The Great New England Vampire Panic by Debbie Christiana

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:


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

Twitter: @DebChristiana

Facebook: Debbie Christiana, Author

About L.D. Rose

Physician by day, award-winning author of dark PNR/UF by night. Music addict. Wannabe superhero. Amazon author page:
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36 Responses to The Great New England Vampire Panic by Debbie Christiana

  1. Thank you so much for letting me visit today, Linda. I’m so glad you liked the story. I thought it was perfect since we both live in the two most gruesome states, LOL. Happy Halloween!!

  2. Wow, that was fascinating Debbie. Who knew all that went on in little ‘ol Connecticut!

  3. Creepy, yet it makes so much sense. When those you love are dying, you want answers…and if science can’t provide them, maybe the supernatural can.
    Think about when Anne Rice’s vampires and other vampire fiction found such a wide audience: during the height of the AIDS epidemic. A supernatural force that stole the young and the beautiful resonated on some level, even if we KNEW our friends and neighbors had a disease caused by a virus.

    • Hi Teresa, you’re so right and why there are so many superstitions, etc. Tragic history often makes for good reading and writing. Thanks for stopping by.

    • L.D. Rose says:

      Completely agree with this, Teresa, and thanks for bringing this up. I think this still happens, particularly when it comes to spirits and dreams nowadays. I can’t even tell you how many people have told me they dreamt about a deceased loved one shortly after their death. It makes sense, since they’re consuming your mind at that time, but are they truly reaching out? It’s really fascinating stuff and I love reading about it. 🙂

  4. Terri-Lynne DeFino says:

    Love, love, love!! Deb, you should write one of those “ghost stories of New England” books. History and horror. Perfect for you. Thanks, Linda!

  5. This was a fantastic piece of history! I love stories like these you never hear of these in history class 🙂

  6. Maura Troy says:

    Wow! I’d never heard any of this. You always hear about the New England states in association with witches, but not vampires. All we need now are werewolves and will hit the spooky trifecta!

  7. Awesome post, L.D. & Debbie. My kind of stuff! I grew up in NY state, and only moved to New England about 8 years ago. I had no idea what I was missing! I recently spent an amazing day in Salem, MA soaking up the witch lore. No tourist shops for me – I spent the day walking the old cemeteries with camera in hand.
    Thanks for sharing this fascinating history with us. I LOVE Halloween!!!

    • L.D. Rose says:

      Sounds awesome, Frances! Hubby and I actually got engaged while spending a weekend in Salem–definitely some magic in the air there. 😛

      Thanks for stopping by and glad you enjoyed! 🙂

  8. I love Salem, Mass. I haven’t been in October, which I hear is really cool. I walked through the cemeteries, too, but a few of the small shops were owned and run by witches/wiccans. So nice and generous with their time and knowledge. I bought a beautiful wooden hand crafted wand from a woman from a long line of Salem witches.

    Happy Halloween – it’s my favorite holiday, too!!

  9. Loved this post. Love New England. Love Salem. Did my residency nearby and spent many hours poking around there. Closest I ever got to Halloween was mid September but they were already ramping up.

    • L.D. Rose says:

      I went the weekend of Halloween (for my birthday) and it was a mad house. Fun, but crazy!

      Thanks for stopping by Carole, and glad you liked the post!

    • I LOVE Salem. Never been in October though and like Linda, my birthday’s in October and I would love to go. I have a beautiful wand I bought from a witch there. She was so nice and so interesting to talk to.

      Thanks for stopping by Carole.

  10. I will NEVER read these because I hate to be scared, but congratulations. Loved the vampire story from England.

  11. Thanks, Susan, glad you liked it. LOL, you sound like my husband – he’s not a horror fan either.

  12. This was a great post! I love fascinating bits of history that we never hear about. So heartbreaking for the loved ones of all the family members who died, though. Thanks for sharing it!

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