As established in the previous articles added on the site since, we can clearly link the vampire panic that took hold in New England in the 1800s to the periodic epidemics of tuberculosis that would wipe out entire families in those days.
More often than we would like to believe, the communities would decide on exhuming the bodies of those believed to be vampires and they would approve the families carrying out gruesome rituals in an attempt to save those members that were tormented.
Such was the case of young 20year old Frederick Ransom of South Woodstock [Vermont].
He died on the 14th of February 1817 and was soon suspected of becoming a vampire. What is unusual is the fact that he pertained to a “well-to-do” family and you would expect them to be less inclined to give in to the superstitions of the old world.
He was exhumed and the customary rituals were performed on his body – we are given the extra details that his heart was burnt to ash in a blacksmith`s forge under the gaze of numerous members of the local community.
As the news made its way in the newspapers of the day so did Frederick`s story come to be passed on.
I sign off the post by adding the journal entry from the 26th of September 1859 by Henry David Thoreau
The savage in man is never quite eradicated. I have just read of a family in Vermont—who, several of its members having died of consumption, just burned the lungs & heart & liver of the last deceased, in order to prevent any more from having it.
It would take a couple of decades before the proper treatment would be discovered for what was then known as consumption.
๑۞๑ Related: ๑۞๑
† Vampire Accounts
Turning to Wikipedia we find the following note on the article pertaining to the vampire hysteria in New England:
Dr. John Clough of New Ipswich, reported in “The Influence of the Mind on Physical Organization” in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal Volume XXI (1840): “In connection with [these superstitions], I cannot omit to mention a circumstance which occurred in this town (New Ipswich), not thirty years since, and similar occurrences probably occurred in many other towns in New England. This was disinterring a human body, which belonged to a family all strongly predisposed to consumption, for the purpose of removing the heart, which was burned, the ashes of which were considered a sovereign remedy to those of the family who were still living, and might be afflicted with the same disease. This only illustrates the fact that those elements of character which held such a magic sway over the minds of men in ancient times, have not ceased altogether to influence the community in our comparatively enlightened day.”
We are not given a name for the resident that was exhumed and as a time-frame we can place the event as taking place sometime around 1810.
The picture described is similar to that of the other cases from the vampire panic in New England.
As with other cases from that region, we are talking about an outbreak of tuberculosis where the first family member that dies from the disease is exhumed because he was labeled a vampire and the community rallied together in order to save the remaining members of the family.
The rituals are performed in the dead of night and no further details are provided with respect to this case.
† Vampire Accounts
The great part about having town records is that you can always consult them and find incredible facts about the people that used to live in your neighbourhood.
In this particular case the documents allowed us to as far back as the time when Scioto County [Ohio] was settled, back in the 1800s.
We are treated with the following article:
The family of Philip Salladay came from Switzerland, bought and settled on a lot in the French Grant soon after the opening of the country for settlement. Hereditary consumption developed itself in the family sometime after their location in Scioto county. The head of the family and the oldest son had died of it and others began to manifest symptoms, when an attempt was made to arrest the progress of the disease by a process which has been practised in numerous instances, but without success. They resolved to disinter one of the victims, take his entrails and burn them in a fire prepared for the purpose, in the presence of the surviving members of the family. This was accordingly done in the winter of 1816–17, in the presence of a large concourse of spectators who lived in the surrounding neighborhood, and by Major Amos Wheeler, of Wheelersburg. Samuel Salladay was the one they disinterred and offered up as a sacrifice, to stop if possible the further spread of the disease. But like other superstitious notions with regard to curing diseases it proved of no avail. The other members of the family continued to die off until the last one was gone except George.
Based off the way the text is worded I got the feeling that they were trying to make a distinction as to the family being foreigners that had settled recently and the sidenote that they had a predisposition for consumption [aka tuberculosis].
We also get details about what happened after the ritual was performed on Samuel – his family sadly continued to suffer from the diseara and apparently died off.
๑۞๑ Related: ๑۞๑
† Vampire Accounts