Sunday, April 12, 2009

An American Haunting: The Bell Witch by Brent Monahan

This novel is cleverly presented as a true account, a long forgotten manuscript unearthed in a dusty attic, with the actual author, Brent Monahan, crediting himself only as editor. It is even peppered with footnotes and 19th century woodcut and engraved illustrations depicting the event and personalities involved to give it an added air of authenticity.

The manuscript purports to be an eye-witness account of the Bell Witch Haunting, which occurred primarily between 1817 and 1822, when a poltergeist bedeviled the Bell family of Adams, Tennessee, focusing its wrath chiefly upon the youngest daughter, Betsy Bell, 13 at the time the phenomena began, and her elderly father John Bell, who later supposedly died as a result of the spirit's machinations. The case is unique in the annals of hauntings as it is the only known instance when a spirit swore vengeance against and later took credit for killing a living person.

The author of this narrative is Richard Powell (1788-1842) the local schoolmaster and future husband of Betsy Bell. Some readers may find the writing style a trifle dry, dispassionate, and antiquated, however, to my mind, given the narrator's personality and the time period it was supposedly written in, this rings true, although it also slows the book down and makes it seem longer than it actually is. Despite this, it is a fascinating account, chock-full of period details about life amongst the good, simple, God-fearing farmers and settlers of rustic Tennessee in the early years of the 19th century, who find themselves up against something--a supernatural or demonic entity?--they are powerless to understand and defend themselves against. They watch in horror as the haunting escalates from noises in the night to physical blows struck against the Bell family. The spirit soon acquires a distinctly feminine voice and a personality alternately playful, vexing, mean, grating on the nerves, and at times prophetic; another characteristic that makes this haunting deviate from the norm in recorded poltergeist cases.

If you are not put off by the writing style and have an interest in ghosts and hauntings, or the Bell Witch in particular, then I urge you to give this novel a try.

1 comment:

Debbie Dunn said...

Thank you for sharing the book review. You might also want to try my book titled "The Bell Witch Unveiled At Last! The True Story Of A Poltergeist" written under my pen name of DJ Lyons (real name Professional Storyteller Debbie Dunn). You can find out more information or purchase the book using Pay Pal at Have a great day,
Debbie Dunn aka DJ Lyons