The Haunted Cave In America That Paranormal Lovers Just Can't Get Enough Of

For over 200 years, the legend of the Bell Witch has captivated visitors in a place 40 miles outside Nashville, Tennessee, in what's now known as the town of Adams. Though not a traditional witch, the disembodied entity that's said to have terrorized farmer John Bell and his family became a fascination for people, drawing them to Bell's 320-acre property in droves. Even future U.S. president Andrew Jackson, the face on the $20 bill, became associated with the legend, as he lived in Nashville and was supposedly one of the many to visit the Bell farm. As the story goes, Jackson camped there, only to leave saying, "I had rather face the entire British Army than to spend another night with the Bell Witch" (via CNN). Today, you can still find archived newspaper clippings that speak of 19th-century travelers coming from far and wide in the hopes of experiencing a supernatural Bell Witch encounter. In a sense, not much has changed. 

The Bell Witch Cave, where the spirit purportedly retired after killing Bell, is now a tourist attraction where adults pay $19 on weekdays (about one Andrew Jackson), or $23 on weekends, for cave access. It's even listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a testament to the power of folklore and its grip on the human imagination. The Bell Witch also helped inspire horror movies like "The Blair Witch Project" and "An American Haunting." .

[Featured image by Www78 via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and scaled | CC BY-SA 3.0]

Tour the Bell Witch farm and learn its history

If you're not familiar with the spooky history of the Bell Witch, you'll learn more about it as you tour the almost 500-foot karst cave in rural Adams. The story begins in 1817 when the Bell family started sighting weird creatures on their property and having their sleep disturbed by the sound of incessant knocking. This allegedly escalated into full-on poltergeist activity in the house, as an invisible force set about yanking away their bed covers and manhandling one of the Bell children, Lucy. It later began speaking, issuing threats against John Bell and eventually poisoning him.

"An American Haunting" claimed that Bell's death in 1820 was "validated by the State of Tennessee as the only case in US history where a spirit has caused the death of a human being" (via Slate), something that the Bell Witch Cave also boasts. This helps drive seasonal tourism to the cave, where the regular 40-minute tour is followed by a 30-minute tour of the recreated John Bell cabin. In the cave, you'll also see artifacts from the original Bell home, like a kettle and chimney stone. The cave is subject to flooding, so it closes whenever it rains. Tours operate mainly in the summer and on weekends in May, September, and October. On select days around Halloween, you can also book an extended 2- or 3-hour lantern tour of the cave and farm.

Conduct your own paranormal investigation

As a piece of early American folklore, the Bell Witch legend bears certain similarities to the later "The Amityville Horror" case insofar as it involves a supernatural presence causing family trouble, which would then be documented in a book based on their accounts. Much of the lore surrounding the Bell Witch comes from Martin V. Ingram's "An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch," published in 1894. The book even features an ancient Indian burial ground, which you can see in person as part of the cave tour. Though the Bell Witch Cave is on private property — as is the house from "The Amityville Horror" — the difference is that the cave actually welcomes visitors. As of 2023, it now also encourages paranormal investigations with events where you can rent out equipment and examine the cave like The Travel Channel's "Ghost Adventures" once did.

Adams is a small town with a population of only 675, but the town's visitors often come packed with a big imagination. Just how much of the Bell Witch tale is true and how much of it simply results from decades of embellishment is a matter of debate even among researchers. Some speculate that Lucy Bell herself was somehow throwing her voice and staging the haunting in a feat of ventriloquist hysteria. Maybe the only way to be sure is to take a trip to Tennessee and investigate the Bell Witch Cave yourself.