Vampires Of Rhode Island


Famous vampire cases that I, (THE WOLF), have found during my period of research.

The most famous 'Vampire' was Mercy L Brown. Bram Stoker had clippings of the story in 1892, and wrote 'Dracula' five years after. The exhumation of Mercy is also mentioned in 'The shunned house' by HP Lovecraft, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. The Brown family, consisting of 1 boy and five girls, had a small farm just outside of Exeter, Rhode Island. Mary (the mother) fell sick first, dying in December 1883. Mary Olive, the eldest daughter followed less than six months later. The son Edwin went to Colarado Springs to try and find a cure in the mineral waters. Mercy fell ill and died in 1892, and was interred at the Chestnut Hill cemetary off Purgatory road.

Meanwhile, family and friends decided that some evil had descended upon the household and dug up the corpses of the Brown family, the two Marys were both virtually bones, but Mercy's body, two months after burial was still fresh, and when they cut out the heart it dripped blood. The family burned the heart and liver, and gave the ashes to Edwin as a potion. Edwin died two months later.

Apparently, Mercy's grave is a bit of a local tourist attraction, even though the Brown grandchildren were warned never to touch it.

And then there's Nelly Vaughn, the West Greenwich vamp. I've been to both grave sites and i must say this site is very mysterious. On my first trip to Nelly's grave her stone was by the front gate, leaning against the stone wall. On my next trip it was gone. I had heard that it was removed because of vandalism (damn ratbastards -not enough just to screw around with the living..they have to dessicrate the dead). So, i'm not really sure where her actual burial plot lays....but, in the center on the cemetary is a large 12 foot by 5 foot by 7 foot hight cement encasement. On it is no epitaph or family name or door, it's completely sealed. Could it be Nelly's resting place?
It lookes like it was meant to keep people from getting it...or maybe to keep something for getting out!!! Every set of pictures that i take here never develope and there's always a constant feeling of being watched there even though there are no houses nearby just woods.
Local legend says that if you run around it 10 times you life forever.....

Some general information on Vampires, Charlotte Stoker used to tell the young Bram a local horror story about a victim of a cholera epidemic that was thrown into a lime pit for burial. The womans husband, overcome with grief, wanted to give his wife a decent Christian burial and went to the lime-pit to retrieve the body, whereupon he found that the woman was still breathing. She apparently lived for many years after that.

In the 1800s, a popular time for vampire stories, medicine was little understood and the borders between life and death were very vague. Cholera, for example, induced a state that is very close to death, akin to a very deep coma. The Victorians had a roaring industry in coffins with tiny bells on the outside to allow the newly awakened 'corpse' to indicate he/she was alive!

Premature burial can be due, also, to the misunderstanding of Rigor Mortis. Rigor Mortis sets in, roughly an hour-and-a-half after death, usually in the face and neck, depending on the temperature of the surrounding environs. Rigor Mortis then passes off again in roughly 36 hours, again depending on temperature. An entertaining story regarding this is Romanian in origin. A gypsy woman in the valley of Curtea de Arges, was laying out the body of her dead father, when she noticed that the limbs were pliable. The news raced around the village and the old man was duly staked. Hopefully he was dead and Rigor Mortis had dissapated early, rather than being catatonic.

As few as 6 years ago, a woman was buried in America with the condition in her will that she be buried with a telephone, just in case. It hasn't rung for all that time, so I think we can safely say that she is dead!!

A large number of Vampire/Undead stories can be put down to the tragedy of near-death diseases or catalepsy, as when an 18th century cemetary in England was demolished for replacement by a car-park a third of the interred corpses showed signs of struggling within their caskets suchas broken fingers from scratching at the coffin lid, hands protruding from the caskets, and blood on the shrouds from 'corpses' biting their own flesh as madness or suffocation took it's toll.

With such a high number of premature burials, we can expect the fortunate few who escape to have serious doubts about their own existence and possibly be quite unhinged by the entire episode. Perhaps this could account for the sightings of ghouls around churchyards? Another explanation for the Vampire explosion of 200 years ago, in the UK, came from Dennis Wheatley. He pointed out that derelicts prefer to sleep during the day in graveyards because of the relative peace and quiet that can be found there.

Now, In 1924, at the stage show of 'Dracula' the actor who played Van Helsing came throught the curtain at the end and addressed the audience, "Just a moment, ladies and gentlemen! Just a word before you leave. We hope the memories of Dracula...won't give you bad dreams, so just a word of reassurance. When you get home tonight and the lights have been turned out and you are afraid to look behind the curtains and you dread to see a face appear at the window - why pull yourself together! And remember that, after all, there are such things!"

