INTERVIEW — TAPE #1, SIDE #1
Q: Mark Gordon Russell (interviewer from Los Angeles, age 39)
M: Maxine Mc Wethy (the mother in Centrahoma, Oklahoma, age 60)
T: Twyla Eller (daughter, age 23)
B: Brenda Bell (daughter, age 36)
K: Kim Carrell (daughter, age 27)
R: Jerry Bell (Maxine's son's son, age 18)
J: Billy Joe Mc Wethy (Maxine's stepson, 40)
Y: Megan Eller (Twyla's daughter, almost 2)
T: When did he first start talking or when did he first start action? (“I THINK”)
Q: Anything strange and unusual that you first noticed?
M: I think it was one time in 1990.
T: June of 1990.
M: Because he go around “PSSST PSSST” — doing like that.
T: He didn’t even do that first. He just threw rocks. The first thing. Outside. None on the inside yet.
Q: And that was in June too?
Q: And then “PSSST PSSST.” Who was living here at the time?
T: It was me and Mom and Brenda, the dark-headed one over there.
Q: Nicknamed Fae?
T: No, that’s Marla.
Q: That’s who I spoke to from my hotel.
M: She went home a while ago. She’ll be back.
T: She’s the oldest girl.
Q: And your stepdad, Bill?
T: Daddy lived here at this time, didn’t he?
T: The one who passed away. He lived here too.
Q: Was he your dad?
T: Uh-huh. Carlton Bell. (“NO”)
M: He spoke with him a few times himself. Tell him what he did. He didn’t believe us when it started out.
B: He put a board out there in the yard and put three bottles on it. And he stood out there and watched it. He seen one crack.
T: Even though nobody was around to do it.
M: Carlton started to walk out the door and an egg hit. See, we’ve got stuff all over the house.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: MAXINE SHOWS ME A PHOTOGRAPH OF AN EGG THAT STRUCK AUTUMN PADLEY ON THE LEG.)
Q: Oh my God.
M: We’ve got stuff all over the house where he threw eggs and stuff.
Q: Then did you hear “PSSST”?
Q: Then what after that?
T: After that he started talking.
Q: Did he first start in monosyllables?
T: Uh-huh. (“YES”) “YEAH” — he’d say “YEAH” or “NO.” It was just one word syllables at first. (“PSSST”)
M: Has anybody got any headache stuff? I got up real late last night. I think it’s my nerves. Got up with a headache.
B: I got up with a headache.
M: Did you? Again? You have a hangover. (“IT WILL HAPPEN SOON”)
Q: Did it ever go through the alphabet?
T: Say the alphabet?
T: I think it did. Mama, I think it did. Didn’t Michael go through the alphabet?
T: I forgot until he mentioned that.
M: There are so many things, though. You can’t think of them. There are so many things that have happened. I remember we’d come through here and there’d be little tents made out of sheets and pillowcases.
Q: What do you think of things like this? You don’t know what to think.
M: She got knocked up against the wall one day.
B: I got it just as well as everybody else did.
Q: What do the kids think? Are they scared by it?
T: Holli is. She didn’t want to go to sleep last night.
M: Her and my other granddaughter that’s her age were back there in my bed last night and they didn’t want to go to sleep until midnight.
Q: Has anything been happening recently?
T: Not since I come down yesterday.
Q: That’s good. Okay, so we’ve had the alphabet, the “YEAH” and “NO” at first. Then what?
T: When winter came and we couldn’t sit outside, it started throwing things in the house.
B: We thought it was over. (“OKAY”)
Q: And then it started talking more?
Q: In conversation?
T: In sentences and conversations.
Q: Was it usually when you were around?
M: Not necessarily but things happened.
T: Most of the time. When I moved off, things still happened here like rocks flew and doors shut.
Q: But when it spoke you were around?
T: Most of the time. Mom and Brenda told me about a few times they heard him when I wasn’t around.
M: Something’s been calling Brenda’s name out here. Carlton used to stay out there in that room before he got cancer and he said he heard something call his name too a few times.
Q: Who was the daughter who read a little bit about Betsy Bell?
M: Brenda. She’s the one that typed the letter up about it. She got it out of a book in Ada.
K: She got a book and we saw a show on it back when Jerry and Waylon were little.
T: I watched it.
Q: About the famous poltergeist case?
K: It was supposed to be some kind of true —
M: Just about like it happened here.
B: It was either 1817 or 1819.
T: In the Bell family. I remember at the end it said “Someday, sometime in the future, another Bell family will be —” Remember that? (“YEAH”)
Q: Do you think you’re directly related to the same Bell family?
M: I think so.
Q: I know there are a lot of Bells in this area.
T: I don’t know whether we’re related or not.
Q: They were living in Tennessee and then they sort of scattered ( “UHH”) around. Some of then went south and some went — (“YOU KNOW”)
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: A SECTION OF TAPE CONCERNS THE FAMILY FINDING MEGAN WITH A BOTTLE CAP.)
T: Beer bottle cap or pop. (“POP”)
Q: They don’t know the danger of that. Okay. There might be some shared ancestors there.
M: That notebook’s going to be full by the time you leave. (“HELL YEAH”) You’re going to need another one. Brenda’s got a lot of stuff written down and I’ve got stuff.
Q: What I don’t understand is with what’s going on—and it’s obviously very important—how could this be kept a secret? It hasn’t completely been a secret.
M: A lot of people got mad at us when we first started telling about it.
Q: But it’s not the normal poltergeist case. It’s a much more significant one in terms of the speaking element. When I read about the Bells I thought, “If this happened today every one in the world would know about it.” This proves that it’s not true. I guess they’re afraid too. The entity feels endangered as well. What I’m trying to do is get enough information so I can understand how it relates to what I’ve researched. So what happened next?
T: He just threw stuff for a long time and then started talking.
