On This, the 200th Anniversary of the Bell Witch Legend


The Bell Witch is the quintessential American ghost story, and one of the only (if not the only) poltergeist tale where the poltergeist actually kills someone.  Is it true?  Who knows, but its enduring legacy seems to indicate that it has burrowed its way into the American subconscious.

I read about it a long time ago, as a child reading shit about UFOs and ghosts and Yetis and the Loch Ness Monster.  And it lodged deep in my subconscious, too.  I knew when I decided to become a writer (or when writing decided it wasn’t going to leave me alone, I’m not sure which it was), I wanted to try my hand at retelling this tale.

So I did.  Like 1820s America, where this is said to have occurred, my tale of the Bell Witch was a rough and shambling beast.  It sported a great cover by the awesome Kealan Patrick Burke, but inside it was the work of a much greener writer–and it wasn’t particularly well edited.

But that book, The Bell Witch, sold like proverbial hotcakes.  When it was all said and done (and it indeed was all said and done, because that publisher went under recently), that little small press book sold over 24,000 copies–a figure unheard of for a small press book.

Along comes Grey Matter Press, publisher of many of my finer short stories and my Stoker Award-Nominated The End in All Beginnings.   Tony Rivera there said he’d like to take on the pieces that erstwhile publisher had brought to market for me, effectively becoming the holder of my entire library of work to-date.  Effin’ awesome.

So this December 12–less than one week from today–the new paperback version of The Bell Witch comes out.  And this year, 2017, marks the 200th anniversary of the beginning of this legend.  Also Dec 21st (my actual 54th birthday!) also marks the 196th anniversary of the death of one of the main characters in this legend, John Bell, said to have been killed by the spirit.

I loved Kealan’s original cover for my book, and the burning doll on the new cover seems to me to be a perfect illustration of the legend, too.  In addition to this great new cover, this revised edition features expanded notes, a fresh edit of the text and a great introduction by author Bracken MacLeod, of Stranded and 13 Views of the Suicide Woods.  All in all, a new version of a book I am very proud of.

If you’ve never heard of the Bell Witch, hold onto your hats.  If you have, I hope you enjoy my retelling of the legend, for my version gives the Witch a voice of her own for the first time.

December 12.

And beyond that, Little Black Spots, my brand new collection of short fiction. Spring 2018.

About John F.D. Taff

John F.D. Taff is a writer, published author, raconteur and wrangler of angry stoats. He has more than 80 short stories and 7 novels published. He lives in the great, unspoiled vastness of the Midwest. He has a tremendous wife named Debbie, three pugs, Sadie, Tovah and Muriel, and three great kids--Harry, Sam and Molly. View all posts by John F.D. Taff

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