SPIRIT: The Authentic Bell Witch Experience

Oct. 19, 20, 21
& Oct. 26, 27, 28
7:00 pm

Each Fall since 2002, David Alford's play, Spirit: The Authentic History of the Bell Witch of Tennessee, has been produced on the grounds of the Bell School in Adams, the very land settled by John Bell and where the hauntings took place. As the play says, "In this place, on this ground" — only yards from the graves of the Bell family. The play is performed by professional actors from Nashville as well as local talent.

SPIRIT is based on Richard Williams Bell’s memoir entitled Our Family Trouble. Written as a journal in 1846, the manuscript was first published as a chapter in M.V. Ingram's The Authenticated History of the Bell Witch in 1894. Richard Williams Bell's memoir is the only known eyewitness account of the Bell Witch hauntings, which took place between 1818 and 1820 in the Bell home in Adams. Ingram honored the Bell family's request that the account not be published until after all of John Bell Sr.'s immediate family had passed away.

In 1804, middle Tennessee was still the frontier. That year, for reasons never fully explained, John Bell uprooted his large household from North Carolina and settled in rugged Red River, now Adams. Some time later, strange noises were heard in the house. The sounds slowly evolved into an eerie voice that called itself Kate. She tormented the Bell family, moving objects with invisible hands, even pinching and slapping members of the household.

Kate held particular hatred for John Bell and Betsy, his youngest daughter. Betsy bore the brunt of the witch’s physical abuse for years, even when guests would visit the Bell home to be “entertained” by the witch. Even Gen. Andrew Jackson, who knew John Bell Jr., reportedly encountered the Spirit, prompting the remark "I'd rather fight the British in New Orleans than to have to fight the Bell Witch." The events culminated in John Bell’s mysterious death in 1820, for which Kate gleefully claimed responsibility, even singing bawdy songs at his funeral.

Word of the events quickly spread, and today the legend is known worldwide. Countless theories have emerged to explain the phenomenon, but the mystery of the Bell Witch remains unsolved to this day. Today, visitors come from around the world to Adams to get a closer look at the site of the Bell Witch hauntings.

Please remember to check the weather and dress appropriately for the evening

No Alcoholic Beverages Allowed


David Alford

David Alford

David Alford (writer of Smoke and Spirit) currently appears as Bucky Dawes in the ABC television series Nashville. In addition to acting in film (Stoker, The Last Castle), he has directed and/or appeared in over 70 professional theatre productions, including the original mounting of Spirit. Recent stage appearances include the title role in the regional premiere of David Auburn's The Columnist (at Tennessee Repertory Theatre), and in the rural-flavored touring revue Christmas Down Home. He has written numerous plays and screenplays but is proudest of Spirit and his musical Smoke, stories of his home area. From 1994-2004 David served as co-founder and Artistic Director of Mockingbird Theatre. From 2004–2007 he worked at Tennessee Repertory Theatre in various capacities, including Executive Artistic Director and Artist-in-Residence. In 2012 he finished work designing and implementing a new Dramatic Arts Major at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee where he continues to teach part-time. David was the 2012-13 recipient of the Mabry Ovation Award through the Austin Peay Center for the Arts. He and his wife Kahle have lived in many place, but he's proud to call Adams home.

Paul Carrol Binkley

Paul Carrol Binkley

Paul Carrol Binkley (original music director for Spirit and Smoke and producer/arranger for the original cast recording of Smoke) has been playing the guitar and composing his own music since he was nine years old. He trained at Berklee College of Music in Boston (Jim Hall Jazz Award), Austin Peay State University, and Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt. His music has been heard everywhere from the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, to the Lincoln Center in New York; from CMT to NPR; from Holland to Singapore. He has worked locally with Tennessee Repertory Theatre, Nashville Children’s Theatre, Nashville Shakespeare Festival and Community Spirit as Sound Designer, Music Director, and Composer. Other credits include Coterie Theatre (Missouri), Music from the Hearts of Space and All Things Considered(NPR). Paul has served as acoustic guitar specialist for a diverse group of artists including country music super-group Alabama. His solo recordings include Silent Serenade, Closer to Home, Passages for Acoustic Guitar, Flying Colors, and Do You Hear What I Hear? (www.pcbmusic.com) Current projects include serving as the Fred Coe Artist in-Residence at Vanderbilt’s Theatre Department, copyright infringement consulting, performing locally, most recently, with Nashville Symphony and Nashville Opera and in his original children’s musical, Jack’s Tale: A Mystic Mountain Musical, (co-authored with Scot Copeland of Nashville Children’s Theatre) in its national premiere at The Kennedy Center, Washington, D. C. before returning to Nashville Children’s Theatre.  Paul lives in Adams, Tennessee.

“Binkley’s original music is almost subliminal, a nostalgic weave of old lace curtains, the faint scent of wood smoke…and remembered innocence.” -The Tennessean