Professor Powell: The Mind behind the Bell Witch?

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2 Responses

  1. Mark says:

    Um, Laura, if Powell had live to be over 100, he would have been a whopping 153 in 1948 (considering his birth in 1795). I presume you meant 1848? Since Betsy lived until 1888, the latter would make better sense. Just thought I’d point that out to you.

    Yes, this information, or rather these details, on this story are known, but they are always interesting to read. I thought his involvement a strong possibility as well, although how he managed to create the ghostly manifestations would be another story. Also, with Powell as the suspect, how would one account for the apparent adolescent behavior you document in the previous post? Would a possible reason be that Powell incorporated such adolescent attributes as a way of throwing off suspicion? If this be case, perhaps Powell had known others suspected him. This would even account for the meanness the spirit directed at the slaves whom you say knew him to be a likely culprit.

    I presume you are planning to compose a book on this subject? I look forward to reading it. 😉

    • Laura Wright says:

      Lol. TY for catching that. Yes, it was 1848. I’ve read about the Bell witch for decades, and had never heard Powell mentioned in anything. When I started doing my own research, it was like a lightening bolt. He was in many of the old accounts, but I guess somewhere along the way he just got omitted. Or dismissed.

      I think Powell knew people suspected him of many things, even before the haunting started. He wasn’t from the area, didn’t have any close friends, and no one really knew anything about him. He wasn’t particularly eager to be involved in a great deal of anything, aside from the Bell house. John Bell sensed something “off” about him before the haunting started. I’m sure others noticed that nothing happened while Powell visited and that he had a very inappropriate interest in Betsy, as a student. Rumors of voodoo practice among slaves came as far (that I know of) as Northeast Tennessee, so I’m sure they would have been around Adams, Tennessee. I’d say many of the slaves in that region would be familiar with the practices and rituals, which Powell could’ve used.

      Powell could’ve been a logical genius, like people with autism or savants, who are intellectually gifted, but socially and psychologically backwards. His first wife was 18 years older than he, and they were married until her death, but did not live together and Powell never involved her in anything in Adams. Yet, somehow, they remained married for years. I think that’s a good implication that he was abnormal to start with. I don’t know if he abandoned her or what. Not much is known about her, either.

      Actually, I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, yet. I’m putting together another compilation of Appalachian stories and history and thought I’d include it. I guess it’s long enough though to make it’s own volume. When I get in the old books, I can’t stop. There’s so much that’s so new to me, about subjects that are centuries old. It’s amazing.

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