DISCOVERY CHANNEL - THE MYSTERY HUNTER'S TV SHOOT
It was Monday, September 16, 2002 and I was driving down Rt 41 from Nashville to Adams, Tennessee. The year before, almost to the day, I made a similar trip. Then, I was beginning research on the Bell Witch Legend. Today, I was to appear as the local skeptic in the TV program Mystery Hunters. As I drove, I said to myself, "Who would of thought?" However, neither activity has been very satisfying.
In the case of the research, in my one year of searching I found no collaborating evidence to substantiate the locally popular legend - just one primary account authored from the memories of a six-year old boy and a LOT of secondary story telling based on it. The legend's claim to fame, a visit my Andrew Jackson, almost certainly was a total fabrication. The legend endures because no evidence exists to discredit it. But, at the same time no evidence exists to verify it either.
In the case of the TV shoot, I wasn't sure what to expect when I agreed to participate. I liked the theme and format of the pilot video, which they sent to me to review. The young actors were charming and never having done anything like it before, I thought it would be fun to participate. I assumed I would receive a copy of the script in advance, so I would have a chance to be sure I said something meaningful and not just mumble (as my wife tells me I am somewhat prone to do.) I also knew this show had children for an audience and I wanted to be sure I did not use words like dysfunction, manifestation, schizophrenia, etc.
Christina, the young star of the show, was truly a pleasure. Attractive, exceptionally pleasant, she was very easy just to talk with. The director, however, dis-oriented me when he said as we started the shoot, "Don't worry what you say. We dub it over! Just carry on a conversation." Then I looked at the script. Sure enough, Christina's words were detailed and my section stated, "Tom says something about this or about that." I was now certain, Mr. Mumbles was going to make a debut.
Nevertheless, I suspect the video may not come out that way. Somebody, looking just like me and maybe even sounding a lot like me, was going to say something eruditic. I hoped it was something I would have said. I kept telling myself not to worry, this show will only be seen by kids munching on a pop tart with one eye watching the TV screen and the other watching a dozen other activities.
The last question Christina asked me was, "And what do you think really happened?"
I am not sure what the video will have me saying, but my conclusion is this - the Final Chapter to my work on the Bell Witch. Unless, something unusual is discovered, I plan no more trips to Adams, Tennessee and no additions to this WEB site. It's time to move onto another paranormal event for research.
While doing the shoot for the Mystery Hunters video, we were asked if it was possible that Kate Batts murdered John Bell. We were caught by surprise with that question, having never heard that theory. We didn't think anyone but the script writer believed that possibility. Nevertheless, it did identify a major problem about this entire legend. Before offering theories about a particular event, we must first prove the that event actually happened. No facts substantiate that John Bell was murdered by anyone, corpuscular or spiritual.
The next question was "how do we explain away the details in Richard Bell's diary, My Family's Troubles?" The answer was very simple. While many people, including myself, accept the claim that something, out of the ordinary, might have happened in the Bell household, we have found no records to corroborate the extraordinary occurrence in this diary. In fact no one has been able to prove that this diary ever existed. Very likely it was just part of Ingram's grand prize lie.
Pat Fitzhugh says he has researched the history relating to the Bell Witch for over twenty years. We have researched it for less than ten years. We trust his ability to seek out the facts to support his desire to promote the legend. With no success we searched his book for references to collaborating evidence to the extra-ordinary reports made by anyone. We see little benefit to walk ground already trodden by hundreds before us. The total absence of collaboration for the extra-ordinary speaks volumes. Our simple, ordinary explanations of psychological dysfunction of Betsy Bell associated with hysteria of family and friends along with the the imaginative dramatizations of the memories of six-year old Richard Bell re-created by M.V. Ingram to sell his book is without question the most likely, common sense explanation.
We suspect few people can appreciate this directly logical statement - if simple explanations can be made based on established science then those theories must be vastly more probable than others based on the extra-ordinary claims without evidence.
Since we began this search we have heard many theories about what the Bell Witch was. We too have explored several possibilities, such a poltergeist manifestation or schizophrenia. We have also heard a theory that Betsy brother learned ventriloquism while in New Orleans and that he used it to entertain and scare his neighbors back in Adams. However, before getting caught up in these other theories remember nobody can prove the events in the Bell Witch Legend event happened.
We have recently run across a 2008 addition to the list of "self-proclaimed" experts on the Bell Witch, Debbie Dunn and her book, The Bell Witch Unveiled. Apparently her explanation is the Bell Witch was a poltergeist manifestation. The only problem is -- ALL poltergeist events that have been explored by qualified researchers have been proven to be frauds and hoaxes and almost always result from a psychologically disturbed teenagers seeking attention. Does this describe Betsy? NOBODY knows because NOBODY has ever discovered the truth.
THE REAL TRUTH OF THE BELL WITCH LEGEND
Since we started our search in 2002, we have met several serious researchers who have examined this legend in great detail and found a history that was far richer than the fictitious yarn spun in the thousands of "spooky" web pages.
We have met and reviewed the work of a college English Professor whose research of M.V. Ingram the author rather than "the story" provides most likely explanation -- M.V. Ingram simply made up the story, just like authors of horror stories do today. Nothing sells better than to claim the "story is based on fact." However, being "based on fact" is not evidence that the story is factual.
John Bell and his family can finally rest in peace
without unwelcome intruders trespassing on their privacy.
without unwelcome intruders trespassing on their privacy.