Q: What are some of the memorable things he said early on? (“PHHHHHH”) If you remember. You probably don’t remember.
B: “YOU OLD FART.”
T: He’s kind of dirty. He’s nasty.
Q: They’re always nasty from the cases I’ve read about. They always use a lot of profanity.
M: He said he learned it from us and the TV.
T: I know he didn’t learn that talk from you, at least.
B: (laughs) Maybe me but not you.
Q: So he did use profanity?
T: Not all the time. (“JUST”)
M: He used to say, “F—- OFF.” He’d tell Brenda, “F—- OFF.”
Q: Did he say the letter or the full word?
M: The word.
Q: Well, that’s interesting.
B: No. (laughs)
T: (laughs) And it’s not a voice like ours. It’s a high-pitched voice. (“HIGH-PITCHED”)
T: It’s like a cat.
Q: Would you say man or woman?
T: I wouldn’t say either.
M: I’d say it was a kid. (small laugh)
B: It doesn’t sound like a kid either. It sounds like a cat.
T: It sounds like a cat. Just like a cat talking.
B: But not really.
T: Like when it says “YEAH” it sounds like meow.
M: Let me show him that tape and I’ll show him what it sounds like.
T: I forgot you had that tape.
Q: You once tape recorded him?
T: He called one of Mom’s friends on her answering machine and she taped it. Where’s the one of Shirley talking to him on her answering machine?
M: I don’t have that one. (“OH MAN”)
T: I’ve got the most awful scratch on my arm and I don’t know how I got it.
T: Where’s that filing cabinet that guy gave you?
M: I’ve got it back there.
T: You’ve got to show him the pictures. We’ve got pictures.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES: MAXINE BRINGS OVER THE FAMILY’S COLLECTION OF PHOTOS TO SHOW ME.)
T: Oh gosh. Pictures of what — about five faces in that window? (“THAT’S AWFUL”)
M: There’s Twyla’s little girl with the little girl behind her.
B: That picture isn’t great.
T: You need the smaller one. It’s better. They had that one blown up and when you blow them up sometimes it just messes them up. See the little girl in the corner? Behind her? Right there?
Q: Yeah. Definitely something there.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: MAXINE SHOWS ME THE PHOTO OF THE FACES IN THE WINDOW.)
T: That one is the greatest of all.
M: Can you see that very good?
Q: What is that exactly?
T: You see a face looking that way? [2021 UPDATE: THE CENTRAHOMA PHOTOS MAY BE SEEN ON THE PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS page.]
M: Look at that green one.
T: And there’s one looking toward you right there.
Q: Is that inside or outside?
T: I don’t know. I can’t tell.
M: It looks like they’re looking in. (“NO”)
T: Where’s your magnifying glass?
M: Here it is.
Q: One thing that worries me too — I noticed in this area there’s a Boggy Creek. Isn’t that where the bigfoot was seen?
B: That was in Arkansas.
Q: It was? Oh.
T: Well, it’s the same river though.
Q: Isn’t that amazing too?
T: Okay, put that — (“OKAY”) you can see it’s right there.
M: There are about five of them.
Q: Oh ssshhh. That’s real interesting.
T: They’re plain as day. People come out here and they find more of them.
Q: You can’t quite make them out but you see, like, the nose and the eyes.
T: This one right here is looking straight at you.
Q: Are they transparent?
T: They look see-through. This one is looking toward that way.
Q: It’s a (“OHHH”) great photo. (“OH”)
T: That one is eerie.
Q: In terms of your religion are you all Christian?
T: Um-huh. (“WHO WAS HE” “OH IS THAT YOURS”)
M: I’ll find it later.
T: Okay, what happened next?
M: He’s going to be here so I’ll find it for you.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: MAXINE DIDN’T FIND THE TAPE DURING MY VISIT.)
Q: So it sounds like a cat? (“HUH”) And not really like a man or a woman?
M: Brenda used to be able to sound just like him but she smokes too and her voice is —
R: Heather can do it.
M: Yeah, Heather. And Holli did last night.
R: LeRoy can too.
T: It’s too high-pitched.
Q: When outsiders hear the voice what do they say usually?
M: “That sounds like a cat.”
T: Or “Oh my God. I heard that.”
Q: There was a famous case on the Isle of Man in Great Britain and the spirit usually assumed the form of a mongoose. When people heard it they thought it sounded too fake to be a spirit. They thought it was the teenage girl throwing her voice.
T: A mongoose? What’s that sound like?
M: I don’t know.
T: What’s a mongoose sound like?
Q: Well, they don’t talk. I mean, this one talked. (“OHHH”)
T: That’s weird.
Q: And, of course, in the ‘Bell Witch’ case it said that it took the form of a rabbit, a small dog and things like that.
T: Several of us have seen black furry things too big for rats. You just see them out of the corner of your eye and then they’ll be gone. And people who’ve come out here have seen them.
B: Just like big furballs.
M: See that copy of the paper up there on the wall? That’s what I’ve seen.
Q: The funny thing about those little black furballs is that (“OH GREAT”) we get into the associations with witchcraft of earlier centuries. The ‘familiars.’
Q: The ‘little imps’ as they were called. But there are all kinds of different parallels that are created. (“NO IT’S ALL MADE UP”)
Q: It makes you wonder because no one really understands any of it.
M: Me and Brenda, we know we’ve seen your name somewhere.
Q: Well, there’s another Mark Russell. He’s a political satirist who’s on PBS.
T: That’s probably who I’ve seen.
M: But the whole name.
T: I don’t get PBS though.
M: I’ve seen that somewhere too.
Q: I’m not very well-known. Recently I’ve been busy doing a lot of press kits for Paramount.
T: You work for Paramount? Oh my gosh. That is so strange. Do you know who he works for? Tell her who you work for.
