Ozark Encyclopedia – B – Bells

In addition to the anecdotes below, I’ve also personally heard from several hillfolk that bells are a fine way of keeping down ghosts and haints, especially a church bell. Metal chimes are often hung up outside the house as protection from evil influences.

Rainwater out of a bell for a tongue-tied child – “It is said that a tongue-tied child may be cured by making him drink rain water out of a new bell.” ~Randolph OMF 148

Bell grease for deafness – “Grease from the mountings of a church bell, put into the ears at intervals, is believed to cure deafness. In answer to my question, two old ladies told me plainly that the grease from a school bell would not do. Well, I persisted, what about the Fair Grove bell? Everybody knows that Fair Grove is a schoolhouse on weekdays, and a church house on Sundays, and they have only one bell. This disturbed the old folks for a moment, but then they answered that the bell at Fair Grove was a school bell, and the ‘meetin’ers’ used it on Sundays only because they didn’t have no church bell. It served the purpose of calling the worshipers together, but it was not a church bell, and grease from its mountings would not cure deafness.” ~Randolph OMF 148

Louse killed on bell to become a good singer – “Some old people say that if you take the first louse ever found on the baby’s head and crack it on a bell, the child will be a good singer. Nancy Clemens, of Springfield, Missouri, tells me that she once knew a girl who talked a great deal; the girl’s parents said, half seriously, that it was because when she was a baby an old woman found a louse on her head and cracked it on a cowbell.” ~Randolph OMF 208

Unknown bell sound omen of death – “If you hear raps, knocks, ticks, or bells, with no apparent cause for these noises, it is a sign that death is coming to someone near you.” ~Randolph OMF 302

“May Stafford Hilburn, of Jefferson City, Missouri, says that it is a very bad sign for a church bell to ring ‘without human hands to ring it. Calamity will certainly descend upon any community should such a supernatural event take place, for floods or fire or other dire event may be expected.’” ~Randolph OMF 302

Death bells – “A ringing in the ears the jingle of the so-called death bells means that somebody near you is about to die. A little tinkling sound means the death of a close friend or relative. A very loud bell, so loud it makes the hearer dizzy, foretells the death of a high official or prominent citizen, someone important to many people. The Springfield (Missouri) News & Leader (Dec. 10, 1933) observes that ‘several Springfieldians said they heard the loud death bells at the time of Dr. A. J. Croft’s death.’ The name death bells is also applied to a row of little appendages found on the heart of a hog when it is butchered; Mrs. C. P. Mahnkey, of Mincy, Missouri, knows about these and says it is important that they be cut off at once. Some people think that if these death bells are immediately removed, the curse is somehow lifted and the expected death may not occur.” ~Randolph OMF 302-303

Randolph, Vance Ozark Magic and Folklore (OMF)

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