Rhode Island the thought of vampires still cause locals to quiver and
For deep in the belly of this small state, Behind the Chestnut Hill
Baptist Church in the town of Exeter, lies the grave of New
England’s most famous vampire, Mercy Brown.
No longer is this fear summoned by the belief in souls rising
from the grave though. The telling Mercy’s story has become a
long-lived RI tradition. A tradition that combines true local
history told in the customary fireside style with a late October night
visit to the site where this unusual story took place. Some who
have braved these moonlit adventures have returned with tales of
strange and frightening experiences.
So stoke the fire, turn off the lights and curl up in the easy
chair as we roll back the clock to the late 1800’s.
George T. Brown was a well respected farmer in Exeter RI.
In December 1883 he lost his wife Mary Eliza to consumption.
He was given little time to recover from this horrible tragedy when
the same disease took his 20-year-old daughter Mary Olive 6 months
later. Several years passed and George’s streak of misfortune
had seemed to come to an end. His only son Edwin and several
daughters all were healthy and strong. Edwin was living in
Wickford RI and working as a store clerk when he suddenly became to
show signs of consumption. Worried George immediately took Edwin
to a doctor. If he too had contracted consumption it would sure
lead to death.
Edwin traveled to west to Colorado Springs hoping to find a cure in
the mineral waters. While Edwin was away George’s
daughter Mercy Lena had also contracted
variety of consumption. She quickly passed away in January of
1892. Her body was stored in the stone crypt awaiting burial
after the spring thaw. Several months later Edwin returned to
his family. He had been diagnosed with consumption and his
health had made a turn for the worse. At this point, family and
friends concluded that the deaths were the result of a vampire and
this daemon was living in one of the Brown graves. George
decided to turn to an old folk remedy. With the help of Harold
Metcalf, a doctor from Wickford, they exhumed the bodies of Mary
Eliza, Mary Olive and Mercy Lena to find if any of them were vampires.
Mary Eliza and Mary Olive’s bodies had already returned to
the earth. Only the skeleton remained. However, Mercy Lena
who had only been buried a few months earlier seemed in excellent
condition. When they examined her heart, they found what they
interrupted as fresh blood. Though Dr. Metcalf assured them that
this unexceptional, they felt they had found the daemon. They
proceeded to remove her heart and burn it to ashes on a rock nearby.
The ashes were mixed in water and consumed by Edwin’s as a medicine
for his illness. Unfortunately this didn’t prevent Edwin from
passing away 2 months later.
To this day people have reported experiencing a variety of strange
phenomena within’ the walls of this cemetery. Many witness who
were interview claimed to have
seen the ghost of Mercy strolling through the graveyard on a moonlit
night. Others report having heard the crying of a young woman or
seeing a bright blue light near Mercy Brown's tombstone.
Most people who have visited Mercy’s grave tell of sensing a
presence nearby. Feeling as if they are being watched. Whether
these experiences were due to heightened emotions or restless spirits,
no one can be sure. One thing I can say is that no matter what
your beliefs are, an evening visit to Mercy’s grave will send
shivers up your spine and scare up some fond memories for you and your
Cemetery #22 is off of Victory Highway (Rt#102) in Exeter RI.
The church and graveyard look like a scene out of the past.
Walking down the dirt road into the
cemetery, you’ll see the tombstone of William C. Johnson to your
right. Cut through the stone, just above what looks like a book,
you’ll see a square. From this square you can spy Mercy’s grave
left of the road and to the right of a pine tree. Some locals
have said that if you hide behind this grave on a moon lit night in
October and watch her grave through this square; with silence and
patient, you maybe lucky and witness Mercy taking a ghostly stroll
through the graveyard.
For the more adventurous, some version of the tale say that you
have to knock 3 times on her grave and say “Mercy L. Brown are you a
vampire?” and Mercy will speak or appear to you. I haven’t
heard any stories from those who have tried this method yet.
I’m sure there are some interesting tales yet to be uncovered.
park is open to the public year round, dawn to dusk. If you do decide
to visit Mercy’s grave, please keep these thing in mind. Don’t go
alone. Always have a good flashlight and a second set of batteries.
Keep your car keys easily available. Most of all though, please
respect the property and the dead so others can continue to enjoy this
bizarre bit of Rhode Island History.
Letter to the Editor
March 25, 1892
Mr. Editor, as
considerable notoriety has resulted from the exhuming of three bodies
in Exeter cemetery on the 17th inst., I will give the main facts as I
have received them for the benefit of such of your readers as
"have not taken the papers" containing the same. To begin,
we will say that our neighbor, a good and respectable citizen, George
T. Brown, has been bereft of his wife and two grown-up daughters by
consumption, the wife and mother about eight years ago, and the eldest
daughter, Olive, two years or so later, while the other daughter,
Mercy Lena, died about two months since, after nearly one year's
illness from the same dread disease, and about two years ago Mr.
Brown's only son Edwin A., a young married man of good habits, began
to give evidence of lung trouble, which increased, until in hopes of
checking and curing the same, he was induced to visit the famous
Colorado Springs, where his wife followed him later on and though for
a time he seemed to improve, it soon became evident that there was no
real benefit derived, and this coupled with a strong desire on the
part of both husband and wife to see their Rhode Island friends
decided them to return east after an absence of about 18 months and
are staying with Mrs. Brown's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Willet Himes.
We are sorry to say that Eddie's health is not encouraging at this
time. And now comes in the queer part, viz: The revival of a
pagan or other superstitions regarding the feeling of the dead upon a
living relative where consumption was the cause of death and so
bringing the living person soon into a similar condition, etc, and to
avoid this result, according to the same high authority, the
"vampire" in question which is said to inhabit the heart of
a dead consumptive while any blood remains in that organ, must be
cremated and the ashes carefully preserved and administered in some
form to the living victim, when a speedy cure may (un)reasonably be
expected. I will here say that the husband and father of the
deceased ones has, from the first, disclaimed any faith at all in the
vampire theory but being urged, he allowed others if not wiser,
counsel to prevail, and on the 17th inst., as before stated the three
bodies alluded to were exhumed and then examined by Doctor Metcalf of
Wickford, (under protest, as it were being an unbeliever.) The
two bodies longest buried were found decayed and bloodless, while the
last one who has been only about two months buried showed some blood
in the heart as a matter of course, and as the doctor expected but to
carry out what was a forgone conclusion the heart and lungs of the
last named (M. Lena) were then and there duly cremated, but deponent
saith not how the ashes were disposed of. Not many persons were
present, Mr. Brown being among the absent ones. While we do not
blame any one for there proceedings as they were intended without
doubt to relive the anxiety of the living, still, it seems incredible
that any one can attach the least importance to the subject, being so
entirely incompatible with reason and conflicts also with scripture,
which requires us "to give a reason for the hope that is in
us," or the why and wherefore which certainly cannot be done as
applied to the foregoing.