Q: People at Paramount. I do marketing —
T: Who told you about Paramount? (“MY GOSH”)
T: He told us two or three years ago that somebody from Paramount would be here.
M: Yeah, he did.
T: Paramount Pictures is what he — oh that is weird.
T: He knows what’s going to happen. He knows the future too because it’s what he told us before. You remember him saying Paramount Pictures?
T: He said a big movie would be made. That a man would come from Paramount Pictures. That is so weird.
M: I’ll say.
T: I don’t even think my heart’s beating no more.
M: That’s spooky. (laughs)
Q: I did not chose the subject. In terms of my interest in the area.
T: My heart is beating so fast.
Q: That’s nothing new to you.
T: That is scary.
M: I didn’t believe him.
M: I thought he was —
T: “Oh, Michael, you’re so full of it.”
M: Your eyes are watering. (“OHH”)
T: It makes me cry.
Q: Well, you know what, listen — even if it’s intended to be it might not happen because of the vagaries of movies. It’s so insane.
T: But he told us that a man would come from Paramount Pictures.
M: He sure did.
Q: I just work in marketing.
M: He said he knows the future, though.
Q: They usually do.
T: As long as he doesn’t tell me when I’m going to die, that’s fine.
B: You don’t want to know that.
T: Don’t tell me when I’m going to die. (laughs)
Q: It would be nice if somebody could tell us why we’re alive in the first place. That’s how I look at it.
T: Oh gosh. That’s strange.
Q: You know? Ssshhh. So what are some of the most memorable things that it said to you over the years?
T: “THE HEART.” (“SPIRIT”)
M: That’s probably the most memorable, though — about Paramount. (laughs)
R: He’ll probably tell you he loves you.
M: He’ll usually call your name and we’ll answer and he’ll say, “I LOVE YOU.” And then he’ll say, “YOU OLD FART.” But one day he told Brenda, “BRENDA,” and she said, “What?” He said, “I LOVE YOU.” Brenda said, “I love you too.” And he didn’t say, ‘You old fart.’ And then he called my name and told me he loved me and I told him, “I called him one before he —”
Q: In other cases too it’s like they know if someone’s innately good or innately bad. (“UM-HUH”)
T: Uh-huh. People that haven’t been out here before — he knows what kind of people they are. He says, “WELL THESE ARE —.” And he’s done stuff to people’s cars when they’ve treated him bad.
Q: You say ‘him’ but obviously there are many of them. (“HEART”)
T: He’s the main one, though.
Q: But see? We get into the whole thing about demonic possession. “My name is Legion: for we are many.”
M: Mark asked me on the phone if there’s just one or if he could be making out like there were more.
Q: Pretending to be more.
M: We’ve thought about that too. (“A SPLIT”)
T: Split personality poltergeist. (giggles) But their voices are different. Michael’s is high-pitched and the one we call E.T. is squeally and loud. Sarah is really toned-down and quiet. And Tammy and —
Q: Go down the list and let me —
T: Oh gosh.
Q: I’ll just write them down.
T: There’s Michael.
Q: Michael. He’s the main one.
T: There’s the one we call E.T., which is supposed to be his brother.
Q: His brother?
B: He’s the one that does the most damage.
Q: E.T. is the one who throws things?
M: Yeah. A little bad.
T: And Tammy.
Q: T – A – M – M – Y?
T: I guess. (“THAT’S WRONG”) Katie.
B: Ricky. Nicky.
T: They were twins.
Q: Oh my gosh.
T: And then Grandma and Grandpa. And Trouble.
M: Grandma and Grandpa cleaned her room when we went to town once.
B: And Trouble. And she was trouble.
Q: Are Ricky and Nicky men or women?
M: They’re boys. They’re twin boys. (“WHO CAN TELL”)
Q: But who can tell?
T: No, it was boys. (“THEY ARE”)
Q: This also creates parallels with schizophrenia. Multiple personality (“OH BOY”) like Sybil. It’s like an outside case of that. So they each have their own personality?
T: They’re all different, aren’t they? Every one of them.
Q: What is it like living with them?
T: I don’t live here no more. (laughs)
Q: So it seems to be centered here?
T: It’s fun.
Q: Where you live it’s not as active?
T: No. I hear him once in a while but when I come down here if he’s with me he goes crazy.
Q: I think it’s the house because in other cases there were all these weather-boarded houses always involved in the picture.
M: I wonder why.
Q: Like on the Isle of Man the family’s house was weather-proofed and there were hollow spaces in between the walls. (“OH MAN”) The one thing that you said to me that really surprised me was when you mentioned that Bill would shake because in the Bell Witch case there were people not directly involved in the family who had that same strange disorder and no one understood why.
T: That is so scary. That is weird.
B: They can’t find out what’s wrong with him.
T: He’s been tested for everything, hasn’t he?
Q: I think that the entity is using him like a battery—in terms of what I’ve read—and drawing. For some reason he finds certain people to draw on in various ways. For example, Betsy Bell would have fainting spells before it began speaking where she would lose consciousness or she would be asleep for several hours. (“OHHHHHH”) I guess the scariest thing about it is that you don’t really understand it.
T: Yeah. Not knowing what it is.
Q: So how old were you when this first started happening?
B: Eighteen, wasn’t it?
T: Yeah. Eighteen or nineteen because I’m twenty-three now.
B: Four years (“YEAH”) ago when you turned eighteen.
Q: Usually they don’t last much longer than five or six years. That’s one thing that is sort of encouraging.
T: Barry Taff—the one that did “The Entity”—came down here and said this would all go away. He said that they always go away —
T: — but I don’t think so.
M: He told us years ago he was going away and wouldn’t come back but he’s always been here.
B: Even Barry doesn’t know for sure. (“NO”)
Q: Barry Taff did the movie “The Entity”?
T: He’s the one that researched her.
