Ever heard stories about a buzzard that flew around wearing a bell? Here’s an old newspaper article detailing one such instance:
Most of the sightings or ‘hearings’ caused folks to believe the belled buzzards foretold death. One legend tells the story of a belled buzzard harassing a man after he killed his wife. Finally the man could take no more of the belled buzzard’s judgement and turned himself in for her murder.
As I was researching the subject I found this explanation from Arkansas:
The link details a correspondence between folks discussing the phenomenon of the belled buzzards seen in Arkansas. The lady tells of her brothers bringing home a couple of buzzards to keep as pets. Their mother nixed the idea and made them let the buzzards go. Before turning them loose the boys tied bells on their necks. Makes me wonder if all the other belled buzzard sightings were the result of would be pets gone awry.
My first introduction to belled buzzards came from Gary Carden’s book Belled Buzzards, Hucksters, and Grieving Specters: Appalachian Tales: Strange, True & Legendary.
Carden notes that the belled buzzards primarily foretold the death of those who had achieved great wealth and power. No ringing buzzard bells for folks like you and me. Carden also provides the last recorded sighting of a belled buzzard:
“The last recorded sighting of death’s messenger was on a Friday evening in Leicester, NC, August 13, 1926. The witness, a farmer named Ed Rhymer was quoted as saying, “At first, I thought my cows was in the corn again.” Rhymer went out to take a look and saw the great bird flying slowly up the valley. Rhymer listened to the fading dirge of the bell and wondered about its destination. Apparently Rhymer was not the least apprehensive about his own fate. Several days later, another man, Eugene Sluder, in nearby Newfound said he saw the bird flying point in a formation of four. The buzzards “were headed west,” he said, but only the leader was belled.”
Since I first read about them, I’ve discovered belled buzzards have been seen in several states-Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee.
Have you ever heard of belled buzzards? I imagine it would be an eerie sound to hear one as it flew over the house.