Ask any fan of horror fiction or scary movies, and they’ll tell you that New England is the land of phantoms. From Salem’s witches to H.P. Lovecraft’s Providence, the far north of America’s East Coast is home to some of the world’s most terrifying myths and legends. All six states contain a multitude of folktales, campfire stories, and hauntings.
10. Woodstock Vampires
On October 9, 1890, The Vermont Standard ran a sensational headline: “Vampirism in Woodstock.” The article detailed an event that had transpired some 60 years earlier in 1830. That year, a local man named Corwin died of consumption (tuberculosis). He was buried in Woodstock’s Cushing Cemetery—a common resting place for the departed residents of this sleepy Vermont village.
Six months after the burial, Corwin’s brother also became ill with tuberculosis. After failing to find either a cause or a cure, many prominent men in the village, including Dr. Joseph Gallup and Dr. John Powers from the Vermont Medical College, began blaming vampirism. As a result, the body of the deceased Corwin was exhumed for an autopsy.
This postmortem analysis supposedly revealed that Corwin’s heart had not decayed but instead was full of blood. Following the New England custom, Corwin’s heart was removed and publicly burned on the town green.
Amazingly, this was not the first time that a vampire panic had touched Woodstock. In 1817, a Dartmouth student named Daniel Ransom became sick with tuberculosis. Shortly after Ransom died on February 14, his father grew concerned that his son had become a vampire. So the father had his son’s body exhumed and the heart removed and burned to protect the health of the remaining members of the Ransom family.
During the 19th century, this practice was repeated throughout New England. The most famous case occurred in Exeter, Rhode Island, in 1892 with the death of a young girl named Mercy Brown. Other instances forced artists such as Henry David Thoreau to comment on the strange superstition.