The Bell Witch Hunter & the Curse of Jacksonian History
by Mike Hilbig

I no longer believe in history, antiquity was remade from scratch in the 1820s when Andrew Jackson commissioned the great global project, enlisted his Masonic brethren, formed an elite conspiracy with populist ends, you see, sounds crazy, but like for real for real, the first verifiable event happened when Jackson arrived at John Bell’s farm in Tennessee, Bell had been sighting ghost animals down the barrel of his musket, shots moving through apparitions without resistance, without blood, ghost dog in the corn fields, ghost turkey on a fence post, ghost horse at the haystack, ghost dog again, this time by the creek, eventually, even weirder things happen, Bell finds he can’t speak on certain days, tongue swollen not in a medical way but like a ghost cat had it, on uncertain days, polyphonic voices, all call themselves Kate, come out of the walls & light fixtures in his otherwise quaint home, different pitches & intonations & accents arguing & contradicting, Bell gets spooked enough to ask for help, word spreads across the state to Jackson, who was not yet president but already a proud veteran, not scared of anything, says he’ll defeat the ghost, put the fear of God into Kate, that witch, heads out to Bell Farm where he stayed overnight, said later, rather fight an army of the savagest savages (his words, not mine) than spend one more night on that creepy old farm, but he also wants accolades, loves accolades, they’re the greatest, keeps mulling the problem over, figures ghosts are traumas & traumas are inflicted by men who make history & sadist that Jackson was, he enjoys inflicting trauma almost as much as he enjoys receiving accolades, figures he can solve Bell’s problem by creating productive new problems, his people would love him for it, decides he’s going to rewrite history, like all of it, cut the witch out with scissors and whiteout the rest, concept wasn’t exactly a new one, most powerful kings attempted it once, at least, according to Andrew Jackson they did, because, you see, he plans an agenda, hires his own staff of writers, they put all new words under all the old titles, use aged paper, wear the book bindings down, replace them on the shelves (e.g. The Metamorphoses, On the Revolution of the Celestial Spheres, The Kabbala, Hamlet & so on & on & on) clandestine style, historians start quoting, soon bogus copies become fixed reality, I could continue, but I don’t even know how deep it goes, he canonized white as a blinding light, chased a manifested destiny, you see, a few months after Jackson departed, John Bell swallowed a whole bottle of poison, family said Kate made him do it, Jackson claimed the witch was dead, the people called him a ding-dong & when the church bells rang out in funereal songs, he said, exceptionalism trumps repetition, while pallbearers loaded the wooden coffin ever so shakily into the horse-drawn carriage.

Packingtown Review – Vol.12, Fall 2019

Mike Hilbig puts characters on pages. Sometimes they tell a story. Other times, they alsjfaalsfjal.

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