Mercy Lena Brown


Mercy Lena Brown Famous memorial

Exeter, Washington County, Rhode Island, USA
Death 17 Jan 1892 (aged 19)
Exeter, Washington County, Rhode Island, USA
Burial Exeter, Washington County, Rhode Island, USA
Memorial ID 6628164 View Source

Folk Figure, Hysteria Victim. The second of three children born to George and Mary Brown, she lived a quiet life in the rural New England town of Exeter until an epidemic of Tuberculosis took the northeastern states by force. Prior to her death the disease had claimed hundreds of lives in the area as well as the lives of her mother and sister. Unfortunately by the time of her death her brother Edwin had also fallen ill. Families like the Browns were losing children and spouses quickly and had been in the grip of this terrible disease for many years. A combination of the ignorance of the theories of epidemiology and the simple folk superstition prone to the area produced an alternative to the unknown germ theories at that time; Mercy must be a vampire. Townsfolk reported seeing her walking about both in the cemetery and through fields, her brother Edwin who had recently returned from a wellness center in Colorado and who was succumbing quickly to the disease reported that his sister Mercy was "siting on his chest" suffocating him. The stories and sightings reached a fever pitch. Mercy had to be a vampire and there was only one way to prove it, they opened her coffin to find out. It should be noted that due to the harsh temperatures of New England, Mercy died in January and was placed in a holding vault on the cemetery property until the ground could be thawed for digging her official grave. On March 17, 1892, town officials, as well as the medical doctor and Mercy's father and brother were on hand to witness the gruesome task at hand. The bodies of Mercy's mother and sister were exhumed as a precaution, they had died the previous year and were found to have experienced a natural rate of decomposition. However, when Mercy's coffin was removed from the vault and opened it was reported that her face was flush, her veins and organs full of blood, her body had moved and that her hair and nails had grown. Immediately they knew they had their "vampire." They proceeded to desecrate her body including removing her heart and burning it on a rock nearby and feeding a concoction containing the ashes to her brother Edwin to "cure" him. Edwin died a short time later. With the evolution of medical science, all of the vampire symptoms and epidemic struggles can be easily explained with basic pathology. The "legend" of Mercy Brown is one based on fact. She is the most famous of about 100 persons desecrated postmortem in the 1800s during the more than 75 years of the "New England Vampire Hysteria." Dr. Michael Bell's book "Food for the Dead" comprehensively covers the story of Mercy Brown and outlines the many cases of this frightening and bizarre historical era that earned Rhode Island the historical nickname of being the "Transylvania of North America".

Bio by: R. Digati

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Jim Tipton
  • Added: 22 Jul 2002
  • Find a Grave Memorial 6628164
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Mercy Lena Brown (2 Aug 1872–17 Jan 1892), Find a Grave Memorial ID 6628164, citing Chestnut Hill Cemetery, Exeter, Washington County, Rhode Island, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .