[...] 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?”
Source: Smithsonian Magazine
Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, locals were convinced that the dead were returning from the grave to feed on the living. Now, vampires are fictional entertainment. But, this long read tells of a time before Dracula and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These panics over vampires seem to occur at times of tuberculosis outbreaks which is a contagious wasting disease. Prayers weren’t enough, action had to be taken and people exhumed the bodies of their relatives and desecrated the corpses. Horrible to envision now but superstition takes a great toll. Have a look at this tale of folklore and fear 19th century New England.