Bram Stoker was undoubtably inspired by the tales he was told as a child, but what of Dracula, or Vlad Dracul. Most people acknowledge that the character was based upon Vlad the impaler, cruel and despotic leader of Romania and undoubtably a member of the Voivod. Vlad was a thouroughly nasty piece of work, ordering that the hats of ambassadors be nailed to their heads when they refused to remove them in his presence.. But Vlad wasn't the only nasty piece of work in that time.

Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614) was a *really* nasty piece of work. A noblemens daughter that married a soldier, Ferenc Nadasdy, at the age of 15 she had some quite unusual hobbies while her husband was away on military campaigns. She used to burn her maidservants with hot irons and delighted in cutting of fingers, and she was renowned for flying into rages where she *bit* the object of her rage. After her husbands death in 1604, she used to lure young girls from neighbouring villages into her castle, whereupon she used to beat, starve and freeze them to death, alledgedly bathing in their blood to keep her beauty (There is a Hammer film based upon her life, Laughable, but entertaining). Elizabeth would have gone on forever had not the King of Hungary heard of her strange practices. Her accomplices were put to trial, while Elizabeth herself was sentanced to life imprisonment - and was walled up, alive, in a room in her castle. Her body count up to 1610, when she was caught, was estimated to be in the 600+ region, earning her the name of the 'Blood Countess'

Then we have Highgate. Highgate is an area of London that used to be mostly Jewish, the Cemetary there is one of the finest examples of Victorian 'Death-cult' Grave art, and cemetary furniture. Karl Marx was buried there, as well as a few more luminaries (I can't remember any more names). During the last two hundred years or so, various animals and even some children were found drained of blood around the gates of the Cemetary. The Reverand (Old Catholic) Sean Manchester, an unsmiling man and reputed to be Britain's only real Vampire Hunter, undertook to track and destroy the monster, which he managed.

All this makes the vampires and monsters of hollywood seem dull. I've come to the conclusion that all the scary monsters are real.....maybe even your next door neighbor.

enjoy - THE WOLF

Rhode Island Stories

Most of these stories, however, are set in our own region. In Rhode Island, 1993 was the date of the most recent encounter with Nelly Vaughn, the West Greenwich "vampire." Coventry resident Marlene Chatfield was making some gravestone rubbings, according to The New England Ghost Files, but when she tried to take an impression of Nelly's stone, "Complication after complication prevented me from doing the rubbing."

Later, when Chatfield and her husband returned to the cemetery, he heard a female voice saying, "I am perfectly pleasant," the curious words that appear on Nelly's gravestone. Red scratches appeared on his face. He left the cemetery. ______________________________________________________________________
New England vampires? Folklore battled a genuine specter

By JOHN CASTELLUCCI
Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

Every Halloween, Rhode Islanders tell the story of Mercy Brown: How she was stricken by a mysterious illness more than 100 years ago and followed her mother and sister to the grave. How her brother Edwin fell ill, too, and their father was persuaded that Mercy was a vampire who was rising from the dead to feed on Edwin's flesh. How old George T. Brown and some neighbors in Exeter dug up her body one wintry March day and found that it had shifted in the coffin. How her heart was burned on a rock after it was found to contain fresh blood. How Edwin was fed the ashes as a cure but died less than two months later, on May 2, 1892.

Now a researcher is saying Mercy Brown was not the first Rhode Island vampire case - that she was the fifth and last. State folklorist Michael E. Bell says he has unearthed evidence that what happened to the Browns happened to at least 15 other New England families.

In the process, Bell says, he has uncovered reminders of a far deadlier killer than vampires, one that doctors say is making a comeback after 30 years.

Tuberculosis, the disease that physician Frank Ryan, author of the 1993 book The Forgotten Plague, calls "the greatest killer in history," is the common thread that connects Mercy Brown to the long line of vampire cases that Bell says began in this country in 1793.

Tuberculosis is a highly communicable disease. It was not until the development of antibiotics in the 1940s and 1950s - more than half a century after the cause of tuberculosis was discovered - that doctors could offer a cure.

Rather than stand by helplessly while their children died of the illness that was then called consumption - because the victim literally wasted away - Bell says desperate parents turned to folklore, which taught that vampires were responsible for the spread of the disease.

In none of the Rhode Island cases was the word vampire ever mentioned. But, in each case, Bell says, people clearly believed that the surviving members of a family struck by tuberculosis could be saved if the dead were exhumed and their bodies dismembered, burned or otherwise disrupted before being returned to the grave.

