An American Haunting

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An American Haunting (2005) begins in the present with a young girl and her mother. The mother finds a bundle of old letters which warn the reader that unthinkable things are happening. The story is then told of the Bell family in the early 19th century. The Bell home is afflicted with poltergeist activity which seems to be linked to John Bell, the head of the Bell family, having offended Kate Batts, a woman linked to the supernatural and seen as a witch.

The supernatural activity in the home seems to be particularly targeted at the daughter, Betsy. She is thrown about the home and even assaulted. Eventually the reason for the occurrences in the Bell home are explained. They seem all the more horrific than any witch or curse and the modern day woman, reading this history is able to make the connection to her own daughter, with a little supernatural help.

I watched this movie twice because the first time I wasn’t really paying attention until the end and then I really wanted to know what had happened. It is interesting how the film makers draw comparisons between the past and the present, and the implication of what was really occurring with the father and Betsy.

The Legend Of The Bell Witch

The legend of the Bell Witch refers to poltergeist activity experienced by the Bell family at the beginning of the nineteenth century in Tennessee. There were strange sounds in the Bell family home and John Bell referred to the poltergeist as ‘Kate’ and that she was often heard to swear at and curse the family out loud. The poltergeist activity was centred around the youngest daughter Betsy and when she was engaged to be married to a young man, the activity seemed to multiply, which lead some to speculate that it was a jealous suitor who was staging the supernatural activity in an attempt to break up the engaged couple.

There aren’t any real accounts of the Bell family’s experiences until the latter half of the nineteenth century, so most people have put this story down to nothing more than a local Tennessee legend. Still, this has not stopped the story inspiring other movie makers.

The Blair Witch Project

The most famous movie based on the Bell Witch Legend

The Blair Witch Project movie was a phenomenon when it was released in 1995 and it reinvented the found footage genre. It is shot as a documentary being filmed by three students about the Blair Witch in Burkittsville, Maryland. The movie starts with the students interviewing people in the town about the legend and then heading into the woods, where they document the strange experiences they encounter. Although not much background information is given about the ‘Blair Witch’, and the movie is not set in Tennessee, it is based on the ‘Bell Witch’

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