The New England Vampire Epidemic: The Terrible Truth Beyond the Veil of Legend

Popular culture is full of all kinds of legendary creatures, whose features are instigated by suggestions and stories handed down to each generation, often taking on horror and superhuman connotations. In this abecedary of human madness, one story stands out above the others, namely that of panic over New England vampires.

With this meaning, reference is made to a phenomenon of social hysteria originated in the 19th century, right in the New England region. At the time, several outbreaks of a form of physical deterioration called consumption or phthisis, now known as tuberculosis, broke out in various states in the region.

At that time, given the pressing ascendancy of folkloristic beliefs on the population, the epidemic caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis was attributed to the notorious New England vampires.

The exploit of the disease, in fact, was quite conspicuous, as, hitting the lungs, it caused an incessant cough followed by expulsion of blood through the oral route, cyanosis, sweating and a drastic weight loss. The outbreak was so extensive that it is estimated to have affected 2% of the New England population.

According to the legends, when a patient suffering from tuberculosis passed away, these it consumed the vital essence of relatives and acquaintances, who consequently suffered the same terrible disease. Burying the remains of the deceased was not enough to avert the epidemic for this reason the remains were often exhumed to verify that the “transformation into a vampire” had occurred or not. For fans of this Fascinating Legend Have you ever wondered if vampires really exist?

The mythology of the vampire has its roots in the Akkadian and Babylonian cuneiform texts, in which they described themselves bloodsucking demonic figures feeding on the life essence. This myth, in the form in which we know it today, began to develop in the West between the 17th and 18th centuries, firmly penetrating the collective imagination.

The proliferation of such legends resulted in a multitude of vampire sightings in Europe in the 18th century, resulting in the spread of practices of exhumation of corpses and related tortures to prevent a return of the evil spirit.

With respect to New England vampirism cases, the methods used to ascertain whether a deceased was a vampire was to check whether the corpse’s organs had traces of blood in liquid form and in the case of eradicating the curse with drastic methods.

If the corpse showed “signs of vampirism” its remains were burned and the ashes exploited to produce mixtures which were used as a sort of “medicine” for family members affected by the evil influence of the creature. A further practice was to behead the deceased and reburial the remains.

One of the best known cases of this form of hysteria is known as theMercy Brown’s accidentwhich occurred in Rhode Island in 1892. After losing their lives to the disease, the young woman’s family was struck by the disease.

Written testimonies of the time describe the event as one of the most bloody and aberrant, as the young woman’s body was exhumed with the consent of the surviving family members. Unlike her mother’s corpse, Mercy’s body looked like show no signs of decay and this led to the desecration of the spoils.

The heart and liver were burned and the ashes were used to produce a tonic administered to the young girl’s sick brother.

And if you are interested in mythical and legendary creatures, you know theorigin of the myth of the unicorn?

The New England Vampire Epidemic: The Terrible Truth Beyond the Veil of Legend