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.
Its history, its stories, and my spending two nights there
(a long article, so grab a pot of coffee)
On the grounds of the Bell School building and city park in Adams, Tennessee, a tiny and rustic house sits quietly, paying homage to a bygone era. For over two hundred years, her now rusty nails and withered logs have stood witness to the triumphs and tragedies of those who came before us. Some even say she holds secrets; if only those logs could talk.
Known as the “Bell log cabin,” the aging two-story house is named after the John Bell family, who moved to the area in 1804 and settled nearby. The cabin and park occupy a tiny portion of what was once John and Lucy Bell’s massive farm, where their family allegedly endured a four-year reign of terror at the hands of a malevolent entity known as the “Bell Witch.”
10PM Central / 11PM Eastern
With Clayton Trout at WEHC FM 90.7 in Abingdon, Virginia.
We will be covering some haunted and weird cases from my book, “Ghostly Cries From Dixie.” Learn about The Greenbrier Ghost, Waverly Hills, The Bell Witch, Jacksonboro, The Brown Mountain Lights, The Bragg Ghost Light, and MORE!
LISTEN LIVE this Friday night @ this link. Then click the “Listen Live” button)
Lori Crane’s highly-anticipated new book, Witch Dance, is here! Yes–it involves the location just off the Natchez Trace.
I have known Lori a long time, and in addition to being a top-notch musician and entertainer, she’s also quite the historical fiction author! Her topics are very similar to mine, yet we are not competitors, so I always try my best to help promote her works any way I can.
Here is the “Witch Dance” description from Amazon:
Just south of Tupelo, Mississippi on the Natchez Trace lies a place of mystery called Witch Dance.
When Thomas and Margaret Speedwell took their twins to Witch Dance for a weekend camping trip, they never imagined they would be pulled into a vortex of witchcraft, tragedy, and karma. One of the girls goes missing; the other won’t say what happened on the other side of the hill.
The tragedy pulls together a cast of characters from Margaret’s childhood and beyond – Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians, Toltec ancestors, the extinct Hopewell tribe.
With the help of a childhood friend, a concerned newspaper reporter, and visions by a strange old woman, a two-thousand-year-old mystery begins to unfold, uncovering missing children throughout generations. Who is taking them? Could it be the infamous witches of Witch Dance?
Paperbacks are also available for only $9.99!
To learn more about the author and what she’s working on, be sure to visit her site!
Many thanks to fans who braved the chilly weather to be a part of my storytelling and book signing events in Sparta, TN, yesterday and last night. I couldn’t have been more pleased with the turnout and everyone’s enthusiasm. As always, your interest and support are greatly appreciated; people like you are why I have been doing these and similar appearances for almost 40 years now. I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s events! We’ve only just begun.
Time truly flies when you’re having fun–and when you are busy. I apologize for the long delay between updates; it has been a very busy and productive last few months. I plan to post a lot of pictures, videos, and news in the coming weeks.
As 2017 reaches the halfway point, I am repointing and refocusing my efforts on current research and writing projects, and fewer ghost investigations. Not that there is anything wrong with ghost hunting, but planning the investigations, the travel involved, and spending weeks reviewing evidence takes a LOT of time. And so does writing. Finding the time to investigate hauntings, research cases, and write books, all at once, and hoping for the proverbial “big bang,” is daunting at best. Any more ghost investigations? You betcha–but just not as frequently (for a while). It is now time to catch up on my writing projects.
I have several works in progress, some of which are near completion. In my queue is a new, revised edition of “The Bell Witch: The Full Account,” a sequel to “Ghostly Cries From Dixie,” entitled, “More Ghostly Cries From Dixie,” and two new, first edition books: “The Outlaws and Ghosts of The Natchez Trace” and “From Turkey Creek – A Memoir.” The Natchez Trace book is in its early stages, and Turkey Creek is almost finished.
You will be hearing much more about these titles, as well as release dates and upcoming appearances, through more frequent updates of this web site/blog. I will also be sharing pictures from various ghost investigations and my travels.
In the meantime, I leave you with a video from a ghost investigation near Jackson, Tennessee, conducted on January 21, 2017. Three of us investigated an 1850s-era church building and Masonic hall, and the graveyard behind it, which dates back to the early 1820s. Activity was fast and furious, so much that we brought a much larger group for another investigation on June 24th; we encountered the same results. The area is chock full of history. Watch the video and read the captions for more information!
Thanks for watching. See you soon!
Tuesday July 14th from 10P-Midnight (Central Time)
I will be joining Dave Schrader on Darkness Radio to discuss the legend of Tennessee’s infamous “Bell Witch,” and the cold-blooded terror an entity named “Kate” inflicted on the John Bell family, changing their lives forever.
Listen Live at Darkness Radio
I’ll be appearing on the “Paranormal Kool-Aid” radio show July 15th at 9P Eastern / 8P Central. The discussion will center on two local haunts near and dear to my heart, The Thomas House and Octagon Hall, and why they should be on everyone’s paranormal bucket list.
A “listen live” link will be posted closer to showtime. Make your plans to listen now. Get your spook on.