The Enduring Mystery of the Bell Witch

The 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project was inspired by a real tale of a haunting, although it was in Tennessee instead of Maryland, and it happened a long time ago. The first complete account of the Bell Witch haunting was written in 1894, but the haunting of the John Bell family began in 1817. First there were strange sightings, then poltergeist phenomena, then a woman's voice began talking to the family constantly. This "spirit" began as friendly, but turned insulting and threatening. She stayed around until John Bell died under mysterious circumstances that the witch took credit for.

But who knows what really happened? In the 74 years between John Bell's death and the book about it, the story may have changed. Author Martin van Buren Ingram was inspired by the tales told in Adams, Tennessee, and claimed he was working from information in a family manuscript by John Bell's son. However, that source has never been found.

But the Bell Witch story resonated with readers, and has ever since. Atlas Obscura looks at why it became so popular, and the lasting legacy of the Bell Witch of Tennessee. ā€‹

(Image credit: Brian Stansberry

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