Review of Cursed: The Bell Witch

I was on the fence about watching the recent paranormal series, “Cursed: The Bell Witch”.  However, considering I live about ten minutes away from the Bell Witch Cave, I felt compelled to do so.  I already knew about the story and the history behind the Bell family.  I started watching a couple of episodes but then something would always pull me away and I never really got a chance to really digest what I was watching.  So,  one day after the series was over, I put on a cup of coffee, sat down and watched every single episode from start to finish.

Every. Single. Episode.

And I LOVED IT!

I’m just kidding.  It was absolutely wretched!!!!  I’ve seen some pretty bad paranormal shows in my time, but just when I thought it doesn’t get any worse than a demon being blown up in a mirrored box, I watched “Cursed: The Bell Witch.”  I considered shoving my head into a toilet in the hopes of flushing out all the crap and shenanigans I witnessed in a 34 minute time span of watching the show, but I figured, why punish myself more? This was yet another stereotypical paranormal show full of ominous music for no apparent reason, awkward camera angles, and bad acting, accompanied with incorrect history and inaccurate facts.

To begin with, the show portrayed the residents of Adams, TN as overall-wearing, backwoods, ignorant, country folk that hate outsiders and most likely have a friend named “Cricket” who is married to his first cousin with one tooth. This couldn’t be further from the truth.  The residents of Adams are very kind, normal, sweet people. I’ve been to Adams several times to visit my friend who lives there and I’ve asked locals about whether or not the Bell Witch legend was true.  Not one time did anyone “warn” me to get out of town and to stay away if I know what’s good for me, which is what the show pretended to have happen to the cast members, John and Chad.  In one episode, they actually tried to get viewers to believe that while they were sleeping in their tent, an Adams resident hung a corn doll up in a tree to warn them and scare them off.  Now I have seen something similar to that…in the movie “The Blair Witch”!  Everyone who saw that movie remembers that scene, John and Chad!

In one episode, John and Chad embark on a spiritual cleansing of the land to break it of a possible Native American curse by performing a shaman ritual.  There’s just one little small problem with that scenario: The area the Bell farm was located at was NOT, I repeat, NOT, Native burial ground.  It was Native hunting ground, as was all of the South. Did they not read up on the Tennessee Mound Builders who buried their dead in mounds, hence why they were called Mound Builders? Furthermore, real Native “Shaman” do not publicize that they are “Shamans”.  In fact, they don’t really use that term to describe themselves.  They most definitely wouldn’t perform any ritual on a TV show. But then the ritual goes terribly wrong and John must turn to his only hope: an exorcism! (Cue ominous music!) At that point my level of “I can’t even…” was exceeded.  Is the Catholic Church aware that there is apparently an express lane to exorcisms?  They might want to put a phone call in to John and Chad.

In yet another horrible episode, they whip out their reliable K2 meter and place it on a tombstone.  Of course, it starts lighting up when a foreboding question is asked.  It is purely coincidence that it seems to light up at the exact same time the camera man leans in to get a better camera angle. But of course, that big ass camera and boom mike aren’t going to manipulate that trusty K2 meter. Way to go, dumb dumb!

Why does Chad’s service dog, Newton, bark and run off, leaving his handler by himself? Isn’t that what he’s NOT supposed to do?

The main characters, John and Chad, were constantly hearing footsteps, twigs breaking, and movement in the woodline while they were investigating at night.  I would hope that they did.  It’s called wildlife.  Not uncommon, especially in the backwoods of Tennessee. Just because you’re in a fabulous tent and you turn your flashlight off doesn’t mean all the other animals have to go to bed, John and Chad!

