Mercy Brown

I'm declaring October Vampire Month here at Ghost Stories! Throughout the next four weeks, I will be writing about various vampire folklore and myths across the globe. The first vampire story is that of America's most well-known and last North American "vampire", Mercy Brown.

New England was the center of vampire folklore in the United States, especially Rhode Island. During the 1800s, consumption or pulmonary tuberculosis plagued the townspeople of Exeter. One out of four people died from it. Unfortunately, the Brown family didn't escape it. The disease first took Mercy's mother, Mary Brown. The next victim was her sister, Mary Olive. Edwin was the next to contract consumption, but fearing for his only son's life, George Brown sent him to live in Colorado, to stop or slow the disease. He returned in late 1891 because it had progressed. However, Edwin wasn't the next the person in the Brown family to die. Mercy had the "galloping" variety of consumption and her battle ended within a few months. She was only 19. Mercy didn't die as a vampire, but she would soon be labeled one. But why?

We know during these times vampires were to blame for almost anything that couldn't be controlled or cured. It was a way to give an explanation for the unexplained. You add that to ignorance and fear and vampire (along with other mythical creatures) folklore is born. Mercy became the scapegoat. George Brown wasn't the type to believe in such superstitions. However, three members of his family were dead, one was sick and he had two other daughters to think about. He began to think his family was cursed. It took the persistence of his friends and neighbors to convince him to exhume their bodies. Mary and Mary Olive's bodies were decomposed but Mercy's looked "too well preserved."

Everything we know about decomposition explains what they saw. There was no signs of decomposition because the cold of winter preserved her body. Blood can coagulate and become liquid again which explains why there was blood in her heart and liver. These misconceptions led them to believe she was the one responsible for draining the life from Edwin and other consumption victims. The townspeople felt the only way for the spell to be broken and Edwin to get well was to cut out her heart, burn it, mix the ashes with water, and have him consume it. Too bad it didn't work. Edwin died two months later on May 2, 1892.

After Edwin, the deaths stopped. Did their desperate act work? Was Mercy to blame for it all? Of course not. They discovered in 1882 tuberculosis was spread by bacteria. As a result, embalming became a common practice thus leaving the vampire theory behind.

Now, her grave site is believed to be haunted. Many witnesses have reported seeing lights in the graveyard, including a descendant of the Brown family. She has also been seen dressed in a torn black dress disheveled and dirty. Could the violation of her grave cause her to forever haunt her burial ground?



Anonymous said…
That's interesting. I bet the physical symptoms of consumption also helped fuel the vampire rumors-- often right before death from TB, a victim would be spitting/coughing up blood, as if they had eaten something very raw. Also, although at death's door, their cheeks would be deep scarlet, giving the appearance of vivaciousness and vigor.
Anonymous said…
I wish she was still alive. vampires are not to be blamed for everything.!!! I truly believe them and I know that they also have feeling and should not be hatted!! They try to control them self and be friends with us but we always avoid them or scared of them so that's why the vampires hate humans n want them to die!! I truly do not believe they should be treated in hate and dislike !! They have feelings to n want to be loved and liked!! So I wish mercy was still alive and not be killed and have her heart taken out by her own neighbors!!!!!

Anonymous said…
yuri? that is stupid. if vampires were "trying to be our friends" they have the perfect oportunity right now with the vampire fad. alotta people would die just to bang a vampire, which is a very large fantasy now. good luck selling that one though.
Anonymous said…
mercy browns grave is haunted by her or something else. which proves that she is a vampire.

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