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An American Haunting (2005)

PG-13 | | Drama, History, Horror | 5 May 2006 (USA)
1:00 | Trailer
Based on the true events of the only case in US History where a spirit caused the death of a man.


Courtney Solomon


Brent Monahan (novel), Courtney Solomon
5 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Donald Sutherland ... John Bell
Sissy Spacek ... Lucy Bell
James D'Arcy ... Richard Powell
Rachel Hurd-Wood ... Betsy Bell / Entity Voice
Matthew Marsh ... James Johnston
Thom Fell ... John Bell Jr.
Zoe Thorne Zoe Thorne ... Theny Thorn (as Zoë Thorne)
Gaye Brown Gaye Brown ... Kathe Batts
Sam Alexander Sam Alexander ... Joshua Gardner
Miquel Brown Miquel Brown ... Chloe
Vernon Dobtcheff ... Elder #1
Shauna Shim Shauna Shim ... Anky
Madalina Stan Madalina Stan ... Ethereal Girl
Philip Hurd-Wood ... Partygoer (as Phillip Hurd-Wood)
Vlad Cruceru Vlad Cruceru ... Richard Bell (aged 6)


In 2006, in Red River, Tennessee, a teenager has frequent nightmares. Her mother reads an old letter from 1817 written by her ancestor, Lucy Bell. After a dispute of lands judged by the church, her husband John Bell is cursed by his opponent Kathe Batts, who has a fame of being a witch. From this moment on, an entity threatens John and her daughter Betsy Bell, attacking the girl during the nights. With the support of Betsy's school teacher Richard Powell, who tries to find rational explanations for the manifestation; her brother John Bell Jr.; and their friend James Johnston, who unsuccessfully tries to exorcize the entity from the house, the family does their best to protect Betsy in the haunted house. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Possession Knows No Bounds

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for intense terror sequences and thematic material | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The movie is actually based on a purportedly true story. Andrew Jackson was quoted as saying, "I would rather take on the entire English Fleet than stay one night at the Bell House," however his presence at the house is disputed and there are no official records that confirm he was actually present or witnessed any supernatural activity. The haunting is documented in M. V. Ingram's 1894 book, An Authenticated History of The Famous Bell Witch. This movie was based on the book by Brent Monahan,The Bell Witch: An American Haunting the Famous Bell Witch. However, the Ingram book has been called into question by researchers, who have noted that it's based on secondhand accounts and that no firsthand accounts to the haunting survive, and records from the time have not supported the story of the haunting. The Ingram book calls on quotes from letters and diaries but those documents no longer exist (if they ever did) and it is impossible to verify if the haunting actually happened or if it was a hoax or an early urban legend. Some researchers have even raised the possibility that the Ingram book was actually a work of fiction now mistakenly believed to be a factual account. See more »


When the evil force is ripping the pages out of James Johnston's bible, it can be seen that each of the pages are in fact all the same. See more »


Richard Powell: [of Betsy] Can she love me?
Lucy Bell: She will.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The DVD is released in an Unrated Version, which has a number of differences from the original PG-13 version. See more »


Referenced in Forensic Files: Sworded Scheme (2009) See more »

User Reviews

A knockout, terrifying 'grab you by your throat' ghost story that recalls Jack Clayton's The Innocents and Robert Wise's classic, The Haunting.
11 November 2005 | by danland2See all my reviews

Let's say it flat out, An American Haunting is the scariest, most intelligent ghost story to hit the screen in two decades. More original than The Others (which was a watered down cocktail of The Innocents and The Sixth Sense), and ten times more effective than the pallid The Exorcism of Emily Rose, An American Haunting wastes no time in setting itself up as a thriller with something more on its mind than just simply rehashing the same old grab bag scare tactics that every 'Exorcist' remake/rehash resorts to. Based on The Bell Witch, an apparently true account of demonic possession that resulted in the first recorded case of a ghost actually killing a human being over a hundred and fifty years ago in Tennessee, the film elevates itself by not wallowing in cheap tricks to scare you, and by always taking the high road. And, by doing so it creates it's very own world, a unnerving mood and an a undercurrent that prevails throughout until, when you least expect it - it strikes out, grabs you by the throat, and doesn't let go until the very last frame. The sheer terror of waiting and watching until the entire story unfolds (in a way you least expect) is so original and surprising, that by the time the finale hits you, it shatters you like no other horror film you've ever seen . The performances by Donald Sutherland and Rachel Hurd-Wood are first rate. It's their story all the way, and the beauty and generosity of the other actors subtle, effective performance (especially Sissy Spacek) is a testament to their respect of the material. But the real star of this film is director/writer Courtney Solomon. After having recovered from the bollocking he took for the impossible task of bringing Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie, to the screen Mr Solomon has rebounded with a story he was born to tell, and the result is an assured, first rate thriller, told with intelligence, force, style and wit. It's a roller coaster ride all the way, so fasten your seat belts. The audience I saw it with at the AFI Film Festival could not have been more responsive. You could actually feel the hair on the back of your neck standing up. The cinematography by master Adrian Biddle and the score by Caine Davidson are first rate, and help propel you into an unforgettable ghost story that will linger in your memory and haunt your dreams/nightmares for months after.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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UK | Canada | Romania | USA



Release Date:

5 May 2006 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

An American Haunting See more »

Filming Locations:

Canada See more »


Box Office


$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$6,380,000, 7 May 2006

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (unrated)

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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