Famous Supernatural Events in 19th Century America

Supernatural or paranormal events have long been a newsworthy topic, attracting the attention of believers and skeptics alike. It seems that when something seemingly inexplicable happens, especially when mysterious circumstances like ghosts are involved, it’s not long before neighbors start talking, newspaper articles start appearing, and soon the story has become something of a legend. Over the years, these stories become richer and richer and soon become part of a community’s tradition. There are numerous fantastic examples of these supernatural tales, and below is an overview of three of the most well-known.

The Bell Witch – One of America’s most famous hauntings occurred in what is now Adams, Tennessee, on land owned by John Bell in the early 1800s. The story begins in 1817 when John, a farmer, was working in a from his cornfields and saw a strange-looking animal. The creature appeared to have a dog’s body with a rabbit’s head, and John wasted no time trying to shoot it. After several shots, the animal simply disappeared and John returned to his home. That evening, a series of loud bangs began, as if something was pounding outside the house. John and his sons went to investigate the noises and found nothing wrong, but this was only the beginning of the strange and terrifying events the family would experience. Before long, the children at the Bell began experiencing strange sounds in their rooms, their covers being pulled at night, and even painful pinches and slaps. Betsy Bell was the main recipient of these unwanted events, but the whole family was also traumatized. There were also faint whispers, laughter, and sounds of crying, and soon John Bell was forced to tell his close friend and neighbor about the strange happenings. Word of the haunting began to spread, and people as far away as Nashville began to take an interest in what had come to be known as The Bell Witch. Over the years, the antics of the entity did not stop; rather, they became more frequent and severe. Betsy continued to endure physical abuse from the witch, and it wasn’t until John Bell’s death in December 1820 that events apparently began to calm down. Descendants of the Bell family have reported the return of the spirit on a few occasions, and to this day people in the area claim that mysterious things still happen around the old Bell site.

The Lemp Mansion – One of the best houses in St. Louis of the 19th century is the Lemp mansion, located in the heart of the city. The house was built in the 1860s by beer magnate Johann “Adam” Lemp, who became world famous for his lagers. Lemp and his sons amassed a fortune operating their brewery that spanned five city blocks and were well known in St. Louis for his wealth and power. With so much success at the brewery, William Lemp, Sr., Adam’s son, built the 33-room mansion that became the family home for all the Lemps. Trouble began for the family in 1901 when William’s favorite son died suddenly of ill health, and only continued for the Lemps with scandalous divorces, waning success in the brewery, prohibition from 1920 and, finally, multiple suicides. By 1922, three of Adam Lemp’s sons had committed suicide, and another son did the same in 1949. With the brewery closed for good and eventually sold, and the family name so tarnished, Lemp’s descendants the rest lived a rather quiet life. But the mansion, it seems, was anything but quiet. Paranormal events first began to be reported in the 1950s after the fourth suicide. The house had then been bought and transformed into a boarding house. But with 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 converted into a restaurant and inn. Customers of the site have reported mysterious sounds, the feeling of being watched, and objects moving by themselves. Although the Lemps have long since left the mansion, it seems that their absence is only in the physical sense, and that their spirits linger on, unable to leave the family home.

The Fox Sisters – Sisters Leah, Kate and Margaret became arguably three of America’s most famous mediums when they began receiving messages from the dead in 1848. Living in a house with a reputation for being haunted, it wasn’t far from a stretch for people to believe that the girls had been selected by a spirit to serve as a link between the living and the dead. Using a series of taps, a code was developed where the girls would ask yes-no questions and the spirit would respond with a certain number of taps. These communications led to the discovery that the ghost was that of a murdered man who had been buried in the cellar. Word quickly spread, and soon the girls were famous, traveling and giving public sessions. As interest in spiritualism grew, so did skepticism surrounding the Fox sisters, with critics loudly proclaiming that they were frauds. It was not until many years later that Kate and Margaret confessed that they were responsible for the snapping sounds, producing them through the cracking of the joints of the toes. Although they admitted to misleading the public about their spiritual communication, their story fostered a growing interest in the supernatural and remains one of the best-known examples of paranormal activity today.