Rhode Island Was Once The Vampire Capital Of America And Here's Why
Once upon a time, Rhode Island was known as the “Vampire Capital of America”. Luckily this occurred more than a century ago and we don’t have to wear necklaces of garlic and carry wooden stakes in our pockets anymore. But Halloween is upon us and it’s time to share the story of a past era when fear coursed through the veins of the residents of South County.
It all begins with a vampire named Mercy. Back in the late 1800s, not every disease had a name, nor did every sickness have a cure. In the town of Exeter, farmer George Brown's family began to be rapidly consumed by a mysterious illness in 1883. First, his wife, Mary Brown, died and within six months his daughter, Mary Olive Brown, also perished to the sickness. In the next few years, Mercy Brown, his 19-year-old daughter also succumbed to the disease and his teenage son, Edwin, was becoming sicker by the minute. A diagnosis of consumption was provided by the country doctor, but the villagers had something else on their minds.
A witch hunt of sorts ensued with the several men leading the pack. The residents of Exeter and nearby towns were convinced that one of the deceased was sneaking out of the cemetery at night and draining the life out of the rest of the family. In 1892, several men entered the cemetery and began to dig up the graves of the Brown family. They wholeheartedly believed that the only way to save Edwin was to kill the vampire that was slowly draining his life.
The bodies of Mrs. Brown and daughter, Mary, were dug up first. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, the men began the task of shoveling Mercy out of her grave. When the corpse was reached, the men were appalled at what they discovered. The body was in better condition than expected for having been buried for two months although it was winter at the time. It appeared as if her fingernails and hair had actually grown since Mercy was laid to rest. Poking at the corpse with their shovels found it to be full of blood. Their suspicions confirmed, what came next is chilling.
The men tore out Mercy's heart and set it ablaze on a nearby rock. They then took the ashes and mixed it in with Edwin's medicine hoping to save the young boy. All for naught, the youth still passed away two months later. Today we know the mysterious illness that took this family was most likely tuberculosis.
South County turned into a land of vampire hunters where rumors of bloodsucking undead ran through the villages like wildfire. With every new unexplained sickness or death, more speculation surfaced. For nearly 30 years, between 1870 and 1900, Rhode Island was considered to be the "Vampire Capital of America."
When the famed author, Bram Stoker, who wrote Dracula, passed away, the newspaper clippings of accused vampire Mercy Brown were found in his belongings. Could his story be in part based on Rhode Island's most famous vampire?
Today you can find Mercy Brown's headstone in Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Exeter. Many who visit leave offerings on the tombstone. Perhaps for protection or just out of sympathy for a young girl considered to be New England's last vampire.
Did you know that Little Rhody was once considered the “Vampire Capital of America”? Vampires weren’t the only threats in South County during the 1800s, read about
the legend of this headless skeleton for another chilling tale.
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