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Famous Supernatural Events in 19th Century America
Supernatural or paranormal occurrences have long been a hot topic, catching the attention of believers and skeptics alike. It seems that when something seemingly inexplicable happens, especially when mysterious circumstances such as ghosts are involved, it doesn’t take long before the neighbors start talking, newspaper articles start popping up and soon enough… he story has become something of a legend. Over the years, these stories become more and more embellished, and they soon become part of a community’s tradition. There are many fantastic examples of these supernatural tales, and here’s a look at three of the best known.
The bell witch – One of America’s most famous hauntings occurred in what is now Adams, Tennessee, on land that belonged to John Bell in the early 1800s. The story begins in 1817 when John, a farmer, was working in one of his cornfields and spotted a weird looking animal. The creature appeared to have a dog’s body with a rabbit’s head, and John wasted no time trying to shoot the thing. After several shots, the animal simply disappeared and John returned home. That evening, a series of loud banging noises began, as if something was thumping outside the house. John and his sons went to inspect the noises and found nothing out of the ordinary, but that was just the start of the bizarre and terrifying events the family would experience. Soon after, the Bell children began experiencing strange sounds in their bedrooms, blankets being ripped from them at night, and even painful pinching and slapping. Betsy Bell was the main beneficiary of these adverse events, but the whole family was also traumatized. Low whispers, laughter and crying also occurred, and soon John Bell was forced to tell his close friend and neighbor about the strange happenings. News of the haunting began to spread, and people as far away as Nashville began to take an interest in what had begun to be called The Bell Witch. Over the years, the antics of the entity have not ceased; on the contrary, they have become more frequent and more serious. Betsy continued to endure physical abuse from the witch, and it was not until John Bell’s death in December 1820 that events apparently began to fade. Descendants of the Bell family have reported the spirit returning a few times, and to this day locals claim that mysterious things are still happening around the old Bell Square.
Lemp Manor – One of the most beautiful 19th century mansions of Saint-Louis is the Lemp Mansion, located in the heart of the city. The house was built in the 1860s by brewing magnate Johann “Adam” Lemp, who became world famous for his lagers. Lemp and his sons amassed a fortune operating their brewery which covered five city blocks and were well known in St. Louis for their wealth and power. With so much success in the brewery, William Lemp, Sr., son of Adam, built the 33-bedroom mansion that became the family home for all the Lemps. Trouble began for the family in 1901 when William’s favorite son died suddenly from ill health, and only continued for the Lemps with scandalous divorces, waning success in the brewery, a ban on from 1920 and finally multiple suicides. By 1922, three of Adam Lemp’s children had committed suicide, with another son doing the same in 1949. With the brewery permanently closed and eventually sold, and the family name so tarnished, Lemp’s remaining descendants led a rather calm. But the mansion, it seems, was anything but quiet. Paranormal occurrences began to be reported in the 1950s after the fourth suicide. At that time, the house had been bought and transformed into a boarding house. But with the strange sounds and strange footsteps echoing through the house, the tenants didn’t stay long. In 1975 the Lemp Mansion was sold to Dick Pointer and turned into a restaurant and inn. Guests at the place have reported mysterious sounds, the feeling of being watched, and objects moving of their own accord. Although the Lemps are long gone from the mansion, it seems that their absence is only physical and their spirits linger, unable to leave the family home.
The Fox sisters – Sisters Leah, Kate and Margaret became arguably three of America’s most famous psychics when they began receiving messages from the dead in 1848. Living in a house that was said to be haunted, it was not too far from a stretch for people to believe the maidens had been chosen by a spirit to serve as links between the living and the dead. Through a series of knocks, a code was developed where the girls asked yes-no questions and the spirit responded with a number of knocks. These communications led to the discovery that the ghost was that of a murdered man who had been buried in their cellar. The news spread quickly and soon the girls were becoming famous, traveling and giving public seances. As interest in Spiritualism grew, so did skepticism surrounding the Fox sisters, with critics loudly proclaiming that they were frauds. It wasn’t until several years later that Kate and Margaret confessed that they were responsible for the knocking noises, producing them through the cracking of their toe joints. Although they admitted to misleading the public about their spiritual communication, their story sparked growing interest in the supernatural and remains one of the best-known examples of paranormal activity today.
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