Q: The media exaggerate things and fictionalize it and I think sometimes it loses its power. Once in a while it’s very affecting like in “The Exorcist.” The true story that led to the film was fascinating but even more bizarre things happened than the movie depicted. For example, someone saw the angel Michael. The main thing (“NO”) is just getting information. Some people don’t appreciate what has happened here. I can appreciate it because I’ve done the research so I know the parallels between other cases. (“OHHHHH”) You’ve had a few people out here looking into this, which is good. (“NO”) I’m surprised more hasn’t happened with the media. It’s good that you’re keeping these photos because these really should be — (“SHE LOST”)
T: She had a better one.
M: I’ve got to give this back to that woman in Tupelo. She asked me the other day if I had it. The one facing this counter.
Q: I understand too that it sort of helped bring you together with your husband.
T: Uh-huh. That’s how I met him. He had some friends that came down here and saw what happens. They were convinced ten minutes after they got here so they told him about it and he said, “I don’t believe in that stuff.” He was like me. I didn’t believe in it. And he came down here and saw it. We started dating and a little later got married. (“NOT”) Did Michael say anything about that?
T: Oh no.
Q: Like you’re going to marry him?
M: He wanted you all together.
T: Yeah. He wanted us together but I don’t know if he ever told you we would be.
M: I’m going to have to go to town to get me some headache pills.
B: Somebody stole mine. I know it was there.
Q: I must have left mine at the hotel because I did have a headache last night when I checked in.
T: I had some Bufferin here somewhere. Where is that stupid contract they left me? I’ll find it. (“OHHHHHH”) Uh-oh. My sister’s here.
B: That doesn’t matter.
Q: If you need for me to pull up — I wasn’t quite sure where to park.
T: You’re alright.
Q: Okay. I’m not good at traversing open spaces. Little spaces I can navigate.
T: You just rent that car?
Q: Yeah. Where did I just put my camera? (“JUST PUT MY CAMERA”) Oh, here it is.
M: The contract’s not here.
Q: If worse came to worse we could always change the name or something and then I’ll pay you for research or something. I don’t think we really have to worry about that. I don’t think they’ll know what to do. Who’s this now?
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: CONCURRENTLY WITH MY INTERVIEWING, THERE ARE MANY VISITORS WHO BRING FOOD FOR THE FAMILY AND EXPRESS THEIR CONDOLENCES ON THE DAY BEFORE CARLTON’S FUNERAL.)
T: My aunt. Mama’s sister.
M: Edna, this is Mark and he’s from L.A. He’s doing a story.
T: (to Megan) I know you do-doed.
Q: How many children do you have?
T: Two. This is Megan and the other one’s Desireé.
Q: Oh, that’s right. Megan and Desireé. What are their ages?
T: Seven years and this one’s almost two years old.
Q: And this is from your marriage with the policeman or before?
T: The first little girl is from — not a marriage — which I had around sixteen. This one is his.
Q: Common law marriage. Right? Boyfriend. No. Accident.
M: She’s a beautiful little girl.
T: Accident! (laughs)
Q: Isn’t that what everyone says?
T: She’s the best accident I ever had.
Q: Yes, she is.
M: She talked to Michael out here before we ever knew he was here.
T: You’re not married?
M: Holy mackerel.
Q: I’ve been married to my career for so long.
Q: It’s terrible. That’s the good thing about Oklahoma and places like that because when you’re in L.A., it’s like, oh my God, get your university degree, get a big job, do this, do this, do this. (“THAT WAS FUNNY”) And plus I write.
T: Oh, those LMNO people were such, “Oh, we’re so busy. We don’t have time.” (“AND THEY DO”)
Q: And then they —
T: Paul was so nice and it was so funny. It seemed like we were lost brothers and sisters.
Q: Whenever they want something, you know?
T: We had so much in common. I called up there and he got on the telephone and said, “Did you know I was gay?” So? I don’t care. We turned out to be best friends.
Q: What does that have to do with anything? Before you sign the contract they’ll promise you the moon. (“YEAH”)
T: I was worried about that.
Q: Once you’ve signed the contract — good-bye.
T: They said anytime we want to get involved with somebody else —
Q: What was his name? I’m going to write down his name.
Q: The producer.
T: Well, there are several. One of them was Eric.
Q: The one you signed the contract —
Q: And he now works for —
M: Both of them went to “Encounters.”
Q: I have to determine if I should maybe work for Paul.
T: Shirley’s got a lot of stuff written down. (“OKAY”)
Q: The main thing is recollection. I guess the main thing too is really writing down exactly what he said. (“UM-HUH”)
( . . . )
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: . . . INDICATES PERIOD WHEN THE TAPE RECORDER WAS TURNED OFF OR UNATTRIBUTED INTERFERENCE WITH TAPE RECORDER. A STRANGE HUMMING NOISE IS HEARD WHEN I BEGIN RECORDING AGAIN AND THE FOLLOWING IS SAID.)
T: We don’t have a piano but he tore organs out. Your organ. He used to play —
Q: Would he lift it up in the air?
T: Yes, and it would be so heavy you couldn’t get it down. (“STRAIGHT UP”)
M: We got three people at one end (“SO HIGH”) couldn’t even hardly lift it.
Q: Have any people been levitated?
M: Not that I know of.
T: Oh — Laurie.
M: Well, Brenda got — Yeah.
M: We were trying to have a seance.
T: We don’t know how to do seances (small laugh) but we try. We’re scared of them. We don’t let people bring Ouija boards out here either.
Q: If I were living here I would not —
T: We don’t like Ouija Boards either. (“YOU KNOW”) I don’t want people saying we’re into witchcraft.
B: I don’t feed my Ouija.
Q: During the Salem witch trials, there were people who were possessed by demons and they would blame their possession on various people who were accused to be witches. What the poltergeist seems to do is tie-in with the culture of the time in terms of using whatever’s popular in the culture of today — like the film “E.T.The Extra-Terrestrial.”
