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Her Unremembering Way
A Novel of The Bell Witch
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-264-X
Genre: Supernatural/Horror/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 405 Pages
Published: June 2005

From inside the flap

Based on a true event, "Her Unremembering Way" tells the story of the Bells, a rural Tennessee farm family in the early 1800s. The Bell family became the center of the first and perhaps most famous poltergeist event to be documented in America, witnessed even by President Andrew Jackson. But this wasn?t just an ordinary poltergeist. The Bell Witch, as the spirit became known, not only broke dishes and threw things around, it spoke eloquently, attended church, was an inveterate gossip, teased, scolded, tortured and eventually murdered.

"Her Unremembering Way" puts the legend in a whole new light, attempting to explain how the witch appeared, why it appeared, how it affected the Bell family and why it extracted the horrible price it did.

Her Unremembering Way (Excerpt)

January to February, 1820

Chapter One

The wind whistled through the stand of trees that grew up alongside the twisting road leading to his small cabin, but Powell could see nothing through the moonless darkness that would have given the horse any reason to start.

The horse lurched to an abrupt stop, and Richard Powell, startled to consciousness, nearly fell off. It was about one o?clock in the morning, and he was returning from a tutoring session with a particularly promising lad who, unfortunately, lived miles from Powell’s small schoolhouse. A committed teacher, Powell couldn?t let the potential of this frontier genius slip through his fingers, so he had offered to conduct a series of tutoring sessions at the boy’s home.

"You can have him after his chores and before dinner, and that’s it!" the boy’s father, leery of "Eastern" education, had snapped at him, but that left them with much of the afternoon to study. The suspicious father had also relented?at his wife’s urging?to allow the headmaster to have dinner there as well.

All fine and good, but it meant Powell didn?t leave the house until after nine in the evening. And the ride home was long and cold and lonely and tiring. Only his line-for-line memory of favorite literature saved the ride home from becoming interminable.

Seeing no reason for the animal’s behavior, Powell reseated himself, drew his heavy coat tight, gave the reins a bare, perfunctory snap, and almost immediately lapsed back into his mental rereading of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

The horse, however, did not move. And it took Powell nearly a minute to realize they were still standing there.

Peering into the impenetrable darkness, he could make out the outlines of the Bell farm to his right, its grand, almost imposing outline seeming to throw off the darkness around it. He could even make out the small slave quarters to its rear. He noticed with some irony that the dark, bluish smoke drifting from both buildings mingled in the air above as those who had lit the fires beneath never did.

The Bells had five children, some yet Powell’s students. He thought for one pleasant moment of the Bells? only daughter, Elizabeth. Nearly sixteen years old, she had the face and personality to torture an aging bachelor. And the kind of mind to entrance an aging professor. Next year, she would graduate, and he would certainly be the lonelier for it.

Ahh, well, he sighed. Too old and too late.

Powell was thirtyish, bookish, unmarried, handsome in a refined, Eastern way unpopular out here on the frontier?at least with the men. His age and marital status made him a topic of lively discussion, however, by both men and women in the community.

He gave the horse a gentle spur in the ribs, and an incredible thing happened.

It threw him, stretching up so far that Powell first thought, in his limited personal experience with horses, it meant to leap straight up. It didn?t, and he was unseated, landing unceremoniously in a rough bundle on the hard, frozen ground.

During this, though, Powell didn?t worry about why the horse was acting so peculiarly, or if he?d be injured when he hit, or even how he?d get home if the horse bolted. No, Powell had an annoying habit of viewing everything with empirical distraction, a by-product of his "Age of Enlightenment" education.

He was more interested in the sensation of vertigo he experienced as his feet flipped over his head, the sight of the jewel-bright stars as he somersaulted through them, the vaporous burst of breath that exploded from him when he hit the ground.

Science, though, did not prevent him from lying in the road like a stunned fish, unable to move as he heard the clop-clop-clop of the recalcitrant horse galloping away down the road.

Powell, aside from having the wind knocked out of him, was uninjured. After a minute, he climbed dazedly to his feet, stared in the direction of the fading hoof beats.

"I hope the damned thing finds its way home," he said, brushing himself off. "And I hope it doesn?t lose my bag." The bag contained many of the textbooks and primers he used every day, plus his copy of Metamorphoses bought in Boston during a recent visit.

"Well, it’s a long walk back home," he sighed, good-naturedly accepting his fate. Tomorrow was Saturday, and that meant no classes. Which was good, because he was still at least a mile from home.

Thrusting his hands deep inside his long coat, he shivered once against the light, but icy, wind. Luckily, it was a still, clear evening, because it was cold enough to freeze his marrow if the wind had been stronger.

As he set off, though, a light, conspicuous in the absolute black, caught his eye.

He turned toward the Bell house, watched a small, single flame as it crossed inside the house, disappearing and reappearing in windows in the second story. He suddenly felt a little less alone.

"I hope everything’s well there," he muttered, lowering his head, and beginning to recite Ovid quietly as he walked.

"As if at one glance, Death

Had caught her up, delighted at his choice,

Had ravished her, so quick was his desire,

While she in terror had called to friends and mother,

A prayer to mother echoing through her cries

Where she had ripped the neckline of her dress,

Her flowers had slipped away?and in her childish,

Pure simplicity, she wept her new loss now

With bitter, deeper sorrow than her tears

For the brief loss of spent virginity

He who had raped her lashed his horses on

To greater speed, crying the names of each,

Shaking black reins across their backs and shoulders."

Powell paused, momentarily lost in the verse. Then,

"With savage hands,

She smashed the crooked ploughs that turned the soil

And brought down dark ruin on men and cattle."

"That’s not right, professor," he said aloud, a little annoyed at himself, his voice echoing on the sharp air. "You skipped an entire section."

Oh, hell, he laughed to himself, there’s no one out here to know. Or to care, for that matter.

And besides, he thought, Ceres should have gotten to that sooner anyway.

He shivered again, a wave that passed deeply through him, as the Bell house disappeared utterly into the night behind him.