|The Jewett City Cemetery, Halloween 2015. The grand old sugar maples in the background would have been spectacular a week ago.|
The walk takes place in Jewett City, the site of two different 19th century vampirism occurrences. Retired state archaeologist Nick Bellantoni lead the tour, which was organized by the State Museum of Natural History and the Griswold Bicentennial Comittee. Bellantoni was personally involved in unearthing the evidence of the earlier event, which took place around the year 1800, and which apparently went unrecorded at the time and is known only from the archaeological record.
|Connecticut State Archaeologist (retired) Nick Bellantoni leads the Vampire Folk Belief walk.|
One of the coffins, inside of a crude stone crypt, was marked "JB 55" with brass tacks, probably indicating the age of death and initials of the otherwise unidentifiable occupant. The skeleton inside was in a very strange state, with the skull removed and turned around to face the wrong way, the rib cage forced open and the thigh bones crossed over the chest. The ribs were scarred from tuberculosis. Evidence indicated that the body was rearranged several years after its initial burial. The oddities of this grave were best explained by early 19th century New England anti-vampire practices.
At the time of the vampire panics, the germ theory of disease hadn't been fully developed, let alone filtered down to the heart of Swamp Yankee country in the quiet corner of Connecticut, and effective antibiotic treatments were more than a century off. "Consumption" (tuberculosis) was a mysterious and terrifying affliction, and on isolated farms, desperate families trying to stop its spread latched on to the idea of victims becoming undead and returning to draw the life from their relatives. Otherwise inexplicable disruptions of graves seem to have been attempts to stop corpses who had become "vampires" from creating more victims.
|Lemuel Ray's headstone.|
|Elisha Ray's headstone.|