M: I have to keep my money right in here. He steals my money.
T: Are any of those Bells that this happened to still alive?
Q: This was in the early 19th century.
T: Is their kinfolk still alive?
Q: It would be pretty hard to track them down exactly.
T: I would love to try and track them down.
Q: Well, what I would — (“BUT”) it would entail either going to or making a few phone calls to Nashville. But the main thing you should be aware of is your own family tree. Just how far back can you go with that? Do you have a family Bible where it’s written who’s who or anything?
T: Do you have a family tree of the Bells, Mama?
M: Carlton did at one time and he’s kin to Alexander Graham Bell.
T: Yeah. (“YEAH” “YOU MIGHT”)
Q: You might have a shared ancestry if you’re not direct descendants. John Bell had a son named John Bell, Jr.
M: And he had a grandpa named John Bell. That he did. (“YES”)
T: That’s scary.
M: But he was mean to his wife. He ran off with another woman and left his Grandma and Grandpa there.
T: (laughs) I don’t know but I’m not a Bell anymore. (“SO”)
Q: All these different experts came to the Bell family and tried to cure Betsy. One gave her a strange toxin once that almost killed her. She threw up. (“WHAT” “HA HA PIN”) Pins and needles are something that reoccur. (“HAT PIN”)
M: I got a long hat pin stuck in my leg one time.
T: Yep, but it was a straight pin.
Q: This is one of the classic signs.
M: That Indian boy I went to school with was there that night and he won’t come back.
T: Here’s Brenda’s documentation if you want a bunch of stuff.
B: There’s not much. About as much as I’ve seen, though.
Q: Well, good for you. I’m glad you did this.
B: You can keep that one. I’ve got another one. I wrote them down twice.
T: You have a man’s handwriting. You write like a man.
Q: I wish I could write that neatly. (small laugh)
M: I’ll bet you do. (“WHO KNOWS”)
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: MAXINE SCANS MY NOTEPAD.)
Q: Pretty bad, isn’t it?
M: Well, you just made a mess of it. I’m not being nosy. (“DOUBT IT”)
Q: My writing starts out pretty neat and then it sort off falls into —
M: You get kind of lazy. I can’t hardly write. I’m too nervous, I guess.
Q: There’s another thing I want to share with you. (“HUH”) The Bell Witch said, “I’M OLD KATE BATTS’S WITCH.” There was a lady in the community named Kate Batts who was sort of an eccentric so he sort of blamed her for being around and tried to incriminate her as the witch. (“UH-UH”) Her husband had a very strange neurological disorder where he could only sit in the chair and shake.
T: There are so many similarities. Scary.
Q: One time Betsy Bell saw it even. She and the children were looking for spring blossoms in the woods. The spirit said, “DON’T BREAK A FLOWER” — something seemingly inconsequential. Then, she saw what looked like a ghostly looking woman dressed in green swaying back and forth from the branch of a tree. (“BUT”) It’s totally bizarre.
T: That’s weird. (“BUT”)
Q: It was strange.
T: I believe it so much. (“SHUT UP”)
Q: And then (“I WONDER WHY”) her sister saw it once appear in an apparition.
T: Oh gosh.
Q: It took the form of a neighbor so they couldn’t tell. At first, they thought it was the neighbor but then they realized it was the spirit taking the guise of the neighbor. It can do things (“HMM”) that maybe you’re not even aware of. (“FUCK”)
T: Thank you for that. (laughs) (“RIGHT”)
Q: They also take the form of birds like black birds or vultures.
M: Have you ever heard of Styguineas?
Q: What’s that?
M: It’s owl and man.
T: Owl and Indian chief.
M: That’s what the Indians believe in. (“NO”) They believe that owls can turn into Indians.
Q: That’s sort of scary. (“YEAH”)
T: Michael had about fifty owls come up here one time.
Q: He did?
T: That was awful. Remember that?
M: Yeah. There was a whole bunch of them out here.
T: They just flew here all of a sudden. One was on the clothesline, remember?
B: They turn into elves or something.
T: And you don’t see owls (“YEAH”) flocking together like that. (“NO”)
Q: That’s what I said. They take the form of birds. Black dogs are another staple.
B: What about white dogs?
R: Tell him about that dead dog.
Q: Little black dogs, big black dogs —
M: Yeah. Tell them about that dead white dog.
T: Michael told us about that dead dog. Not that one out there — that one’s mine. See it? (“YOU KNOW WHEN IT’S A GOOD DOG”) But it was mangled-looking. Its face was scarred up and uneven from where it had been hit. We had so many people and kids coming out here regularly to talk to Michael. We were driving up to the cemetery one night and someone said, “Let’s just see if it’s dead.” And they ran over it when I was in the car. They ran over this dog and the dog laid there. We went to the cemetery and come back and the dog was gone.
M: It showed up here in the yard several times after that.
T: Not long after, we went to the cemetery and took a bunch of people out there. Two people from that group went to Rolling Hills, which is a psychiatric ward, because it was so bad at the cemetery that night. Remember that? He went out there on the motorcycle?
M: Yeah. I told him not to. (“LOCK THE DOOR”) Something jerked him.
T: We could get people over here that will confirm this. (“BUT NO”)
Q: Notice, too, you have a lunatic asylum near-by.
T: A what?
Q: I mean a psychiatric hospital. You have all the classic pieces of a gothic horror story. (laughs) I mean every single aspect, just about. Putting them all together is sort of tricky. You could almost make it into a wicked black comedy.
M: That’s what Brenda says —
T: Yeah, it’s funny.
M: — that if they ever made a movie it would have to be a comedy.
T: There have been people out here who peed on themselves and tripped and fell.
