Mercy Brown was not a vampire, but she is a ghost – and an active one.
For those not familiar with the story, Mercy Brown put Exeter, Rhode Island on the map. In the last half of the 1800’s consumption was on a rampage throughout the area. Death tore families apart and wiped out large populations of cities, towns, and small rural villages like Exeter. The Brown family was no exception.
Mary E. Brown, wife of prominent farmer George Brown, was the first in the family to die of this infectious illness. Twenty year old daughter Mary Olive soon followed. In 1892 younger daughter Mercy drew her last breath. Shortly after Mercy’s death her brother Edwin was diagnosed with the same disease as were many other townsfolk. This became too much for the local villagers to handle and with ill-equipped physicians and little known about medical issues, fears started to mount.
As panic set in rational thought went out. Rumors of vampires spread quickly throughout the community and a demand to find the vampire became an exigency. Since Mercy was the most recent to pass on, she was targeted by villagers. It’s not a positive, but it is believed that since Mercy died in January 1892 her body was kept in an above-ground crypt until warmer weather would make a ground interment easier.
George Brown didn’t believe much in vampires and especially didn’t think his daughter was one, but with the townsfolk unbridled fear and demands for proof, George agreed to an exhumation.
A short time after her death, Dr. Harold Metcalf assisted in the examination of Mercy’s body. It was found that she still looked very much alive and still had blood in her heart. The superstitious vampire hunters were convinced they had found the revenant attacking the living among them. Her heart and liver were removed from her body and burned on the spot.
Now, 128 years later, we think we know vampires don’t exist, but in 1892 people believed more in them than they did a doctor’s explanation of disease. So back then the people were relieved they had slain their monster. But, people in the years that have followed that vile mutilation of a person much loved by her family, know Mercy was not laid to rest. After such a desecration is it any wonder Mercy is still very much with the living?
Mercy’s, (I’d like to say resting spot, but that wouldn’t be true), grave is located in Chestnut Hill Cemetery behind the Baptist Church on Ten Rod Road in Exeter. If you visit the cemetery, the Brown plot lies near a pine tree about mid-way down. Mercy’s headstone is quite obvious – it’s the one with the steel reinforcement around the bottom to prevent souvenir hunters from once again going off with the famed marker.
A visit to Chestnut Hill could well introduce you to Mercy. On entering, there is a feeling of being watched and sometimes followed. Many people have reported seeing a woman walking around the grounds – an ethereal woman dressed in white. There have been observations of blue lights weaving their way around grave stones. White orbs are abundant, also, especially around the old crypt where her body may have been placed to await ground interment in the warmer spring months.
While Mercy Brown wont be waiting in Exeter to bite your neck, she most likely is waiting for you to know her real story. So many brutal acts have been committed as the result of superstitions and ignorance. And the sadder part is that many actions still happen today with the same illogical reasoning and stupidity.