Vampire Lore something to sink your teeth into before Halloween


The Great New England Vampire Panic

Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living

Because this was Griswold, Connecticut, in 1990, police initially thought the burials might be the work of a local serial killer named Michael Ross, and they taped off the area as a crime scene. But the brown, decaying bones turned out to be more than a century old. The Connecticut state archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni, soon determined that the hillside contained a colonial-era farm cemetery. New England is full of such unmarked family plots, and the 29 burials were typical of the 1700s and early 1800s: The dead, many of them children, were laid to rest in thrifty Yankee style, in simple wood coffins, without jewelry or even much clothing, their arms resting by their sides or crossed over their chests.

Except, that is, for Burial Number 4.

Bellantoni was interested in the grave even before the excavation began. It was one of only two stone crypts in the cemetery, and it was partially visible from the mine face.

Scraping away soil with flat-edged shovels, and then brushes and bamboo picks, the archaeologist and his team worked through several feet of earth before reaching the top of the crypt. When Bellantoni lifted the first of the large, flat rocks that formed the roof, he uncovered the remains of a red-painted coffin and a pair of skeletal feet. They lay, he remembers, “in perfect anatomical position.” But when he raised the next stone, Bellantoni saw that the rest of the individual “had been com­pletely…rearranged.” The skeleton had been beheaded; skull and thighbones rested atop the ribs and vertebrae. “It looked like a skull-and-crossbones motif, a Jolly Roger. I’d never seen anything like it,” Bellantoni recalls.

Subsequent analysis showed that the beheading, along with other injuries, including rib fractures, occurred roughly five years after death. Somebody had also smashed the coffin.

The other skeletons in the gravel hillside were packaged for reburial, but not “J.B.,” as the 50ish male skeleton from the 1830s came to be called, because of the initials spelled out in brass tacks on his coffin lid. He was shipped to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, in Washington, D.C., for further study. Meanwhile, Bellantoni started networking. He invited archaeologists and historians to tour the excavation, soliciting theories. Simple vandalism seemed unlikely, as did robbery, because of the lack of valuables at the site.

Finally, one colleague asked: “Ever heard of the Jewett City vampires?”

In 1854, in neighboring Jewett City, Connecticut, townspeople had exhumed several corpses suspected to be vampires that were rising from their graves to kill the living. A few newspaper accounts of these events survived. Had the Griswold grave been desecrated for the same reason?

In the course of his far-flung research, Bellantoni placed a serendipitous phone call to Michael Bell, a Rhode Island folklorist, who had devoted much of the previous decade to studying New England vampire exhumations. The Griswold case occurred at roughly the same time as the other incidents Bell had investigated. And the setting was right: Griswold was rural, agrarian and bordering southern Rhode Island, where multiple exhumations had occurred. Many of the other “vampires,” like J.B., had been disinterred, grotesquely tampered with and reburied.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Vampires

Everyone knows that vampires suck … your blood!!!! Seriously though, do you know the history behind modern vampire lore? These creatures of the night have been lurking around for a very long time, although the princes and princesses of darkness have taken on different guises and mythologies throughout the ages.

Here are some things you probably didn’t know about vampires. If the items on this list are old news to you, you might want to take a look in the mirror and check for a reflection … your blood! Okay. Didn’t work so well that time.

Why Vampires Have No Reflection

Harry Engels, Getty Images

According to legend, when a human dies and then returns to the world as a vampire, he or she no longer has a soul. The unlucky individual is now a vampire. It was once believed that mirrors cast back the image of the body and the soul; therefore if you didn’t have soul, you couldn’t have a reflection.

Mirrors also used to contain some silver (not anymore, so don’t go and break yours up trying to score beer pennies), which could also have made a vampire’s reflection hard to see. Silver, as pretty much everyone knows, is toxic to the undead. Seriously, if you don’t know that, what have you been doing with your life? Enjoying it? Pfffffft.

The Egyptians Had Vampires… Sort Of

egypt vampire


Ancient Egyptians had all kinds of gods. The warrior goddess Sekhmet had the very bad habit of walking among men, slaughtering them and then drinking up all of their blood. Apparently she needed thousands of jugs of blood, sometimes mixed with beer, either to quench her incredible thirst or because she was an unstoppable party animal. One of her nicknames was the “Lady of the Bloodbath.” Another was “Lady Who Maybe Stole My Cellphone.” If she ever is reincarnated, you might want to refrain from inviting her over for your next Halloween costume party, because she will ruin bobbing for apples like *that.*

What Do You Call a Group of Vampires?

Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

We would call them dorks.

