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Bell Witch Of Tennessee

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The "Black Book"

The black-covered paperback (first published in 1972), that is generally known as the "Black Book" is actually a reprint of two books in one.  The first book, and by far the more significant, is entitled The Bell Witch - A Mysterious Spirit, by Charles Bailey Bell, M. D.; this book was first published in 1934.  The second is a much shorter work by Harriet Parks Miller entitled The Bell Witch of Middle Tennessee, that was first published in 1930.

A strongly held tradition concerning the Bell Witch was that, during its last appearance to the Bell family in 1828, it had said it would return again in 107 years, i. e., 1935.  Accordingly, in the early 1930's there was a revival of interest in the witch and both of the above cited works were published to take advantage of this increased interest.  Unfortunately, perhaps to the great relief of members of the Bell family then still living in Robertson County, Tennessee, the witch did not return.

Charles Bailey Bell (1869-1945) was a great-grandson of John Bell, Sr. (1750-1820) and a grandson of John Bell, Jr. (1793-1862).  His book purports to be based on the recollections of John Bell, Jr. which were handed down to his son Joel Thomas Bell (1831-1910).  These recollections were, in turn, supposedly handed down to Joel's son, Charles Bailey Bell.

 

John Bell, Jr. (1793-1862)

The Charles Bailey Bell book really adds very little information beyond that contained in the "Red Book" by M. V. Ingram.  In fact the similarity is so great that it is almost a plagiarism of Ingram's book.  The main difference appears to be the inclusion of long soliloquies on various political and religious topics put into the mouth of the Bell Witch.  I do not believe that these speeches were those of the witch but rather were those of either Charles Bailey Bell or his father, using the witch as a mouthpiece.  

Harriet Parks Miller was a schoolteacher who lived near Adams, Tennessee.  Her book is much shorter that the Charles Bailey Bell book and provides a few additional Witch stories from other families who lived in the area, such as the Northingtons.  However, this work also seems to draw heavily upon the M. V. Ingram book.

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