The vampires of folk history were totally repugnant creatures. They were depicted as crude, foul smelling, reanimated corpses, with a single parasitic-like motivation for blood. They are never actually observed in their vampire state, by the living, but their existence is confirmed by circumstantial evidence within the surrounding community.
The evidence for the existence of a vampire was thought to include such things as the sudden deaths of citizenry and livestock, under unclear or questionable circumstances. Also indicative of vampirism, was the sudden onslought of mysterious disease symptoms, especially those causing pale skin coloration and slow physical wasting (like tuberculosis - which was rampant and contagious during the 19th century in Europe and the U.S.).
Along comes a traveling vampire hunter, often a clergyman or other supposed learned person, with a specific knowlege of vampires and vampirism, and the cure.
The only cure of course, for the wretched, eternally damned vampire and for the welfare of the entire community, was to find the grave of the suspected vampire/corpse, dig it up, cut-off it's head and drive a wooden stake through it's heart.
Now the dug-up vampire/corpse would show certain characteristics that would confirm the vampire identity. These vampire/corpse characteristics included such things as long fingernails (supposed proof of continued life), reddened lips, cheeks and fingers, and finally, blood remaining in the heart, demonstrated when the stake was driven in.
There are actually many historical, documented cases in the U.S. and Europe where vampire hunts were conducted, along with the grisly cures.
The story of the last official case of vampirism in the U.S. is that of 19 year old Mercy Brown of Exeter, Rhode Island, who died on January 17,1892.
The Browns were an upstanding farming family and pillars of their community. Mercy died of consumption (tuberculosis), which had previously killed her mother and sister and which now also seriously affected her brother, Edwin.
Mercy's father, George Brown was now faced with losing his entire family to this then misunderstood and incomprehensible disease. He was frantic and there were no answers available from science or medicine to help.
To save his son, and only remaining relative, Edwin gave-in to the folklore suggestions of some of his neighbors, who felt the situation was indicative of vampirism in their community. It was asserted that the deaths and illnesses of his family were caused by vampirism. Son Edwin was slowly wasting away and it was necessary to immediately put an end to the vampirism in the Exeter community.
Mercy had been laid to rest in a temporary above ground crypt behind the Baptist Church in Chestnut Hill Cemetery. The ground was frozen in January and she could not be buried until Spring. On March 17,1892, George Brown and a group of neighbors went to the cemetery and inspected Mercy's body. Finding the body suspiciously well preserved, they cut out her heart and burned it on a rock - later mixing the ashes in a liquid concoction which they gave to Edwin to drink (as a cure). Mercy's desecrated remains were then reburied in a plot next to her sister and mother. Mercy's brother Edwin was not cured and died two months later.
Thus ends this tragic, but true tale of vampirism in the U.S. Unfortunately, due to the prevailing folklore and superstitions in the 19th century and the pervasive spread of consumption, these bizarre practices often occurred in Europe and the U.S.
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