vampires in new england ( tommaso braccini )

The usual diet of a vampire (in greek or balkan area) is vegetarianism only in more recent times at a literary level becomes a blood eater (or devoted to hematophagy). In the ancient times (medieval age)  the witches were drinking the blood of children, then the ematophagy was conferred to vampires. Times ago the vampire was not specific blood eater, he was a monster not specialized, he was accused to bring the plague into the villages and waking up the corpses.

 

It is interesting the development of vampirism in New England (United states) in late Nineteenth century. This was really the last time when vapires (or presumed vampire) were burned, at least in the Western culture. In 1883 a mother of family, Mary Eliza Brown, died in a village named  Exeter (Rhode Island). He died of consumption. Five years later her daughter, Mary Olive died of the same disease. In 1892 died also her daughter Mercy. The father, George Brown, upset by these events, remembered the ancient tradition of that if blood remains in the body of a corpse it will be the cause of the death of the whole survived family. George wasn’t really sure of the tradition but the social pressure made over him brought him to calm the comunity of Exeter. He exhumed the corpses of Mary Eliza and Mary Olive in order to look at the conservation of dead bodies. The corpse of Mercy was relatively well conserved then from the corpse were eradicated the heart and liver then burned in an impromptu bonfire in the cemetery. With the ashes of Mercy put into a glass of water for Edwin the survived son of Mr Brown. But Edwin died anyway.

 

The same episode happened a century before. In Exeter the six children of Stukely Tillinghast died one after another. The first dead was Sarah, then she was accused by her brothers to wake up during the night she was sit on their chest hence all frightened being suffocated. The corpse of Sarah was exhumed and from the body was extraced the heart and burned. This credulity was spread not only in Rhode Island but also in Vermont and Connecticut. None of the inhabitants of these areas were informed of the tradition of vampires. They do not know the existence of vampires of eastern Europe neither the existence of the word “vampire”. This necrophilia was original of New England.

 

The truth about the deaths was of course a natural cause. It was an epidemic of tubercolosis. This disease was wide spread in the urban areas (but also in the rural areas of New England) because of the scarce hygiene and overcrowding. It was called “white plague” and it was very contagious able to exterminate in little time the whole familiy. Such a velocity of spreading disease causes the credulity of dead come back from the tomb to eat the living human beings. It is not the usual movie form of the vampire sucking blood with teeth on the neck of the victim. The dead were supposed to fed the living, so the little Mercy Brown was living on the living tissue and blood of Edwin.

 

The case of vampirism in New England seems an interpretation of the turbecolosis as the origin of the credulity in hematophagy like that in Eastern Europe. But in the greek tradition the treatment of tubercolosis was a collective lunch with the heart of the victims of vampirism.

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(text  abridged and translated by rinaldo rasa)

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Friday March 17 2017


 

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