"To characterize it as nothing but an ignorant superstition is to miss why the people involved thought it was reasonable," Bell says. "Medical science had failed. So that's when you turned to folkore. Folklore always has an answer."

Bell first heard the Mercy Brown story when he arrived here with a team of folklorists from the Library of Congress's Folk Life Center in 1979. He identified the 15 other New England cases by sifting through town records, reading local histories, tracing genealogies and listening to family yarns.

The first known case occurred in 1793 in Manchester, Vt., where a local history says "a strange infatuation took possession of the minds of the friends and connections of the family" of Capt. Isaac Burton after his second wife, Hulda, began to die of consumption, the disease that killed his first wife, Rachel, a few years before.

Rachel's body was exhumed, and, after her liver, heart and lungs were burned, Hulda was made to consume the ashes.

Three years later, in Cumberland, R.I., Stephen Staples got the permission of the Cumberland Town Council to exhume the body of a recently deceased daughter "to try an experiment" to save the life of another daughter, who had also fallen ill.

"It's not as explicit" as the Vermont case, Bell says. But when he described his research into other exhumation cases to the historian who told him about the Cumberland case, Ruth Wallis Herndon, "she jumped up and said, 'That's got to be it!' "

The next Rhode Island vampire case occurs in Exeter, and, as in a fairy tale, the deaths were foretold by a dream.

Stukeley "Snuffy" Tillinghast, a prosperous Pine Hill farmer, dreamed one night that half his orchard had died. For a long time, according to Sidney Rider, a 19th-century historian, Tillinghast had no idea what the dream meant.

But then, Rider wrote, six of Tillinghast's 14 children died of consumption, one right after another, and a seventh child was taken ill. "They all complained that Sarah (the first child to die) was coming back at night and putting pressure on their bodies," Bell says. A common symptom of pulmonary tuberculosis is a feeling of pressure on the chest.

Unable to stop the dying, Tillinghast consulted neighbors, who persuaded him to open the six graves and examine the bodies. The first five bodies were found in advanced stages of decomposition, but Sarah's heart and arteries were filled with fresh blood.

"It was clear at once to these astonished people that the cause of their trouble lay there before them," Rider wrote. They burned Sarah's heart, and reburied all the bodies. Nevertheless, Rider wrote, the seventh child stricken with illness died.

"I did some genealogical research," Bell says. "I found that there was a Stukeley Tillinghast who had 14 children. Something like four children died in 1799."

The three other deaths were an exaggeration, he says. "It's a better story to say half," Bell offers, "because of the dream."

In the next Rhode Island case, in 1827 in Foster, the remains of Nancy Young, 19-year-old daughter of Capt. Levi Young, were dug up and burned. In what Bell says was a variation of the vampire myth, the surviving family members inhaled the fumes. Genealogical research shows that four of Young's remaining eight children died anyway. Two sons and a daughter escaped.

The next exhumation case is sketchy. In 1874, according to a Catholic priest who Bell says believed in vampires, William G. Rose of Peace Dale had his 15-year-old daughter, Ruth Ellen, exhumed and her heart burned in the belief that she was causing the bodies of her relatives to waste away.

Bell says he has found connections between this case and two other suspected Rhode Island vampires. But, after the Mercy Brown exhumation in 1892, nobody in Rhode Island ever dug up the body of a suspected vampire again.

What made the practice die out? Bell theorizes that the discovery, in 1882, that tuberculosis was spread by bacteria finally began to take hold. In addition, the practice of embalming had reached rural areas, making it implausible to imagine that vampires were rising from the grave to search for blood.

Proof that New Englanders once believed in vampires doesn't come only from historical records.

Three years ago, a lost cemetery in Griswold, Conn., yielded compelling evidence of the vampire myth.

The cemetery was in a gravel pit run by a construction company. In the process of relocating the cemetery, the Connecticut state archaelogist and some students found a coffin in which the bones of a 55-year-old man with the initials "J.B." had been rearranged.

The upper leg bones had been crossed on the lower chest and the skull placed on the upper chest in a skull-and-crossbones pattern, said physical anthropologist Paul Sledzik. Lesions on the bones suggested tuberculosis, he said.

The stake-in-the-heart legend notwithstanding, folklore prescribed other ways to kill vampires, says Sledzik, curator of anatomical collections at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

In the 19th century, Sledzik said, "the gist of 'killing the vampire' was to cause some disruption to the corpse."

