New England Vampires is commonly known as a case of alleged vampires happened in the states of New England between the 18th and 19th centuries.
For fears that dead were afflicting the living causing them tuberculosis, people dig up corpses, in order to mutilate, burn their organs, and consume their ashes.
Up until the Civil War, the major cause of death in America was tuberculosis, an airborne disease for which there was no known cure. The deadly epidemic was wasting whole families and entire communities. In a desperate effort to combat the illness, families began exhuming their dead in an attempt to save the living. Essentially, the corpses of people who died from tuberculosis were viewed as vampire, responsible for the living’s consumption.
As a defensive measure, families would dig up the dead, burn the internal organs and feed the ashes to family members in an attempt to ward the disease off. If the heart contained liquid, it was used to treat the disease.
In some cases, all of the exhumed remains were burned to ward off the death of family members. Sometimes the bones were rearranged. Heads and leg bones were severed.
Anthropologist and author Michael Bell says that These were not clandestine activities. And while physicians and clergy did not endorse the practice, they did not openly condemn it either. It was a time of "do-it-yourself" medicine and those afflicted with tuberculosis evoked the idea of a vampire.
The look of patients affected by TB their emaciated forms fed the theory that the evil in the corpse had to be rid of. And while the living looked as though they were dying, after they did die of tuberculosis (or consumption) they seemed to grow, as (still quoting Bell) …corpses would appear to gain weight when they began to bloat, their nails would curl and their hair would grow.
Rhode Island had the dubious distinction of being named the Transylvania of America but neighbouring Connecticut had its share of vampire as well.
Stories of the vampire were adopted by gothic literature. They took a folk figure, transformed it into a literary sophisticate and added a sexual element. The literary vampire lives for centuries while folk vampires stay close to home as Folk vampires seldom leave the grave.
Some of the superstitions probably were spread by colonists, especially the ones arriving from England, where European reports of vampire had been largely published.
These cases appeared in all states of New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachussetts, and Maine.
- Bell, Michael E., Food For The Dead – On The Trail Of New England’s Vampiers, arrol & Graff Publishers;
- Guiley, Rosemary Ellen, The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves and Other Monsters', Checkmarks Books, ISBN 0816046859;'