A Vampire in New England
An accidental discovery near the site of an old abandoned farm in Griswold Connecticut revealed that a belief in vampires was alive and well in early 19th century New England. More than twenty burials were discovered near the farm, with the deceased placed conventionally in their coffins. But one stood out as different.
Belonging to a male in his 50s, the corpse was buried in one of only two stone crypts in the cemetery. His coffin had been painted red and it was obvious to the excavators that it had been forced open sometime after burial. Inside, the skeleton did not lie in peaceful repose. Instead, it had been disarticulated and its skull and thighbones arranged on top of its fractured rib cage in a skull and cross bones arrangement.
This was nothing to do with piracy. Rather, the vandalism of the grave, estimated at five years after burial, is linked to a series of exhumations of graves in neighboring Jewett city in the 1850s-graves of suspected vampires. The suspected vampires were disinterred, disarranged and reburied. Rib cages of the suspect corpses were smashed, their hearts removed and then burnt in blacksmith’s forges. All were features repeated in the Griswold grave.
This vampire frenzy was perpetrated by an outbreak of TB in the mid-1800s. In an isolated community, fear of the disease, a powerlessness to prevent it accompanied by the pallor of the victims and their coughing of blood created the perfect environment for supernatural superstitions to rear up. The Griswold corpse may have been one of the earliest victims and thus associated with the future outbreaks-explaining why its coffin was later broken into and the body disturbed.