The beginning of the 18th century in Eastern Europe had seen a spate of claimed Vampire killings, known as the 18th Century Vampire controversy, accusations of vampirism exploded and corpses were staked through the heart, or the heads were removed. A practice by the 18th century which was already ancient.
This practice and its folklore by the centuries end, had made its way from the old world into the new, and into rural New England.
The last exhumation is the most famous. Once again in Exeter Rhode Island, Mercy Lena Brown died from tuberculosis in January 1892. In March she was exhumed and her organs burnt by her grave. Upon the organs turning to ash they were mixed with water and made into an elixir to be drunk by her brother, who also was dying of tuberculosis.
This account was widely publicized in the area and also published in the New York World newspaper, where it was read by a theatre manager and aspiring writer who was working on an idea for a story. That idea, and its creator of course was Bram Stoker, and his work Dracula which was published in 1897.
The tombstones are modelled on New England examples, and feature original illustrations, with the iconography based upon the accounts of the Rhode Island Vampire exhumations.
Vampires in Rhode Island: Tombstone of Mercy Brown 1892
Cast plaster of Paris tombstone. Size 3.25” x 4”.
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