Home of the famous Bell witch legend now looks like a haunted ghost town
Maybe you’ve never heard of tiny Adams, Tennessee (population approximately 650), but odds are good that you’ve heard the tale of the Bell witch, the reportedly true story of a haunting that occurred in the vicinity of Adams in the years from 1817-1821. The mysterious paranormal activities inside the Bell house were witnessed and verified by many people outside the Bell family, including Andrew Jackson. The tale of the Bell witch has been the topic of countless stories, TV programs, and horror films.
Cover of Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, published in 1894 by newspaper editor Martin V. Ingram
Adams later became the home of the first church west of the Cumberlands, as well as a train depot, post office, and assorted other businesses. Despite nearly total destruction during the Civil War, Adams bounced back and became a bustling community, benefiting from its position close to the railway and centered on old Highway 41 — once the major route from Chicago to Miami. After modern interstate highways opened, diverting travelers and business away from town, Adams went into a decline. Today, its old downtown is little more than a handful of decaying old buildings — a ghost town.
Visitors to Adams today can see a reproduction of the old Bell family house, where the legendary haunting occurred, and visit a tourist attraction called the “Bell Witch Cave.”
Pictures of old downtown Adams
The Masonic stone on the front of the building shows it built in October 1897.
The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville featured a news item regarding this business in November, 1899: "A stave factory, conducted by J. M. Wilder, will be in operation at Adams in a few days. J. E. Winters, a leading dry goods merchant of the town, has taken the contract to furnish the white oak timber, a large quantity of which has already been hauled to the lumber yard."
Ivy on an Abandoned Brick Building – Adams, Tennessee. This is a side-view of the J.E. Winters building. Click to buy a black and white photograph.
Abandoned and Boarded-up Church - Adams, Tennessee (RQ0A5274). Click to buy this black and white photograph. On the day this photograph was taken, a possessive mockingbird, having nested in the steeple, loudly protested Keith's presence.
Abandoned storefronts in the old downtown of Adams, Tennessee. Click to buy a fine black and white print.
Robertson and Co. Storefront Sign in Adams Tennessee. Click to buy a fine photograph.
Brick Wall with Ivy in Adams, Tennessee, a black and white photograph by Keith Dotson. Click to buy a fine print.
Abandoned Storefront Detail (RQ0A5246). Click to buy a fine art print.
Abandoned Brick Building - Adams, Tennessee (RQ0A5235). Buy a fine art print.
Ivy-Covered Barn, Adams, Tennessee (RQ0A5217)
Peeling Paint on a Post in Downtown Adams (RQ0A5243)
Cracked Paint Under the Awning in Downtown Adams (RQ0A5265)
Railroad Bridge in Adams, Tennessee (RQ0A5293). Click the photograph to buy a fine art print.
Abandoned Church and Broken Sidewalk in Adams, Tennessee.
Detail of woodwork on the front doors of the J.E. Winters Co. Dry Goods building in Adams, Tennessee. Click to buy a fine black and white photographic print.
Thanks for reading!
See also Keith's blog post about Southern haints and ghosts