In the early 1800s, John Bell moved his family from North Carolina to the Red River bottomland in Robertson County, Tennessee, settling in a community that later became known as Adams. Bell purchased some land and a large log home for his family. The Bells quickly made many friends and gained prominence in the community. John Bell acquired additional land and cleared a number of fields over the next several years.
One day in 1817, John Bell was inspecting his corn field when he encountered a strange-looking animal sitting in the middle of a corn row. Shocked by the appearance of this animal, which had the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit, Bell shot several times to no avail. The animal vanished. Bell thought nothing more about the incident–at least not until after dinner. That evening, the Bells began hearing “beating” sounds on the outside walls of their house.
These mysterious sounds continued with increased force each night. Bell and his sons often hurried outside to catch the culprit but always returned empty-handed. The noises were soon followed by more problems. The Bell children began waking up frightened and complaining of sounds much like rats gnawing at their bedposts. It wasn’t long until the children began complaining of more terrifying things–having their bed covers pulled and their pillows were tossed onto the floor by a seemingly invisible force.
As time went on, the Bells began to hear more strange noises. Only this time, they sounded like faint, whispering voices–too weak to understand–but sounded like a feeble old woman crying or singing hymns. The encounters escalated, and the Bells youngest daughter, Betsy, began experiencing physically brutal encounters with the entity. It relentlessly pulled her hair and slapped her, often leaving visible prints on her face and body for days at a time. The evil disturbances escalated over the next year to the point it was time for John Bell to share his “family trouble” with his closest friend and neighbor, James Johnston.
Johnston and his wife spent the night at the Bell home, where they were subjected to the same terrifying disturbances that the Bells had been. After having his bedcovers repeatedly removed, and being slapped, Johnston sprang out of bed, asking, “I ask you in the name of the Lord God, who are you and what do you want?” There was no response of any type, but the remainder of the night was peaceful.
As word of the Bell disturbances spread throughout the community, so did the entity’s antics. Over time, the its voice strengthened to the point it was loud and understandable. It sang hymns, quoted scripture, carried on intelligent conversation, and once quoted, word-for-word, two sermons that took place at the same time thirteen miles apart. During none of this time did anyone know who or what the entity was, or its purpose for tormenting the Red River Settlement.
Word eventually spread outside the settlement, even as far as Nashville, where one Andrew Jackson became interested.
John Bell, Jr. and Jesse Bell fought under General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans, and had developed a good rapport with him. In 1819, Jackson got word of the disturbances at the Bell home and decided to pay a personal visit. Jackson and his entourage, consisting of several men and a large wagon, journeyed from Nashville to the Bell home. As the entourage approached the Bell property, the wagon suddenly stopped. The horses tried pulling but to no avail–the wagon simply would not move.