave was closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But even before then, the cave would frequently close due to inclement weather or family reasons. So if you plan to make the drive, it’s best to check current operating times and policies. For more information, visit the official website of the Bell Witch Cave.
Who is The Bell Witch?
The Bell Witch is not only Tennessee’s most famous ghost, but one of the most famous poltergeists in American history. She has terrified and mystified people around tiny Adams, Tennessee for generations. To this day, some local residents believe the Bell Witch roams the surrounding hills, using her small cave overlooking the Red River as a hideout. Many believe only bad things can come from publicly questioning her existence.
Stories of the Bell Witch hauntings begin in Tennessee’s early days, when white settlers first moved into the rolling, lush farming regions to the north. One of these farming families was the Bell family of Halifax County, North Carolina.
The Bell Family
John Bell, Sr., 54, his wife Lucy Williams Bell, and their six children moved to northern Tennessee in 1804. They settled 1,000 acres of land on the Red River, then a major waterway to ports on the Mississippi River. He built a double, one and one-half story log cabin for his family, cabins for their slaves, and various outbuildings.
John Bell, Sr. was a strong, stern, hardworking man. After 13 years of backbreaking work, he turned his Tennessee farm into a successful operation. The local community respected John as an excellent farmer, moral man, and a model husband and father (these being the days Southerners supported slave ownership). But he also had a reputation as a hard-nosed businessman who would turn a profit however he could.
John fathered three more children during his first few years in Tennessee, including four strong sons who looked after the farm as he grew older and weaker.
The Bell Witch Hauntings Begin
In 1817, strange things started happening on the Bell property. While walking through his corn field one day, John spotted a strange, dog-like creature in the distance, which quickly disappeared. Around the same time, Drewry Bell, one of John’s sons, saw a large, ugly bird perched on a fence unlike any he had ever seen before. On another evening, Drewry and his sister Betsy were walking through the orchard when they noticed an old woman walking beside them. When Betsy tried to say something to her, the woman disappeared.
These sightings eventually led to strange, unexplainable noises in and around the Bell house. Evenings in the Bell house became a noisy nightmare: knocking sounds on doors and windows, wings flapping against the roof and animals fighting and scratching. As these noises grew in intensity, the family tried desperately to find the source, but found nothing. Sometimes they heard sounds like lips smacking and gulping.
After a year of constant noise, John Bell, Sr. developed a nervous condition affecting his tongue and jaw muscles, making it difficult to chew and swallow. Although he was a fiercely independent man, John believed an otherworldly force caused his affliction, and appealed to his friend James Johnson for help.
Johnson, a devout Christian, agreed to spend the night at the Bell house and confront the spirit. While he was there, the Bell Witch hauntings became worse than ever. Something repeatedly stripped off Johnson’s bed sheets while he slept. Whenever Johnson tried to pull them back, he found the force on the other side to be unbelievably strong. Johnson prayed and asked the spirit to identify itself, but without success.
Johnson finally told the Bells an ungodly force was loose in their home, and they should ask the community for help. Such a revelation was no surprise to these fiercely religious, Scotch-Irish people, who believed the Devil and his minions were constantly wreacking havoc on earth. Soon afterwards, a regular circle of townspeople met at the Bell home every night to confront the spirit.
The Bell Witch Speaks
One night, the spirit began to talk. After a moment of hysterical laughter, it repeated a prayer that James Johnson recited during his first night at the Bells’ home – in Johnson’s own voice! When questioned repeatedly what its name was, the spirit answered “Kate.”
From then on, Kate rarely kept her mouth shut. She argued theology, teased and tormented these true believers, spread gossip and sang loudly. She seemed to know everything about everybody, and became a pest – but a pest with unstoppable strength and power. Johnson asked Kate why she was tormenting the Bell family. She gave several false answers, including stories about Indian burial mounds and buried treasure. These stories lead community members on numerous wild goose chases.
