The "Red Book"
The most complete version of the Bell Witch story is contained in a book written by Martin Van Buren Ingram entitled: An Authenticated History of the Famous Bell Witch. This book was first published in 1894 and is the earliest and still the best account of the legend. The original 1894 edition appeared in a white cover; this original edition is extremely rare and is quite valuable. Even the Tennessee State Archives has lost its copy (undoubtedly stolen) of the 1894 edition.
In 1961 a reprint was issued with a red cover. In Robertson County, Tennessee this red-covered book is commonly referred to as the "Red Book" as opposed to the black-covered "Black Book" that was written many years later (first published in 1934) by Dr. Charles Bailey Bell, a great-grandson of John Bell. At this web site the terms "Red Book" and "Black Book" are used throughout, to indicate either the M. V. Ingram or the Charles Bailey Bell book, respectively.
Red Book Availability
The last reprint of the Red Book, of which I am aware, was made in 1971. Accordingly, a copy of the Ingram book is now very difficult to obtain. Even many of the Middle Tennessee libraries no longer have copies because of thefts - mainly by school children!
Electronic Version of the Red Book
The Ingram book is now in the public domain. Accordingly, for the convenience of serious students of Bell Witch folklore, I have appended an electronic, hyper-linked version of Ingram's book to this web site.
Red Book Prose
The Red Book was produced during the early 1890's and was written in the style of the period. Also, even though Ingram was a journalist, his prose was apparently never reviewed by an editor before publication and contains many spelling errors and some obvious grammatical errors. The sentences run on forever and are filled with commas. Also, paragraphs often run on for several pages! As a result, the book is very difficult for people living in our "instant communication" era to understand, especially for persons used to 15-second video/sound bites. However, other than correcting the spelling, fixing some of the most glaring grammatical mistakes, and cleaning up some of the language (offensive by today's standards) that Ingram used to describe the speech of African-Americans, the book is reproduced at this site exactly as written by Ingram.