Copyright 1997 The Providence Journal Company


Was she a victim ... or a vampire?

By KAREN LEE ZINER
Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

EXETER -- The secret lies buried in Historical Cemetery No. 22, behind Exeter's Chestnut Hill Baptist Church on Route 102, on a hill framed by rustling dark woods that harbor their own uneasy mystery.

The death certificate says that Mercy Brown went to her grave at age 19 on Jan. 17, 1892, a victim of tuberculosis.

The legend says she was a vampire.

In fact, the story goes, an assemblage of family and townsfolk pulled Mercy Brown out of her final resting place one wintery day because they believed they had a means to cast out the evil spirit that they thought was disturbing her sleep.

They performed their own dreadful "cure," but the story of Mercy Brown still haunts the town - especially at Halloween.

There are those from the Brown family who still care to tell the tale, and perhaps they know it best. Reuben Brown lives in the woods of Exeter in a house ancient and creaky and alive with the soft gonging and ticking of an old clock. Brown is 87, hard of hearing and a mite creaky himself. Still, he's full of wit and he loves to tell stories.

One of those is the legend of Mercy Lenna Brown.

For this tale, Reuben Brown leans back in his worn brown leather chair, rests his feet on a wooden stool, and clutches his cane for emphatic, here- and-there taps on the floor. In the faded, sunlit living room, white- haired, 92-year-old Marion Brown sits on a couch and interrupts her husband now and then with laughter or correction.

The whole fearful matter started with unexplained deaths, says Reuben Brown. Young girls, six or seven on one side of the Brown family, pined away and died. All of them "had a mark on their throats."

"People figured they'd been bit by a vampire . . they all had that mark on them and nobody knows who made it," says Brown.

Some folks were sure that Mercy - already gone to her grave - was the vampire.

A dozen people got together - members of Mercy's family and others in the town - and decided to open the grave and pull Mercy's body into the sunlight to perform a terrible task.

Reuben Brown had a friend who was there.

"I used to know a man who saw them when they unearthed her. He said he saw them cut her heart out and burn it on the rock. . . it appeared that Mercy had moved in the grave. She wasn't the way she was put in there . . .

"But he said there were no more deaths after that. That's what he said."

Reuben Brown adds this footnote: "My father believed she was a vampire. He said all those girls had the mark on their throat when they died."

Another member of the Brown family, 51-year-old Lewis Peck, also lives in the Exeter woods, and is familiar with the legend. He keeps a collection of yellowed newspaper clippings that tell the story.

"It's true, my people did this," says Peck. "They cut her right open, and they cut her heart out, and they burned her heart on the rocks to end what they thought was this vampirish disease. I remember as a kid my mother wouldn't allow us to touch those rocks."

But Peck himself believes that such folklore arose from a general lack of medical knowledge. Mercy Brown most likely died of tuberculosis, and the legend of a wandering predator full of blood lust most likely arose from fear and superstition.

"These people came down with this rare sickness. . . of course I imagine the disease was tuberculosis. But they didn't know much about tuberculosis then."

Other aspects of the legend are that when they opened the grave, "she had turned partly over."

Town records marking Mercy's death indicate that she certainly was not alone in going to an early death. Diptheria, cholera, pneumonia, "the grippe," acute tuberculosis and gangrene claimed other young people that same year.

But where Mercy was concerned, folks clung to superstition.

In "A Short History of Exeter, Rhode Island" Florence Parker Simister recounted this version of the Mercy Brown story:

" . . .Three members of that family died, probably of consumption, late in the nineteenth century - a mother and two daughters. Then a son became ill, too. The family held a conference and decided that he did not have consumption but was being attacked by a vampire.

"The bodies of the three women were dug up, the hearts were cut out of the bodies and burned on a nearby rock in the cemetery behind the Chestnut Hill Baptist Church. The object of burning the hearts, we are told, 'was to procure medicine for the ailing Edwin Brown . . . He dissolved the ashes in the medicine his doctor had given him.' "

A newspaper report later said that "only one of the Brown women, Mercy, had blood in her veins when she was dug up and so she was the vampire,". . .Simister writes.

Peck, a hard-bitten Swamp Yankee, dismisses much of this with a sweep of his hand that says: Folderol.

"Do you believe in vampires? I don't," he says with a laugh.

Over the years, people have visited Peck to hear the story. Yankee magazine, newspeople from Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, television reporters. "You have no idea," he says with a sigh.

