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 Became a Drop of Water One Day

In celebration of Poetry in Your Pocket Day, during this Poetry Month of April, I recorded myself reciting this poem (in the above video) while kayaking on Crescent Lake.

I became a drop of water one day
I floated from a cloud into a high hillside creek
And flowed downward to join a magnificent turquoise river
The river rushed into an emerald oblong lake
Where I greeted trout and merganser feet
I filled the entire lake as all drops linked together
I felt my body reach from one shore to the other
As well as separate to myself, the original droplet
After I had known fully my lake environ
I streamed out to the bay, then rougher moving sea
Joining currents stronger than me
Carrying me to other shores and other beings
I grew in knowledge, strength, and courage
Finally after a lifespan, I recognized myself again
For the water is me
Fills me
Nourishes me
And heals me
I became a drop of water one day
And through it realized the essence of all creation

By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2021
Feb. 5, 2021

[Top and Below Photos all by Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2021]

“Nature” Art Exhibit in Jackson Hole

My poetry and photography will exhibit in the show “Nature” at the Center for the Arts Theater Gallery and Glenwood Lobby in Jackson Hole, Wyoming: April 19-June 14. My photograph appears on the exhibit book cover as well. For more information, link to the Center for the Arts Event Page. Join me in celebrating one of the included poems, “The Forest.”

The Forest

We smell your freshness
Taste your salt
Until our skin
Lets you in

I am bound by your beauty
To be bolder, truer
Than the sum
Of my tomorrows

By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2021
Feb. 5, 2021
9×7″ Print on Wood, “The Forest,” By Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2021

Top photo and below photos by Laura E. Garrard, Copyright 2021