When Lucy Williams married John Bell in 1782, she probably didn’t realize just how terrifying their lives together would be.
Born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina to a family of wealthy planters, Lucy married John when she was very young (some records point to as early as 12 years old) and would have nine children. A pleasant and mild-mannered woman, she never learned to read or write, and was eventually uprooted by John in 1804 to settle near the Red River. Although the Bell family did well and continued to grow in their new home, Lucy is sure to have missed the home and family she left in North Carolina.
Thirteen years after their arrival in what is now Adams, the infamous hauntings began. Strange creatures began to be seen around the farm, followed by strange knocking and gnawing sounds. The children soon began to hear more frightening sounds,such as chains dragging across floors or the sounds of choking. Lucy joined her husband John’s efforts to calm the children and forbid them from speaking about their family trouble to neighbors. However, hauntings became progressively more violent, featuring attacks on the children, John, and even neighbors. Pinching, hair pulling, and slaps that left marks became common, and the Spirit even began to verbally mock the family. One person who seemed to escape the Spirit’s torments was Lucy. The Spirit declared her to be “the most perfect woman alive”, and eased her homesickness by keeping her updated on her family back home. When the Spirit seemed out of control, Lucy would sing to placate her. Legend states that when Lucy herself fell ill, the Spirit returned the favor, singing over her and even providing her with fruit and nuts seemingly out of thin air.
Despite its own gentleness towards her, Lucy would watch the Spirit torment her family for many years, culminating in the death of her husband under mysterious circumstances in 1820. Lucy would inherit a small portion of land and the home they had lived in together, where she remained until her death in 1838.
Many times when revisiting folk stories such as these, legend and history tend to blur. It can be difficult to tell fact from fiction. However, two things we know for sure – Lucy Williams Bell was a real woman caught up in a fantastic story, and whatever the truth may be, her name will never be forgotten in Robertson County.