One could be forgiven for believing that events related to vampire hysteria were confined to places like Eastern Europe. Surely such things could not occur in the more civilized regions of the western world! How then do you explain the Mercy Brown vampire incident of 1892?

The Brown family lived in the town of Exeter, Rhode Island. Unfortunately this was in the late nineteenth century, when the entire region was in the grip of a nasty Tuberculosis outbreak. The first member of the family to die was the mother, Mary Brown. Eldest daughter, Mary Olive, followed suit in 1888. Edwin Brown, Mary’s son, contracted the disease two years later but did not immediately die. Not so lucky was his sister, Mercy, who passed in on 1892.

Tuberculosis was still not very well understood in the 19th century. The infected were believed to be suffering from ‘consumption’, and multiple cases affecting a single family were often thought of as having a basis in the supernatural. Local residents, convinced that something was feeding off Edwin, managed to persuade his father to have the deceased family members exhumed. Mary and Mary Olive had decayed significantly, but Mercy’s body had been kept in an above-ground crypt under almost freezing conditions. Naturally her decomposition was almost negligible, especially since she had only been dead for about two months.

Nonetheless, residents took this to mean that she was indeed a vampire. Her heart was excised, burnt to ashes, and fed to Edwin in a mixture with water. Local superstitions claimed that ingesting the heart of the vampire who had been feeding off of you would cure you of your illness. Sadly, Edwin died a few months later.