When we think of vampires, we usually think of Brahm Stoker's Dracula or Christopher Lee in the the Hammer House films fame. Thoughts of the dark and mysterious Eastern European lands and Transylvania come to mind, but we rarely think of Rhode Island...
Mercy Brown was only 19 years old when she died of consumption (tuberculosis) January 17, 1892. Even though she was one of many in her family and town that died that winter from the wasting disease, Mercy was the only one accused of being a vampire. Mercy's body was exhumed from the local cemetery on March 17, 1892. The exhumation was led by her father and other notable locals (including local doctors and judges) in order to prevent the late Mercy Brown from killing anymore people !!
Many people in the community (including apparently her father) thought that Mercy was responsible for a number of deaths and illness, in particular her brother Edwin. The exhumation found that Mercy’s body was in ‘too good’ condition for a person that has been dead for two months. The locals removed her heart, burned it, mixed it into a 'tea' and gave it to her brother Edwin (it was thought that this would cure him). Unfortunately for Edwin, the tea did not help and he died shortly after.
One must remember that tuberculosis killed thousands of people and that at the time science did not have answers to why it killed. This lead people to think of their own cures. This may have been a common, if silent, practice.
Whether Mercy Brown was a vampire or not is an interesting question... One could laugh off the event as 19th century superstition except for one thing.... once Mercy Brown was put back to rest, no more family members or members of the community died.
Visitors to Exeter may visit the cemetery where Mercy is resting, at their own risk.