Review by Pat Fitzhugh of The Bell Witch Site
Transparency Notice: I am in this movie. However, I do not receive monetary compensation based on its sales.
December 20, 2020 marked the 200th anniversary of the death of Tennessee farmer, John Bell, allegedly by the hand of a malevolent entity called the “Bell Witch.” The saga of Bell’s tragic death and the sinister grasp of terror that his family was forced to endure has evolved into one of America’s greatest supernatural legends.
Days before the somber anniversary of Bell’s passing, Ohio-based film company Small Town Monsters released “The Mark of the Bell Witch,” a supernatural, docu-horror movie that focuses on the Tennessee version of the legend between the years 1817 and 1821.
In early 2020, while discussing my involvement in the film with writer-director Seth Breedlove, I remarked that most Bell Witch-related shows use the same worn-out approach to tell the same old story, and that I am constantly asked whether anyone will ever “get it right.” A few months later, Small Town Monsters got it right.
“The Mark of the Bell Witch” takes a historical approach by relating the earliest stories in their original form, providing true-life reenactments that depict genuine human fear rather than thrills or frills, and placing the stories along a well-thought-out storyline that intertwines the story with expert commentary while keeping a solid pace and maintaining the logical order of events. The film is divided into well-transitioned chapters that advance the story in such a way that viewers can digest the story as it unfolds.
Small Town Monsters cemented their historical focus by allowing Bell Witch researchers and related subject-matter experts to peel back the layers of time and provide depth, context, and perspective throughout the production. This approach, which is arguably one of the film’s strongest points, helps viewers to understand not only important details and developments that have surfaced, but also how the legend came about, how it has evolved, its cultural effect on the region, and its place in American history and folklore. Many previous film interpretations have lacked value because they required researchers to simply tell the story and do nothing more. Conversely, by allowing researchers to come full circle and discuss their findings on camera, Breedlove and his crew have added significant value and validity to their production.
Of particular interest to me was the interview with African American local historian, John Baker. He is a treasure trove of information about the area’s African American history, including slave ownership and how it likely had an impact on the Bell Witch legend. All too often, certain families and groups are omitted from Bell Witch-related productions, although their stories and perspectives need to be heard. Kudos to Small Town Monsters for seeking Mr. Baker’s input and perspective in the making of this film.
It is also noteworthy that “The Mark of the Bell Witch” is unbiased. With the Bell Witch being such a controversial case, well-balanced research and interpretations are hard to find. Small Town Monsters presents the legend in a clear, open fashion, without trying to prove or disprove it. Viewers are left to draw their own conclusions. Bravo!
Lauren Ashley Carter’s narrations are impactful and on point, performed with perfect timing and absent hesitation or distraction. Small Town Monsters made highly effective use of paradox in selecting Lauren as the narrator. Her voice and tone make the perfect counterpoint to the terrifying subject at hand, cutting a mark that runs deep. I was also impressed with the storytelling and historical analyses provided by Heather Moser, a classics professor and researcher at Small Town Monsters. Her research is spot-on, and she articulates her findings very well. Her professional demeanor is second to none.
The actual Spirit, played by producer Adrienne Breedlove, looked intense and downright creepy, just as how I would picture “Old Kate.” A lot of careful thought and planning obviously went into the Spirit scenes and character.
The other actors, Amy Davies (Betsy Bell), Aaron Gascon (John Bell, Jr.), Thomas Koosed (John Bell, Sr.), Grayden Nance (Drew Bell), and John Bell’s hair-do, did an awesome job as well. Their wardrobes were accurate to the period being portrayed, and their acting realistically portrayed how the Bell family likely reacted when faced with their unwelcome “visitor.”
The filming, scene compositions, still shots, audio, and overall production quality are of a class that is typically reserved for household name companies with huge budgets. One of the biggest things I noticed during onsite filming was the crew’s passion for getting the job done right; they all share a sincere interest and did everything it took to make a high-quality film. Well done.
With “The Mark of The Bell Witch,” Small Town Monsters have brewed up a perfectly blended concoction of history, folklore, expert input, and reenactments, to create what is, in my opinion, the best Bell Witch film interpretation to come along thus far.
Blues and Roots Radio, a large international broadcasting network, has ranked The Bell Witch – Let the Game Begin in their global Top Ten, debuting at #7.
Kudos to my partners in crime–Snapper Long, Jimmy Williams, and Lydia Bain–for their hard work and musicianship, and to the others for their behind-the-scenes dedication to the project.
And, special kudos to the Bell Witch for leaving us alone while we worked, at least up to the point when we shot the promo trailer video (which is another story).
Haven’t heard it yet? Give it a listen at YouTube.
