witches

Review: “Who Killed John Bell?

This is a review of the August 25, 2022 performance of “Who Killed John Bell,” by the Murfreesboro Little Theatre in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

NOTE: I am not a professional theatre critic. This review is only my opinion. If you don’t have time to read the lengthy review that follows, the “short version” is that there were several awesome things about this play, but the story line–its heart–fell short in several ways, making the final product a big disappointment. Not recommended.

This is a hard review to write in terms of perspective. As most know, I wear THREE hats–a storyteller, a serious researcher, and a big fan of ghost stories. I wear them separately at different times. They are even contradictory in some ways. Right now, I am putting on all three hats and sharing my thoughts with you.

I think the Murfreesboro Little Theatre did an awesome job of organizing and putting on the play, which will also be performed Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, August 26-28. The set was very basic, which is good, because it allows the audience to focus more on the actors and the story.

Casting was great for all but a couple roles, but that wasn’t problematic because the production rarely followed established, historical records to begin with. The acting was excellent; kudos to the actors for their hard work and dedication. I only wish that the story had placed the actors in a Bell Witch production that adds value to the legend and moves the case forward, rather than what amounted to a two-hour-long character assassination of John Bell that made even the “An American Haunting” fiasco look like a John Bell praise club.

Scene after scene, the production portrayed Bell as an evil, hot-tempered, child-hitting, cheating, and devious man who would give even “Ol’ Lucifer” a run for his money. As anyone familiar with the real legend knows, Bell had business disputes with two other men in the community (including Kate Batts’ brother-in-law) but was also one of the area’s most well-loved and respected men. His wife, Lucy Bell, who was thought to be a strong yet humble woman, also was portrayed grossly out of character by the story. The actor herself did a marvelous job, however.

On a positive note, although I loved all of the acting (but just not the storyline), my favorites were the two females in long dresses who portrayed the spirit. Their manner of dress and makeup, along with how they seemingly “floated” around the stage like supernatural entities would, was spot-on. Perfect. I also really liked the Richard Powell character. He had the look, and based on many years of researching Powell, I think his lines were likely what the real Powell said, although the real Powell’s demeanor was happy-go-lucky and not so stern. At any rate, I loved Powell’s character, and the actor did a great job–as did all the actors.

Research for the play was interesting. Their researchers knocked the ball out of the park with several little-known, obscure facts that figure prominently into the legend. However, they ignored, and in some cases grossly misstated, some of the legend’s most basic facts, and in one case adopted a side theory–and ran with it for most of the play–that was debunked by historical records over twenty years ago. One can’t expect to have a credible Bell Witch play, book, or other account when old, worn-out, and previously debunked theories are rehashed.

This easily could have been one of the best Bell Witch productions ever to hit a stage. All of the elements, but one, were present. Creative license is a wonderful thing, and I encourage and appreciate it. I love hearing and learning about new perspectives on the Bell Witch legend. However, when creative license entails painting an unwarranted, negative, and unrealistic picture of a person who is no longer around to defend himself, or ignoring or misstating readily available historical records, it is in bad taste and goes too far. The party’s over.

This isn’t the first such production, nor will it be the last, but at least the other negative productions–even An American Haunting–made an effort to bring in researchers to narrate, comment, and/or answer audience questions so that the full scenario (folktale, assumptions, facts, factoids, scandals, and possible theories) could be put into proper context and perspective. That did not happen here, which made the story line and context hard to understand. Continuity and transitions could have been better.

I don’t know about the play’s ending and the revelation of who killed Mr. Bell, as I had already left by them. But suffice it to say, the play itself did a pretty darn good job of killing John Bell, reputation-wise.

If you are looking for a quick paranormal fix that’s based on an old, scandalous Tennessee folktale, and don’t care about the historical or fact vs. fiction aspects, I recommend that you see this play. For all others: NOT recommended.

New “Bell Witch” Documentary now in Production for 2022

I am proud to be featured in The Bell Witch, Past and Beyond, a new documentary from Crimson Night Productions and Black Leather Productions. We are going to discuss all that has been said and written about the case over the years, and reveal which items are facts. This will be a very exciting and informative documentary. Filming begins in November, with the release scheduled for 2022.

The Bell Witch - Past and Beyond
The Bell Witch – Past and Beyond

Replay of my Interview on “The Road Beyond” Podcast, re: Southern Ghost Stories, Bell Witch – 8-24-2021

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FruShxBsM90

RIP, John Bell

John Bell RIP

“Witch Dance” is Now Available!

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?

+ Witch Dance main page

+ Purchase Witch Dance for the low introductory price of only $0.99 on Kindle for a limited time

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!

New A&E TV Series — “Cursed: The Bell Witch!”

I’m proud to be a part of A&E’s new fall TV series, “Cursed: The Bell Witch!”

This show goes where other productions wouldn’t go, and sheds much-needed light on one of America’s most terrifying ghost stories. The top-notch crew and other cast members went above and beyond in making sure the legend was “done right,” and it was both an honor and a pleasure to work with them.

I am unable to comment about the show’s plot or other details at this time, so I will leave you with A&E’s “first look” video of “Cursed: The Bell Witch!” Look for the show to begin airing in early October.

ALSO, for updates and more upcoming events and appearances, check out The Bell Witch Web Site, my Facebook page, and my Bell Witch book page. But for now… enjoy the following video. Thanks for watching!

Radio Interview – Tuesday July 14th

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

Radio Interview @ Paranormal Kool-Aid July 15th

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.

Upcoming Radio Appearances – May 2015

I’ll be joining Dean on “The Kentucky Ghost Hunter” radio show this Thursday night, May 7th, from 9P-10P Central Time. The show airs on WXMZ 99.9 FM in Hartford, KY (broadcasts to Bowling Green, Owensboro, west central Kentucky area). If you’re not in that area, you can listen live at http://tunein.com/radio/WXMZ-999-s24029/

ALSO…

On Thursday, May 14th, I’ll be joining ParaDelphia Radio for a discussion of the “Bell Witch” at 8P Central / 9P Eastern. You can listen to the live broadcast or the podcast at: www.paradelphia.com

Get your spook on!

Word of Thanks to Batesville/Panola Folks

Giving a word of thanks to those who came out for the lecture and book signing at the Batesville, Mississippi, Public Library last Thursday. Thanks so much for coming. It was great, and we had a ball!

Oh, but there's just one more thing...

Oh, but there’s just one more thing…

The audience thought the woman in the drawing behind me was following me with her eyes throughout the presentation. A new stalker, perhaps?  Photo by "The Panolian" newspaper (www.panolian.com)

The audience thought the woman in the drawing behind me was following me with her eyes throughout the presentation. A new stalker, perhaps? Photo by “The Panolian” newspaper (www.panolian.com).

With some Batesville-area Bell family descendants. Photo by "The Panolian" newspaper (www.panolian.com)

With some Batesville-area Bell family descendants. Photo by “The Panolian” newspaper (www.panolian.com).