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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?

October 8, 2012 — 10:25 pm
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