In this article we will be covering the mysterious graffiti that started in 1944 and seems to have stopped in 1999. Although it is spelled slightly different at times, the message always reads the same – ‘Who Put Bella in the Witch Elm’…
On April the 18th, 1943, a group of young lads (Thomas Willetts, Bob Farmer, Robert Hart and Fred Payne) were out poaching in a forest area of Hagley Woods, Wychbury Hill, England.
In 1943, the Second World War was still in full swing and food was being rationed throughout the country – the boys frequently poached to top up the food stores for their families.
On this particular day they didn’t have much luck with catching rabbits, so they decided to head home and check a few nests along the way – maybe they could grab a few bird’s eggs?
Bob Farmer noticed a nest in a Wych Elm and was pleased to find 4 eggs in it. He then encouraged one of the other boys to climb another nearby Wych Elm.
Robert decided to climb – and as he looked down into the old tree trunk he noticed a skull and eye sockets staring back at him…
The boys ran home in terror, but decided not to tell any adult about their find because they had been trespassing on the land.
However, Tommy Willets cracked through fear, and eventually told his parents about the body they had found.
The boys were instructed to take the police to the body in the tree and an investigation took place. The tree was methodically cut away so that the skeleton could be removed without any damage to it.
Professor Webster, the forensic examiner on the case, located cloth within the skull’s mouth – he concluded that the corpse had been murdered.
Certain parts of the skeleton seemed to be missing, so the police searched the area around the old tree. They eventually found the corpse’s severed hand buried at the base of the original tree.
The body was eventually determined to be female, and had been placed inside the tree feet first, soon after death. She was aged at about 35, and she had given birth at least once. They concluded that she had died around late October 1941.
The police thought they now had enough to go on to identify the corpse…but every avenue led to a dead end. They turned to the media for help, yet still nobody came forward with information.
Before long the public came to their own conclusions – could this be the body of a German Spy, who was caught by the Home Guard?
Was this the body of missing Clara Bauerle (also known as ‘Clarabella’), who disappeared in October 1941?
The Graffiti Conspiracy
The first graffiti appeared on a wall in Old Hill in 1944, and it read – ‘Who put luebella in the witch elm’.
A matter of weeks later, a second example of the graffiti turned up on another nearby street reading – ‘Who put Bella down the Wych Elm – Hagley Wood’.
Both statements of graffiti had been written by the same hand – people started to believe that the vandal knew the identity of the skeleton corpse.
Professor Margaret Murray of University College, London, studied the case for years and came to the conclusion that this could have been a murder carried out by a local cult.
She firmly believed that many elements of the case were linked directly to several popular occult practices.
The locals took this claim a step further, and began suggesting that ‘Bella’ was murdered by black coven operating out of Hagley Woods.
The final example of the graffiti appeared on the Wychbury Obelisk that overlooks the surrounding countryside in 1999 (August).
Somebody out there still knows who ‘Bella’ is…and does not want her to be forgotten.
If you have any thoughts or opinions on the subject we have covered here today, please leave them in the comment section below.