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An American Haunting

  Based on the true story of The Bell Witch of Tennessee, the story is of a spirit which attacked the wealthy and highly respected Bell family for four years, eventually causing the death of one of them.

In 1818, the family began to experience disturbances on their property. At first, slight, unexplained noises, but the spirit began to grow, becoming aggressive and singling out the father, John, and his only daughter Betsy. The attacks on Betsy were vicious and unstoppable with her being brutally beaten regularly.

An American HauntingThe family desperately searched for the cause of the spirit in the hope of finding a way of defeating it. They tried exorcism and moving Betsy from the house, but the spirit continued its brutal assault. It developed voices and began speaking to the family, but refusing to say why it was there. Then, finally it pronounced a death sentence on John. Within a year, he was dead. Shortly, thereafter, the spirit left the family in peace, but never the same.

It would not be until years later that we would be taken back to the terrible night the spirit was born and find out the horrific truth about its nature and origin.

Synopsis

An American Haunting rivals that of the Sixth Sense and The Others, and leaves you in utter shock. Based on the true story of The Bell Witch of Tennessee, about which thirty-five books have been written, An American Haunting tells the story of a spirit which attacked the wealthy and highly respected Bell family for four years eventually causing the death of one of its family members.

An American HauntingIn 1818, the Bell family began to experience disturbances on their property. At first, these were slight, unexplained noises, sounds of labored breathing, and footsteps walking through the house. As time progressed, the nature of the disturbances escalated. The spirit began to grow, as if it were a child maturing. It became aggressive, singling out John Bell, the father of the family, and his only daughter Betsy. The attacks on Betsy were vicious, horrible and unstoppable with her being brutally beaten on a regular basis.

The family desperately searched for the cause of the spirit in the hope of finding a way of defeating it and saving their daughter. Everyone became a suspect from the well-meaning schoolteacher Professor Powell, who lived on the Bell farm and harbored a secret love for Betsy, to Kate Batts, the Bell neighbor who held a grudge against the Bell family and whom everyone suspected was a witch. But, all their efforts resulted in dead ends, and the attacks continued and the events started taking a toll of the family’s health, especially that of John.

An American HauntingThey resorted to an “exorcism” of sorts, tried moving Betsy from the house, but the spirit continued it’s brutal assault and had the ability to be anywhere and everywhere. Each attempt by the family to disrupt the spirit resulted in its powers escalating, and the appearance of new horrors. Betsy was visited by a mysterious ethereal girl and stalked by a fearsome black wolf. The spirit developed voices and began speaking to the family, refusing when asked to say why it is there or when, if ever, that it would leave. It pronounced judgment on Betsy’s proposed marriage to young Joshua Gardner, breaking up the engagement party and forbidding her marry him. Then, finally it pronounced a death sentence on John Bell. Within a year, he was dead with the spirit proclaiming, “I finally got him.” Shortly, thereafter, the spirit disappeared, leaving the Bell family in peace, but never the same.

It would not be until fifteen years later, once Betsy had married Professor Powell and had children that we would be taken back to the terrible night the spirit was born and find out the horrific truth about its nature and origin.

Brent Monahan – novelist ‘The Bell Witch Story’
‘The Bell Witch Story actually happened’


The Bell Witch Story actually happened. About 80% of what is written in my novel is true. You might well ask then ‘Why bother writing fiction about this?’ This is a good question and I hope there is a good answer...

An American HauntingSomething very frightening occurred in Pioneer, Tennessee, beginning late in the year 1817. It occurred on and around the Bell farm; situated in what was then called the Red River, about 40 miles North/ North-East of Nashville. The phenomenon is called ‘a poltergeist haunting’.

I found this in a book that talked about many of these hauntings. The first one was recorded in 355 A.D. ‘Poltergeist’ is a German word and it means ‘racquet making ghost’ - there is no ghost, however, in the ‘poltergeist haunting’. What it seems rather to be is generally associated with females and generally when they are making the change from childhood to womanhood, a great deal of psychic energy comes from them and this is manifested in such forms as slamming doors and rattling dishes.

An American HauntingThe Bell Witch Poltergeist began in this way also; first, noises heard outside the house and then inside, but it was far beyond any other one in this category. The reasons being that it eventually gained a voice and then later many voices because it had many personalities. It also inflicted personal injuries on members of the Bell family and it was blamed for the death of John Bell, the father of the family, a truly horrendous thing for something supernatural to be doing.

You can imagine that as a writer of supernatural thrillers I was fascinated by the story and had to find out more. The first thing I did was to contact bookstores specializing in the history of Tennessee. In quick order I gathered several dozens of resources, but the three mentioned here were the primary ones. What was interesting to discover for me was that the main players in such a spectacular occurrence did not want to share their information. Instead, they wanted to burry the information about the haunting. That became my first clue that there was more to the story than what had been written so far.

An American HauntingThe first book and probably the most important was written by Richard Bell, it was called ‘Our Family Trouble’ and it detailed much about what had been going on. Unfortunately Richard Bell was a very small child when this incident occurred. So what he had gathered was clearly written using the accounts of others, and so largely wasn’t first hand information.

The next resource was a grandchild’s, Charles Bayley Bell, and this book was published more than 60 years after the incident. So, once again, while it had a great deal of detail, it still wasn’t first hand experience.

Finally, there was a book published by M.V. Ingram, who collected the remembrances of the people in the community, the local neighbors. Now, this information, as you can imagine, in a society without television and radio in which storytelling was big, gathered embellishments over time because people wanted to make the story even more exciting and more entertaining. So, having gathered all this information, what was left for me was something like trying to look at a Christmas tree beneath ornaments, tinsel and lightening. Little by little I stripped off what appeared to be exaggerations in order to get to what seemed to be truth, and the truth underneath was equally as frightening as all that had been mentioned, something just as bad as the murder of the father had taken place.

This is what I have put into the novel ‘The Bell Witch – An American Haunting’ and this is what you’ll find in the film, An American Haunting.

About Midsummer Films and Chris Milburn

An American HauntingChristopher Milburn set up Midsummer Films in 1996. He started his first feature film the same year and has gone on to make five more feature films and one short film. Midsummer Films quickly gained a reputation for making films of a high quality, with very good production value. With representation at Gersh in Los Angeles and Peters Fraser and Dunlop in the UK, Midsummer and Milburn have forged strong relations within the long established film industry and have joined forces with some extremely well-known film companies.

Their first film was Caught In The Act, directed by Mark Greenstreet and which was selected for the Comedy Film Festival 1997 and won the Jury Award Of Excellence at the Laguna Beach Film Festival in the US. Their second feature, which was directed by Eric Styles, was Dreaming of Joseph Lees for Fox Searchlight. The film is based on an original screenplay by Catherine Linstrum and stars Samantha Morton, who went on to win the Evening Standard Best Actress Award for her role as Eva. Next, was an adaptation of Noel Coward’s Relative Values, which Milburn produced and Eric Styles directed and starred Julie Andrews, William Baldwin, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Colin Firth and Stephen Fry.

Milburn and Midsummer Films continue to collaborate with other filmmakers and are developing a series of co productions, whilst at the same time continue to develop their own material.

In 2002/3 Milburn Exec Produced The Boys from County Clare for First Look Media and in 2003/4 co-produced The Lazarus Child, directed by Graham Theakston and starring Andy Garcia, Frances O’Connor and Angela Bassett.

In 2004, Milburn and Midsummer developed An American Haunting which is due for release in 2006, with Courtney Solomon (Dungeons & Dragons) directing, starring Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek.
Author: Darren Jones

 

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Last Updated: 18 March, 2006