"Scraping away soil with flat-edged shovels, and then brushes and bamboo picks, the archaeologist and his team worked through several feet of earth before reaching the top of the crypt. When Bellantoni lifted the first of the large, flat rocks that formed the roof, he uncovered the remains of a red-painted coffin and a pair of skeletal feet. They lay, he remembers, “in perfect anatomical position.” But when he raised the next stone, Bellantoni saw that the rest of the individual “had been completely...rearranged.” The skeleton had been beheaded; skull and thighbones rested atop the ribs and vertebrae. “It looked like a skull-and-crossbones motif, a Jolly Roger. I’d never seen anything like it,” Bellantoni recalls.
Subsequent analysis showed that the beheading, along with other injuries, including rib fractures, occurred roughly five years after death. Somebody had also smashed the coffin."
After researching local folklore experts compared this incident to the story of the "Jewett City Vampires" in next door Jewitt City. The story goes that a rash of Tuberculosis spread throughout the area. Back then locals thought that Tuberculosis or Consumption was caused by a recently deceased family member coming back from the dead and sucking the life out of the living. The most famous case was of Mercy Brown in Exeter, Rhode Island. Mercy died of Tuberculosis and years after her death her body was dug up when her family started to get sick. Supposedly the corpse hadn't decayed at all and the body had "turned" in the grave.
Mercy's heart was quickly removed from her corpse and burned. The ashes from the burned heart were mixed with water and given to her sick brother to drink. This cure shockingly did not work and Mercy's brother soon succumbed to his illness. here is some information on the case from Wikipedia:
"In Exeter, Rhode Island, the family of George and Mary Brown suffered a sequence of tuberculosis infections in the final two decades of the 19th century. Tuberculosis was called "consumption" at the time and was a devastating and much-feared disease.
The mother, Mary, was the first to die of the disease, followed in 1888 by their eldest daughter, Mary Olive. Two years later, in 1890, their son Edwin also became sick.
In 1891, another daughter, Mercy, contracted the disease and died in January 1892. What remained of her body was buried in the cemetery of the Baptist Church in Exeter after being desecrated.
Friends and neighbors of the family believed that one of the dead family members was a vampire (although they did not use that name) and had caused Edwin's illness. This was in accordance with threads of contemporary folklore linking multiple deaths in one family to undead activity. Consumption was a poorly understood condition at the time and the subject of much superstition.
George Brown was persuaded to give permission to exhume several bodies of his family members. Villagers, the local doctor and a newspaper reporter exhumed the bodies on March 17, 1892. While the bodies of both Mary and Mary Olive had undergone significant decomposition over the years, the more recently deceased Mercy was still relatively unchanged and had blood in the heart and liver. This was taken as a sign that the young woman was undead and the agent of young Edwin's condition. Her lack of decomposition was more likely due to her body being stored in freezer-like conditions in an above-ground crypt, during the 2 months following her death.
It was thought that giving the victim of consumption ashes of the "vampire's" heart would cure them, but he died two months later. As superstition dictated, Mercy's heart was removed from her body, burned, and the remnants mixed with water and given to the sick Edwin to drink."
Many bodies in the region were found to have been exhumed and either decapitated or their rib cages were broken indicating their hearts had been removed. As the local archaeologists continued to look into the exhumations locals frowned on having their cemetery's dug up in the name of science.
I thought this story would make a great horror novel and many aspects of the history remind me of Stephen King's "Jerusalem's Lot." I found however that a great deal of literature has already been based off of these stories. Here is the literature from Wikipedia:
"The Mercy Brown incident was the inspiration for Caitlín R. Kiernan's short story, "So Runs the World Away," which makes explicit reference to the affair. It has also been suggested by scholars that Bram Stoker, the author of the novel Dracula, knew about the Mercy Brown case through newspaper articles and based the novel's character Lucy upon her. It is also referred to in H. P. Lovecraft's "The Shunned House". Mercy Brown's story was the inspiration for a young adult novel, "Mercy: The Last New England Vampire" by Sarah L. Thomson. Rapper B. Dolan also wrote a song from the perspective of a fictitious party involved in the case in his song "The Hunter" from his 2010 LP "Fallen House, Sunken City."
This is all pretty crazy and the fact that this all happened in relatively modern times (the late 1880's) is pretty crazy. So what do you think; were the New England Vampires real? Or were they simply based on old time superstition?
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