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The Bell Witch

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,011 ratings  ·  106 reviews
Inspired by actual events.

It's 1817, and Tennessee is on the western frontier as America expands into the unknown. In idyllic Adams County, home of the Bell family, there exists a collection of tight-knit rural communities with deeply held beliefs. And even more deeply buried secrets.

Jack and Lucy Bell operate a prosperous family f
Paperback, 266 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Books of the Dead Press
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Average rating 3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,011 ratings  ·  106 reviews

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Jul 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book made me feel as if I wasted my entire day reading it. It was hard to get into and once I did, I didn't want to finish. Would not recommend. ...more
Mar 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not the "original" story of the BELL WITCH that I had read before, but an entirely new one. It did start out slowly, but about 1/4 of the way in, it picked up incredibly! The author infused an entire new outlook into this story--the raw emotions, characterizations, and moralities involved made this a very engrossing read that I did not want to simply "skim" over.

4.5 stars. Recommended!
THE BELL WITCH was an entertaining historical fiction novel about America's most well known witch.

The tale itself was interesting enough, (I was familiar with the basics going in), but here the author fleshed everything out quite a bit more, and the moral angle played a bigger part. All of which worked perfectly.

What didn't work for me were the characters, (other than Betsy). I just didn't connect with them. Because of that I found my mind wandering a lot and at about 60% through, I was ready
John Taff
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Ok, well duh. I get to vote on my own work. Take it with a grain of salt, I suppose.
S. Wideman
Feb 18, 2014 rated it did not like it
I'm going to start this off with two points: One, I'm a stickler for research and two, I do understand artistic licensing. However, there comes a point when one must realize that if artistic licensing outweighs research by such a vast degree, it would be safer to scrap the facts and just write your own novel "Inspired" by said events. This is such a book that would have benefited from that. Instead, Taff continued with his desire to retell the story of the Bell Witch, history be damned. This boo ...more
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this one on audio and it was fantastic. The narrator nailed every aspect of this story from the tone, cadence, pacing and characters. Surprisingly witty and amusing. Very well done all around.
3.5 stars

Well The Bell Witch was not at all what I was expecting, and I liked it so much more for it! I was totally thinking this was going to be your typical haunting ghost story, the title, the creepy cover, the real history at play here, everything leads you to believe that's exactly what you will get. Even the beginning of the book starts out giving you what you thought you wanted, random objects moving on their own, a voice rambling out of no where. The poor inhabitants of the Bell manor a
Mark Matthews
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Bell Witch is an American ghost story, brought to life by the author in a wonderful and haunting way. In some ways, this is historical fiction. 'A People's History of The Bell Witch,' as maybe Howard Zinn would have wanted it done, because the characters are brought out vivid and true and the reader is plopped down into the middle of a family in crisis. The supernatural springs forth wonderfully right into the setting, and the author's witch is original. Her voice carries the novel. This wit ...more
Steve Stred
Mar 18, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
** Edited as review is now live on Kendall Reviews! **

Much like most of you reading this review, growing up I was always fascinated and drawn to the true stories of ghosts, possessions, hauntings and the like. Whether you believe in it being real or not, there’s no disputing that ‘something’ does happen to these people in these situations.

What makes some stories stand out even more for me are when renowned historical figures state that they experienced something while visiting these people.

Kim Napolitano
Oct 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Haunting and spooky!

I love a good ghost story and when that ghost story is based on a legendary haunting even better! The Bell Witch is brought forth to terrorize and guide the Bell family. A horrible secret becomes unveiled that will tear the family
apart. Known only as The Witch, she steals the show in every scene she’s in. Terrifying and also sad, can this family actually heal after this? No spoilers but the story carries you along at a quick pace with some amazing revelations that surprise
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was caught completely by surprise by John F.D. Taff's The Bell Witch. Although I'm a fan of Taff's writing, I have to admit I went into this book expecting the familiar narrative that is the standard way of telling a poltergeist-type story. What I had no idea was coming was that the vengeful spirit was going to be a well-developed, sympathetic character with its own voice. Where a lesser writer would have left the spirit with little more than constant malevolence and perhaps a touch of sympath ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
The Bell Witch is loosely based on events that happened to the Bell family in Tennessee in the early 1800s. The alleged spirit activity included objects being thrown about, vocalizations by the witch, and physical attacks on family members, seemingly centered around the youngest Bell daughter, Betsy. In this novel, some liberties have been taken with the original legend: names have been changed, timelines have been revised, and the identity (or supposed identity) of the witch has also been chang ...more
Mar 30, 2016 rated it did not like it
Pure stubbornness got me to the end of this long-ass book. The original story is creepy, and the beginning showed promise, but as the book went on all I could think was "this would be improved by adding a laugh track" because literally the witch drops bananas on people and tells them how nice they look in their new dresses. It's like what would happen if someone took a pretty good, creepy movie like "Mama" and turned it into a primetime sitcom where 'Mama' doesn't have a body and is voiced by Sa ...more
Mar 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Having read about the Bell Witch legend, I am familiar with the American ghost tale. The story is of the Bell family who live in Adams, Tennessee in the early 1800's. The Bell Witch's goal is to seek revenge on Jack Bell for what he had done to one of his family members. In this story the witch is a character of amusement, she can sign a song, predict the future and give unwanted advice. Jack Bell sentence is to die at the hands of the witch. The Bell Witch is somewhat based on the events that h ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it did not like it
Horrid waste of time. Made the witch into a childish joke who can see the future and speaks slang.
Tracy Robinson
. This was an interesting take on an American Haunting. I rather enjoy a good piece of historical fiction.

