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.