The final resting place of New England’s last vampire.
The Mercy Brown Vampire Incident of 1892 was a combination of 19-year-old Mercy Brown’s infection with tuberculosis, known as consumption at the time, mixed with the period’s preoccupation with superstition and folklore.
In Exeter, Rhode Island, the family of George and Mary Brown suffered a sequence of tuberculosis infections in the final two decades of the 19th century. Tuberculosis was called “consumption” at the time and was a devastating and much-feared disease.
The mother Mary was the first to die of the disease, followed in 1883 by their eldest daughter Mary Olive. In 1891, their daughter Mercy and son Edwin also contracted the disease. Friends and neighbors of the family believed that one of the dead family members was a vampire (although they did not use that name) and had caused Edwin’s illness. This was in accordance with threads of contemporary folklore linking multiple deaths in one family to undead activity. Consumption was a poorly understood condition at the time and the subject of much superstition.
George Brown was persuaded to give permission to exhume several bodies of his family members. Villagers, the local doctor, and a newspaper reporter exhumed the bodies on March 17, 1892. The bodies of both Mary and Mary Olive had undergone significant decomposition over the years, but the more recently deceased Mercy was still relatively unchanged and had blood in the heart and liver. This was taken as a sign that the young woman was undead and the agent of young Edwin’s condition. Her lack of decomposition was more likely due to her body being stored in freezer-like conditions in an above-ground crypt during the 2 months following her death.
As superstition dictated, Mercy’s heart was removed from her body, burned, and the remnants mixed with water and given to the sick Edwin to drink. It was thought that giving the victim of consumption ashes of the “vampire’s” heart would cure them, but he died two months later.
What remained of Mercy’s body was buried in the cemetery of the Baptist Church in Exeter after being desecrated. The stone reads:
GEORGE T. & MARY E.
Died Jan. 18, 1892,
Aged 19 years.
Mercy’s grave is reinforced with a metal band connected to a post embedded in the ground to protect the famous grave from being stolen.
Address: 467 Ten Rod Road, Exeter, RI
Coords: N 41° 34 51.6 W 71° 33 31.1
Hours: open year round, dawn to dusk
Date visited: 08/27/2016 at 12:53pm