M I know it. I peed on myself from laughing so much. (laughs) (“YEAH”)
T: It’s not always gloom. (“I KNOW — THAT WAS FUNNY”)
M: I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve really had a lot of fun out of this. (“WELL” “TEE HEE”)
Q: It’s something you never expected. I think if I was a spirit I would want to be in a nice, beautiful countryside. I really wouldn’t want to be in a city. So what is the strangest thing that it did? (“CAUGHT”)
T: He caught my mom’s calendar on fire. It was on fire and he got scared and put it out with a glass of tea.
Q: (laughs) That’s funny.
T: And we said, “How did you do that?” And he said, “I TOUCHED IT.” (“YES”) When he first came here we thought he was an alien. (“ALIEN” “BUT HE LIES”)
M: You never know.
T: He lies so much.
Q: And he showed you the circle on the grass that time?
M: The crop circle?
Q: Is it still there?
T: That was three or four years ago. It’s cow tracks out there now. (“NO”)
Q: The real crop circles never grow back. That’s also true for where a flying saucer lands. If it has grown back, maybe it was just a lie. I thought it was humorous that the Fortean Times writer was too scared to stick around.
T: A musical thing came on by itself. It was sitting up there.
B: The Christmas bell.
T: That bell come on and he had a fit.
Q: Isn’t that ludicrous, though? The fact that an expert on the subject would be too afraid? I mean what’s the point?
T: I know.
Q: It is a comedy.
M: I had that little bell hanging right there. Me and Bill were in here. It was hanging right there. (“YES”) All at once, we noticed that bell wasn’t there. (“NO”) But the string was hanging there. (“RIGHT”) Then, we heard it in the attic. I knew Sarah had it. (“WRONG”) I said, “Sarah, when you get through with that (“YOUUUUUU”) I want it back. That’s my Christmas present.” (“MEEEEEE”) And we were sitting in here I don’t know how (“OHHHHHH”) long after that and it looked like it came right out of that ceiling up there and hit the floor. ([DIFFERENT SPIRIT VOICE] “UH-OH”)
T: What convinced Barry is that he was in there by himself, I was in the bathroom and Jonathan Rosen was outside waiting. Barry was standing there and a rock just rolled from the kitchen by his feet. And he was like, “Okay, we’re getting —” Anything that happened thrilled him to death because he lives for that stuff. He knew nobody threw it because there was nobody in here.
Q: He didn’t get it on film?
T: No, he hadn’t got the camera set up yet.
Q: Michael’s too clever.
M: He was too clever to get caught.
Q: I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction either.
T: They won’t. You don’t ever catch anything on film. (“WELL”)
Q: Well, I don’t know if it was “Sightings” or “Encounters” but there was a series of reports on ‘The Midland Ghost,’ (“UH-UH”) which was basically centered on scratches. (“I WAS” “THE LITTLE”) The little girl ghost. One night, they showed a rose that had burned tp and it had started a fire. It was scratching the husband.
T: I seen that one. That big old house — huge house they lived in. “Encounters” — they got a hold of you (Maxine), didn’t they? (“BUT”)
M: They rented us a camcorder twice.
T: They wanted proof. But everything you see on their show — they do not have proof. They don’t have no frigging proof.
Q: Well, I’m sure that they thought, “We already have the Midland Ghost. We don’t really need to do that again.” (“THEN MARK”) I think the most interesting case was the Bell case. (“NO”) And this one because of the talking.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: MEGAN ATTEMPTS TO COMMUNICATE IN HER OWN VERSION OF ENGLISH.)
M: Did you understand that?
Q: Yes, I did.
M: I didn’t. (laughs)
Q: She said, “I want to watch TV.” (“YEAH”) Those shows don’t pay anything so again it’s people exploiting other people. This is really something that’s important for mankind (“NO”) to understand what is going on. (“NO”)
J: Most people think that this is a hoax and stuff. You know?
M: Billy Joe knows. He had to leave here one day, didn’t you?
J: Yeah, I did.
M: He got rocks thrown at him something awful. This is my stepson, (“OH”) Billy Joe. This is Mark.
J: Mark, are you from California?
Q: Yes, I am. (“GREAT”)
J: I hate to say it but it’s a good place.
Q: Well, there’s a lot going on.
T: You can’t get me to live there.
M: Me neither no more.
Q: There’s a lot of smog and every year the population goes up with more illegal aliens.
M: Mostly Mexicans?
Q: Yeah. I (“I THINK”) can see California becoming another nation eventually. (small laugh) But (“BUT SEE”) — so where were we? (“SO”) If you could maybe write down the important things he said. (“YOU PROBABLY”) You probably — you know what I could do is bring you a tape recorder and you could just talk into it as you remember things.
T: You didn’t have to get a hold of LMNO before you came here? (“WELL”)
Q: Well, see (“DEPEND”) depending on what the contract says —
M: He’s not doing anything yet.
Q: Depending on what you did sign, I could contact them and agree to work with them. Right now, let’s just say it’s for research purposes because I do have my history book. I have a copy of it in the car. One of the more interesting cases was in Italy. It once had a whole table full of food appear.
M: Oooohhh! Tell him about that.
M: When you lived in Paden. The baby was out of formula.
T: He’s brought us formula.
M: And ham.
T: He’s brought us ham. Whole boneless ham.
M: And a cake. (“UM-HUH”)
T: He baked a cake.
M: He has cooked stuff. I don’t know whether it was him or not.
J: He has brought stuff from here to her place.
M: He has cooked stuff in the oven. And they washed in the washer and bleached everybody’s jeans so bad you can’t wear them. (small laugh)
Q: (small laugh) (“NOT FUNNY”)
M: It was funny. (“THEY DO”)
J: He brought you a watch one time.
T: It wasn’t funny at the time but funny later.
Q: At one point it said that it was from Saturn. And one time it said it was named Michael. What was his full name?
M: Michael Dale Sutherland.
Q: Has it ever given any other reason?
T: Other reasons for what?
