Mary Lena Brown, Chestnut Hill Baptist Church Cemetery
Rhode Island has a few cases that were by some considered to involve vampires. One of these suspected vampires was Mercy Lena Brown who died of consumption (tuberculosis) on 18 January 1892, aged 19. As it was winter when she passed away and the ground was frozen, she was placed in a crypt at the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church Cemetery, Victory Highway, Exeter (also known as the Exeter Historical Cemetery).
The follow letter to the Editor of the ‘Pawtuxet Valley Gleaner’ was dated 25 March 1892.
Mr. Editor, as considerable notoriety has resulted from the exhuming of three bodies in Exeter cemetery on the 17th inst., I will give the main facts as I have received them for the benefit of such of your readers as “have not taken the papers” containing the same. To begin, we will say that our neighbor, a good and respectable citizen, George T. Brown, has been bereft of his wife and two grown-up daughters by consumption, the wife and mother about eight years ago, and the eldest daughter, Olive, two years or so later, while the other daughter, Mercy Lena, died about two months since, after nearly one year’s illness from the same dread disease, and about two years ago Mr. Brown’s only son Edwin A., a young married man of good habits, began to give evidence of lung trouble, which increased, until in hopes of checking and curing the same, he was induced to visit the famous Colorado Springs, where his wife followed him later on and though for a time he seemed to improve, it soon became evident that there was no real benefit derived, and this coupled with a strong desire on the part of both husband and wife to see their Rhode Island friends decided them to return east after an absence of about 18 months and are staying with Mrs. Brown’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Willet Himes. We are sorry to say that Eddie’s health is not encouraging at this time. And now comes in the queer part, viz: The revival of a pagan or other superstitions regarding the feeding of the dead upon a living relative where consumption was the cause of death and so bringing the living person soon into a similar condition, etc, and to avoid this result, according to the same high authority, the “vampire” in question which is said to inhabit the heart of a dead consumptive while any blood remains in that organ, must be cremated and the ashes carefully preserved and administered in some form to the living victim, when a speedy cure may (un)reasonably be expected. I will here say that the husband and father of the deceased ones has, from the first, disclaimed any faith at all in the vampire theory but being urged, he allowed others if not wiser, counsel to prevail, and on the 17th inst., as before stated the three bodies alluded to were exhumed and then examined by Doctor Metcalf of Wickford, (under protest, as it were being an unbeliever.) The two bodies longest buried were found decayed and bloodless, while the last one who has been only about two months buried showed some blood in the heart as a matter of course, and as the doctor expected but to carry out what was a forgone conclusion the heart and lungs of the last named (M. Lena) were then and there duly cremated, but deponent saith not how the ashes were disposed of. Not many persons were present, Mr. Brown being among the absent ones. While we do not blame any one for there proceedings as they were intended without doubt to relive the anxiety of the living, still, it seems incredible that any one can attach the least importance to the subject, being so entirely incompatible with reason and conflicts also with scripture, which requires us “to give a reason for the hope that is in us,” or the why and wherefore which certainly cannot be done as applied to the foregoing.
Some of the ashes are said to have been given to Edwin in a potion. The ritual did not save Edwin. He died nearly two months later on 2 May 1892. George T Brown died in 1922 aged 80.