Guess who I have on my blog today? The awesome Debbie Christiana! And she has an awesome blog post that I’m so excited to share with you all. It’s about vampires! And it’s set in CT and RI! And it’s just freaking AWESOME! *squeals* You don’t want to miss this. 😀
Without further ado…
Thank you Linda, for hosting me today. I chose this story because it’s set in Connecticut and Rhode Island, two states you know well, and I found it fascinating and perfect for Halloween.
The Great New England Vampire Panic was a phenomenon that occurred from the late 1700’s until the late 1800’s here in New England.
The townsfolk believed vampires were rising from their graves and draining the life from their family members. The only solution was to exhume the bodies, remove the heart, burn it and inhale the smoke. Sometimes the corpses were beheaded and placed face down in the grave.
This grim history was never a secret, but came to light again in 1990, when twenty-nine unmarked graves of the Walton and Ray families were discovered by kids playing in a gravel mine in Jewett City, Connecticut, a town near the Rhode Island border. The bodies were all anatomically correct except for one. “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,” Nicholas Bellantoni, the Connecticut State Archaeologist recalls.
He placed a call to Michael Bell, a Rhode Island folklorist and vampire exhumation expert and received the history of the Ray family, backed up with by 1854 Jewett City, CT newspaper article.
The first fatality was twenty-four year old, Lemuel Ray in 1945, followed his father, Henry in 1851, another brother, Elisha, in 1853 and Henry Jr., in 1854 from consumption. The disrupted grave was consistent with the practice of keeping the dead, dead and the remaining family safe.
A few miles away, in Exeter, Rhode Island, in 1892, Mercy Lena Brown and her two sisters died from consumption. Their brother, Edwin came down with the dreaded disease and the father gave permission to exhume his daughters. The two sister’s bodies had decomposed, but Mercy’s, due to the cold winter months, was intact. After cutting her open, they discovered her heart still had blood in it, proof she was rising up and feeding off her brother. They removed her heart, burned it, mixed it with water and gave it to Edwin to drink.
He died two months later.
A consumption (tuberculosis) outbreak had ravished New England during this time. A horrible disease, “The emaciated figure strikes one with terror,” reads one 18th century description, “the forehead covered with drops of sweat; the cheeks painted with a livid crimson, the eyes sunk…the breath offensive, quick and laborious, and the cough so incessant as to scarce allow the wretched sufferer time to tell his complaints.” Michael Bell agreed adding, “…the symptoms progressed in such a way that it seemed like something was draining the life and blood out of somebody.”
Michael Bell has been involved in the examination of over 80 vampire exhumations in New England and shared a few facts:
-Maine and Massachusetts flipped the “vampire” face down, refraining from removing organs, but my beautiful state of Connecticut and our lovely neighbor, the Ocean State, Rhode Island chose to remove the heart, burn in, making sure the smoke was inhaled by those who wanted to remain alive, as well as sometimes beheading the corpses and flipping in face down.
-A common practice in Vermont was to hold the heart burning as a town event on the green.
-Henry David Thoreau wrote about a 20-year-old Dartmouth student, Frederick, dying of consumption and his family allowing the son’s heart removed and burned at the blacksmith’s forge. Soon after Fred’s mother, sister and two brothers died of consumption.
-The Providence Journal covered Mercy Brown’s exhumation and the story spread to England. Some believe it may have inspired Bram Stroker’s Dracula.
-Visitors to Mercy’s grave leave plastic vampire teeth and other gifts to remember her.
-The Ray Family also received press at the time of their disinterment and became known as The Jewett City Vampires.
-Dr. Robert Koch discovered the bacterium that causes TB/consumption in March of 1882, but medical news didn’t always make it to rural New England in timely matter.
So ends the sad, tragic and gruesome tale of the New England Vampire scare.
Have a fabulously creepy Halloween!!!
Is that awesome or what? 😀 Yet another reason why I absolutely heart New England, and as a Providence native, this makes me grin like a fool (Bram Stoker’s Dracula, haha!). Thank you, Debbie, for stopping by and check out her fabulous collection of horror stories below. It’s a quick, scary read just in time for Halloween!
Supernatural beings and the evils of humanity come alive in these six, short grim tales with a twist.
Some adult content. No gore.
Only 99 cents on Amazon! BUY LINK: http://amzn.to/1KX73RR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Debbie Christiana is a fan of things that go bump in the night, the mysterious and macabre and unusual love stories. This led her to write paranormal romance, dark romantic fiction and dark short stories.
When not writing, Debbie can be found planning next Halloween’s Haunted House, reading something spooky, practicing yoga, sipping wine or hiking the Appalachian Trail with her husband and yellow Lab.
Debbie is a member of RWA (Secretary of her local chapter) and the International Thriller Writers. She lives in her Connecticut empty nest with her husband, where her three children visit regularly.
Check out her books, anthologies and blog at www.debbiechristiana.com
Facebook: Debbie Christiana, Author