The last time, Peck got a little tired of it all and abandoned a TV crew as it stood in the graveyard wiring up electronic equipment "to listen to her grave or something." ("I didn't like their attitude," he says. "I asked them, 'What are you trying to do, make fun of my family?' ")

Though Peck says he doesn't believe in ghosts or roaming vampires, and though he insists this is all nonsense, he does admit he saw something strange one night, years ago, near Mercy's grave.

That was when he was a young man out roaming with his brother and they drove up near that hill framed by restless trees, containing the supposedly restless spirit named Mercy.

"I was about 18 or 19 years old when this thing took place. We had a Model A. . . and I went up in the back of the Chestnut Hill Church with my brother David.

"And by God, we looked and we saw a great big ball of light, so bright that it was blue." It hovered in the vicinity of the four or five graves where Brown family members, including Mercy, are buried.

"It was a bright light, it was round. God she was bright, that's the part that stuck in you. I have no idea what it was.

"And to answer you how it went out, I don't know. We didn't stay," he says with a nervous grin that indicates he thinks he and his brother barely escaped an unfriendly encounter.

The brothers drove down the road to a neighbor, also a member of the Brown family. He said of the glowing orb, 'Sonny, we've seen it before.' " "And then he laughed," says Peck.

"Then we talked to someone from the other side of the family, and she'd seen it, too," Peck says, the memory of his boyhood fright driving the glint out of his eye.

Does he think he saw a ghost?

"Don't know what it was," he says.

But he saw something.

And Lewis Peck says he just can't think of any way to explain it.

Copyright 1997 The Providence Journal Company

Courtesy of Yankee Magazine
January 1994.
Charles T Robinson

THE WORDS ON NELLY'S TOMBSTONE

The villagers of Exeter, Rhode Island, knew that farmer George Brown had a problem. First, in 1883 his wife, Mary, succumbed to a mysterious illness. Six months later, his 20-year-old daughter, Mary Olive, also fell ill and died. Within the next several years, his 19-year-old daughter, Mercy, was also dead, and George's teenage son, Edwin, a healthy lad who worked as a store clerk, became suddenly frail and sick. The village doctor informed George that "consumption" was taking his family. But the country folk of Exeter had another explanation.

On a chilly March afternoon in 1892, a group of men entered Exeter's Chesnuthill Cemetery. There they began to exhume the bodies of George Brown's wife and two daughters. They had concluded that one of the deceased was leaving the grave at night to suck the life out of its relatives. Only by killing the vampire could young Edwin be saved.

First, the men examined the bodies of Mrs. Brown and daughter Mary. Finding them to be properly decomposed, they began to exhume Mercy Brown. Slowly they shoveled into Mercy's grave. When they reached the corpse, the men suddenly steped back in terror.

Mercy, who had been buried for more than two months, appeared oddly well preserved. It seemed that her hair and nails had grown. And when the men curiously prodded the corpse with their shovel, they found that it was filled with fresh blood. The suspected vampire's heart was removed and burned on a nearby rock. The ashes were added to young Edwin's medicine. Still, the boy died less than two months later.

To the less supersticious, there was perhaps nothing so unusual about the well-preserved condition of Mercy's body. She had been in the ground during the two coldest months of the year. The mysterious wave of illness that swept George Brown's family was probably tuberculosis.

But that did not keep Rhode Island from becoming known as the "Vampire Capital of America". South County, whose isolated villages resembled the lonely hamlets of Transylvania, was a hotbed of vampire rumors between 1870 and 1900. When Bram Stoker, who wrote Dracula in 1897, died, newspaper accounts of Mercy Brown were found in his files.

The legend persists to this day. In Rhode Island Historical Cemetery No.2 stands the gravestone of alleged vampire Nelly L. Vaughn of West Greenwich, who died in 1889 at the age of 19. The grave is supposedly cursed. One local university professor who studies vampirism claims that "no vegetation or lichen will grow on Nelly's grave," despite numerous attempts to plant there. And people are still taken aback by the inscription along the bottom of Nelly's tombstone. The curious words read, "I am waiting and watching for you."
Famous Vampire Cases

There were two Rhode Island vampires as they were known, The first, Sarah Tillinghast, was one of the children of Stutley and Honor Tillinghast of Exeter, Rhode Island. Sarah was the first to die from the consumption that afflicted the family at the comparatively early age of 22. (1799) When the fifth child fell ill, the Tillinghasts exhumed the bodies of the the four children that had died previously (Incidentally, they are buried in Historic Cemetary #14). Three of the bodies had decomposed, but Sarah was found in a strange condition. She had not decayed, her eyes were open and her hair and nails had grown. When the family cut her heart out, fresh blood flowed. They burnt the heart on a nearby rock and reburied the corpses.

