Sugarmouth and the Johnson Family

johnson
John Bell’s grave, as illustrated in Ingram’s original book.

 

James Johnson, or “Old Sugarmouth,” became a central figure in Bell Witch history, almost as much as Betsy’s siblings were. His sons, John and Calvin, were said to have caught Powell in the middle of something dubious. This story has been passed down through Johnson’s descendents, but has not been published in any known works.

John and Calvin Johnson stopped at the schoolhouse to speak with Powell one evening. School was out, so the blinds were drawn. They found the front door ajar and stepped inside. The schoolhouse had two levels. The main floor was the classroom, with Powell’s quarters in the basement.

The two men looked around the classroom, but there was no sign of life. They called out for Powell several times, but couldn’t get a response. Since they weren’t in a hurry, they decided to wait a little while to for him to return.

The two men ambled to the front of the classroom and Calvin noticed a strange, leather bound book on Powell’s desk. He picked it up, leafed through the pages, and was amazed by what he saw. He asked John to step over and look at it, too. The two men briefly examined it, but Powell came bounding up the steps from below. He didn’t even speak until he grabbed the book out of Calvin’s hands and locked it in a cabinet.

Powell said it was an antique geometry book and he didn’t like anyone else handling it due to its fragility.

The brothers were suspicious, but said no more about the book. Calvin was an advanced geometry student and knew the few symbols in the text were not for geometric study. They also didn’t see any mathematical or geometry notes on any of the pages. Aside from English, both men were familiar with Greek and Latin, but the language in the book wasn’t any of those.

It begs the question if Powell was somehow manipulating the witch from the basement, and if the arcane book helped him orchestrate the haunting. There is no record of what happened to this mysterious volume or of anyone else seeing it again.

 

 

 

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32 thoughts on “Sugarmouth and the Johnson Family

  • December 13, 2013 at 9:19 pm
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    >>It begs the question if Powell was somehow manipulating the witch from the basement, and if the arcane book helped him orchestrate the haunting. There is no record of what happened to this mysterious volume or of anyone else seeing it again.<<

    Interesting theory, Laura. That's quite a leap to make. Just because the book is/was mysterious doesn't mean it is/was connected to witchcraft. I have to ask if there is more concrete evidence to substantiate this claim beyond the correlative nature between said book and the strange behavior of the spirit involved. Consistency is a start, not a finish. You'd need more.

    Sorry. I don't mean to be skeptical here; just trying to be objective. Real skeptics WILL point this out and challenge you with it, so the question needs to be addressed beyond the idea that "it would make sense," which is a notion I can understand. I just wouldn't stop there.

    Do you have more information/details on this story or the book in question? Interesting that the book disappeared. I wonder where it went and why no one has found it. Of course, if no one knew about it . . . Still, you know about it, since it was passed down through the years by word-of-mouth. Has anyone else attempted to look for it? Do you have any ideas as to what could have happened to the book, that is if it even existed? Unless and untill evidence arises to show the book, in fact, existed and clarifies its contents, the debate will rage and the skeptics will have their say.

    All this is food for thought, for further study. 😉

    Reply
    • December 13, 2013 at 10:38 pm
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      No, there is no further information on the book. From time to time, I will use creative liberty when there just isn’t any factual info, and I did here. I thought that was a fascinating story, even if it has nothing to do with witchcraft. It was a good display of the behavior that made Powell the community puzzle he was. The only thing that’s really established in this regard is that he was secretive. There are rumors he had a personal diary, too, but those have never been substantiated.

      I’m not worried about skeptics. They’re like literary critics, skeptics just focus on theory as opposed to the written word. I’ve had those forever, it seems. I’m a fringe writer (I guess that’s the term for it), so it’s more likely that people will disagree with me when it comes to non-fiction…lol. I like to shake things up with obscure stuff and when you do that to anything commonly known or established, it tends to ruffle some feathers. Although, I just aim to provoke curiosity. There needs to be more curiosity in the world.

      Reply
  • December 14, 2013 at 8:01 pm
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    I am right with you on this one, Laura. Your purpose for doing research is more for accumulating information and knowledge rather than trying to prove anything as factual or not. That, in itself, is admirable, and I research for the same reason, along with sharing my thoughts. That motivation allows for more intellectual flexibility. It’s not always about the facts, but exploring issues and expounding on points for the sake of personal satisfaction.

    My apologies if I came off too much as a skeptic. As stated above, I wasn’t trying to do that. The questions posed can only add insight to drive further research, and that’s all I was trying to do. Sorry again.

