The Bell Witch Cave – Adams, Tennessee - Atlas Obscura
Unusual adventures and hidden discoveries. Explore our 2018 trips now »

Adams, Tennessee

The Bell Witch Cave

Home of an evil witch famous within southern folklore. 

Anyone worth their salt knows Kate, the Bell Witch, was not a kind spirit. She’s the name children dare each other to say three times into a mirror during summer time slumber parties. No one would invoke her name—at least no one that knows her story.

As one tale goes (there are quite a few versions of the tale, as this ghost story is deeply woven into southern folklore), late in the summer of 1817, an evil witch began to terrorize the Bell family on their Tennessee farm. She kept them up late at night with strange, eerie noises. She violently beat members of the family and eventually poisoned and killed its patriarch, John Bell. The disturbed spirit had a particular vengeance for Betsy Bell, John Bell’s daughter, and tormented the girl in the most heinous ways until she agreed to end her engagement.

According to the legends, stories of the Bell Witch’s wrath became so widespread they even attracted the attention of future president Andrew Jackson, who was scared off the property after paying a visit to investigate the mysterious disturbances the family suffered from.

But strangely, during her vicious tenure on the Bell farm, one story says the witch also made time to save a child inside the Bell Witch Cave and give a quick lesson on safety. According to this version of the legend, a group of children playing on the farm discovered a 500-foot-long karst cave. During their exploration of the dark cavern, one of the children became stuck in a hole. Panicking, the child called out for help, only to hear his cry answered by a voice shouting, “I’ll get him out!” That voice, and the invisible hands that pulled the boy out of the hole belonged to the Bell Witch, the same witch that choked John Bell, tortured his daughter, and dragged chains through their house at all hours of the night.

After pulling the child out of the hole, the invisible witch, in an uncharacteristic act of kindness, gave the children a quick lesson on safely exploring caves and disappeared again. Most accounts hold that the Bell Witch Cave served as the witch’s home when she was not tormenting the Bells, and modern-day tours point out the cave’s spooky features.

Despite the witch’s one supposed good deed inside the cave, many who have explored it have reported strange phenomena and it’s widely considered one of the scariest places on the famous haunted farm.