The most famous 'Vampire' was Mercy L Brown. Bram Stoker had clippings of the story in 1892, and wrote 'Dracula' five years after. The exhumation of Mercy is also mentioned in 'The shunned house' by HP Lovecraft, who lived in Providence, Rhode Island. The Brown family, consisting of 1 boy and five girls, had a small farm just outside of Exeter, Rhode Island. Mary (the mother) fell sick first, dying in December 1883. Mary Olive, the eldest daughter followed less than six months later. The son Edwin went to Colarado Springs to try and find a cure in the mineral waters. Mercy fell ill and died in 1892, and was interred at the Chestnut Hill cemetary off Purgatory road.

Meanwhile, family and friends decided that some evil had descended upon the household and dug up the corpses of the Brown family, the two Marys were both virtually bones, but Mercy's body, two months after burial was still fresh, and when they cut out the heart it dripped blood. The family burned the heart and liver, and gave the ashes to Edwin as a potion. Edwin died two months later.

Apparently, Mercy's grave is a bit of a local tourist attraction, even though the Brown grandchildren were warned never to touch it.

Some general information on Vampires, Charlotte Stoker used to tell the young Bram a local horror story about a victim of a cholera epidemic that was thrown into a lime pit for burial. The womans husband, overcome with grief, wanted to give his wife a decent Christian burial and went to the lime-pit to retrieve the body, whereupon he found that the woman was still breathing. She apparently lived for many years after that.

In the 1800s, a popular time for vampire stories, medicine was little understood and the borders between life and death were very vague. Cholera, for example, induced a state that is very close to death, akin to a very deep coma. The Victorians had a roaring industry in coffins with tiny bells on the outside to allow the newly awakened 'corpse' to indicate he/she was alive!

Premature burial can be due, also, to the misunderstanding of Rigor Mortis. Rigor Mortis sets in, roughly an hour-and-a-half after death, usually in the face and neck, depending on the temperature of the surrounding environs. Rigor Mortis then passes off again in roughly 36 hours, again depending on temperature. An entertaining story regarding this is Romanian in origin. A gypsy woman in the valley of Curtea de Arges, was laying out the body of her dead father, when she noticed that the limbs were pliable. The news raced around the village and the old man was duly staked. Hopefully he was dead and Rigor Mortis had dissapated early, rather than being catatonic.

As few as 6 years ago, a woman was buried in America with the condition in her will that she be buried with a telephone, just in case. It hasn't rung for all that time, so I think we can safely say that she is dead!!

A large number of Vampire/Undead stories can be put down to the tragedy of near-death diseases or catalepsy, as when an 18th century cemetary in England was demolished for replacement by a car-park a third of the interred corpses showed signs of struggling within their caskets suchas broken fingers from scratching at the coffin lid, hands protruding from the caskets, and blood on the shrouds from 'corpses' biting their own flesh as madness or suffocation took it's toll.

With such a high number of premature burials, we can expect the fortunate few who escape to have serious doubts about their own existence and possibly be quite unhinged by the entire episode. Perhaps this could account for the sightings of ghouls around churchyards? Another explanation for the Vampire explosion of 200 years ago, in the UK, came from Dennis Wheatley. He pointed out that derelicts prefer to sleep during the day in graveyards because of the relative peace and quiet that can be found there.

Now, In 1924, at the stage show of 'Dracula' the actor who played Van Helsing came throught the curtain at the end and addressed the audience, "Just a moment, ladies and gentlemen! Just a word before you leave. We hope the memories of Dracula...won't give you bad dreams, so just a word of reassurance. When you get home tonight and the lights have been turned out and you are afraid to look behind the curtains and you dread to see a face appear at the window - why pull yourself together! And remember that, after all, there are such things!"

Bram Stoker was undoubtably inspired by the tales he was told as a child, but what of Dracula, or Vlad Dracul. Most people acknowledge that the character was based upon Vlad the impaler, cruel and despotic leader of Romania and undoubtably a member of the Voivod. Vlad was a thouroughly nasty piece of work, ordering that the hats of ambassadors be nailed to their heads when they refused to remove them in his presence.. But Vlad wasn't the only nasty piece of work in that time.

