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Episode 56: Going Viral


Fear has a way of spreading. It’s contagious, moving from person to person. Given enough time, fear can consume an entire community. Sometimes, though, there’s good reason to be afraid.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
On August thirty, first of nineteen, forty four, a man in Southern Illinois, woke up in the middle of the night to the smell of something odd. It wasn't a skunk or that too tail odour of something burning. This was different, partly because of the acrid, almost venomous nature on the smell, the mostly because of the effective had on him. The man said that the smell left him feel weak and nauseous and added induced a violent fit vomiting and his wife didn't fair any better. She wondered if maybe they're gas stow was still on, so she tried to get out of bed and go check on it, but she couldn't in fact she seemed to be completely,
paralysed the next day. Another resident of the same town reported a similar experience, an odd smell, followed by paralyzing effects, day after day more reports, just like those trickled The result, as you might imagine, was group panic and everyone wanted to find the person responsible. They called the mad gasser of Mattoon and even over seventy years later. No one's really sure what happened. It's amazing how quickly hysteria can spread. Isn't it one minute, there's nothing in the next. An entire community is wrapped up in something dark and horrifying. It might be political panic or religious fervor or a simple primal here of the unexplained whatever its flavour. It always has the potential to be powerful, sometimes even deadly.
For two centuries ago. Something took place that fit the definition of hysteria to the letter, but with a twist this event had more depth and more power than usual. In fact, it had everything. A good fairy tale needs cryptic ads in witchcraft. ghosts, oh my, but it also had something else, something that's helped it survive to this day you see with hundreds of witnesses on record this? One just might be true. I Marin monkey- and this is lore
the first british settlers along the Atlantic coast of North America, stayed pretty close to the ocean and for good reason. Early colonies were deeply dependent on ships from England to bring them supplies and help, and to stray too far from the Atlantic meant putting yourself in your family and But ass time went on settlers felt more and more comfortable moving farther inland. They followed the Rivers aimed for the mountains they could see on the western horizon. They chased the dream of wide open territory right for the taking which wasn't a pleasant idea. for the tens of thousands of native Americans, who already called those lands home and had so for millennia to help the British you. The proclamation of seventeen sixty three which prohibited moving westward past, appellation mountains, but when the British were forced out after the american Revolution that political borderline evolving
it'd thousands of newly independent Americans flooded westward and by eighteen hundred places like Kentucky in Tennessee, have been transformed from wilderness into rustic civilization, By the time John and Lucy Bell rolled into the newly formed state of Tennessee in one thousand, eight hundred and four, there were already a good number of people waiting there for them, not that they needed more company. John and Lucy were travelling with their five children, their sixth and oldest, wasn't with them. Having gotten mare. Before the family left North Carolina true to the social climate of pre civil war, south the fan also travelled with a number of slaves. Nine by most accounts entire group aimed for the flatlands around the Red River We're number of other settlers had already put down roots, and then they did what settlers were born to do. They built a new life in a strange place. A couple of years later they welcomed another daughter,
and then a son and then another son and as their famine was growing wider. It was also growing deeper, Johns family deepened there, ship with the neighbouring family, the guns so deep that their family werewolves woven together by marriage, but in the early the hundreds. The primary focus was on the mundane until eighteen, seventeen, that is, that was the year Something unusual happened to John. He was out in the corner, one day when he looked up to see an on animal a dozen or so yards away. It was odd because it seemed to be a mixture of two very different creatures. The body was very clearly that of a dog the head, though well John, was sure it was.
Rabbit John raised. His gun, no settler on the edge of civilization, went anywhere without a gun after all and fired at the unusual creature, the shot missed so be fired again and again, but whatever it was, it just turned and ran off toward the woods by the time he walked back into the farmhouse that evening for dinner, he almost forgotten about it, The latter in his mind, the crops, the livestock, the approaching winter Bein, a practical man He wasn't one to dwell on what had so clearly been a figment of his imagination. That, however, is when they heard the noises the sounds came from outside and sounded for all they could tell like. Someone was beating on the house there, now to see who it was but found nothing of Days later, Johnson Andrew was outside when he saw what he described as a giant turkey. It was
you're than any bird had ever seen before, but it flew away before he could shoot it Johns daughter, Elizabeth, just eleven years old at the time was outside not long after that, when she claimed to see a dead woman hanging from a tree on the property, the sight of it frightened enough to send her running back to the house, but when she glanced back over her shoulder- and there was nothing there- One of the most unusual stories came from one of their slaves, a man named dean years before had found true love in the eyes of another slave at the nearby gun form and the cup. Had married shortly after that, so each night after dean finished his work, walk over to the guns to see his wife and spend time with her, It was always late when he came back late in dark, but even though the frontier was it the safest place to walk alone. Dean knew the road well enough. It's just that. Well,
he was seeing things lately. That didn't seem normal one thing specifically. Actually a dog. every night on his return trip home a large black dogwood step out, the darkness and crosses path. It wasn't random according to deem it was regular happening each night and had for at least a week before he reported it large and unusual animals on the property noises visions of dead people ominous black dogs. None of it was comforting and all of it, winter for months. They can always run home, shut the door and feel safe again.