Q: “Beam me up” or something?
T: His mother is supposed to have killed him.
M: He tried to get us to dig him up. I said, “If we dig you up you won’t be with us anymore.” So he never mentioned it.
Q: Really? He probably doesn’t know why he’s here either. Boy. Well, that’s interesting. (“BEAM ME UP”)
M: He used to write Saturn signs on the door.
Q: Did you ever keep any of those?
M: I’ve got some.
T: And we gave them to college kids and they found out it was Egyptian writing.
M: Not the H.
T: I mean the symbols he used to make. They said it was Egyptian writing.
Q: Well, that sort of gets us into outer space too because recently they found that the pyramids are positioned just like the Orion galaxy. I don’t know what it means. That sort of blows your mind when you think about it.
T: I don’t think it’s meant to figure out.
M: I don’t either.
M: I sure can’t.
Q: So in terms of the timeline — June 1990: it started throwing rocks, then “PSSST” and then it started talking. Maybe it (“IT”) said the alphabet.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: MAXINE SHOWS ME SOME REPRODUCTIONS OF CRYPTOGRAMS LEFT BY THE SPIRIT.)
M: See? He drew them on the mirror and I copied them. With lipstick. He’d use a whole tube of lipstick.
Q: I wonder what that means.
M: Part of it’s Egyptian.
T: See, here’s some more.
Q: That’s very mysterious. Isn’t this bizarre?
T: I don’t think I want to know what it says. (laughs)
M: We’re not supposed to.
Q: Everything (“MARK”) they say is a cryptogram.
T: I put it upside down. I put it up against the mirror. I’ve done everything with it.
Q: Look at the crop circles. What do they mean? I’d like to get a photocopy of those, if I could. Those are great. (“I’M SURE”) So, her father who passed away — I guess the funeral is tomorrow. Do you think Michael’s going to put in an appearance?
M: I don’t know.
T: I haven’t thought about that.
Q: Because the father-daughter relationship is usually one of the motivating forces for these kinds of hauntings.
Q: In the Bell case, the spirit sang a drunken lullaby at the funeral.
T: That’s not cool.
Q: I know. This is different though because he did not like her father and, in fact, (“THEY”) he claimed responsibility for killing him. (“WELL”)
M: He liked Dad.
J: He wasn’t that way with anybody.
Q: Right. Exactly. That’s what I’m saying. (“YOU KNOW”) But you never know.
T: How did the Bell daddy die? What did they say killed him?
Q: Well, it was very mysterious. The spirit said that it had materialized a vial of poison in place of his usual medication.
T: Oh man.
Q: And it was given to him instead. (“BUT”)
M: That didn’t happen to Carlton though.
Q: Some people have thought that maybe the ghost was trying to exonerate someone else who actually did the murder or something.
M: You know how I can tell (“UH-HUH”) he won’t hurt us? I’ve had packs of cigarettes that he’d get (“YEAH”) and just tear them up. He told me they’d kill me. He wanted me to quit smoking. (“NOT RIGHT NOW”)
Q: You have a much nicer ghost.
T: He wasn’t at first.
J: No, he sure wasn’t.
T: He was ornery at first. It’s like we all had to calm him down.
M: She’s going to have a scar on her forehead.
T: It never scarred.
J: He was about to hit me with a knife.
T: But he don’t do that stuff no more. He don’t hurt anyone.
M: No, he don’t do anything to hurt. He said he was scared, though — when he got all mad.
T: He’d pinch you or something maybe.
B: I’m sure everybody else was too.
J: I was pretty scared.
M: When people come out here if there’s one person who’s real, real scared, that’s the one he — (“UH-UH”)
T: He preys upon people that are scared. He’ll mess with them.
Q: He’s having a good time.
J: He’d pick the table up and throw it in the air.
T: I would too if I was a ghost. I’d give everybody heck.
B: I would too.
M: No, you said you’d pull men’s pants down. (laughs)
T: No, I said I’d strip everybody’s clothes off at once and make them naked.
Q: They do that.
M: Oh, do they?
T: Amy — they undone her bra.
M: He got a hold of it too. Right here at the table.
T: Your blouse has been undone before.
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: ANOTHER CRYPTOGRAM IS FOUND.)
T: Here’s another one.
Q: They’re two colors. Are you just going over them?
M: Somebody did that. One of the kids did that.
Q: So the marks you made were the pink. (“UH-HUH”)
T: He did these on the mirror.
M: I copied them down.
Q: There are so many bizarre aspects to this. (“YEAH”)
M: He even dyed my birds with some food coloring.
Q: I read that in the magazine. There have been a lot of memorable things.
M: It’s still on the wall in that room.
T: It threw my dog in here. (“OOH”) We had it in the house when it was a house dog.
M: I was sitting on the chair in the living room and he just picked that dog up and threw it.
T: He didn’t hurt it but it went flying.
Q: In the Bell case supposedly, it didn’t like the slaves. The family owned slaves. One time because it didn’t like the slaves, they had a slave girl hide under Betsy’s bed. The spirit responded by saying something like, “I SMELL A N_____ IN YOUR ROOM.”
M: Oh no.
Q: And it started hawking. You could hear this hawking and spitting. The slave girl started screaming because she was suddenly covered with spittle. That was one of the more bizarre occurrences.
T: That would make me mad.
M: That’s because her little girl’s half black. But he loves Desireé to death.
Q: It’s a different time. It’s a different time. I mean, back then —
T: Because I’d kill somebody now. The spirit didn’t like the slaves?
Q: You never know because you don’t know much of it is the consciousness of the writer who recorded the events. (“YOU”) There’s no way of really knowing exactly. That’s one of the reasons why that case has never been made into a film. (“YOU KNOW”) You know, the abuse continues by giving air to it.
T: I wonder if this Bell family’s spirit could be the same one as ours.
