Thursday, April 14, 2016

Was New England full of Vampires?

Was New England full of Vampires?

Well, if you believe some of the stories that came out of the area from the 18th and 19th centuries, it was.  Believe it or not, Rhode Island was considered quite a haven for vampire's in those days.  As a matter of fact, vampires were so well known that when Bram Stokers notes for Dracula were discovered, there was but one newspaper clipping among them.  It was about Mercy Brown, a suspected vampire who lived in Exeter, Rhode Island.  

Several cases of consumption (tuberculosis) had occurred in the family of George and Mary Brown, in Exeter, Rhode Island. The Brown's two eldest daughters had already been taken from them ten years prior.  When Mercy became ill, some friends and neighbors suspected the influence of the undead was causing the illnesses.  Not much was known about consumption and folks were pretty superstitious back then.  

Mercy's older brother Edwin became ill, and moved to Colorado in hopes of curing the disease.  He came home feeling better. .Mercy had become ill and Edwin soon relapsed, causing the town folk to press the issue that the town was being plagued by the undead.  Mercy died on January 18th, 1892. She was 19 years old.  

Her body was stored in an above-ground crypt for two months until the ground was soft enough to dig her grave. After Mercy's death, George Brown finally arranged for Dr. Metcalf, from Wickford, to go to the cemetery on March 17th to examine the bodies of the Brown women.

Mercy's sisters had been in the ground some ten years. So when their bodies were exhumed, they were found to be in the expected state of advanced decomposition.  However, Mercy's body was still in the above ground crypt she'd been stored in upon her death.  Having died in January it had been to cold to bury her, and so she had spent the two months since her death in a nearly frozen state.
 Because of those conditions, Mercy was in a state of far less advanced decomposition than she would have been under normal circumstances.  There was "blood" found in her heart and mouth.  Her hair and nails looked to have grown while she was interred, and her skin had become pale and seemed unblemished by death, and she seemed to have shifted position in her coffin.

All of that  was taken by the towns folk as confirmation that the undead were influencing the family to be sick. Poor Mercy's heart was burned on a nearby stone, mixed with water and given to her brother Edwin, who was sick, to drink, in order to stop the influence of the undead. The young man died two months later.

Mercy's was only the last, however, of five vampire cases in Exeter, dating as far back as 1796.  She was the last "vampire" exhumed in Rhode Island.

Below are some links where you can learn more about Mercy and other New England vampires.
Wikipedia- Mercy Brown

A great article by The Smithsonian