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SPIRIT: The Authentic Bell Witch Experience

Oct. 17, 18, 19
& Oct. 24, 25, 26
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 Ingram honored the Bell family's request that the account not be published until after all of John Bell Sr.'s immediate family had passed away.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) is a native of Adams, Tennessee. He attended Austin Peay State University and the Juilliard School for Drama. He was awarded a Fox Fellowship for the foundation of Mockingbird Theatre in Nashville, where he served as Artistic Director from 1994-2004. From 2004-2007 he served as Executive Artistic Director of Tennessee Repertory Theatre (now Nashville Rep), and in 2008 became the Rep's first Artist-in-Residence. 

One of David’s greatest passions is creating theatre pieces about the places he has called home. Besides Spirit and Smoke, he created the documentary theatre piece Boycott: Pulaski, Tennessee And The Legacy Of The Ku Klux Klan. His play Ghostlight was named Best Original Play by The Nashville Scene (2004). He edited a collection of his father Rev. Ben Alford’s writing, The Dance Of The Holy Nobodies for Martin Methodist College press. Most recently he co-authored  The Morning After Drama School: A DIY Guide To The Acting Business for Kendall Hunt Publishing (with Brian Horner). Screenwriting credits include On Music Row (MTV Networks), and the independent releases Prisoner, Adrenaline, and Deadbox

Best known for his acting work, David appeared as Bucky Dawes in the television series Nashville for the show’s six seasons. Other screen credits include The Blacklist (NBC), The Last Castle (Dreamworks), A Death in the Family (PBS/Masterpiece Theatre), Stoker (Warner Bros.), and the web series Local Air. Recent stage credits include Marshall in the Tony-nominated Broadway revival of Little Foxes, Billy in Long Lost (Illinois Theatre), and the title role in The Columnist (Nashville Rep). His one-man performance of Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory was a holiday staple for Nashville audiences for over a decade. 

Besides directing the original productions of Spirit and Smoke for CSI, he has directed for Tennessee Rep, The Arkansas Shakespeare Festival, The Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and others. Also a teacher, in 2011 he completed the design and implementation of a first-ever Dramatic Arts Major at Martin Methodist College. He and his wife Kahle now split their time living and working in Nashville and New York City.

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? ( 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