March 17, 1892
Exeter, Rhode Island
The bodies of Mary Eliza, Mary Olive, and Mercy Brown are exhumed under the belief one or multiple of the deceased were vampires
At the time of the exhumation, local superstition held consumption (tuberculosis) was not a medical disease but rather a symptom of a vampire. The Brown family’s mother, Mary Eliza, died of consumption 8 years before, and her eldest daughter Mary Olive joined her two years later. Mercy Brown and her brother Edwin also contracted the disease, with Mercy succumbing in January of 1892.
Edwin and his wife relocated to Colorado Springs after hearing of the healing effects the area had on those with tuberculosis. When he failed to be cured within 18 months, the pair returned to Rhode Island. It was decided then the bodies of the Brown women would be exhumed and examined to determine if the persistent tuberculosis was caused by a vampire.
Each body was examined and Mercy, who had been dead for two months while her sister and mother died several years before, was found to have blood still in her heart. Mercy’s heart and lungs were removed, burned to ash, and disposed in a manner and location which “was kept a profound secret.” (Folklore often dictated the ashes were to be ingested by family members also affected by the illness.) The hope was the vampire had been identified and destroyed, thus curing the remaining afflicted family members. This unfortunately did not work for the Browns; Edwin died on May 2, 1892. Another sister named Myra died at the age of 18 in 1899, though I could not find the cause of her death.
“Tuberculosis and the Vampire Myth.” Aeras. October 30, 2013. Accessed: March 17, 2019. http://www.aeras.org/blog/tuberculosis-and-the-vampire-myth#.XI68PqRMGEc
Tucker, Abigail. “The Great New England Vampire Panic.” Smithsonian. October, 2012. Accessed: March 17, 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-great-new-england-vampire-panic-36482878/
“Rhody town was heartless when it came to vampires.” Springfield Sunday Republican. November 2, 1980
“Rhode Island Superstition.” Anaconda Standard. June 19, 1892
Edwin Atwood Brown. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/8714688/edwin-atwood-brown
Myra Frances Brown Caswell. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/130487178/myra-frances-caswell