The Trials of Betsy Bell
- The Pursuit of the Bell Witch
- The Bell Family History
- Kate Batts’ Bell Witch
- Betsy Bell and Incorporeal Adolescence
- Bell Witch Skeptics and the Issues They Face
- Professor Powell: The Mind behind the Bell Witch?
- Sugarmouth and the Johnson Family
- Bell Witch Revelations & Rumors
- The Trials of Betsy Bell
- Bill Beaver, Old Nance, and Old Sugarmouth
The Trials of Betsy Bell is a little-known song that once appeared in Southern Lyrics, a book published in 1907. The song is noted as being written in July of 1906, but there is no information on the writer.
‘Tis scarcely yet one hundred years
Since came and went the things I tell,
Since lived and loved, in direful fears,
The blue-eyed beauty, Betsy Bell.
‘Twas in the land of Tennessee,
Beneath those skies of deepest blue,
Where rarest things are wont to be,
And all I tell is surely true.
Now, Betsy was in gladsome youth,
Just bordering on fair womanhood,
When Love, young Love, in sweetest truth
And pleading smiles, before her stood.
Josh Gardner, whom she met in school,
Had wooed and won that pulsing heart;
They met and loved in spite of rule,
And pledged they nevermore would part.
But ere the nuptial knot was tied
A spirit came, a goblin sprite,
Who talked and sang and plead and cried,
And gave to Betsy greatest fright.
It begged our Betsy not to take
Josh Gardner, yet no reason why;
At last this elf in firmness spake:
“You shall not, or you surely die!”
Kate was the name they gave the sprite,
And, oh! what sorrow none can tell
It brought in anger day and night
And heaped upon poor Betsy Bell!
Sometimes it struck her face a blow
And threw her shoes no telling where;
Then all her hairpins next would go
And leave a mass of tangled hair.
Sometimes a host of pins were stuck
Into her flesh while Kate would scoff;
On coldest night ’twas Betsy’s luck
To have the bedclothes all stripped off.
Sometimes this mystic sprite would sing
The sweetest songs or pray a prayer;
Again its hidden hand would bring
The daintiest things to eat or wear.
But, oh! so often in the night
Kate came just like a drunken beast;
Poor Betsy, in her awful fright,
Ran screaming till Kate’s anger ceased.
Then Kate would plead, “Sweet Betsy Bell.
Don’t marry Josh, I beg you so;
Don’t marry Josh, just go and tell
Him I have bid you answer no.
Once in the evening Betsy walked
Beneath an oak, and, strange the scene,
There swung before her, as it talked,
A little woman dressed in green.
Again one day the spirit stood
Before her, combed its long, dark hair,
And, talk as much as Betsy would,
It did not see her standing there.
She saw it next,—a big black dog
Went laughing by, its heads were two;
Sometimes it passed as talking hog,
Oft strangest bird above her flew.
Oft Josh and Betsy walked about
On flowery bank beneath shadowy oak;
But Kate was sure to find them out—
“Don’t marry Josh,” she always spoke.
“Don’t marry Josh, just answer no;
My Betsy Bell, Kate speaks to you;
I’ll make your life a scene of woe;
Then off her dainty slippers flew.
It killed her father, then it said
To Betsy, “Josh you must release;
Old Jack, your father, now is dead,
And you must live, but not in peace.”
And then in pleading tones again,
“Don’t marry Josh, my Betsy dear!
Take Powell, he’s the man of men,
And never have you aught to fear.”
For three long years this spirit strove
With Betsy Bell her vow to break;
It could not once suppress her love,
But Josh, it seemed, she must forsake.
So one day beneath a giant oak
Whose shadows weirdly, densely spread,
To Josh with tearful eyes she spoke,
“My dear, I know we cannot wed;
A spirit bids us separate,
A wicked fiend we can’t control;
But long I’ll rue our helpless fate,
A fate that wrecks my mateless soul.”
“And must we part,” said Josh, “and go,
No more to meet beneath this shade?
O, Betsy Bell! the grief I know
Can never from my bosom fade.
Yet we must part, the spirits say,
And I must bid you now farewell;
Apart we take our silent way;
Adieu, adieu, my Betsy Bell!”
Then came a laugh from out the tree,
A chuckle as from deepest Hell:
“I told you, Josh, it could not be;
I told you so, sweet Betsy Bell.”
Southern Lyrics: A Series of Original Poems on Love, Home, and the Southland, Robert Paine Hudson, Southern lyrics Publishing Company, Nashville, TN, 1907