Let’s see, cows are grouped together in herds, geese gather in gaggles, fish in schools….What would you call a large group of vampires flying your way? Well, other than “nothing good is about to happen,” you could officially say, “Look, there’s a brood, clutch, clan, coven or pack of vampires over there. Maybe we should head in the opposite direction. Wait, I dropped my thesaurus. Don’t leave me, only frieeeend!”

Dracula Was Not a Nice Guy

All right, the fact that the historical Dracula wasn’t a nice guy is stating the obvious, but the level of his evil is actually quite shocking. It was said that Vlad of Walachia, who also went by “Vlad the Impaler,” never ate a meal without Ottoman Turks, impaled on stakes, dying all around him. This 15th century Romanian monster left, at one time, 20,000 corpses stuck on pikes outside of his castle as a warning to all who would dare challenge him. When a corpse became too rotten to display any longer, Vlad had no problem making a new one to take its place. Apparently, he took his nickname very seriously. (“Vlad the Home Decorator” never quite took.)

Vampire Defense

buffy gif

This doesn’t always work.

If a vampire bites you, not all hope is lost. Different societies believed there were different cures for the affliction known as vampirism. Here are some things you can do if you suspect those marks on your skin aren’t from a mosquito, or you want to keep an unwanted vampire away:

– Eat lots of garlic

– Gather hawthorn branches and use them as a repellent (they also make lovely wreathes)

– Bury potential vampires face down so they’ll dig the wrong way when trying to get out (vampires are mad dumb, yo)

– Spread salt around the house

– Wear a cross (a no-brainer)

– Decapitate the vampire bothering you

– Wear iron (not silver) jewelry

– And last but not least, scatter seeds around your house because vampires like counting them and can get distracted, which will give you time to escape.

Unusual Ways to Become a Vampire

hocus pocus

Depending on the culture a vampire came from, there were a lot of interesting ways a vampire could be “made.” In Romania, for example, people used to believe a child could simply be born a vampire if the right spell was cast during or before the birth. Other fun ways you could become a member of the club of the undead were partaking of lamb meat slaughtered by a wolf, being a Satanist or a witch, committing suicide, letting a cat or dog walk above the newly departed, or being buried (after you die, of course) in the wrong manner. And here you thought all it took was a simple bite on the neck.

The Word ‘Vampire’ Has Many Possible Roots


There is some disagreement among scholars about the true origins of the word vampire.  It might be Hungarian, Romanian or Turkish in origin, or perhaps the word even came from Hebrew. Other theories speculate the word dates all the way back back to ancient Greece, where it might have come from the verb “to drink.” Regardless of the origin of the word, the terror it has so often inspired remains the same everywhere, because people don’t really care about word origins when a monster is trying to eat them.

Vampire Pumpkins and Watermelons, Really?

vampire pumpkin

Okay, vampire pumpkins and watermelons might not sound scary, but in the Balkans people actually once believed that gourds posed a real threat. If a pumpkin or watermelon was left outside for too long after picking, and especially if it wasn’t gobbled up before Christmas, the fruit in question could turn into a vampire. Even though this kind of food wasn’t deemed desirable, an undead pumpkin was a low-level threat, because without teeth, the fruit had no way of biting its potential victims.

Britain’s Prince Charles Might Be Related to Dracula

Chris Jackson, Getty Images

Yep, it seems Prince Charles just might be a descendant of the historical Dracula, also known as Vlad of Walachia, or to his more intimate associates, “Vlad the Impaler.” At least that’s what some historians think, and if you doubt the future monarch of Great Britain could ever be related to such a tyrant, Charles has even admitted the fact himself. He stated that genealogy has proven his kinship with the dastardly prince. Because of this, Charles once joked that he had, “A bit of a stake in the country (Romania).” Peasants being impaled by the thousands. Hilarious!

A Real Disease Causes Vampire Like Symptoms

Public Domain, Getty Images

The very rare, and unusual, group of diseases known as “porphyria” can actually cause vampire-like symptoms. That said, the disease is something you definitely don’t want, just in case any of the ‘Twilight‘ fans out there were hoping for a chance at the romantic and glittery vampire life. People afflicted with this condition suffered from a severe sensitivity to sunlight, hallucinations, paranoia, possible madness and a host of other debilitating conditions. The disease has been associated with vampires in the past, but in reality, it only gives its victims a vampire’s weaknesses, but none of vampire’s strengths. So basically it turns you into Count Duckula. A vampire that eats broccoli? What a wuss.

Happy Halloween

Please follow me on twitter @kasondra_spears


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