Friday, May 22, 2015

HGB Road Trip Day 5 - Haunted Farmland

History Goes Bump spent several days in the small town of Westside, Iowa visiting family. Westside is located in Crawford County. The town derived its name from the fact that it is just slightly to the west of the divide between the Mississippi and Missouri river watersheds. The first settlers to the area arrived here after traveling from Council Bluffs. Council Bluffs was a major trading station. The settlers traveled by ox and cart, rather than by horse because horse ownership was a rarity. The people built log cabins to live in and they chose spots near tree groves because that meant water was nearby. The first major road that served Westside was the Railroad Telegraph Road, which traveled from Boone to Council Bluffs.

As the population grew, townships were formed to serve as government. Westside became its own township. Townships were headed by a Board of Trustees who were elected by the people. The town of West Side was officially incorporated on March 11, 1878. The town grew even more when the railroad came to town. The Chicago Northwest Railway built a station at this point west of the summit, the division of the water flowing to the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.The coming of the railroad coincided with the end of the Civil War and more people immigrated to Iowa. Most of the immigrants were Irish and German families.

Westside is still a small farming community. Some of the property harbors more than just the living. Some of those from the past still seem to be hanging out in the afterlife. One of those haunted locations is Diane's sisters farm. The barn is haunted by a previous owner who met an untimely end at his own hand. There are also strange things that happen in the house on occasion.

Troy Taylor reports on his website,, about a haunted farm in Indiana. Strange phenomenon there includes:

- eerie voices that have been heard calling out

- strange behavior by horses, dogs and other animals as if they sense something that the humans who are present cannot (more about this later!)

- lights turning on and off by themselves

- Articles of clothing being taken and moved about

- knives and scissors disappearing from the barn. One knife literally vanished for ten years before being discovered again lying in plain sight on the floor of the barn

- strange moving cold spots in the barn and on the property

- a mist that comes up off the pond and then comes and goes at will. It has even been said (although not witnessed by the author) that the mist has even “performed” on command, coming and going in response to requests from witnesses

In addition to the barn and the outdoor areas of the farm, the house that is located on the property has also been the scene of disturbances. Accounts from the house include instances of:

- Lights that turn on and off (sometimes by request)

- Water faucets that turn on by themselves

- keys and other items that vanish from the kitchen table, only to be returned later

- a rocking chair in the kitchen that rocks by itself and has been seen by multiple witnesses

- cups and other items flying off the counters

Some of the scariest things found on farmland are scarecrows. Countless movies have featured terrifying scarecrows and one of the villains in Batman comics is the Scarecrow. Could a scarecrow be haunted?

The Bell Witch is a famous haunting in Tennessee on land that was once farmland belonging to the Bell family. The Bell Witch website reports the legend in this way:
"One day in 1817, John Bell was inspecting his corn field when he encountered a strange-looking animal sitting in the middle of a corn row. Shocked by the appearance of this animal, which had the body of a dog and the head of a rabbit, Bell shot several times. The animal vanished.  Bell thought nothing more about the incident, at least not until after dinner. That evening, the Bells began hearing "beating" sounds on the outside walls of their log house.

The mysterious sounds continued with increased frequency and force each night. Bell and his sons often hurried outside to catch the culprit but always returned empty-handed.  In the weeks that followed, the Bell children began waking up frightened, complaining that rats were gnawing at their bedposts. Not long after that, the children began complaining of having having their bed covers pulled from them and their pillows tossed onto the floor by a seemingly invisible entity.

As time went on, the Bells began hearing faint, whispering voices, which too weak to understand but sounded like a feeble old woman singing hymns. The encounters escalated, and the Bells’ youngest daughter, Betsy, began experiencing brutal encounters with the invisible entity. It would pull her hair and slap her relentlessly, often leaving welts and hand prints on her face and body.  The disturbances, which John Bell told his family to keep a secret, eventually escalated to such a point that he decided to share his "family trouble" with his closest friend and neighbor, James Johnston.

Johnston and his wife spent the night at the Bell home, where they were subjected to the same terrifying disturbances that the Bells had experienced.  After having his bedcovers removed and being slapped repeatedly, Johnston sprang out of bed, exclaiming, "In the name of the Lord, who are you and what do you want!" There was no response, but the remainder of the night was relatively peaceful.

The entity's voice strengthened over time to the point that it was loud and unmistakable. It sang hymns, quoted scripture, carried on intelligent conversation, and once even quoted, word-for-word, two sermons that were preached at the same time on the same day, thirteen miles apart.  Word of this supernatural phenomenon soon spread outside the settlement, even to Nashville, where then-Major General Andrew Jackson took a keen interest.

Jackson claimed to have an experience when traveling through the area. Their horses would not budge. After several minutes of cursing and trying to coax the horses into pulling the wagon, Jackson proclaimed, "By the eternal, boys! That must be the Bell Witch!"  Then, a disembodied female voice told Jackson that they could proceed and that she would see them again later that evening. They were then able to proceed across the property, up the lane, and to the Bell home where Jackson and John Bell had a long discussion about the Indians and other topics while Jackson’s entourage waited to see if the entity was going to manifest.

John Bell breathed his last breath on  the morning of December 20, 1820, after slipping into a coma the day before.  Immediately after his death, the family found a small vial of unidentified liquid in the cupboard.  John Bell, Jr. gave some of it to the cat, which died instantly. The entity then spoke up, exclaiming joyfully, "I gave Ol' Jack a big dose of that last night, which fixed him!"   John, Jr. quickly threw the vial into the fireplace, where it burst into a bright, bluish flame and shot up the chimney."
 Could farmland in the midwest hold the spirits of the undead? That is for you to decide!

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