The show really struck a nerve with me when they started dispelling the history of the legend as being factual, grounded in historical documentation. Oh you dedicated purveyors of truth, John and Chad! In actuality, the first book that was ever published about the Bell Witch was written 75 years after the alleged occurrence.  Anyone who would have had first hand knowledge of what actually happened was dead when it was written. Yeah, let that sink in for a moment. The author of the book wasn’t even alive when the Bell Witch “haunts” began.  According to the show, the legend was first documented in the handwritten diary of Richard Bell, who was six when the “hauntings” began. Nevermind the fact that he didn’t write the diary until 30 years after the “hauntings”.  The problem with this is that they completely overlooked the fact that the guy who wrote it is remembering with great detail something that supposedly happened when he was six and he waited 30 years to write it down.  Not only that, but there is no evidence that the diary even exists as no one has ever seen it.

I could go on and on about the absurdity of the show but you get the point.  If you get the opportunity to watch it, don’t.  You can’t get that time back. All the tomfoolery and chicanery will suck the marrow of life from your bones with each passing minute.  I’m not sure if that’s true, but I bet if we ask John and Chad’s trusty K2 meter if that will happen, it will light up, and that makes it real.

I give this show -666 stars….for obvious reasons.

Real Paranormal Activity – The Podcast | Episode 41: Sharon Clarke

Sharon ClarkeIn this episode:

  • Aaron rambles about being busy the last couple weeks
  • Aaron interviews Sharon Clarke from Northern Ireland
  • Sharon is a founding member of Pacem Paranormal Research Team. Studied Anthropology and Mental Health Nursing. Also a writer for SpookyIsles.com and Haunted-Media.com
  • They speak about Sharon’s experiences and investigations. They even speak about the Demonic!
  • Aaron actually gets involved and they both banter back and forth
  • Be sure to listen to the end. I added some traditional Irish music. Try not to tear up!

All this and more at Real Paranormal Activity – The Podcast

 

The Missouri Headless Horseman: Haunting or Legend?

Flickr - CUA Werner Reischel
Flickr – CUA Werner Reischel

Paranormal investigating always has its ties with the history of a location and the events that have transpired on a plot of land or within a house or building. Many times this history is interspersed with fantastic stories and unbelievable myths. In Southeastern Missouri there is the tale of a haunting that is nearly extracted from Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and it is just as bizarre as the tragedy that befell Ichabod Crane.

The legend of the headless horseman is certainly an incredible tale because it is based on decapitation and the afterlife. The interesting thing about this legend is that it is not specific to just one geographic location, but rather, claims of this spectral sighting have been recorded throughout our country. This leads me to think that perhaps there may be some validity behind this legend and that maybe the headless horseman could be an residual haunting riding in the night, terrorizing unsuspecting victims.

You may be familiar with “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” either as a child, through television or book, or just because it is mentioned frequently over the Halloween holiday. Although Irving’s work of fiction is based on an imaginary place, it still contains all of the elements of a headless horseman residual haunting. As stated earlier, this type of haunting has been reported all over the country, even here in the state of Missouri. The secluded glen setting of Sleepy Hollow is the Dutch settlement of Tarrytown, New York. The whispers persist throughout the town, speaking of ghosts and wizardry, with the presence of unsettled spirits appearing on its roadways. Following the mysterious setting and whispers of a legend, a residual haunting has an actual entity who continuously returns from the annals of a tragic history. In the case of Sleepy Hollow, this entity is the headless horseman who is said to be the ghost of a Hessian (German) soldier who had his head shot off by a cannonball in the Revolutionary War. These three elements will play out in another potential haunting in the Midwest.

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Much to its name, the town of Cape Girardeau in the state of Missouri was founded as a French settlement. Here, along the Mississippi River, communities began to surface in the late 1700s and continued to grow from its original trading post. The legends tied to hauntings here would grow as well as the population increased. One particular area of land, known today as Bloomfield Road and located near Southeast Missouri State University, hosts a myriad of haunted legends.

“At one time, Bloomfield Road was considered the most haunted road in Missouri.”¹

It hosts multiple paranormal activities, the most notorious are tied to two tragic events that occurred near the modern-day Mount Tabor Park area. The most recent happened in the 1970s, when a young girl was raped and murdered. She has been infamously called “Mad Lucy” by the locals, as her screams can still be heard along this roadway. But don’t try and visit this park to see for yourself. Since it was too far from the town for police to patrol, it was shut down and since has been sold into private property hands.

