Friday, November 13, 2009

On the trail of vampires

From Los Angeles Times

Even before 'Twilight' and 'True Blood' helped raise their pop-culture profiles, vampires had left their marks in many places

Vampires have long been objects of fascination in history, literature and lore. With the Nov. 20 release of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," HBO's "True Blood" and their countless imitators, Americans are welcoming vampires into their homes again. Though many consider Transylvania to be the lair of vampirism, there's plenty of vampire culture right here. Whether you have just come out of the coffin or long thirsted for night life, these locations offer plenty of opportunities to explore the dark side.

Exeter, R.I.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries in New England, many believed vampires were the source of the rampant transmission of tuberculosis. According to folklorist Michael Bell, author of "Food for the Dead," there are at least 40 documented cases in which corpses were exhumed and their vital organs burned and stakes driven through the hearts in attempts to halt the alleged vampires from spreading the disease.

The most famous case of exhumation is that of Mercy Brown of Exeter, whose brother Edwin had contracted tuberculosis. Because of the cold temperatures and the fact that she had recently died, Mercy's heart still contained blood that was not frozen or blackened. It was decided that she was a vampire, Edwin was forced to drink her blood, and Mercy's vital organs were burned. H.P. Lovecraft, who's buried in Providence's Swan Point Cemetery, wrote about Mercy's case in "The Shunned House." It's also said that Bram Stoker used Mercy as reference for "Dracula."

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