Mercy Brown and the Vampire Exhumation Craze

Mercy Brown and the Vampire Exhumation Craze

mercy Brown

Photo source:

History is fascinating, as anyone who has read a bit of it will say. History is also bloody- literally. People all around the world in the past started to believe in vampires. They thought that their loved ones could return from the dead and desecate their families in their ravenous bloodlust.

The vampire exhumation craze began, especially in the US and some parts of Europe. Terrified that the dead might return, people began exhumating bodies. The particulars of vampire exhumation vary. In some cases, only the town men would participate, including the minister and the doctor. In Massachusetts for instance, the suspected bodies were turned face down and left at that. In areas such as Vermont and Rhode Island, they frequently burnt the  heart of the deceased. More often than not, these rituals were done silently, yet sometimes the burning of a heart caused a celebration.

One of the most popular stories in American history concerning the vampire exhumation craze is the story of Mercy Brown.  In the late 19th century, consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis) was taking the lives of many. Mercy ( also known as Lena) was also a victim. After falling ill and subsequently dying, she was exhumed and her lungs, liver and heart burnt. The body was very well preserved, which only added to the villagers’ belief that she was a vampire. So called vampire do come back from the dead through stories. It is believed that the story of Lena inspired Bram Stoker’s character Lucy. Lena Mercy Brown is one of America’s most known “vampires”, her story causing a lot of stir at that time.

“Folklore always has an answer — it may not be the scientifically valid answer, but sometimes it’s better to have any answer than none at all” says  Dr. Bell, folklorist.

What other stories about the vampire exhumation craze do you know?


Remi Koene
Written by