Friday, November 11, 2016

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 5)

This illustration comes from a chapter of The New Human Interest Library titled "Sophy's Birthday Party (A Truthfulness Story)" and — because of the weird, weird way my brain works — when I first saw it, I thought of the Bell Witch legend. Yes, that early 19th century Tennessee tale of John Bell, Betsy Bell, Kate Batts, witchcraft and, perhaps, murder.

There are myriad versions of the Bell Witch story and the already-questionable narrative has been further muddied and augmented over the years by those seeking to turn it into a paranormal thriller with modern-day themes. But one of the small details I remembered is that, in the very early part of the haunting, there is a mysterious girl either sitting in a tree or swinging on a tree branch.

I believe this illustration is from the 1894 book An Authenticated History of the Bell Witch,
by Martin Van Buren Ingram.

The post "Who Haunted Betsy Bell?" on Victorian Gothic begins: "The visitations began with sightings of strange animals about the Bell homestead, and of a unknown girl in green swinging to the limb of a tall oak. Soon there came an unaccountable knocking about the door and exterior walls of the house, followed by scratching and gnawing sounds that searched from room to room."

Meanwhile, the 1997 novel The Bell Witch: An American Haunting, a fictionalized account by Brent Monahan, contains this short passage: "The stage had been set in Red River for a supernatural visitation by a series of strange events. First, a large black animal chanced into the area. Then a large, unknown type of bird. Finally, some girl in a green dress was seen by Betsy swinging from a tree, and she vanished. She might simply have been from a pioneer family passing through the area, pausing to water their horses in the Red River."

Sweet dreams!


  1. Did you listen to this October's Stuff You Missed In History Class podcast on the Bell Witch legend? It was very well done!

    1. I did not know about that one! I did listen to their interesting episode about the Hagley Woods mystery, with Bella in the Wych Elm.