The case of the young Mercy Brown is one of the most renowned and well documented examples of[presumed] vampirism from America. In part may be because it took place quite recently, in 1892 to be more exact, in the community of Exeter – Rhode Island.
Over the years many have reanalyzed the event itself bringing to surface the sad story of a family ruined by consumption [tuberculosis] and the tragedy of a father forced to mutilate the corpse of his daughter.
Before commencing the storyline of the events I would like to add a couple of things about consumption. It may seam amazing but at the end of the 1800s the illness was still a mystery for doctors. There was no known treatment so the number of deaths reported to this disease was extremely high [approximately 1 out of 4 deaths]. It wasn`t out of the ordinary for whole families to be wiped out in a couple of years and that was the case of the Brown family.
Consumption would take its course in a couple of months or it could take years. The ill became more and more pale, they would start to have episodes of asphyxia [there becoming more frequent and violent at night as they lay in bed].
Mary [the mother] was the first to die – in 1883, followed in 1888 by the oldest daughter [Mary Olive] In 1890, the son [Edwin] became ill, but the first to die was Mercy in january 1892.
Although she had started to present the symptoms earlier, she was consumed in a couple of months and Edwin started to exhibit more violent episodes after her death.
The head of the family must have felt terrible after loosing his wife and two of his daughters and now seeing himself in the possibility of loosing his only son. The medicine didn`t offer any answers so he turned to superstitions and folklore. It`s there there he found his culpit – the vampire!
Once the father was convinced that Edwin was under attack by a vampire he took the decision to unearth his dead family members [remember that in those times it was believed that a vampire would stock family members and close friends – the ideea of the vampire being a stranger to its victim pertains to modern literature] because he couldn`t say for a fact who was the vampire.
George Brown, with the aid a couple of friends, dug up the three women and examined them. To his disbelief he found that Mary and Mary Olive were decomposed but Mercy was barely changed.
Sadly they didn`t understand that this was due to the weather conditions – since it was a cold bitter winter, the body of the young 19 year old was very good preserved.
In the news article that appeared several days after the incident it was specified that the bady had changed its position once the coffin was opened. This can be explained because it is not unusual for a corpse to change the position if it is not embalmed.
Mercy`s heart was taken out of the body and burnt so that the ashes were given to Edwin in a special beverage mixture.
Unfortunately the solution did not have the expected result. Little Edwin died a few months later in the agony brought by tuberculosis.
NOTE: I have found records of a second version.
Since the winter was an unusually powerful one and the earth was too solid for the young Mercy to be buried so they deposited her in a crypt, awaiting for spring to arrive. It`s therefore most likely that the cemetery party started the examination with Mercy. Some claim the other two were never unearthed since they clearly believed that Mercy was the vampire they were looking for.
๑۞๑ Related: ๑۞๑
† Vampire Accounts
§ Sarah Tillinghast
§ Nancy Young