The Legend of the Bell Mansion

Photo by Lennart Wittstock on
The Legend of the Bell Mansion

Where I’m from there’s a story told,
It may or may not be true,
But as sure as I stand here now
It will come alive for you.

In Tennessee, there was a landowner, 
John Bell, who farmed a thousand acres
In a small, early American town.
He, wife Lucy, and his family lived in a mansion on a hill.
Inside they heard crafty squeaks and screeches,
Knocks and yelps that woke them from sleep.
Even when tortured Betsy’s hair was pulled tight, 
The nine children dare not open their eyes.
The parents remained stoic for a long time, slow to rise,
Until one watching hour the alarm too loud to ignore,
The children screamed and parents raced to their implores.

The father grew angry, his family afraid.
He was their protector, his courage would not cave.
In those days they carried candles to light their way.
A draft filled the hallway and flickered his flame
As John made his way from the bedrooms
To the drawing room, where social visits took place,
And he had welcomed dignitaries in humor to hear
The home’s infamous haunting sounds.

When his candle snuffed, John gazed up to see a glow
That was unnatural, flowing gray garments embroidered
With thorns arose with white hair in the air before him. 
This eerie sight chilled his blood and organs.
The translucent phantom extended her hands toward him,
Her vacant eyes big as pies, begging him to come closer.
His feet shuffled to her, he did not understand why.
Gore gripped him for her middle had been ripped wide,
Her dress at the waist tattered by a knife.
He looked down, his feet no longer moved, 
Yet they rose above the hardwood, 
Toes traveling and dragging, his heart pounding.
The banshee tornado bore him into her horror.
His mouth opened, but as in nightmares nothing would emit,
Just as he reached her exposed guts and body of dust,
He passed through her as if she weren’t there.

Dampness filled his body, the sour smell of rot his nostrils,
He turned back to discover the hallway was hollow.
His slippers swept the floorboards again, 
As he grasped to compose himself, John entered
The drawing room and sat on the red velvet couch.
Putting his head in hands, he thought What just happened?
Until then, it seemed a storyteller’s joke,
The menacing noises the house evoked.
Now as real as a ghost can be, and then not,
He believed in souls who went knock, knock, knock.

After that night the ghoul appeared only to him,
Never to anyone else, family nor friends.
The wraith haunted him, her only victim. 
Perhaps she thought he had been her killer, or building
The mansion on her unmarked grave had disturbed her.
Since no one else ever saw the spirit, 
His stories made him seem insane,
And to that she drove him deeper and farther
Until finally on his deathbed, he yelled louder than anyone
Screamed as he passed into the world unseen.
If you could see what he saw,
You would have yelled as well, for due to his obsession
He entered the apparition’s insufferable world
of in between and not the glory to which he had been bound.

To this day many still fear the witch who impelled 
Old Jack Bell to his hell. The legend goes, 
You can check if she haunts you, 
By bravely facing a mirror in an enclosed bathroom, 
Flipping the light switch off,
And in the pitch of dark, 
Say aloud three times fast, 
“I don’t believe in the Bell Mansion Witch!”
Turn on the light and see what you find in the glass.
If the ghost doesn’t emerge and you view yourself,
Sigh in relief. But you will never know 
Each time you test your nerve
Just what you’ll see. It might be Old Jack Bell himself.

Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022

Poem selected by Olympia Peninsula Authors to be read at the Port Angeles Fine Art Center Celebration of Shadows Festival, Oct. 22, 5:30-7 p.m., Ester Webster Gallery Courtyard. 

Listen to the audio below.
“The Legend of the Bell Mansion,” read by the author, Laura E. Garrard.
Photo by Plato Terentev on

New Growth Poetry Exhibit

Port Angeles Fine Arts Center

My poem below was selected, by the Olympic Peninsula Writers through a juried submission, to appear for a year in the PAFAC New Growth outdoors exhibit in the Webster Woods sculpture garden. Following a year, it will be moved with other poems to a number of parks in Port Angeles. It’s very exciting to have been chosen! Below is a photograph of me with the installation on the day of the poetry reading.

Here is a recording of my reading:

Laura E. Garrard reading her poem “I Have to Chase That Squirrel,” June 18, 2022.
I Have to Chase That Squirrel

Start at a run from the door
And accelerate to top lope
Just as I reach the base of the Douglas fir
Even if I’m too late to catch it
My instinct must be served
You laugh and shrug
For me, it’s not just for fun
It’s my essence, my expression
My way to tell the world
What kind of dog I am
So free me to do 
What I want, what I must
Responsibility, according to whom?
My number one purpose right now
Is to chase that squirrel
Even though I’m scared 
I won’t succeed
I must look skyward to see
On which limb the squirrel may be

Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022

I took these photographs as spring turned into summer on the “Moments in Time Trail,” Olympic National Park. I feel they tie in nicely with the New Growth theme. (Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022.)

I Catch Sun on Lake Crescent

When I Catch Sun on Lake Crescent

There is a point where
I like to linger in the late light
Among the arms of a hugging alder.
I use my left foot to leverage
And perch myself on a limb
Not far from the ground beneath her.
I cherish course gray modeled skin
As wrinkled as an elephant’s
And run my fingers across the thickened ridges.
I look into a dark recessed knotty eye
From where I gather empathy and kindness.
The chatter and clatter of breaking waves
Keep us company with laughter and stories.
Like old companions familiar in fondness
I pick at the white lichen pieces
That slough easily from her aging skin.
When the sun begins to vanquish
I carefully and respectfully lower from
This grand gentle beast my friend.
Ambering arms flailing frozen about me,
I glimpse a couple’s infatuation carving 
Cut deeply into her thoracic body,
The same initials of myself and my own love.
Not my affront, I trace them apologizing,
Relish remembrance can be caught
As effaced longevity upon an alder trunk.

Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022
April 8, 2022

All blog photographs by Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022
“Not My Affront, Yet Our Initials Still Caught,” by Laura E. Garrard, 2022

I’m Already Looking Forward

I’m Already Looking Forward

As the height of golden color
Becomes baked and matted
I can already see in mind’s eye
The blooming locations of next year’s beauties
And smell the sweetness of black cottonwood resin
A mere six months to wait
Things may be so different
I don goose down and Gore-Tex
In preparation of the colder and greener moss walks
Today’s azure brightness however
Forecasts a vital turnover
From nebulous to distinctive images
Only of fertile soil building
The winter wait will create cell space
Time will combine the correct mineral and organisms
I along with garden and forest will renew
As that is what seasons and bodies do

By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022
Oct. 31. 2021
“Winter to Summer,” By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022
Elusive Winter Sun

Elusive winter sun
Shine through frozen limbs
And warm my chest

Bring my inflexible bones back to life

Show the way to peace
I once observed
In your summer shining
Warmth through and through
Basking in the new grass

Sleepy relaxed muscles
A dragonfly lighting
On my stillness

By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022
Dec. 28, 2021

[Photo Gallery By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2022]