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I was searching Google Images for a picture of a skull, and I found this. It’s a National
Geographic article from a year ago, so I’m late.

They are excavating on the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo, where plague victims were quarantined in the 15th Century (and so many, many of them buried). The same tombs were constantly opened to add fresh burials back in the day, and if they came upon a stiff whose shroud had tears around the mouth, that person was deemed a vampire.

Natural processes of decomposition actually account for the damage, but Medieval folks thought shroud-chewing vampires spread plague. Hence the brick in the mouth.

There’s a trick the Hammer films missed.

Reminds me of Mercy Brown, the last vampire in North America. She was a nice girl from Exeter, Rhode Island, who died of TB. Her mother and older sister had gone before her with the same disease and her brother Edwin had struggled with it for years.

When Edwin took a turn for the worse, his father — George Brown, a farmer — panicked. He’d lost his wife, both daughters and now his son was slipping away.

He had the lot of them dug up. And Mercy looked a leeeetle too fresh to those assembled. So they cut out her heart, burned it to ash on a nearby rock, reburied her and later fed the ashes to Edwin. Um, who died.

I visited her grave. And what I presume to be the burnin’ rock. It was just a plain stone in a pretty, modest country cemetery. Though there were the inevitable trinkets and offerings left around the site.

The drama around the exhumation of Mercy Brown caused quite a stir when it happened, as it all took place in 1892. A little late for that sort of thing, isn’t it?

April 22, 2010 — 10:08 pm
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