It was unsettling for sure, but at least it was containing gnats. When the unexplainable moved inside the house at first it was just knocking sounds they seem to creeping through the walls like a winter chill I'd sounds in a distant part of the house always without an explanation, but then it changed or maybe it adapted. It all depends on how you look at it. I suppose. Because not long after the noises moved indoors, the children began to complain about disturbances in the night it sounded to them. Like rats were chewing on the bed posts.
some of the children claim they could hear chains being dragged around the house. Others said their blankets were being pulled off of them, while they slept on at least one occasion. and Elizabeth ran into her parents room in the middle of the night crying hysterically. They the lantern and discovered that she was covered in red, welts and bruises is, if she'd been beaten, that night set off a string of attacks that all seem to focus on her Noise is that followed her physical assaults, visions. The new focus wasn't contained in the house either One story tells of how Elizabeth known to her family and friends as Betsy been tried spending the night at the home of a school friend. She hoped that the distance would help she hoped it whenever it was, but leave her alone, but it followed her. It always followed her One of the symptoms of these unexplainable attacks was that John begin to have trouble eating. He said it was like his tongue.
we had a mind of its own, he would put food into his mouth, but it would be pushed back out. It didn't happen all the time, but once was enough to put him on edge. The John Bell was apparently a patient man, though for a long while he assumed that all the trouble would go away and be forgotten for over a year in this family bravely endured their mysterious, torment, the beatings, the noises, the blankets and chains and all of that. But when vet sees friends found out, word began to spread and John didn't like that, because he had a reputation to maintain. that might seem selfish. I know on the surface, it looks like John was content to do nothing while his family suffered and then the moment his reputation And seem to be at risk. He gave in and started to worry, but before you judge him, you have to keep in mind the common beliefs of the time, especially in this part of the country. This all took place
long after the witchcraft panic of the seventeenth century, had died off the Salem trials the last of their kind in America, and that was over a hundred and twenty five years before the bells, but on the edges of the frontier, away from the civilised, modern cities of the coast. Old superstition still ran deep, so deep in fact, the half a century later in the very same town as the bells, a man named Smith would be murdered. The reason according to his killers was that Smith was a witch yes, John Bells obsession with his reputation does seem a little petty but was also rooted in self preservation, defined John called on his local minister, James Johnson Johnston, arrive later that day with his wife and couple agreed to spend the night at the farmhouse and offer their own opinion of the activity, and they apparently had a plan to help with whatever might come. Their way after dinner, the Johnston's led, the
Bell family through a selection of Bible readings and then follow that up with a few hymns and some prayer a blessing for the house in people inside and with the evening at end, everyone rich to their rooms for the night. It was only when the lights went out and the darkness took over the invisible force became active and at night it seems The focus will be on the newcomers that night the Johnson's war to the sound of loud noises. And then later the blankets were pulled off the bed frustrate and more than a little frightened minister jumped out of bed and shouted into the darkness in the name of the Lord. Who are you and what do you want, but his demeanor and was met with silence. No more noises invisible forces tugging on their blankets, just silence, but that's
balance wouldn't last long. In fact, it turned out to be the calm before the storm within hours. The spirit something that no one else in the house expected it spoke when the Bell family gathered for breakfast the following morning: the Johnston's join them the risk in about the previous night. There were panicked, looks there respiration, frustration and fear in a lot of hopelessness if the minister couldn't help them? After all, what chance do they really have. It was some time during that conversation that something unexpected happened, something that define all laws of nature, because, according to
Everyone at the table. That's the moment when the Spirit in the house actually spoke to them. What did it say? Well, it appears to have taken a liking to the words of the minister, the other worldly disembodied voice, repeated back word for word, the Bible passages the group had listened to the night before it repeated the prayers to then vanished after that word, spread fast, John and Lucy received a letter from their oldest daughter back in North Carolina, and she mentioned hearing of their troubles from someone else was more than just a bit of family drama. Now it was a public spectacle and the odd occurrences just cap piling up weeks later, the bells hosted to local ministers for lunch on a Sunday afternoon, the two men were from churches separated by thirteen miles and bolted preached sermons. At the same time. That day, yet the Spirit seemed to have heard both
fighting each of them back to the people gathered at the table. Word for word, which didn't help solve the mystery, because if we assume one of the older children was responsible for all of this, then how could that one person have listened and memorized to sermons so far apart. At the exact same time, of course, they tried to figure out who or what the Spirit was Some thought- maybe it was the ghost of a local native american angry about the settlers presence. I thought it was a demonic spirit that inhabited a local, which the voice even identified itself as Kay apparently named in honour of the witch in question but having a name didn't make the problem go away with things began to escalate. They got so bad that the family started to discuss moving away some of the old,
