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The legend of Mercy Brown

Updated on July 7, 2012

There is a famous Rhode Island legend. It’s the legend of Mercy brown. Mercy Brown was thought to be a vampire, fueled by the paranoid citizens of the small town, Exeter, RI. It was the late 1800s and many people tried to explain away illness and disease, by blaming it on the supernatural. This was definitely the case here.

There was an often fatal disease that was afflicting families at the time. It was called consumption, better known as tuberculosis today. And the Brown family was no exception. George Brown was Mercy’s father, along with his wife Mary; they had four other children besides Mercy.

George’s wife got the disease first, succumbing to the disease on December 8, 1883. Then 6 months later, on June 6th George’s oldest daughter, Mary Olive, age 20, died. Seven years later George’s 24 year old son, Edwin contracted the disease. Desperate to find a cure for his son, George took his son west to try to find a cure for this deadly disease. While they were away Georges daughter Mercy, only 19 years old, became ill and died on January 17, 1892, from the disease. Because it was winter, she was placed in an above ground crypt. The ground was so hard, because of winter. It was common practice back then to bury people, who died in winter in above ground crypts, until the end of the winter, when the ground thawed out. Then a proper burial would take place.

When George returned with Edwin, he seemed to be better. But his good fortune did not last long, and the disease returned. The legend says that Edwin awoke one night and mercy was sitting on his chest. This was also fuel added to the fire, by many claims of sightings, of Mercy, roaming the graveyard, from the townspeople. It was thought with Edwin’s claim, and the sightings in the graveyard, that Mercy, or George’s deceased wife or other daughter was a Vampire, which returned from the grave.

Vampirism was taken very seriously at this time and with local pressure from the townspeople, George and a local doctor dug up the graves of his deceased wife and two daughters. They dug up his wife and oldest daughter first. The two Mary’s were in an advanced state of decomposition, and therefore a normal progression for being dead seven years. When they opened Mercy’s crypt, they found her body had moved, and was in an almost perfect state. They then cut open her body, and found blood in her liver and heart. This confirmed to the townspeople that she was a full fledged vampire.

They cut out her heart and lungs, and burned them on a nearby rock, making sure that she would never rise again. The ashes were given to Edwin to drink, so he could be cured from this horrible disease, Edwin died two months later. Mercy's remains were buried in a proper grave, which is still there today. This affected so many people, even H. P. Lovecraft wrote a story about it. Today there are many people who have claimed to see many strange sightings around Mercy’s grave. So if your brave and you want to see the grave of the last Rhode Island vampire, visit the Baptist church cemetery in Exeter, Rhode Island, but make sure you go at night.


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