The second paranormal event that happened along Bloomfield Road has its beginnings dating back to the 1780s, when French settlers began inhabiting this river area. Here the story parallels the familiar headless horseman legend. In my research some of the facts have been a bit sketchy, but it seems that there are two incidents tied to this southeastern Missouri town. One claim is that a male apparition is seen walking up and down the road, in search of his head. His story is unknown.

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The other claim, which has had a farther reach within local communities, is that a headless rider has been seen on multiple occasions traveling up and down Bloomfield Road in search of his lost body part. Once again, we see the parallel of a man in constant search of his cranium. What a tragic thing to have happened to someone, which, from what may be ascertained, was the direct result of technological progress in the Revolutionary War. I am curious to find out just how many soldiers lost their heads in this war from cannon fire. Was it a concern for them, perhaps giving one another the advice to duck if the sound of a cannon was heard or watch closely when riding horseback? Such an incredibly traumatic event would certainly give rise to a residual haunting because the soldier’s spirit would never be at rest, doomed forever to comb the roadside in bewilderment and not knowing what had happened to them.

So the question is still left to be answered – is the headless horseman simply a legend, a work of superstition passed down through the generations through word of mouth or is it actually a residual haunting, interacting with unsuspecting residents?

To get a better perspective on how to best answer this question, we must first go back in history. Some of the earliest cannons used in the Revolutionary War were known as “mortars.” Their pot-shaped design was first developed in the 15th century and could fire a shell weighing 8½ to 16 pounds, reaching a distance of 800 to 1,000 yards. They were fairly accurate in their 45˚ trajectory shot, but were quite bulky and had to be relocated after each firing. I was unable to find out if mortars were used in the Cape Girardeau area of Missouri, but there is a Revolutionary War cemetery there. Battles were fought in this territory, but the possibility of soldiers being beheaded by mortar fire is unknown.

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Soon after the mortar – howitzers, gallopers, and the cannons we know today were being manufactured and used during the Civil War era. These guns used smaller shells and were more accurate and easy to use for quick assaults. Major assaults were launched in the Battle of Cape Girardeau and the possibility does exist that soldiers may have been killed by cannonball fire.

There are two ways a soldier may have been decapitated, and both of them would seem to occur by strange chance. If a horseman were to ride in the trajectory point of a shot, then his fate would be sealed. Another way a horseman could lose his noggin, and this seems more probable for a residual haunting, is that many times cannons were shot over top of soldiers’ heads. I would imagine in the heat of battle that a combination of inattentiveness by the soldier on horseback and the sometimes unpredictable cannon blasts might equate to a very traumatic war injury, knocking the rider off his horse and making a bloody mess.

This drives our investigation and inquiry back to some possible final answers. It is certainly possible that cannonballs severed heads from horse soldiers and that the intensity of the bloody event would create a residual haunting. The psychic energies of the soldier, explosively intense, would become embedded in the environment. Some of the most haunted places in the world are ones were great tragedies have occurred. The West Virginia Penitentiary, Trans-Allegheny Asylum, and the Molly Hatchet home are just a few that fall into this category. One of the most notorious hauntings takes place in the Tower of London in England. Here the beheaded ghost of Anne Boleyn is claimed to be seen, roaming the tower in which she was decapitated by her husband Henry VIII. Headless hauntings do occur throughout the world and so having one here in Missouri is certainly possible.

Flickr - U.S. Embassy, The Hague
Flickr – U.S. Embassy, The Hague

Let’s flip the coin to the other side, though. How possible is it that multiple hauntings of headless people could be happening in our country and throughout the world? These stories are so outlandish that they have to be the work of legend and folklore. Leave the headless horseman storytelling to writers like Washington Irving and the real paranormal investigations to the professionals. After all, there is no proof that these types of anomalies exist, it’s all hearsay and possibly the ramblings of unstable minds.