Elizabeth Bathory (1560-1614) was a *really* nasty piece of work. A noblemens daughter that married a soldier, Ferenc Nadasdy, at the age of 15 she had some quite unusual hobbies while her husband was away on military campaigns. She used to burn her maidservants with hot irons and delighted in cutting of fingers, and she was renowned for flying into rages where she *bit* the object of her rage. After her husbands death in 1604, she used to lure young girls from neighbouring villages into her castle, whereupon she used to beat, starve and freeze them to death, alledgedly bathing in their blood to keep her beauty (There is a Hammer film based upon her life, Laughable, but entertaining). Elizabeth would have gone on forever had not the King of Hungary heard of her strange practices. Her accomplices were put to trial, while Elizabeth herself was sentanced to life imprisonment - and was walled up, alive, in a room in her castle. Her body count up to 1610, when she was caught, was estimated to be in the 600+ region, earning her the name of the 'Blood Countess'

Then we have Highgate. Highgate is an area of London that used to be mostly Jewish, the Cemetary there is one of the finest examples of Victorian 'Death-cult' Grave art, and cemetary furniture. Karl Marx was buried there, as well as a few more luminaries (I can't remember any more names). During the last two hundred years or so, various animals and even some children were found drained of blood around the gates of the Cemetary. The Reverand (Old Catholic) Sean Manchester, an unsmiling man and reputed to be Britain's only real Vampire Hunter, undertook to track and destroy the monster, which he managed.

Some haunts to avoid, if just for a night

By THOMAS J. MORGAN
Journal-Bulletin Staff Writer

Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round, walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Ancient Mariner

This is an excellent night to stay at home behind barred doors with a bouquet of wolfsbane and a necklace of garlic and a goodly supply of logs to keep the fire burning bright, ever bright.

For, as James Matthew Barrie wrote in The Little Minister:

"A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man woke in the night."

It's a very good night indeed to postpone digging that big hole out in the backyard to inter the summer's acccumulation of barbecued rib bones.

It's a very bad night to stroll a lonely country road, or visit a graveyard -- especially one of those old family plots half-hidden in dark and rustling woods and screened by stone walls that embrace cold secrets, and which repose silent and still nearly every night of the year. Nearly.

It's good to have a companion along on such nocturnal journeys, for another pair of eyes can keep watch astern lest some overtaking spectral rapscallion perform the vampire version of liposuction. It is said these things happen; it is never confirmed.

The southwest corner of Scituate can lay claim to as lonesome a stretch as any in Rhode Island. The very brave, or foolish, can find a spirit well (it is said, never confirmed) between Nipmuc and Carpenter Roads. Many years ago two children drowned in it. Their cries can be heard tonight. If moonbeams strike through the clouds, their mother will be seen, peering down the well.

Walkers in Glocester have Old Pirate Hicks to contend with.

Hicks was hanged on Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor in 1860. But his ghost (it was said, never confirmed) returned to his house on Snake Hill Road, near the Connecticut line. The spirit liked to squat on the chimney and count ill-gotten gains.

The house decayed and crumbled, like a corpse, shunned by all as the years drifted past. By 1954 only the chimney still stood. Today the traces have been forgotten. Perhaps.

In Smithfield, old taverns are to be avoided.

Many years ago (it was said, never confirmed), a pack peddler tramping the byways arrived late at the old Waterman Hotel and sought lodging. There was no room, but the landlord told the peddler he could sleep in a room in the cellar.

The peddler was never seen again. A well in the cellar became suspect, but nothing was ever proven. The hotel was renovated years later. A man named Steven King moved into the cellar room. One night he saw a pair of scissors emerge from the well and make for his throat. King sought other lodging.

Then later a patron named Randall, standing at the hotel bar, presumably transfixed with glass halfway to his mouth, watched a sheeted figure drift from the pantry into the kitchen. He sketched the figure, and the rendering hung for years in the old Harmony Hotel.

The area around Foster is a center for witches' covens both white and black and there are graves where bells ring out at certain hours.

-- Howard Smukler, director of occult studies at the University of Rhode Island Extension, speaking in 1978.

Haunted houses are no rare phenomena, but haunted mills are unusual. The Potter brothers had one, in South Foster (it was said, never confirmed).

It was called the Ramtail factory, and it produced cotton goods.

Peleg Walker, the night watchman, had a falling-out with the brothers. He snarled that the day would come when the brothers would have to take the key to the factory from a dead man's pocket. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Peleg hanged himself from the factory bellrope.

They buried Peleg, but his ghost showed up for work that night and rang the factory bell. Every night the bell would send its shivering message. The brothers finally cut the rope, but that didn't deter the specter.

