THE MARK OF THE BELL WITCH (2020)
Directed by Seth Breedlove
Starring Adrienne Breedlove, Amy Davies, Aaron Gascon, Thomas Koosed, Grayden Nance
Find out more about this film here!
Small Town Monsters continues its series of documentaries telling tales of paranormal, cryptid, strange folklore, and modern urban myths with it’s latest doc THE MARK OF THE BELL WITCH. While I know the Bell Witch has been the subject of many a low budget horror film, I must admit, I wasn’t completely familiar with the story behind it. Because of this, I found this documentary to be extremely entertaining and informative.
While the entity is called a witch by the locals, this was more of a broad term, describing all paranormal phenomenon and things that weren’t understood. The Bell Witch is actually more of an evil ghost than anything else, by the way it presents itself in the reports. Apparently, in the early to mid-1800’s John Bell and his family were tormented by an evil spirit they came to know as Kate after its presence became more of a prominent fixture in their home. What started out as knocks and scrapes on the wall, evolved into barely audible whispers. And the more the Bells paid attention to it, the louder and clearer Kate’s voice became. Soon the family would be able to have conversations with Kate and people would come from other counties to interact with the witch. While sceptics thought the voices came from acts of ventriloquism, believers thought the Bell’s home housed an evil spirit. The witch seemed to be picky as to who it tormented. It would attack the younger daughter Besty and the head of the household John, but would be nice to Mrs. Bell and praise her. Soon, more spirits would enter the home, arguing with the family and one another. One disturbing scene details a night where the bell witch entered a guest’s bed. The sheets were wrapped around the spirit and they tried to throw it into the fire, but the bundle became too heavy to move and writhed around like a snake was inside. The whole thing culminated with the death of John, which of course, the witch took credit for, and even was heard cackling from a tree as they buried his body.
It’s a pretty insane story and now, I think I might seek out some of those old Bell Witch movies to see if any of them do the story justice. This doc does a fantastic job of mapping out the years and showing all of the events leading up to and beyond the Bell Haunting. Even before the witch appeared, the land was said to be inhabited by giant birds and black dogs. Lights from swamp gas, also known as Ghost Lights, and the Will of the Wisp were seen on the land. The doc talks with historians and locals who all know the story well and grew up around all of the legends and superstitions.
By now, the guys at Small Town Monsters have their formula down pat. The filmmaker Seth Breedlove does a fantastic job of incorporating reenactments that don’t suck and actually add to the feeling of unease that is cast by the narration telling the tales behind the haunting. If you’re a fan of cryptid and paranormal docs, but are tired of the vapid and uneventful ghost hunting shows, THE MARK OF THE BELL WITCH and the other docs from Small Town Monsters delivers all of the good and none of the cringy bad by taking the stories seriously, but also looking at things from a historical, scientific, and cultural stance.