Q: I don’t think it’s the same one unless it’s really clever.
T: Doesn’t he predict the future?
Q: What does he say? Yeah.
M: Well, like the Paramount Pictures.
Q: But we don’t know if that’s going to happen yet.
M: I don’t know anything (“I MEAN”) else that he said.
Q: I mean I know I could do justice to this because of my research but there are so many different things that come into play. (“YEAH”)
M: Tell him if he’s here to throw something.
T: Michael, if you’re here throw something.
M: Are you here, Michael?
Q: He probably wouldn’t because he doesn’t want me to see a clear sign.
T: He didn’t do much for LMNO but things happened to the boys in the camper. When we were at the cemetery he wouldn’t do anything. (“WHAT WENT WRONG”)
Q: Well, I wouldn’t either.
M: He threw root beer all over everybody.
T: It was before the cameras got here. He never did nothing on camera.
Q: I don’t blame him. If I was him I would’ve done the same thing.
T: At the cemetery, they said, “Twyla, try and make him do something.” So I stood there and thought and thought and thought. Finally, I said “Michael, if you love me throw a rock.” And a rock hit the car. Boom! They were so happy. They thought, “We got it. We got it.” But the batteries were dead.
M: Yeah. (“OH”)
T: Their batteries kept going dead the whole time they were here.
M: One of them melted plum down.
T: Their tape recorder was missing. (“THEY HAVE”)
Q: They have unbelievable power. (“I MEAN”)
M: I think so too.
T: I think they drain the energy out.
Q: That’s why the reporter said “Are you of God?” because they’re almost omnipotent figures.
M: He’s gone to church with me and Twyla before in Tupelo. (“HOST”)
B: We’ve heard him in church. ([LOUDER] “HOST”)
Q: Has he ever quoted any of the sermon?
Q: That’s what the Bell Witch did once. One of its most famous achievements was once quoting two sermons verbatim in the voices of the ministers. The sermons had been given simultaneously.
T: That’s scary.
M: That’s spooky.
J: Then when you all came up to the game room that one night he was with you. You came in there and he was all over the place there.
T: We were in Wal-Mart and you could hear him in there screaming when somebody stepped on him. I (“WHAT”) said, “Well, get out of their way.”
Q: That’s sort of funny too.
M: There are people that sat on him out here.
T: He came in drunk one night. A guy who had beer out in the driveway came in and said, “Two of my beers are missing. Michael, you got my beers?” I guess it don’t take much to get him drunk. Michael came in here later and wanted Bill to put him to bed because he was passed out in the hall.
M: He said “BILL, PUT ME TO BED. I’M DRUNK.”
Q: My God (MEOW) —
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: THE ‘MEOW’ SOUND HEARD ON THE TAPE HERE IS ONE OF THE SPIRIT SOUNDS WE HEAR AT THE TIME OF THE INTERVIEW. IN MY OPINION, IT SOUNDED MORE LIKE A TRANSMISSION FROM OUTER SPACE THAN THE SOUND OF A CAT ALTHOUGH IT SOUNDS MORE LIKE THE LATTER WHEN LISTENING TO IT ON THE MICROCASSETTE.)
Q: — this is exactly the same —
T: There he is.
M: I just heard him.
R: I did too.
Q: I didn’t hear anything.
T: It sounds like a cat. Just listen for a cat.
M: Say hi to Mark.
Q: I love cats.
T: I bet you got it on the tape.
M: I bet you did too when he hollered.
Q: I heard a faraway sound.
T: That’s what it is. (“YEAH”)
Q: Oh. See. It’s this house, —
M: He’s here.
Q: — I think. If that’s as loud as it gets.
M: He gets louder than that.
J: All the time.
T: He goes in the car with us too. He goes to people’s houses. (“YEAH”)
Q: Should I see if I got it on tape?
(TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: I PLAYED BACK THE SECTION OF TAPE AND THE SOUND WAS NOTICEABLE.)
Q: Do you think it’s losing power, though? Do you think its gradually fading out? (“WHO KNOWS” “OOH — YEAH”)
B: It don’t do as much as it used to.
Q: That’s what happens too. Five or six years. In fact, if this is exactly parallel to the Bell case the father’s death is a major —
M: Throw something, Michael.
T: Well, he was real low when LMNO was here. They had a huge generator and Barry thinks it might have been taking his energy but I think he would be taking energy from the generator, if anything.
M: Yeah. Throw something, Michael.
T: Barry’s kind of a know-it-all.
Q: There’s nothing to know. I mean, who knows about this phenomena?
T: Oh, you talk to him.
B: That’s a know-it-all.
Q: “The Entity” was very scary. I don’t know how true it was.
T: Barry said he never saw anything. He told me that himself. He never saw her physical signs. He never seen her being raped or manhandled or anything.
M: They’re not going to let anybody see it.
Q: That was a very Hollywood treatment.
J: That was weird that one night when we were all out here in the yard. We threw rocks that way and the rocks come back to us.
T: We’d mark them with fingernail polish.
B: Even when we threw them in that pond out there they would come back.
Q: It’s so funny how I got to be here. Again, I didn’t really choose to get involved in this. It just sort of happened. The previous story I did was the one of Julia Pastrana. I’ve always been interested in the unexplained because a few weird things happened to me when I was a child. I have a copy of my book in the car. I’ll show you that later on. I found this famous ‘freak’ from the Victorian Age who seemed to be like a famous bigfoot. She went on to became a world-famous singer and dancer.
J: Oh really?
Q: Yeah. So I did a book and a screenplay based on that but the book was very short.
M: What is a screenplay?
Q: Well, just, you know, for a film — what they use when they make a movie.
M: That’s what she wanted to know. (“RONNIE”) Or was it Brenda? Somebody asked what a screenplay was.
Q: Let’s see. I’m trying to think what else I should ask you. Let me see what you have here.