John F.D. Taff “The Bell Witch” Review

Posted: April 20, 2014 in Reviews, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

thebellwitch

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Books of the Dead Press

Length: 266 Pages

I discovered John F.D. Taff’s newest novel The Bell Witch completely by chance while browsing Amazon’s bestseller list for horror. People always say you should never judge a book by its cover, but the sinister looking cover (which I later found out was designed by one of my favorite authors Kealan Patrick Burke) is what immediately grabbed my attention. Intrigued, I decided to check out the synopsis and once I learned it was based on The Bell Witch Haunting, that was all it took to have me hooked.

John F.D. Taff’s novel focuses on the Bells, an early 19th century farm family from Tennessee who are haunted by an entity known only as the “Witch”. The entities arrival at the Bell homestead causes the Bells to fall into chaos as they are plagued by odd sounds, occasional bouts of violence and unrelenting taunts. The hauntings are limited to the home at first and the Bells think that if they just ignore the disturbances, The Witch will go away. The domineering patriarch of the Bell family, Jack Bell, refuses to allow his slaves into the house and places a ban on speaking about the disturbances to prevent others in the town from finding about the entity. However, the Witch foils these plans by making an appearance at the local church and announcing its presence to the entire town when it interrupts the church service.

While the Witch torments all of the members of the Bell family and other people who cross its path, it focuses much of its energy and hatred toward Jack. It frequently tells him and his family that its main purpose for existing is to make Jack suffer and that before it leaves it will kill him. The reason its anger falls mostly upon Jack is one of the novel’s central mysteries and is directly related to what The Witch is and why it has decided to  torment the Bell family.

As a former history major, huge fan of documented hauntings and all things paranormal, I absolutely loved The Bell Witch. Many familiar with the Bell Witch Haunting will take issue with the artistic liberties Taff has taken with the legend and feel disappointed it doesn’t strictly adhere to the events reported to have occurred. However, I applaud Taff for making the history of the Bell Witch his own because it adheres to the spirit of the legend. The two definitive texts on the legend were published 60 and 75 years after the alleged events. Who is to say those writers did not take liberties of their own? Besides, Taff’s liberties with the Bell Witch story make for a truly unique origin story for the Bell Witch.

It is also important to note that The Bell Witch is not an all out fright-fest, so if that is what you are looking for, you may be disappointed with The Bell Witch. However, if you can appreciate an atmospheric ghost story that leans more towards “quiet horror” territory, you will fall in love with this novel. That isn’t to say the book doesn’t have its truly frightening moments, though. There is a pretty creepy possession scene that horror fans will love and Taff does an incredible job of adding quick shots of terror through the Witch’s actions. The action occasionally lags, but overall The Bell Witch is an outstanding take on a uniquely American ghost story that I would highly recommend.

Taff recently announced a new novella collection for Grey Matter Press titled The End in All Beginnings and two rewritten novels titled The Exterminator and The Orpheus Box for Books of the Dead Press and to say these are highly anticipated would be an understatement.

Rating: 4/5

Links

John F.D. Taff’s Official Website

Books of the Dead Press

Purchase The Bell Witch on Amazon

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Comments
  1. […] addition to the slew of great reviews post for The Bell Witch on Amazon, The Horror Bookshelf has posted a terrific new review of the book.  Here’s a […]

  2. Great review! This sounds right up my alley.

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