New England Vampires
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parkinson

We have good reason to be afraid of covid19, but it’s not nearly as dramatic as the vampire panic of two centuries ago. The vampire fear was driven by an outbreak of tuberculosis which back then was called consumption because its victims slowly wasted away from loss of appetite, coughing up blood and difficulty breathing. People didn’t know that the bacterium that caused TB spread through droplets from coughs, sneezes and spit. Instead, some believed the dead became vampires that fed on living relatives which seemed plausible since they were the ones who got sick.

One way to identify the possessed corpses was to dig up the bodies, and the least decomposed would be cut open. Any organs still containing blood would be burned and the ashes fed to sick relatives to cure them. Some bodies were even decapitated to keep them from rising.

In the case of Mary Brown and her daughters who all died of TB, the women were dug up. One daughter was quote, oddly well preserved and even her fingernails seemed to have grown. So, her heart was removed and burned, and her ashes fed to a sick brother who died anyway.

This story made its way across the Atlantic to an Irish writer by the name of Bram Stoker who wrote the novel, Dracula. We know because after he died, newspaper clippings of the story were found in his home.

What a fascinating history of TB which is the only bright spot to a disease that continues to kill a million and a half people each year.

For more information…

The New England Vampire Panic Was Very Real and Very Deadly
In the late 18th and early 19th century, New Englanders were gripped by a vampire panic. In desperation, they began dismembering suspected vampires in hopes of driving off the terror and death that threatened to upend their lives. But how did vampires come to invade the newly created United States?...

The Great New England Vampire Panic
Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living...

When New Englanders Blamed Vampires for Tuberculosis Deaths
As families lost one loved one after another in the 19th century, some believed the undead were preying upon them...