But Kate gave one intriging answer many believe to this day. She claimed she was a witch conjured by Kate Batts, an eccentric woman who lived nearby with her invalid husband. According to historical records, John Bell, Sr. was convicted of usury (lending money at unreasonably high interest rates) in a slave deal with Mr. Batts. Kate, the spirit, repeatedly expressed her hatred for John Bell, Sr., physically abused him, and threatened to kill him.
Kate didn’t feel this hatred toward other members of the family, however. She deeply loved the mother, Lucy Williams Bell, and would sing sweet songs to her in the kitchen. She greatly respected one of the sons, John Bell, Jr., mainly because he wasn’t afraid to stand up to her.
But it was Betsy Bell who received most of Kate’s attention. The spirit would constantly follow her around when she visited friends. Kate especially hated one of Betsy’s suitors named Joshua Gardner, warning her repeatedly not to marry him for reasons she never explained. Whenever Betsy and Joshua would meet, the spirit would torment and embarrass them. Kate physically abused Betsy for her associations with Joshua. Eventually, Betsy was forced to end her relationship with Joshua, and later married her old schoolteacher, Richard Powell.
A Presidential Haunting
As news of the Bell Witch spread throughout Tennessee, crowds flocked to the Bell property to encounter the spirit. John Bell, Sr. was a very generous man, never turning away anyone and spending his own money to keep people fed. Consequently, there was little privacy in the Bell home, as crowds would wait each night by candlelight for the Bell Witch to arrive. These crowds eventually tore up the Bell property with their wagons and horses, draining much of the family’s money.
Among those fascinated by the Bell Witch hauntings was future U.S. president Andrew Jackson, then a general in the Tennessee militia. Jackson first heard stories of the Bell Witch from John Bell, Jr., who served under Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Jackson took a group of men to the Bell property to see things for himself.
While approaching the home, his wagon was reportedly stopped by an unseen force after one of his men openly questioned Kate’s existence. Later that night in the Bell home, another of Jackson’s men was beaten severely by Kate after demanding she show herself. Jackson quickly left the next morning. Johnson later claimed he would rather fight the entire British army than the Bell Witch.
The Bell Witch’s Final Revenge
By 1820, John Bell, Sr. was weak and tired after years of physical abuse at the hands of Kate. One day, he was walking with his son Richard to the pigsty when one of his shoes was jerked off his foot. Richard tied the shoe back on his father’s foot, only to see the other one jerked off in the same manner. The air was suddenly filled with horrifying sounds and John, totally overcome and praying for deliverance, was quickly led back inside the house. Once inside, John took to his bed and stayed there for several weeks, growing weaker and sicker.
One morning, he failed to wake up and could not be aroused. John Bell, Jr. frantically searched the medicine cupboard, but only found a strange vial inside filled with some sort of brown liquid. When the local doctor arrived, Kate began laughing and taunting the family, claiming she had switched the medicine for a vial of poison. The doctor tested the liquid on a cat, killing it almost instantly.
The next day, John Bell, Sr. was dead. But even in death, he found no peace from Kate. At his funeral, attended by hundreds of friends and curiosity seekers, Kate laughed and mocked the family.
John Bell, Sr. and his wife Lucy are the only members of the family known to have been buried on the Bell property, although no one is sure where. The old buildings have long since been removed, and vandals stole the original tombstones. Only a small monument remains, which reads:
Original tombstone disappeared about 1951.
This marker placed 1957.
His wife, Lucy Williams Bell.
And, in a small cavern nearby, many believe John Bell, Sr.’s tormentor still lives, waiting to put a scare into anyone who crosses her path.
The Bell Witch Cave Story Credits
Written by Craig Dominey and Babs Bagriansky
Told by Babs Bagriansky
Music by Les Scott
Photography by Craig Dominey, Larry Blair, Walter and Chris Kirby
Sound Design by Henry Howard