Haunted

The Bell Witch

 

bell witch

I’ve put off talking about the Bell Witch because honestly I’m scared of her.  I grew up with the story in Hermitage, TN and I’m an Adams from where she was from so I was told not to tell it.  But here I go.

My mom bought me a Bell Witch book for Christmas this week simply called The Bell Witch.  It’s edited Brent Monahan but is the memoirs of Richard Powell – who married Betsy Bell, the most tormented of all the Bell Children.

I never read prologues because shit they’re mostly boring but I wish I had because I nearly crapped my pants at the beginning of chapter 1.  It begins:

“You first heard about the “Bell Witch” when you were 7.”

I WAS 7 WHEN I FIRST HEARD ABOUT THE BELL WITCH.  For ten seconds I literally thought the book was talking to me.  I read it over and over again until I realized Richard Powell was talking to his daughter.  It goes on to describe the first-hand account he lays out about the Bell Witch, Kate Batts, “in the event of his death.”

Kate Batts, Monahan describes as a unique American poltergeist – a weirder Beetleguise because she could hurt people.  I guess all the other poltergeists are just flashes of light and opening of cabinets but Kate Batts was something else entirely.  No, she could rip the covers of the Bell boys’ beds while simultaneously pull the fire out of Betsy Bell’s hair.  And it’s not just the Bell’s that seent it.

They enlisted the help of their neighbors once the hauntings got so bad.  That’a when slick Willy, Richard Powell, gets involved  – who by the way is a teacher in the town.  In the first six pages he describes how, “In keeping with the nature of the revival, she wore a simple linsey-woolsey dress without ribbons or lace, and yet she was exquisite to look upon…She was just shy of thirteen…”

So – Richard, a man of the world from Wisconsin or some shit already has an agenda because he later married Betsy Bell.  The 13 year old.  I’m no spring chicken and I get that older men married MUCH younger girls back then and even now in  most parts of the world.  My grandpa was away in WWII and was dating my grandma probably before she had her first period so whatever. BUT this is where the story gets good.

Kate Batts was definitely a weirdo.  By the time and even by today’s standards.  But was she a witch?  Was she the first american comedian?  Was she just a freak?

I dunno.  But here’s the deal.  She had a lot of “negroes” that she “took care of” and were in her retinue.  She was always begging wool and needles from townsfolk and people already started talking like she was a witch because they thought they were makin voodoo dolls and doing witchcraft.  Kate was married at the time, but her husband fell ill so she was essentially a woman of the world – and we all know that means trouble.  She went to church, but always late and one time sat on some dudes head who was really feeling that ol’ time religion and it really harshed his “jerking exercise.”

So, I do wonder, did the town cry witchcraft because she was different?  Because her slaves were her tribe and she was just a wild lady?  I mean, seriously – did her energy REALLY rip the covers off the Bell kids and pull their hair or was she so despised the family made it all up? Hatfields and McCoys aint got shit on this neighbor feud.

Did she hate John Bell because because she was a wackadoo christian (John Bell was thrown out of the church btw).  Did the joke go too far?  Or did she know something that we don’t know?  I think there’s something in Kate Batts that hated the Bell men but why? Did she think she was pious? Or was she harmed by them?

Do women just act out for no reason? Let’s be real – there was no poltergeist.  So what the hell was going on that it still remains in Tennessean’s collective memories?

There might be an interesting parallel with a recent Nashville Ballet Performance’s interpretation of Lizzie Borden.  In Nashville treasure, Paul Vasterling’s interpretation, Lizzie was being raped by her father and her mother stands by.  She is justified in an almost feminist way when she removes her clothes and murders her family brutally with an ax., shown beautifully thought ballet and lights of course.

Was she a feminist or completely insane?  I just wish I had the answers.  What do y’all think?

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Demon Weave

You’ve got to love the local news. Channel 4 WSMV’s recent coverage of DEMONIC HAIR WEAVE in Memphis is just the type of groundbreaking journalism I have come to expect from my hometown.

Anyone with black girlfriends knows weave is crazy expensive, and like laundry detergent and pregnancy tests in my old hood, some people steal weave and sell it like drugs (see this interactive map of hair crimes). “To a lot of people, selling hair is like crack,” Tamika Broadnax said. “Everybody is spending money on hair. They’re spending $300-400.”

What started in earnest as an investigation to a spike in crime and tragic murders over hair theft, has transformed into a bizzare occult story.  It appears that many area people believe the case of the spike in hair crimes is due to hair that has been “cursed.” And for good cause. The hair in question comes from India, where many think that it was cursed in a religious hair cutting ritual called “tonsuring.”