    And, yes, curiosity engages me to no end. We need it for personal drive in everything we do. I guess you can call me a fringe writer as well. 😉

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    • December 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm
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      Yes, most of what I get can’t be proved or disproved. It’s just there, but that’s what I like. We don’t know about much of this stuff now, but who can say in 10 or 20 years? New books are getting digitized daily, so our access to information is ever-growing. And I think so much is just phenomenal and it’s been utterly forgotten. That’s so sad. We have entire worlds that most living today don’t even know about.

      Don’t apologize. It’s perfectly fine. I’m accustomed to disagreement and I don’t mind a bit.

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      • December 15, 2013 at 10:44 am
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        Titanic is the same way. Much of it is unproven, but it engages people just the same, simply because it is unknown. Those fascinated by the Titanic are curious by the possibilities, which drive us to learn more The journey is a goal in itself.

        I never disagreed with you, just expanded on what you had already said with additional thoughts. In any case, that’s good to know.

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        • December 15, 2013 at 2:25 pm
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          I think history would be a much more popular subject if the history books today engaged kids and presented interesting history, as opposed to censored and slanted history. I don’t see why they shouldn’t give questions that make the kids think. I’d mention conspiracies, the unexplained, unusual events, and everything else to keep their attention.

          Feel free to disagree. I think there should be more mature disagreement in the world. It helps build tolerance and respect for others. I don’t like the “agree with me or else” mentality that’s so common. It’s not right. Although, I’m probably approaching curmudgeon territory, myself…lol.

          I love Titanic stuff. I have more info to update my Frank Tower article, when I get to it.

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          • December 19, 2013 at 12:23 am
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            >>I think history would be a much more popular subject if the history books today engaged kids and presented interesting history, as opposed to censored and slanted history. I don’t see why they shouldn’t give questions that make the kids think. I’d mention conspiracies, the unexplained, unusual events, and everything else to keep their attention. <>Feel free to disagree. I think there should be more mature disagreement in the world. It helps build tolerance and respect for others. I don’t like the “agree with me or else” mentality that’s so common. It’s not right. Although, I’m probably approaching curmudgeon territory, myself…lol.<>I love Titanic stuff. I have more info to update my Frank Tower article, when I get to it.<<

            Titanic, like the paranormal, is ongoing,as new and fresh information and theories emerge all the time. That's what I like about it–the story and its mysteries never end. They always keep me engaged.

            There are several exceptional sources out there, including THS, but http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org is worthhile as well if you haven't already been there. This particjular website features casual interaction involving all walks of life from every country, but it is, just the xame, scholarly. The site even has a 'ghost' section for those who want to discuss every aspect of the paranormal in relagtion to Titanic. Please take a look. I have been a member since 2004, although I haven't been there for a while.

            What kind of article/post are you planning to write on Frank? That should be interesgting. 🙂

            Also, in case you haven't read them, please check out my Titanic posts at: http://researcherone.wordpress.com .

          • December 19, 2013 at 9:39 am
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            Actually, I’ve visited encyclopedia quite a bit. I’ll probably just update my existing one, as opposed to writing a new one. I found some info that Hugh Williams, mentioned in the article, was on another shipwreck in the 1940s. Yes, I’ve visited your blog. I thought the articles were well done. I liked the discussion about Cameron’s Titanic portrayal didn’t really coincide with the actual event. Sometimes I don’t know why they do that. It’s like they can only make historic movies if they make the characters out to be 20th Century people, with 20th Century attitudes and 20th Century perceptions. History is full of fascinating drama and one of the best qualities is that it was a different world from the world we have. History can be a form of escapism, without resorting to sensation.

  • December 19, 2013 at 11:51 pm
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    >>Actually, I’ve visited encyclopedia quite a bit. I’ll probably just update my existing one, as opposed to writing a new one.<>I found some info that Hugh Williams, mentioned in the article, was on another shipwreck in the 1940s.<>Yes, I’ve visited your blog. I thought the articles were well done.<>I liked the discussion about Cameron’s Titanic portrayal didn’t really coincide with the actual event.<>Sometimes I don’t know why they do that. It’s like they can only make historic movies if they make the characters out to be 20th Century people, with 20th Century attitudes and 20th Century perceptions.<>History can be a form of escapism, without resorting to sensation.<<

    Indeed. The Titanic tragedy was filled with enough drama to inspire ongoing research, 7-8 movies, countless books (fiction and nonfiction), so detraction and/or elaboration would seem superfluous and overkill. Let history speak for itself. 😉

    Reply
  • December 19, 2013 at 11:54 pm
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    Oooops! That didn’t turn out as I had hoped. Let me try again, this time with each question/point addressed in its own box . . .

    Reply
  • December 19, 2013 at 11:56 pm
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    >>Actually, I’ve visited encyclopedia quite a bit. I’ll probably just update my existing one, as opposed to writing a new one.<<

    What was your impression of the website? If you are planning on renewing your accoungt there, I presume you like it. I can picture you absorbed in that site for hours, lol.