children suggested returning to North Carolina. Others didn't care where they went. He just wanted to leave the farmhouse forever, but could they really get away from it. It did, however, reveal a hopeful sign, at least once during the spring of eighteen, twenty nine, Betsy mother Lucy became horribly sick with along infection, it hurt to cough it hurt to breathe and she wasn't getting better. That's when Kate, if that was her name, literally dropped the remedy into Lucy's, hands, grapes and hazelnuts, which were thought at the time to hold powerful medicinal purposes, simply appeared out of thin air Lucy. apparently recover a short while later, the worst of it all, however, fell on John DOE. Maybe it was because he was the most painful, resistance of believing the Spirit actually existed. Perhaps it was because he
the one dragging the local church into the situation. All we know is that the Spirit Kate did not care a bit for John insults would often be heard, shouted at him from thin air. He was called names and told that his life was it worth carrying on that? He should end it other times, though the spirit became violent and then odd thing with his tongue, returned, enforce, leaving him unable to eat or even speak, whether it was the lack of food or some other influence from the Spirit John spent much of eighteen money very ill. By autumn he was forced to spend over a month resting in bed when he did recover. It wasn't for Long John tried to make the most of it. His son Richard told the story of how John followed him outside one day when he needed to check on the pigs
Imagine John was feeling a bit helpless and just wanted to contribute. Farms are a lot of work after all, but while they were out of the house, Kate decided to attack first, it was his shoes richer, described how no matter how tight John tied them his father's shoes. Fly off his feet when they turned around. To return to the house. Kate slap John across the face the older and sat down to recover himself and the Spirit filled the air with laughter and song. By early December of eighteen, twenty John took a turn for the worse and returned to bed for rest of the nineteen John slipped into. homer and a matter what the family or neighbours did it. Couldn't wake him up, they didn't know what had brought her on, but they had a theory, Johns wife, Lucy found a small
glass vile among their household medicines, but she never seen it before. There was a dark liquid inside, or at least there had been, there wasn't much left of it. So Lucy did what any desperate it would do in her situation. He shouted out to the Spirit for answers. What was this mysterious medicine? The spirit refused to tell loose, see what it was, but she admitted giving it to John the night before horrified Lucy opened the vile and gave the last few drops to one of the cats died just moments later.
The following day, Johns breathing slowed and his heart beat became harder and harder to find Ansel finally hours later it stopped for good, if fear or a virus. It would be declared highly infectious by the CDC fear. Has this way of spreading from person to person like the common cold in a great school classrooms, give fear enough time and ill informed? every one in the room or the house or the town, which is why we have folklore, because folklore has this way of inoculating us against fear. It provides us with explanations and answers when there's just too much mystery.
The folk lore creates the illusion of logic, and that can stop the spread of fear unless, of course, that folklore is more frightening than the mystery. It explains. it's hard enough to not be afraid of odd noises in your own home, but when the only Explanation involves evil spirits in witchcraft. Well, you can see how that might fan the flames. Of course it could all have been a hoax. History is full of hoaxes that prey on the fears of the superstitious It's possible that a few of the Bell children were in on that hoax
that they somehow managed to work together to pull it aloft. It's also possible that the whole family sat down, planned it out and then performed the entire mystery. But for what reason? It's been two centuries since those events, and we still don't know what really happened when we do know, however, is that the stories have fascinated people and still do, even while they were taking place words bread far enough that hundreds of people travel the witness them first hand, and most of them got what they wished war. One story stands out, above all the others. Five years before, the events on the Bell Farm began Johns three eldest sons fought in the war of eighteen, twelve. They fought in battle of New Orleans, serving your general Andrew Jackson, so when the evil, spirits station reach Jackson's ear. He decided to come see for himself.
He arrived one day in eighteen nineteen, along with several other travel companions. Outside the Bell Farm, though their wagon became stuck. The men worked hard. make sure none of the wheels were caught on a rock or in thick mud, but no matter what they did. They couldn't get the wagon to roll free, that's when a voice Not in welcome Jackson and his friends to the farm, a voice without a body, it called itself Kate, And told them, it would see them all later that evening, after that, the wagon miraculously unstuck itself, and they were able move on. One of Jackson's friends didn't care for the suggestion that was something supernatural going on at the farm later that night. After dinner, the man waved his still around in the air, claiming there was a silver bullet. in the chamber and threatening to shoot the Spirit which or whatever it was. Instead, the man was struck with the
If seizures, he shouted out that someone was poking him with needles, but they were violently beating him, but no one was touching him and before it all ended the front door of the house opened on its the man was kicked out into the night by an invisible force. Jackson and his men left the following morning. This episode of Lore was researched, written and produced by me. Aaron monkey lore is much more than upon gas. There's a book series in bookstores around the country,
mine and the second season of the Amazon Prime Television show was recently released. Check them both out. If you want more lore in your life, may also make two other upon, casts Erin, making cabinet of curiosities and unobserved, and I think you enjoy both each one explores other areas of our dark history, ranging from bite sized episodes to season long dives into a single topic. You can learn about both of those shows and everything else going on. all over in one central place, the world of lore dot com slash now
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-13.