AMERICA’S LAST VAMPIRE
Everyone loves a good urban legend, e.g. the vanishing hitchhiker, alligators in the sewers, the babysitter and the man upstairs. There’s nothing like sitting around a fire with some friends and freaking each other out with a spooky story. We love urban legends too, and one of the things we love most is how popular legends have their own little twists depending on the region and who’s telling the story.
One tale in particular has always been my favorite and that is of Mercy Brown, Rhode Island’s last known vampire. Mercy Brown died on January 17, 1892 of consumption. Her mother, and two sisters (Mary Olive and Mary Eliza) passed away of the same disease a few years before. At the time of Mercy’s death the ground was too hard due to winter to dig a grave so Mercy was laid in the “Keep” (i.e. a crypt found in old cemeteries in New England where bodies were laid for safe keeping during winter until the spring thaw; it also served as storage in summer in case declaration of their death was premature).
Shortly after her death, her brother Edwin became ill, was sent off to get well, and returned after 18 months only to fall ill again. The local folk feared vampirism was to blame and sought permission to dig up the corpses of Mary Olive and Mary Eliza Brown. Mercy, who had not yet been buried, would be the last checked. Believing vampires did not exist, father and family patriarch George T. Brown finally gave in to the pleadings of the townsfolk but refused to accompany them to the graveyard.
Upon exhumation of the sisters it was found both bodies were well on their way to decomposition but Mercy, who was being held in the “Keep” until spring, had not only stayed “untainted” by death but her hair and nails had grown which was enough evidence for the townsfolk for her to be declared a vampire. They cut out her heart and lungs, burned them on a rock in the cemetery and fed the ashes to her ailing brother Edwin with medicine. The cure failed and Edwin passed away on May 2, 1892. Accounts of this incident are recorded in The Providence Journal and the Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner on March 25, 1892. Shortly thereafter people became educated on the dreaded disease, Tuberculosis (consumption), and its proper treatment.
The spirit of Mercy is among several ghosts that now haunt the graveyard. There have been many accounts from newspapers to visiting family members stating they have witnessed eerie phenomenon within the burial grounds. Many say a strange light hovers over Mercy’s grave and have heard a woman crying from among the gravestones. You can find out more about Mercy Brown and haunted New England from my brother and paranormal expert, Thomas D’Agostino, on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.