Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rhode Island's last Vampire

Rhode Island has a quaint and rather unique method for keeping track of most of the state's many small, rural cemeteries: they number them. While this may seem a bit cold and analytical it does help keep things straight. After all how many "Elmwood" or "Greenwood" or "Oak Grove" cemeteries might you find in a state?

Historic Cemetery no. 22 along route 102 in Exeter has the unique distinction in Rhode Island, and I suppose in New England generally, of being the final resting place of the last known vampire in New England.

According to local legend, when 19-year-old Mercy Brown died in 1892, there was speculation that all was not right with the Brown family deaths – her mother died in 1883 and her older sister Mary passed in 1884. All were interred in the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church cemetery, right on route 102. (photo: Mercy is the middle grave in the back, her sister Mary is on Mercy's left and their mother Mary is in front of her daughter Mary; George, the father, is in the front row to the left in the photo.)

Sooooo, after a great deal of speculation among the local townsfolk that maybe there was a vampire in the midst of the tiny community the bodies were exhumed. (And you thought 9/11 hysteria was new, eh?)

While two of the bodies were skeletons, Mercy’s was in pretty good shape and after an autopsy it was discovered that she still had “fresh” blood in her veins and heart! Well the townsfolk took care of that in short order: they burned the heart on the spot and the ashes were made into a remedy for the survivors to drink in order that they may be protected from such a cruel fate. It apparently worked since there were no reports of vampires again. At least that's one variation (For more about Mercy Brown click here!) Anyway, her father George lived until 1922.