Ultimately, though, you the reader decide whether or not you believe this phenomenon to be real. I encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comment box below or on the social media page this article is posted. I will leave you with one thought….

“Last September, 5½ years ago, John and Michael were coming out from town. On their way, they saw a man without a head…. Forty years afterwards, perhaps to the day, the same apparition was seen by a man we will call S.R….. [The location of this sighting] was about 150 yards north of Ludwig Essick’s house, on Emmitsburg Road, about a mile from town.”

  • Excerpt from Emmanuel Bushman, Gettysburg (Pennsylvania) Compiler, Tuesday, January 12, 1886.

 

Work Cited:

https://www.semissourian.com/story/1175015.html

Halloween Tradition of Samhain and Illinois Monsters

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As Halloween approaches, the entire world transforms into an eerie mindset focused on caricatures of the dead, famous movie icons, and spooky monsters. The celebration of the Day of the Dead, another name for this mysterious practice, goes back many centuries and has its roots in Celtic lore. All Hallow Even, as it dates back through pre-Christian eras (known to this religion as the eve of All Saints’ Day), was known as Samhain (pronounced sow-in) in Irish cultures. It was, and still is, a luminal time of year when the autumn equinox begins its transition into the winter one.

Samhain is also when the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is at its thinnest. This is why Halloween is called the Day of the Dead, because on this day it is the easiest time of the year for those who have crossed over death’s doorstep to be able to come back into the world of the living. Samhain might also be the day of the Zombie Apocalypse…who really knows?

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“In marking the onset of winter, Samhain was closely associated with darkness and the supernatural. In Celtic lore, winter was the dark time of the year when ‘nature is asleep, summer has returned to the underworld, and the earth is desolate and inhospitable.’” (Rogers, 20)

The dark Samhain celebration is also tied to a plethora of supernatural creatures and monsters that rise up from the pages of mythology. Ghosts, goblins, faeries, elves, sprites, and a myriad of other spirits and entities come out to greet and interact with the living. During this dark season it is as if the doors of heaven, hell, purgatory, and every realm in between were opened up for every being and entity to roam free once a year:

“Samhain was a time of divine couplings and dark omens, a time when malignant birds emerged from the caves of Crogham to prey upon mankind, led by one monstrous three-headed vulture whose foul breath withered the crops.” (Rogers, 20)

During this period of upheaval and desolation, the fears of the common folk were brought to new heights as word spread that the dead were coming to life and walking the earth once again. Creatures were being vomited up from the bowels of the Earth and set free to wreak havoc on townspeople and drive fear like wooden stakes into their hearts. Witches and warlocks gained new confidence during Samhain, as pagan practices grew more widespread throughout the Celtic landscapes and spectral forests . One group of robed men, deeply enshrouded in magic and the supernatural realm, were especially active during this season – Druid priests.

The Druids are inextricably tied to Stonehenge and the mysteries behind this mysterious English landmark. They were very adept at their religious practices and were known to capitalize on the season of Samhain. Many times their intent was to drive fear into people, and so the Druids played upon superstitions to solidify their power. Sacrifices were demanded as retribution for the evil spirits who were responsible for bringing on the cold weather and shorter hours of daylight. Although horses were known to be sacrificed, black cats tended to be their preference because it was believed that these felines were shapeshifting evil spirits.

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The power of influence over belief can have a very strong impact with groups of people causing a social contagion, or mass hysteria, in regards to supernatural traditions like Samhain. This contagion, alive and well when the Druids were still in existence, is also very active within the world of cryptozoology. Over 2,000 years ago, when the Celtic hooded priests were in their prime, black cats may have looked very different than they do today. The small, domesticated kitty you may be thinking of right now may very well have been a creature resembling the size of a small horse. One of the many mysteries behind cryptozoological animals is that it is theorized that some of these prehistoric-type creatures who lived long ago, can still exist today. The list of possible creatures runs quite the gamut, from the Adjule in North Africa to the Zuiyō-maru creature in New Zealand. Interestingly enough and beautifully in line with the holiday season of Samhain, cats and feline-like creatures fall into this category as well.

