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Posted on Saturday, October 29 - 2005

" All Hallow's Eve is a time that many people like to mock the vampire legends that have made Exeter famous.Of the 20 historically documented vampire incidents in the New England area, Exeter has the unique distinction of three cases with the deaths of Sarah Tillinghast around 1799, Ruth E..."

Vampire

All Hallow's Eve is a time that many people like to mock the vampire legends that have made Exeter famous.Of the 20 historically documented vampire incidents in the New England area, Exeter has the unique distinction of three cases with the deaths of Sarah Tillinghast around 1799, Ruth Ellen Rose in 1874 and Mercy Brown in 1892, who all died from consumption (tuberculosis).The bodies were rumored to have been exhumed and their hearts and/or livers were burned on rocks in the respective cemeteries in order to stop other family members from dying from the disease. In many cases the afflicted victims ate the ashes. Dr. Michael E. Bell, a folklorist andindependent scholar living in the Pawtuxet section of Cranston, devoted 20 years to researching the phenomena. The result is his book Food For the Dead: On the Trail of New England's Vampires (2001). Bell's journey began in 1981, when he met with Everett Peck, lifelong Exeter resident and a descendant of Mercy Brown, who is now 76-years-old. "I had been a folklorist for more than a decade and had hundreds of interviews under my belt, but no one had ever told me a vampire story based on experience," said Bell.

"Everett was going to tell me about a vampire who actually existed - a kin relation, no less - not some cardboard cutout, B-movie actor, or figment of an author's imagination." Peck, always helpful with historical articles about Exeter, declined an interview withThe Standard-Times because he said he told the story in Bell's book and "enough is enough." Four years after the publication of Food for the Dead, Bell still is asked the question "is there such a thing as a vampire?" His answer is usually "read the book", however on this particular day, he offered this tidbit of information. "Vampires are people that were scapegoats for things that were unknown at the time," explained Bell. "They didn't have a germ to blame so they blamed dead relatives." Still, the curious reader may ask, why so many vampire incidents in Exeter? "You have to have certain conditions for this to happen," explained Bell. "An epidemic that medical science can't cure (consumption) combined with the knowledge of a folk cure. There areother places like central ......


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