Want to know more? Check out the promo trailer with behind-the-scenes footage and performer interviews, here.
For the last 25 years, the public-facing hub of my research and other Bell Witch-related activities has been the Bell Witch Web Site (www.bellwitch.org). In fact, most Bell Witch-related online resources I have created are offspring, or “extensions,” of that site.
What began as a single-page information repository on my personal “Our World” web space at CompuServe in February of 1995, morphed into a small collection of such pages on my later Geocities web space, and in four short years became a large, full-service web site with its own domain.
Since then, the site has received millions of visits and has undergone periodic updates as new information surfaced. Now it is time for the NEXT chapter.
From late 2020 until the spring of 2021, the site will undergo a full renovation. This will include a complete site rebuild and redesign on a new hosting service, optimization for mobile and tablet users as well as desktop users, the addition of updated and new Bell Witch information, tighter integration with social media platforms, and a set of new tools to make it easier for people to interact with the site.
As for the site’s name, it has called “The Bell Witch Web Site” for the last 20+ years, which is very direct and to-the-point–a good thing. But it’s also redundant. Within the context of the internet, the term “site” implies WEB site. So, the new site’s name will be simply, “The Bell Witch Site.”
All of this will occur on a new, separate site that will remain offline until all work and testing has been completed. After that, the bellwitch.org domain will be pointed to the new site. No changes will be required from your end, as the site’s URL will remain the same.
Along with the new site will come two new social media accounts (you can follow now, if you like):
- Twitter (@Bell_Witch_Site)
- Instagram (The_Bell_Witch_Site)
This is a very exciting time for bellwitch.org and its users. Stay tuned for a better, more modernized, and more engaging Bell Witch site!
Pat Fitzhugh, Author/Researcher/Website Owner
2020, despite its many hardships and other problems, has turned out to be a big year for the Bell Witch legend.
1) The 200th anniversary of John Bell’s death.
2) The new Bell Witch song, “The Bell Witch (Let the Game Begin)
3) The new Bell Witch movie, “The Mark of the Bell Witch”
The movie, which I am in, is scheduled for winter release. Check out the trailer, below!
With behind-the-scenes footage + performer interviews!
WHERE LEGEND MEETS SONG
The legend of the “Bell Witch,” America’s most documented haunting, has woven a web of fear and intrigue around the world for over 200 years. The epic tale of terror on Tennessee frontier has been the subject of books, movies, and documentaries the world over.
Nashville guitarist Pat Fitzhugh, who has researched the infamous legend for over 40 years and written books about it, has teamed up with award-winning songwriter and folklore enthusiast Mike Richards to put the legend into song.
Their timely collaboration comes full circle with virtuoso fiddle player Lydia Bain and award-winning vocalist Jimmy Williams rounding out the project.
WATCH THE SONG TRAILER HERE
Don’t be left out–get the song at:
and other major retailers.
My new song, “The Bell Witch (Let the Game Begin),” is now on the Featured Artists list at Blues and Roots Radio. They have 3 main stations (Canada, US, Australia), and have affiliate stations around the world.
The song will be rotated on their “Featured Artists” show from time to time (avg. once daily), and can also be played from the Featured Artists page.
Had a great time in Brownsville, Tennessee, Friday night! The weather was right, and the 120+ who came to the BELL WITCH lecture+QA+Signing event seemed to enjoy it. Thanks so much for coming out!
It was also great catching up with old friends and ghost-hunting buddies I haven’t seen in a while (some of which drove from as far away as Mississippi and Arkansas to attend), and making some new friends as well.
A big thank you to WBBJ TV in Jackson, Keith at WNWS, the crew at Radio Brownsville, and the supportive friends who helped to spread the word!
And a VERY SPECIAL thank you to Sonia and her wonderful staff at the Delta Heritage Center for their hard work, professionalism, attention to detail, and rolling out this event with flawless execution!
Next Up: Clarksville, Tennessee
~ THE ARKANSAS PARANORMAL EXPO ~
MacArthur Military History Museum
Little Rock, Arkansas
I will be meeting & greeting, autographing books, and giving two lecture presentations at the Arkansas Paranormal Expo. This will be held at the MacArthur Museum of Military History in Little Rock.
In addition to guest speakers and vendors, the expo will host raffles for items such as a Ghost Hunt at MacArthur Museum, Gift Certificates, Gift Baskets, Books, Haunted Tours of Little Rock Tickets, and MORE!
Admission is only $10 for a weekend pass, and is payable at the door. Children under 12 get in free. All admission, raffle and vendor fees will be donated to MacArthur Museum.
Details (ticketing, speakers, vendors, hotel discounts, etc.) can be found at the Expo’s official web site.
Come join me in Little Rock on Oct. 6&7 for lots of fun!