Full review here:
David Eccles
Sep 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
John F.D. Taff once again weaves a delicate, complex tapestry of words that unfolds into a glorious work of art, in a style that is uniquely and unmistakably his own brand of storytelling.
The original legend of The Bell Witch is a true American horror story, and rather than tell you about it here, I advise the reader to source other books if they wish to research the historical documented case, something which John Taff himself did before fictionalising the event in this remarkable book.
The stor
Yawatta Hosby
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Review coming soon...
Estevam (Impish Reviews)
But i would say its okay just very, very slow.
Emily Beranek
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I started reading this book I was expecting something slightly different from what I ended up reading. The cover makes it appear as if it is a horror story and I guess you could say that it is but in a different sense than is traditionally thought of. It is scary in more of a disturbing manner than a on the edge of your seat, wet your pants manner. It seems to me to be a commentary on the human response to trauma and how when bad things happen to us it can hurt the people around us if we ju ...more
J.C. Michael
Aug 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Out of all the novels I have read lately this is the one which prompted the greatest response, in that I have now spent quite a bit of time looking into the story behind the story.

This is historical fiction with a supernatural twist, a real "based on a true story" affair but one in which the "truth" is so elusive and distorted by legend that no-one can really say what happened to the Bell family during the time covered by the story.

As a Brit I'm used to tales of ghostly goings on but it was refr
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was jarred at first, reading this book, but that's only because I've read Brent Monahan's book of the same title, twice, the second time being just a couple of weeks ago. I know that book and the story of the witch that it tells pretty well, now, and it was quite fresh in my mind, so going from that book to,this one was a bit of a shock to the system!
But, once my brain truly understood that this is a fictionalisation of the Bell witch story, I was fine, and I loved every page of it.
There are a
Kim Sofia
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves a good ghost story!
I loved this book! I usually read short stories, so that I can read one in a sitting. Even with slightly longer stories, I read a chapter or 2 and then put the book down. Not with The Bell Witch! I basically read it in 2 days, mostly because I had a friend coming to visit and had to stop reading.
The story was wonderful; I'm a sucker for a good ghost story, especially one where the family doesn't try to leave, but just work through things, and adored that Andrew Jackson makes a showing in the sto
Renny Barcelos
Jun 28, 2018 rated it did not like it
This wasn't scary at all! It was boring as hell, actually and so anachronic it got on my nerves.
I imagine the author thinking, "nah, I don't need to have real language of the time or any costume/behavior according to how society was back then. Nuh-uh."

" will people know it's a historical piece? I mean...I know people are aware of the legend but still..."

"Oh, don't worry. I'll just throw a historical figure or happening here and there and keep repeating the year. 'Till be just fiiiine.
Mar 14, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
For some reason.. for the time of the year this was... I found it so very unbelievable that this witch/spirit/demon (whatever it was) was not feared by anyone..not in the Bell home, or even in the entire town.

She gave the impression to be best friend to all ... she sang in church and the Preacher even told her what a beautiful voice she has.
She would visit the school teacher and talk with him..give him pep talks and small kisses on his cheek
Everyone ( as the Bell Witch) was getting ready to le
Weston Kincade
Aug 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Need a good haunting? John F.D. Taff has certainly given the Bell Witch folktale new life. The Bell Witch is a superb story that grips you early, keeps you guessing, and will linger in your mind long after the last page has come and gone. As Taff says, “get a cup of tea, light up a good stogie, stoke the fire, and settle down in your easy chair.” The Bell Witch will keep your eyes blazing across each line and your heart pounding as this torturous ghost story unfolds. Don’t pass it up.

Weston Kinc
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: gr-giveaway
Interesting story but the dialogue and overall feel of the story just didn't give me the sense of being in the 1820s. A small point of history that I found jarring was the giving of a diamond engagement ring. This wasn't a common custom until much later in the century and it's doubtful someone of modest means would have given a ring like this at that time.
I received the book through Good Reads First Read.
Justin Robinson
Aug 09, 2013 rated it liked it
I've been fascinated by the Bell Witch since I first encountered her in the pages of Daniel Cohen's Encyclopedia of Ghosts. Taff brings her to (un)life in a moody story of historical horror that will not disappoint those familiar with the haunting or newcomers to the first great ghost story of the Americas. ...more
Aug 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: finished-reading
Omg!! Loved this book!! Fantastic characters an the story line just pulled me in!!!
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John F.D. Taff is a multi-Bram Stoker Award short-listed dark fiction author with more than 30 years experience, and more than 100 short stories and seven novels in print.

He has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Eldritch Tales, Unnerving, Deathrealm, Big Pulp and One Buck Horror, as well as anthologies such as Hot Blood: Seeds of Fear, Hot Blood: Fear the Fever, Shock Rock II, Lullabies for Suffering, G

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