Traditionally, when one thinks of vampires you begin to think Transylvania and the most famous European vampire Count Dracula. However, have you ever heard about the American vampire Mercy L. Brown? In 19th century America, a large outbreak of tuberculosis caused widespread panic in New England. There were many theories on how this mysterious illness was spreading so rapidly, but the idea of the undead coming back and feeding off the souls of loved ones became a widely popular theory. This theory would be the cause of what is known today as “the New England vampire panic”. One of the most peculiar cases of New England vampirism is the tragic story of Mercy L. Brown and her family.
The myth of the vampire has existed for many, many
centuries. However, like many myths the story changes depending on by who and
where the story is being told. One of the most important aspects of the vampire
myth is how vampires are created. In the past, people of Greece believed that
vampires were originally unbaptized children or by those who committed suicide.
While in Russia people believed that if a young boy or a cat jumps over a
corpse the deceased will become a vampire. These ideas might seem ridiculous to
us today, but to those living in a time where the unexplainable reigned, having
any answer was better than none at all.
during the 19th century, in the New England region of the United
States, that a large outbreak of tuberculosis destroyed the lives of many. Tuberculosis,
also referred to as consumption during this time, is now known to be spread through
the air surrounding infected persons. However, this was an era with limited
medical knowledge, and had different theories to how this deadly curse was
being spread. One of the most peculiar and macabre theories was loved ones had
passed of the same illness were coming back from the dead as vampires and feeding on the souls of ones
who were sick. While this theory often received backlash, some who had grown
weary of seeing so many perish would try anything to save the ones they loved.
tragedy struck the Brown family of Exeter, Rhode Island. The family of five
lost their matriarch Mary Eliza to consumption. This was a devastating blow to
this tight-knit farming family but little did the father, George T. Brown, know
that this would only be the beginning of his family’s tragic story. George
would also lose his eldest daughter Mary Olive seven months after the death of his
wife. In the next years, his son Edwin would fall ill and in a desperate hope
to cure him George sent him to a treatment center out west. Despite this Edwin
returned home still ill and had to mourn the death of the family’s youngest
child Mercy Lena Brown. In nine short years this family had lost three members
and left George T. Brown devastated and desperate to save the life of his dying
Edwin lay on his death bed, George was approached by a member of the community
with the story of how they had saved their own family from a vampire. George
felt that the only way he could save Edwin would be to dig up the remains of
his wife and daughters and to see which had the signs of being a vampire. They
would be looking for a body that had a heart which still contained blood. While
the bodies of Mary Eliza and Mary Olive were thoroughly decomposed, the body of
Mercy Brown was very well preserved, which only encouraged the terrible acts
that followed. Once they had determined that Mercy was the vampire they cut out
her heart and liver and burnt the organs to ash. This ash would later be fed to
Edwin Brown as a treatment for his consumption. Despite following these steps George
Brown would have to bury his last surviving child.