In the early 1800's, the Bell family of Adams, Tennessee began experiencing strange phenomena in their home. Unexplained noises gave way to physical violence and other horrid acts.
Jack and Lucy Bell could no longer deny existence of the spirit, so they contacted their reverend for guidance. Soon, the whole town became aware of the ghost that came to be known as the Bell Witch.
Tales of this entity have passed down through the generations. It is said that even Andrew Jackson's curiosity was piqued and he made a visit to the Bell homestead. The witch even has her own cave, which attracts paranormal enthusiasts to this very day.
In All That Lives, Melissa Sanders-Self provides a fictional account of the Bell Witch as seen through the eyes of the tormented family. In this novel, the Bells are a God-fearing lot with an unspeakable family secret. The spirit is aware of this indiscretion and punishes Jack Bell for it. Daughter Becky Bell suffers great pain as well as stern warnings not to marry the boy she loves.
Much of this debut novel is devoted to horrific acts committed by the ghost. During each incident, the Bells react with a combination of denial, anger and prayer. What keeps these acts from becoming monotonous is the ghost's ever-increasing anger. Sanders-Self reveals the murderous side of the spirit, which will keep readers glued to the novel.
The author chooses to stay close to the legend in this fictional work. Sanders-Self tells the story of the Bell Witch without saying much about the Bells. This makes it easy to like the spirit more than the family it torments.
Please note that the end of All That Lives is not the end of the legend. A simple query of "Bell Witch" in any major search engine will lead readers to numerous sites that reveal the fate of Becky Bell as well as her tormentor.
The ghost, the legend and its creators picked a fine setting in rural Tennessee. Its picturesque daytime beauty leads to black nights, giving the book a scary Deliverance feeling. Read this tale alone in a darkened house for maximum creepiness.
All That Lives is a great ghost story that brings a legendary spirit to life. You don't have to be familiar with the Bell Witch to get swept up in the hype. Paranormal purists may not like Sanders-Self's legendary interpretation, but ordinary readers will be spooked and entertained. In my opinion, that's all you need to make a good ghost story. All That Lives fits the bill.