Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?

A deliciously strange mystery has haunted Hagley Wood for nearly three quarters of a century. In the British Midlands, near the Hagley Hall Estate, sits a hollow elm in which four boys found a human skull in 1943. The skull belonged to a woman who had been crammed inside the tree while her body was still warm. Her left hand was found buried nearby. Despite several distinguishing features, she was never identified and her murder remains unsolved to this day, but shortly after her body’s discovery, cryptic graffiti began to appear around the West Midlands suggesting at least someone knew her name. There were several variations, but all essentially asked: “Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?” Similar messages continue to keep the mystery alive, appearing on a 200-year-old obelisk as recently as 1999. Theories abound as to who she was, and why she died, but the two most fascinating involve witchcraft and a German spy ring. For more on Bella, see this page by Brian Haughton, author of History’s Mysteries.