    Reply
    • December 20, 2013 at 11:07 pm
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      I’m not a formal member, but I do go there just about every time I work on something related to the Titanic. I love the articles.

      Reply
      • December 22, 2013 at 9:09 pm
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        By the way, if you look in the discussion archives, you’re likely to find a high number of posts by me. I contributed a few things as well.

        Reply
  • December 19, 2013 at 11:57 pm
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    >>I found some info that Hugh Williams, mentioned in the article, was on another shipwreck in the 1940s.<<

    What is it about this man and Frank Tower that fascinates you? You can find strangeness in the littlest, or most casual, things.

    Reply
    • December 20, 2013 at 11:03 pm
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      I know. I pick up on some odd stuff. Fortunately, I can use it in a constructive way. Sometimes I wonder if I was Rod Serling in a past life…lol. Sometimes things just grab my attention, not sure if it’s imagination, intuition, or what.

      I love the repetition in the Hugh Williams/Frank Tower lore. It seems like no matter how much time passes, the same names keep popping up in the same circumstances.

      Reply
      • December 22, 2013 at 9:13 pm
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        Probably both. That is your forte, or one of them. 😉

        I enjoy your updates. I always look forward to them, especially obsure information on the subjects like Hugh Williams/Frank Tower. The uncommon knowledge is most interesting.

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        • December 22, 2013 at 11:09 pm
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          TY. I get caught up in some unusual topics. Actually, I get more traffic if I stick to the usual subjects, like the Winchester Mansion, or Waverley Sanatorium, but few things like that really interest me enough to dig on them. There’s so much already on them. I like to rescue the info that’s either completely disappeared, or verging on fading from history.

          Reply
          • December 23, 2013 at 1:38 am
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            And that’s why I find your site so interesting. 😉 Somertimes, as you have noticed, I write on older or common topics, but I add my own insight to it. Regurgitation makes me, well…regurgitate, lol. I think an article should have some uniqueness and/or freshness about it to make it stand out and provide some value, otherwise it is pointless.

  • December 19, 2013 at 11:58 pm
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    >>Yes, I’ve visited your blog. I thought the articles were well done.<<

    Thank you. Any suggestions you'd make? Any observations or points that grabbed you?

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    • December 20, 2013 at 10:59 pm
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      No, I thought it was well done. You use a variety of sources and that’s a big part of researching in anything. I’m getting there.

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      • December 22, 2013 at 9:17 pm
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        You seem to do all right, although I would like to see a wider variety of source-links–not really to verify information as to provide readers a greater number of options to follow.

        You say your getting there. In what area or aspect of research do you feel a need to improve, if that was your inference?

        Reply
        • December 22, 2013 at 11:07 pm
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          “Sources” is a recent thing for me, while research is something I’ve been doing for decades…lol. It’s hard to go back and relocate much of the old info. I seldom gather information with the intention of using it in anything other than fiction, so I have a lot of searching to do. I do much more research now for non-fiction, but it’s very new.

          Reply
          • December 23, 2013 at 1:32 am
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            I usually copy/past my link on each saved document now so I have it, then I put them all together in their own list. It can be time-consuming, but it makes me feel secure in knowing I can return to those sources if/when I need to.

            You write fiction? I think I recall you saying something about zombies and/or vampires. What else do you write fiction-wise?

          • December 23, 2013 at 8:16 am
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            Yes, I have a lot more fiction out than non-fiction. I had my first novel published in 2001. My site http://laurawrites.net is for my books and professional writing. Oh! Here’s a link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00DSSMWP2

            It’s to my novel Infectious. It’s free right now. I was just going to do it for a couple of weeks in November, but reached #2 in the Ghosts section, so my interest was piqued. I just left it free to see where it would go.

            I don’t actually have anything completed about zombies or vampires…lol. Although I do have several involving both in the works. My work is usually thriller, and usually involves the paranormal. I have one called Virginia Creeper, written under Laura Wright, that’s a paranormal thriller. It was published in 2007. I am an avid Dean Koontz reader, and have genre trouble, too. I can’t seem to pick one and stick with it, so what I write usually has elements of several.

  • December 20, 2013 at 12:00 am
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    >>I liked the discussion about Cameron’s Titanic portrayal didn’t really coincide with the actual event.<<

    Well, some aspects were closer than others, but some, I have noticed, were way off with regard to widespread testimony.

