The Vampire Ghosts of New England.

Have you ever heard the tale of Mercy Brown…

Mery Brown Exeter, RI vampire

In the late 1700s and through the late 1800’-s, many people in New England believed in vampires. So strong was this idea that several people were exhumed by their loving relatives and “killed” again, because they were thought to have turned into the un-dead. Today there are people who believe that the ghosts of these alleged vampires now haunt the cemeteries they were buried in. And they say they have proof!

The most famous of these vampire ghosts is Mercy Brown. Mercy was the third person in her family to die of tuberculosis, then called Consumption, in a very short period of time. George Brown, the family matriarch had already lost his wife Mary, and older daughter Mary Olive, to the disease, when it killed Mercy in January of 1892. Because the ground was frozen and couldn’t be dug for Mercy’s grave, she was held in the keeping room at Chestnut Hill Cemetery until March of that year, when she was then interred near her mother and sister.

When the youngest child, Edwin, became ill, many of the town folk pressed George to exhume the bodies of those already deceased. When this was done, Mercy’s mother and older sister were found to have undergone the natural progression of decay, but Mercy’s body had not. Her hair and nails seemed to have grown and there was an appearance of “fresh blood” upon her mouth.
Mercy’s heart was removed and burned to ashes on a nearby stone and she was reburied. Younger brother Edwin was given the ashes, mixed with water, to drink. The hope was that consuming the ashes of the “vampire” who had made him ill, would cure him. Sadly, Edwin died two months later.

Mercy Brown's Gravestone

Now comes the ghosty part!

Not long after Mercy was reinterred death, stories began to circulate around Exeter that Mercy’s spirit had been seen wandering the cemetery and town. People also reported seeing strange blue lights flitting about the graves, and attributed that phenomenon to Mercy as well.

More recent reports tell of Mercy visiting the terminally ill in Exeter. Many claim to have walked into the room of an ill loved one, and seen the patient conversing with “someone” they could not see. Upon being asked who they were talking to, the patients tell of talking with Mercy. Mercy tells them not to fear death, and that she will help them find their way.


According to other reports, Mercy also seems to have taken the responsibility of seeing that the graves at Chestnut Hill are not desecrated, and that the eternal rest of the occupants is not disturbed. Several people have reported being “pushed” off of graves they were standing on. Those who have seen Mercy describe her as young (she was but 19 years old when she died) with a stern look and keen eyes. She is said to stare unwaveringly at witnesses until they have moved on and then simply fade away.
If you visit Mercy’s grave and are kind enough to say a prayer for her, the scent of roses may follow you until you leave the cemetery.

Mercy Brown Exeter RI Vampire
Photo by: Hunter Kelley

Then there’s the case of Nellie Vaughn, in West Greenwich, RI. Nellie Louise Vaughn died of pneumonia at the tender age of 19, on March 31, 1889. She was buried at Historical Cemetery #2. At the time of Nellie’s passing, no one believed her to be a vampire. No other members of her family had died near the same time. Nellie’s body was never exhumed and no organs were ever removed from her. In fact, the story of Nellie’s vampirism didn’t exist until around 1977 when a teacher at Coventry High School allegedly told students that there was a vampire buried in a cemetery off of State Route 102. It is thought that he was likely referring to Mercy, but when his students went searching, they found Nellie instead, and “history” was made. The notion that poor Nellie had been a vampire got out and reports indicate that she is not pleased.
Nellie’s spirit has been seen sitting on the ground by her tomb stone, pulling on her own hair. When approached, witnesses say that she’s actually hovering about two inches above the ground. Local residents of East Greenwich, including two town officials, have reported seeing Nellie’s spirit walking around her grave, looking distraught.
It seems that hearing Nellie is far more common than seeing her. Many witnesses have reported hearing whispers of “I am perfectly pleasant”, upon approaching the grave, and yet they see no one nearby.

One woman reported several encounters with Nellie. The most interesting of these occurred when she went to visit Nellie’s grave, and met a young woman of about nineteen or twenty in the cemetery. The young woman claimed to be a member of a local historical society and she joined the witness on a walk amongst the graves, discussing the carvings and epitaphs on the stones. When they reached Nellie’s grave, the witness asked the young woman what she thought of the vampire legend attached to Nellie. The girl became visibly upset and began to repeat the same phrase over and over…”Nellie is not a vampire.” The witness became concerned that the young woman was emotionally disturbed and left the cemetery. When the witness turned for one last look, the young woman had disappeared.

These are just two of dozens of stories of folks in New England becoming vampires. Obviously, we know now, that they weren’t. But the question remains. Are the spirits of the alleged vampires now haunting the cemeteries they were buried in? It appears that, at the very least, Nellie and Mercy are, and they have reacted to their own legends in very different ways.

(If this article encourages you to go “vampire” hunting, please be respectful of both the graves and their occupants. Don’t trespass on property marked as private. It’s very bad form to leave trash about the place. And under no circumstances do anything that will mark a stone or leave a grave in disarray.)

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