Suddenly the factory millwheel began to run backward. Then on odd nights the whole kit and caboodle would start up -- spindles, beltways, pulleys and all, a-rattling so that the racket could be heard out on the Danielson Pike, to the despair of the Potter brothers.

A fire destroyed the factory in 1873, and the bell and the spindles fell silent, forever. Perhaps.

If you stroll along nearby Tucker Hollow Road, watch out lest Aunt Lannie Davis breathe on the back of your neck. Coldly.

A recluse, Aunt Lannie (given as Lonnie in some accounts) lay dying, and on her deathbed she swore (it was said, never confirmed) that she would haunt the house in which she had lived for so many years "as long as one board was nailed to another."

She passed on, and was seen no more. But she was felt.

Visitors to the old house soon found a need to wear mufflers, because even in midsummer a frigid chill of air would rush down the back of their collars with a whoosh.

There was nothing else to do. Neighbors took the house apart, board by board, to satisfy Aunt Lannie's terms. They still call the site the Ghost Lot.

Some say no evil thing that walks by night, In fog or fire, by lake or moorish fen, Blue meagre hag, or stubborn unlaid ghost, That breaks his magic chains at curfew time, No goblin, or swart faery of the mine, Hath hurtful power o'ver true virginity. John Milton: Comus

In the Harrisville section of Burrillville there stands an 18th-century farmhouse that some say (never confirmed) was, or is, haunted.

As recently as two decades ago, the house was investigated by a ghost-busting couple from Connecticut who interviewed the then-occupants, the Perron family.

A strident voice awoke Mrs. Perron before dawn one morning: "Get out. Get out. I'll drive you out with death and gloom."

She opened her eyes to see a phantom, an old woman in a gray dress, her head hanging to one side.

Then one day a clothes hanger leaped from a closet and rapped her on the head several times. An orange, taken fresh from the refrigerator, bled when cut.

Patricia A. Mehrtens, town historian, said that the Richardson family built the house, on Round Top Road, in the 1730s.

The present occupants, the Sutcliffe family, don't seem to have any problem with spooks. "I've never seen anything that couldn't be explained away by other things," said Norma Sutcliffe.

"In the history of the house there have been many suicides and violent deaths in there," Mehrtens said.

Violent deaths?

"Murder -- that's usually what it means," she said.

One day the local historical society voted to grant the house a plaque.

"When we went up there to give them the plaque, one section of the house gave me the creeps," Mehrtens said. "Just, well, it gave me a strange feeling, put it that way, that something was wrong at one time. Something had happened there."

What beck'ning ghost along the moonlight shade Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade? -- Alexander Pope: Elegy to the Memory of an Unfortunate Lady

"Up on Buck Hill Road," said Mehrtens, "there's an old house which used to be a house of ill repute -- the middle 1800s I'm talking.

"A person who lives in one of the houses up there told me there's a woman and a child, a baby, who sort of fly by every once in a while -- floats by, whatever, but they don't just stand there. They're not hostile. It's a possibility it could have been someone who worked at one of the houses and got killed up there, in one of the houses of ill repute.

"There's a suspicion she might have been one of the ladies of the night and have gotten murdered.

"There's friendly spirits around too. Some that people sort of see who live in the old houses, but they're not bothering anybody.

"Then there's the famous Laura."

Laura, as in Laura Sherman.

She lies in a family plot on Buck Hill. It is said, never confirmed, that those who wish to see Laura can do so by circling her grave three times, and calling her name on a night of the full moon. That means no Laura this year, because full moon occurred Saturday.

"I knew someone who knew Laura, a relative who many years ago was nearly 100. She said Laura was a pretty cranky old lady when she was around, so it's a possibility," Mehrtens said.

Laura's headstone is missing. It was taken over the last few years along with all of the other family markers.

"The walls are still there, but everything has been removed. Kids ask me, `Do you think the story's true or not?' I say, `Would you like it if somebody came and dug up your bones?' It's a big thrill for kids to be up here on Halloween. They scare themselves to death."

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding, riding, riding . . .
Alfred Noyes: The Highwayman

So, beware, wanderers. If staying home barricaded tonight is impossible, then at least you should take care to remain in the northern confines of the state. The traveler should not, under any circumstances, stray in the direction of Middle Road and Frye's Corners in East Greenwich. There can be found the spirit of a murdered peddler.

In his skull is the nail hammered home by the proprietor of the old Andrews Tavern on the Shippeetown Road. The ghost might ask you to take it out.

Copyright 1997 The Providence Journal Company