The Exhumation of Mercy Brown

Prolonged suffering can do strange things to the human mind, making otherwise sane individuals susceptible to superstition and atavism. One famous case in point occurred on March 17th, 1892, in the Rhode Island town of Exetermercybrown. A well-respected farmer there by the name of George T. Brown had already lost three family members to tuberculosis when he gave in to ritual insanity to protect a fourth. Then called consumption, the disease was poorly understood and frequently linked to a folk belief in vampirism. Victims wasted away, feverish, crazed, coughing blood, with fingers grotesquely distorted by nail clubbing. The first to die was George’s wife, Mary Eliza. His eldest daughter Mary Olive followed six months later. A short period of relative health ended when George’s only son Edwin fell ill. Already a grown man, Edwin was sent to Colorado Springs in the hopes of finding salvation in the mineral waters there. In the meantime, the lone remaining child, young Mercy Lena sickened and quickly died. Alas, Edwin did not fare well in Colorado and returned at death’s door. Desperate to stop the decimation of his family, George Brown agreed to exhume his wife and daughters to discover which was the vampire in their midst. Mary Eliza and Mary Olive both exhibited normal decomposition and were ruled out. After all, they had died several years earlier. But young Mercy Lena had just died in January and her body stored above ground in a freezing crypt until she could be buried in Spring. Small surprise, then, that she looked much the same. Even more damning was the alleged discovery of fresh blood in her heart. Right then and there, in the old graveyard behind Chestnut Hill Baptist Church, Mercy’s heart was ripped from her body and burnt to ash. The ashes were mixed with water and Edwin was forced to drink the vile concoction. And the result? Edwin died two months later anyway and poor George Brown’s only legacy became a midnight tale that still haunts the old graveyard to this very day.