As a small child, Pat Fitzhugh spent countless hours watching TV classics like "Ghost Story," "Dark Shadows," and the locally-televised "Creature Feature," which featured classic ghost movies every Saturday night. "I was really into it," he recalls. "As soon as my parents would go to bed, I would sneak downstairs and watch scary movies all night long."
His movie-watching routine lasted nearly two years before his mother finally caught him one morning. To remedy the problem, she offered to tell him ghost stories each night at bedtime if he would promise to stay in bed and not go downstairs later. "She was a great storyteller," he remembers. "By the time she finished a story, I would be too afraid to go downstairs!"
The story that frightened Fitzhugh the most, and which would later introduce him to scores of paranormal enthusiasts and mystery lovers around the world, was none other than Tennessee's "Bell Witch" legend, which took place only fifty miles from his boyhood home in west Nashville. And to boot, his mother was born and raised where the legend happened.
"I was frightened and intrigued by everything she told me," he says. "Knowing that she was somewhat of an insider really sent chills down my spine." The biggest chill of all came when Fitzhugh learned of his distant relation to the Bells through a marriage on his mother's side of the family, several generations back.
As a teenager, he began searching libraries, archives, and courthouses for more information about the legend. "My goal was ¬ and still is, after more than thirty years ¬ to create a `fact filter' that can be used to evaluate various claims and theories about the legend, which will ultimately allow us to develop a better understanding of it," he says. Fitzhugh is neither a skeptic nor a believer. "Maintaining a completely open mind and conducting well-balanced research is of the utmost importance in this field," he states. "It can make you or break you."
Not all of Fitzhugh's time is spent researching the Bell Witch, however. "I enjoy stories of ghosts and the
supernatural, and I actually research many of them. I've also conducted paranormal investigations and utilized such things as EMF meters, cameras, temperature probes, and EVP," he says. "Ghost hunting and paranormal investigations are two different things," he insists, "but I like to do them both."
Pat Fitzhugh has written two books about the Bell Witch: "The Bell Witch Haunting," and "The Bell Witch: The Full Account." The latter is an epic, 406-page work that follows the legend from North Carolina to Tennessee, and then to Mississippi. It contains a comprehensive index, detailed historical discussion notes, and a wealth of history, theories, and perspectives on the legend. He also owns and maintains the popular, "bellwitch.org" web site. Fitzhugh's work has led to numerous radio and TV appearances, newspaper and magazine articles, speaking engagements, and a spot on the DVD of the 2006 Hollywood motion picture, "An American Haunting," which starred Donald Sutherland and Sissy Spacek. Just prior the movie's release, he discussed the Bell Witch legend with journalists at an international press conference facilitated by the Associated Press. Pat Fitzhugh has also worked on paranormal documentaries by The Learning Channel, The History Channel, Turner Broadcasting, and
A contributing author of "Weird U.S.," from Barnes & Noble Press, Fitzhugh's latest book release is "Ghostly Cries from Dixie," a chilling compilation of ghost stories from the American South. He also served as the editor of a newsstand magazine dealing with the outdoors, and he has hosted and produced two radio talk shows in his career.
Being an author and researcher isn't easy, Fitzhugh admits. "There have been many obstacles and setbacks along the way, but I just maintain my focus and keep going; I won't ever let up. Getting to meet so many wonderful and knowledgeable people along the way makes it all worth it, and most of those friendships last a lifetime!"
Pat Fitzhugh lives in rural Middle Tennessee, and in his spare time he enjoys playing guitar, photography, road trips, and fishing.