Published by Books of the Dead Press on August 6th 2013
Genres: Historical, Horror
The Bell Witch by John F.D. Taff is an historical horror novel/ghost story based on what is perhaps the most well-documented poltergeist case to occur in the United States. It tells the story of the Bells, an early 19th-century Tennessee farm family who begin to notice strange occurrences—odd noises, bangings, gurglings. Eventually, an entity reveals itself to the family, calling itself, simply, the Witch, and makes it clear from the outset that it was sent to kill the patriarch of the family, John Bell, for a reason it never makes quite clear.
The Witch’s antics, while not exactly endearing it to the Bells, make the spirit somewhat of a novelty. Word of its existence spreads, first through the Bell’s slaves, then through the rest of the community. It tells jokes, makes predictions, offers unwanted advice and even sings. It shows an intimate knowledge of The Bible and of history and politics.
It harasses those who annoy it most, saving its ire for John Bell and his teenage daughter, Betsy. These two people become the focus of the apparition’s attacks, both verbal and physical. Ultimately, the Witch fulfills its promise of killing John Bell, while also forcing Betsy and her mother, Lucy, into considering their own roles in what created the spirit.
The Bell Witch is, at once, a historical novel, a ghost story, a horror story and a love story all rolled into one.
First of all! I love, love, LOVE this cover! How wicked can a cover look?! And the synopsis is fantastic! And really, what an interesting read. The Bell Witch is something I’ve never heard of before so I knew after reading this synopsis I had to just dive in! It sounded horrific and mesmerizing and it was, to a point.
So, John F. D. Taff is an amazing writer. I kept finding myself more admiring his work rather than the actual plot. He’s able to weave words together like a poet, however, the plot behind this work just didn’t grab me. I think it had a LOT to do with the fact that this is based in the South in the 1800’s. It threw me off. The writing was great, the tone of the book was not. I’m from the South, well Florida really, and I just hate the Southern ways but especially back in the 1800’s.
The good reverend seemed bound to the family of birds. His features were lean and sharp, his nose a curving slash that hung over his mouth like a beak. Dark and nervous eyes peered above that nose, flicking here and there, never alighting for very long. Long, tapered fingers pushed from his sleeves, clawing at the air.
The characters and the plot was as interesting as the synopsis and I really did enjoy reading about the witch but I think I was never able to get over the fact that I didn’t enjoy reading about the 1800’s. And the characters do a wonderful job of coming off of the page and getting into my world, even John who I disliked from the get-go!
The horror also wasn’t as horrific as the cover. I was hoping for some craziness and it was a bit crazy but not all that out there for a horror fan. More weirdly paranormal.
As her hands found Jack’s throat and closed around it, Hopson forced another, larger swallow down her throat. Grimacing, she clenched her jaw, shattering the neck of the bottle. Shards of glass sprayed her face.
I definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical horror. It’s plot is fantastic and again the writing is phenomenal. But if you don’t like reading about the 1800’s this may not be for you.