Illinois, in my opinion, is really the cryptozoology capital of the country. There have been more species of cryptids sighted in this state than anywhere else in the United States. Thunderbirds have been more prevalent here than anywhere else in the world. And, yes, this state has seen its share of mysterious black cats. In April 1999, a Clarksdale, Illinois couple, Mike and Bev Ray, claimed that a giant black cat walked across their yard. They said it was about 1½ times bigger than their largest Rottweiler and that it left a footprint in the mud 4 inches wide. The Rays think that the cat is either a panther or a black mountain lion and they have tried to capture it with a cage, but have had no luck. Despite the harsh criticism from the locals and experts, they firmly believe they have some sort of cryptid stalking the woods around their home. And they are not alone.

“There are black panther sightings throughout Central and Southern Illinois and over in Indiana, where they are known as ‘Varmints’”. – Loren Coleman, expert cryptozoologist

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These cats have been spotted since 1917 and it has been documented dozens of times over the years, notably in 1955 and in 1976. Could these mysterious cats be the manifestations of evil spirits, destined to roam the Illinois forests just as they may have in the early days of Samhain?

One of the oddest cryptid stories happened on April 25, 1973 in the town of Enfield, Illinois. This sighting became known as the Enfield Monster because the furry creature is quite bizarre and is an aberration of the traditional black cat in nearly every way. A man named Henry McDaniel was at home when he heard something scratching on his door. When he opened the door, he saw a hideous creature that looked like something from a nightmare or a monster from the dark depths of Samhain.

“[T]he weird creature [was] about five feet tall, with a flat body, grayish in color… a strange appearing head at least twelve inches across… [having] three legs and two pink eyes the size of flashlight lenses.” (Miller 132)

Mr. McDaniel fired a pistol shot at it, causing the cryptid to hiss “like a wildcat” from the impact of the bullet. He then called Illinois state police to report the incident. His story not only made the local newspapers, but was broadcast over the radio station WWKI in Indiana. Mr. McDaniel, a sober man of rational character, also claims to have found the creature’s footprints leaving from his home, “shaped like a dog’s, but having six toe pads.” Shortly after he filed the police report, nearly 75 people converged on his property. Mr. McDaniel also “received approximately 250 phone calls… including a call from a ‘government representative’ who told him that the incident was similar to others occurring since 1967, and that these incidents had been associated with UFO sightings.” (Miller 133)

In many cryptid cases like the Druid black cats and the Enfield Monster, hundreds, even thousands of people have either “seen” the reported creatures or they adamantly state that they believe the claims to be true. Often, simply having a “seed”, like the myths of Halloween, planted into the minds of a group of people will increase sightings of cryptids. It has also been theorized that the harsh economic conditions and the effects of the Vietnam War stirred up mass sightings as a way to take American minds off of their troubles. This “seed planting” theory has been tested on paranormal tour groups and has shown the same results with more members feeling cold spots or seeing shadow movement.

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The effects of social contagion can be seen as far back as the Celtic tradition of Samhain. Black cats, very common images of Halloween, were perhaps some of the first cryptid-like creatures to instill fear and dark curiosity within general society. The Day of the Dead may very well be more than just the lowering of the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds. It might also be the one time of year that the dividing barrier between sanity and insanity, along with reason and fear, are at their thinnest.

 

 

Works Cited:

Rogers, Nicholas.  Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night. 2002 Oxford  University Press.  Page 20.

Miller, David L., et al. “A Critical Examination of the Social Contagion Image of Collective Behavior: The Case of the Enfield Monster”. The Sociological Quarterly  Vol. 19.  Winter 1978.  Pp. 129-140.