Often called “Ol’ Jack Bell” by
Kate, John Bell is allegedly the only person in history whose death was attributed to the
doings of a Spirit. In 1817, Bell
contracted a mysterious affliction that worsened over the next three years,
ultimately leading to his death. Kate
took pleasure in tormenting him during his affliction, finally poisoning him one
December morning as he lay unconscious after suffering a number of violent
in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, Bell apprenticed as a barrel maker during
his formative years and later pursued a career in farming.
Lucy Williams in 1782 and settled
on a farm he had bought earlier. The Bells prospered over the next eight years and were among the area's
most successful planters.
the birth of their first child,
Jesse, they began a
family. In the years that followed,
John and Lucy Bell had three more sons,
and Benjamin. All went well until the 1801 and 1804 crop seasons, when
their crops failed and they decided to move westward as several of their friends
the winter of 1804-1805, Bell and his family embarked on a journey over the
treacherous mountains of North Carolina and east Tennessee that took them to an
area called “The Barren Plains,” settling in the northwest section of
present-day Robertson County, Tennessee.
became a successful farmer and gained prominence in his new abode. He later became an Elder of Red River Baptist Church.
He would eventually be
excommunicated from the same church; some say because of Kate's disturbances,
and others say because of a shady business dealing.
later affliction was most likely a neurological disorder, although Kate
vehemently claimed responsibility. Very
little was known about such disorders during those early days, thus few
treatment options were available.
is interesting to note that
Sir Charles Bell,
a Nineteenth Century anatomy professor, discovered a neurological disorder that
yielded symptoms that were similar to those John Bell suffered at the onset of
his affliction. The affliction discovered by Sir Charles Bell
became known as "Bell's Palsy," and has become a falsehood associated with the
Bell Witch legend in recent years. Contrary to what some might say, John Bell's
illness was not Bell's Palsy.
usually non-fatal disorder is known as “Bell’s
Palsy,” and was discovered several years after John Bell’s death.
The fact that John Bell’s earliest symptoms mimicked those of "Bell’s
Palsy," a disorder named for the Bell surname, but Sir Charles Bell in this
case, is purely coincidental. It is also mere coincidence that Sir Charles
Bell's younger brother was named John Bell, and died in 1820. The author,
although not a doctor, feels that John Bell's symptoms, when considered
as a whole, likely mimicked a neurological
degenerative syndrome (meaning they don't really know what it is) characterized
by seizures, excessive migraines, convulsions, numbness and tingling sensations,
fatigue and weakness.
Kate concentrated most of her efforts on John Bell, no one really knows for
sure. Theories abound; some plausible, and some just plain
ludicrous. He died on December 20, 1820, and is buried in the old Bell
Cemetery near Adams, Tennessee, along with his wife and some of their children.
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