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Good article in this month’s Smithsonian magazine (full article online) on the Great New England Vampire Panic.

In the Nineteenth Century, rural folk around Southern Rhode Island and nearby Connecticut got it in their heads that TB outbreaks were actually vampire attacks. Which, when you think about it, must have made a certain twisted sense: one by one, people inexplicably sickened, wasted away and died. What did a farmer know of bacilli?

Many, unknown, maybe hundreds of people were dug up and mutilated all over that area of New England. Many of the corpses were in suspiciously good shape, thanks no doubt to the cold.

I took a little pilgrimage to Mercy Brown’s grave in Exeter, RI when I lived nearby. She was the last to get The Treatment. They dug her up, cut out her heart, burned it on a nearby rock and fed the ashes to her ailing brother (who died).

Here’s the thing: this was in 1892, a stone’s throw from fancy pants Newport and a whisker from the 20th Century. Her father, who didn’t believe a word of this vampire shit but felt pressured by his neighbors, lived until 1922. America was really, really embarrassed by the whole business.

Mercy’s grave was in an ordinary little stone in an ordinary little rural cemetery in the middle of nowhere. The only sign it might be something were the little coins and candles and bits of tat around the stone. (Same as H.P. Lovecraft’s, on the other side of the state. But not Lizzie Borden’s, for some reason).

If you like that sort of thing, the article is well worth a read.

Damn. I should have saved this for Hallowe’en, shouldn’t I?


Comment from Gabriel Malor
Time: October 8, 2012, 10:31 pm

Cool. I mean, uncool. And undead, but also cool.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: October 8, 2012, 11:36 pm

It’s Halloween *month* so it makes a good kickoff post, S.Weasel.

Comment from Redd
Time: October 9, 2012, 12:51 am

Hey! Brigid Clary, 1895, Ireland. Her husband and neighbors burned her alive in the fireplace because they thought she was taken over by fairies.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: October 9, 2012, 1:41 am

People still believe in, inter alia: UFO abductions, homoeopathy, creationism, ESP, ear candling, demonic possession, ghosts and tarot cards. People are fucking stupid.

Comment from Oceania
Time: October 9, 2012, 1:48 am

Except for the UFO phenomena. Never seen one, talked to people whom have, but have seen them on radar.
Americans are stupid, because they believe in God.

Comment from JeffS
Time: October 9, 2012, 3:57 am

“People still believe in, inter alia: UFO abductions, homoeopathy, creationism, ESP, ear candling, demonic possession, ghosts and tarot cards. People are fucking stupid.”

Which explains (a) why people vote Democrat; (b) how Obama was elected, and (c) why people still support that asshat.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 9, 2012, 11:08 am

A Google of “Mercy Brown” will lead you on a merry romp through the internets. Lots of interesting history there.

We need to come up with a word for what it is when you follow a rich vein of interesting information through the cyber library.

Comment from Redd
Time: October 9, 2012, 12:16 pm

I don’t have a word, stoaty, but I do have a phrase: fucking off. lol!

A couple of years ago, I googled some old rock group. I then spent the rest of the night clicking on wiki links. I was shocked that so many drank themselves to death. We’re talking about successful people in their 20s and early 30 having a couple of fifths of hard liquor for breakfast.

Recently, I watched I Shot Andy Warhol. I expected it to be bad but I like Lili Taylor and it was pretty good. Twinkles Up!

Anyway, I went a googling on the Warhol crew and not that it came as a shock, but most of them died in the 80s. Aids killed about half of them and the rest died of suicide or drug overdoses. Sheesh! I don’t know why they earned so much attention but for the fact that gays, hustlers, transvestites, etc., were not subjects we were use to seeing on screen.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: October 9, 2012, 1:41 pm

I was going to smugly look up the date of the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and pontificate on the relationship between art and real life till I read the article and discovered how long this vampires of the new world thing had been going on.

I think I will just have to line up with JeffS and go with the “people are stupid” theory. One of the great ephiphanies of my life was the realization that the -average- IQ is 100. Average, being the median or the mean, means that half the people are of below average intelligence… I guess if I were smarter I would have figured that out sooner. My most recent epiphany is how close that below average intelligence number is to “the 47 percent”, although I realize there is no correlation.

Anyhow, not all of the 47 percent are bloodsuckers. I’d guess that it’s more like 20 percent, some of whom are very smart.

Final note: intelligence aside, anyhow anyone who has spent a winter in New England can easily imagine how with no tv or radio or other way to escape from ‘cabin fever’ but through an ample supply of hard cider this sort of thing can happen. By spring, you’re ready to kill something or someone, even if it’s already dead.

Comment from Tibby
Time: October 9, 2012, 3:11 pm

I suppose that killing someone that’s already dead is the better alternative. For some reason Stephen Kings ‘The shining’ – book not movie – comes to mind.

Comment from mojo
Time: October 9, 2012, 3:18 pm

Strigoi, in the Romanian.

Comment from Becca
Time: October 9, 2012, 10:34 pm

Huh. I’m guess I’m one of the “fucking stupid” (re creationism).

S’okay, David. I still think you’re the bees knees and enjoy reading your comments here. 🙂

Hey Stoaty, how’s the banjo picking going? I haven’t seen an update in awhile.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: October 9, 2012, 11:40 pm

Oh, banjo picking is forever, Becca. I’m currently trying to master that bastard lick in Pike County Breakdown. No, not the single-string one…for some reason, I find that one easy. It’s the third-string lick I can’t quite nail.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: October 10, 2012, 4:11 pm

“Be ye a witch, or be ye a fairy?
-Or be ye the wife of William Clarey?”

My Gramma use to say that, before she got all pious and melancholy.

Comment from Bob Mulroy
Time: October 10, 2012, 4:13 pm

Wait. They divide Rhode Island into North and South? It’s too little!

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