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  • December 20, 2013 at 12:02 am
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    >>Sometimes I don’t know why they do that. It’s like they can only make historic movies if they make the characters out to be 20th Century people, with 20th Century attitudes and 20th Century perceptions.<<

    It's called artistic liberty, but the modernization is intended to appeal to modern audiences. Since the youth of that time (i.e. late-90s) was the primary target audience, he needed a means of connecting to them or getting them to relate to the characters. In doing this, he ensured the movie's increased popularity. He has eleven Academy Awards/Oscars to show for it.

    I am with you, though. When it comes to historical accuracy–especially in Titanic–I tend to be a stickler. The interesting thing about that: I write fiction as well as nonfiction, so I can understand both sides.

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    • December 20, 2013 at 10:57 pm
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      I think that has a detrimental effect, to some degree. It’s good to entertain audiences, but we have a society that actually believes much of what they see on the screen. I’m not sure how to even go about rectifying something like that. It seems after so long, people actually start to believe that’s how it was. Like Queen Elizabeth. I don’t believe for a second she had strings of lovers and illegitimate kids everywhere. She ruled under England’s greatest expansion, so I’d say she couldn’t even turn around without someone needing advice, council, commands, and everything else. While she dodged assassins and people who tried to damage her politically. Yet, all portrayals of her in recent times have just that. I think propaganda plays a big part of it. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just used for entertainment, but it seems even scholars go out and start insinuating things are true after the fiction is made. Zombies are a modern example. Today, they’re on the History channel as “ancient creatures.” The term wasn’t even in the encyclopedia until the early 1930s. They weren’t ancient and had no significance in history. The big three historic monsters are vampires, werewolves, and ghouls.

      Reply
      • December 23, 2013 at 1:25 am
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        According to the movie Elizabeth I, starring Cate Blanchet, she was viewed as having a lover but not sexually promiscuous. She came across as untouchable as far as sex was concerned, at least that is the impression I received. She seemed to have integrity and strength as a monarch, well-focus though struggling for insight. Walsingham and other dedicated members of her council ensured she’d remain isolated so nothing could threaten or destroy her command.

        Experts saying zombies are real? I have heard that voodoo mind control has resulted in zombified individuals, but beyond that… Is there any evidence werewolves are or were real? Vampires took root and florished with Bram Stoker’s novel in the 1890s, although, from what I have read, awareness and interest in such creatures predate the novel by some time.

        Yes, propaganda is a surging monster that circulates its influence and confusion. It’s difficult to tell what is real and not not real anymore.

        Take for example Shakespeare. Recent evidence suggests that he didn’t actually write the works attributed to him, or, at least, not all of them. Do we believe the traditions passed down or do we accept the new findings? It can be frightening to let go of beliefs to which one has adhered for so long. Have you seen a movie called ‘Anonymous’? That was an interesting film as far as Shakespeare goes.

        By the way, many of my questions above are rhetorical. I just find it interesting that certain things get blurred over time. This kind of thing is sad, annoying and amusing at the same time.

        Reply
        • December 23, 2013 at 1:17 pm
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          I’ve seen Elizabeth in many movies, including Blanchet’s. I honestly don’t think Elizabeth had any lovers, nor Mary Queen of Scots (not like they portray). Although, people have been eager to link both with men since they were alive. The same with Joan of Arc. People were so much different just a hundred years ago, and that’s several centuries ago. I always thought it came from male-dominated academia who promote the idea women just can’t do much without a man’s instruction or influence. I could be wrong of course, but that’s just the feeling I get. Like with Mary, Queen of Scots. The fateful night she gallops off into the dark, countless stories have her fleeing for a romantic tryst with a commander. In actuality, Sir Walter Scott established it was a secret military meeting with one of her most important commanders, who was mortally wounded and they desperately needed to find a successor. Just from the perspective of a female researcher, sometimes you get the feeling history implies women aren’t capable of much outside romance or emotion. Historic female leaders often seem more like giddy, middle-school girls as opposed to stern or efficient leaders. It’s probably just one of my pet peeves, but it would be nice to see more historic women portrayed for their brains as opposed to their emotions.

          No, I meant experts try to say zombies are historic creatures. They aren’t. Most of the “proof” they cite to support zombies in Europe during the Middle Ages actually meant vampires or ghouls.

          I’ve heard that about Shakespeare several times. I think, if it is true, it should come out. The real writer should get the acclaim, it’s only fair. I’ve heard it was an unknown writer and I’ve heard rumors that Francis Bacon was really behind it.

          Reply
  • December 20, 2013 at 12:03 am
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    >>History can be a form of escapism, without resorting to sensation.<<

    Indeed. The Titanic tragedy was filled with enough drama to inspire ongoing research, 7-8 movies, countless books (fiction and nonfiction), so detraction and/or elaboration would seem superfluous and overkill. Let history speak for itself. 😉

    Reply

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