I almost fell for it, but luckily News Channel 4 WSMV writes the sort of cutting edge statements that makes me question the truth when they reassure us that, “Dr. Adkins is doubtful demons would possess weaves and wigs.”

Whew! I was worried. And here I thought today would be boring… Welcome to Memphis y’all!

#demonweave
Read more: http://www.wsmv.com/story/31369978/demonic-weaves-believed-to-be-root-of-hair-crimes#ixzz41rNyeVvv

 

Hank Williams Wuz Here

Hank Williams is the South’s very own George Washington who slept, ate, and even died all over the place. The night of his death is still a much disputed bar game where everyone likes to argue what they think really happened.  People will tell you that he ate his last meal in Bristol, VA at a place called Burger Bar but others think that he wouldn’t have wanted to eat after being shot up with morphine by a Doctor in Knoxville (after the chloral hydrate and all the booze he had already had), and that his last words really may have been that he did not want anything. It’s more probable that his chauffeur was eating a burger from Burger Bar as Williams died. And actually, there may (?) not have even been a Burger Bar at that time.

And where did he die? We know for sure that it was somewhere between Knoxville, TN and Oak Hill, WV but the exact location is impossible to know. Was it the morphine, the combo, or just bad luck? His reported cause of death “insufficiency of the right ventricle of the heart” but he could have just been done.

Nevertheless; he died the modern day seafarer’s death which has a beauty all its own – on the road.

What is certain is that his life was in decline as he started down his own lost highway to Canton, OH. It was New Years Eve, 1952 (heading into 1953): An ice storm caused his show in Charleston, WV to cancel so Charles Carr began driving Williams to his next show at the Windsor Theater in Canton. They stopped in Knoxville at the Andrew Johnson hotel to get Dr. Morphine, then at Burger Bar in Bristol (113 miles from Knoxville), and then again at a gas station in Oak Hill, WV (157 miles) where Carr discovered Williams was dead.

And perhaps it was his traveling spirit that keeps him around.  There are more stories than I can count of people who have seen his ghost either as him or a white mist at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  He is also active in the alley behind the Lower Broadway Honky Tonks in Nashville that back up to the Ryman’s backstage exit, thehallways in the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, the Tyree Funeral Home where his body was autopsied, and homes and honky tonks all over the South.

Have YOU seen him?

The Bloody Past of The Read House Hotel

When I started working for the Tennessee Wildlife Federation, my eyes lit up with joy when on my first day I was handed a history book of the Federation’s story since 1946 titled Sportsmen United: the Story of the Tennessee Conservation League. To my surprise, what I found on the first page sent shivers down my spine, “On February 12, 1946 in a room in Chattanooga’s new Read House, fifty-three men from around the state gathered to build a new organization on the ashes of an old one.” 

My jaw dropped. I had recently been researching the Read House; however, not for its ties to the state’s conservation efforts, but for it’s haunted history.  The Read House stands in a location that has served as a hotel of some name or another for almost 170 years.  Beginning as the Crutchfield House built in 1847, it, like every other ornate building with a nice porch, was used as a civil war hospital by Union troops in 1863. Thomas Crutchfield purposely built the hotel in front of the Western & Atlantic Railroad stop in Chattanooga, which made it all the more convenient for trainloads of mutilated soldiers with body parts dripping off to arrive by the hundreds.

Just a few years later in 1867, Chattanooga was immobilized by a flood that covered the town of then 5,000 people.  One report tells of steamboats from the river floating all the way to 5th St. The Crutchfield house flooded up through the first floor, and what the waters didn’t destroy, a fire shortly after finished. A prominent Doctor, John T. Read took over and rebuilt the hotel as The Read House, where the most elite travelers would stay.

In fact, legend has it that one such traveler never left. Her name is Annalisa Netherly and like any good ghost story, she is shrouded in mystery. Some say she arrived sometime in the 1920’s with a suitor. The version I like the best goes that the gentleman she came to town with caught her with another man and was so angry he “neatly” decapitated her while she was bathing in room 311. In another version, Annalisa is a prostitute who was murdered by a soldier. Yet another, and the most dull, is she committed suicide with no back story.

Countless guests and employees have seen her, and all know one thing for sure: Annalisa doesn’t like cigarettes or men. She appears to many as a woman in white, and most often manifests herself to children. Another tragic detail is that Annalisa is pregnant.

Annalisa still makes it her business to keep out unwanted guests to room 311 so if you want to see her, leave your smokes at home.