Guest Blog: American Vampires by Loren Rhoads

Loren Rhoads is a good friend of mine and just happens to be an aficionado on cemeteries. She’s here today to tell us about the vampire panic of New England.

I knew about the witch panic in Salem, but less familiar to me were the vampires of New England.  Rather than Bram Stoker’s vampire, rising from his grave to roam the night, New England’s vampires could prey upon the living while still confined inside their coffins.

There are almost 20 documented cases, beginning even before the American Revolution, of vampires being exhumed in New England. One of the last instances took place in the 1880s.

George and Mary Brown farmed outside the town of Exeter, Rhode Island.  Mary Brown was struck by an illness, probably tuberculosis, that drained her vitality.  She withered and died in 1883.

The following year, Mary’s eldest daughter, who was called Mary Olive, died at the age of 20.

Several years passed before George and Mary’s son Edwin began to fade.  The local physician suggested that Edwin and his wife move to Colorado Springs for his health.

The cold, dry air did seem to help Edwin, but while he was recuperating, his sister Mercy began to fail at home.  Edwin rushed home to say goodbye to her. She died in January 1892 at the age of 19.

Since winter had frozen the ground solid, Mercy’s corpse was placed in the receiving crypt at Exeter’s Chestnut Hill Cemetery. Receiving crypts were common in the days before cemeteries developed heating blankets to thaw the winter ground.  Old cemeteries often still have these crypts, although nowadays, they are usually used as sheds to store lawnmowers and other grounds-keeping equipment.

Back in the 1890s, Edwin’s health deteriorated after he returned to Rhode Island.  George Brown’s neighbors decided Edwin was suffering from Vampire’s Grasp. The only way to save him would be to “perform the folk ritual.”

On March 17, 1892, while George stayed at home, the doctor and George Brown’s neighbors dug up the graves of Mary and Mary Olive. As one would expect after almost a decade in the ground, both women’s corpses were badly decomposed.

Then the mob opened the receiving crypt. When they lifted the lid on Mercy’s coffin, they discovered she had turned sideways. Rather than considering if she had been buried alive — or merely jostled as she was carried to the crypt — the onlookers took her unexpected position as proof she was a vampire.

Other than the body’s movement, Mercy’s body looked as expected. But when the doctor removed her heart and liver, they leaked blood.

The neighbors placed the organs on a rock in the cemetery and set them afire. The ashes were collected up and mixed with liquid to be fed to Edwin.  Unfortunately, the remedy didn’t save him.  He died six weeks later.

Whether she roamed from her tomb or not beforehand, Mercy now turns up as a ghost in this nondescript little cemetery. Apparently, the blue lights of will o’ the wisps hover close to her grave.


Loren Rhoads is the author of 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die and Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel. She writes about graveyards for the Horror Writers Association and blogs blogs about cemeteries as vacation destinations at cemeterytravel.com.

199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die

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Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel

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Guest Blog: Loren Rhoads on Surviving the Templar Tombs

Today I have one of my good friends here to speak about her trilogy, Loren Rhoads. If you haven’t already heard about it, this post will make you want to check it out. The first scene where a woman is unearthed from a tomb by treasure hunters is sure to make you want to read the whole series!

Surviving the Templar Tombs

by Loren Rhoads

51RCqPVexkL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_In my dark new space opera trilogy, the Templars were an old species, maybe the first to achieve interstellar travel. When humanity’s empire butted up against Templar space, war erupted.  Humanity unleashed a genetic plague that wiped the Templars out.

The trilogy opens on the Templar tombworld, a ghost planet full of mountains that were hollowed out and used as graves by the insectile Templars. Back when the Templars still existed, they protected the planet and didn’t allow outsiders to land there.

In the decades since the Templars perished, their tombs have lain undisturbed: a monument to the former rulers of the galaxy.  When The Dangerous Type begins, a team of humans has bribed all the local authorities to turn a blind eye as they loot the graves.

I envision the Templar tombs as huge inside, full of space and just as black.  Their stone walls have a strange ability to generate a field that keeps things stored inside as fresh and shiny as the day they were buried.  Mostly, that means that Templar warriors are still contorted by the plague that killed them, their blood still fresh.

515JNCGUbCLIn the case of Raena Zacari, entombed alive during the Human-Templar War, the stone preserved her, despite 20 years without food or water or air.  Some readers have interpreted that as stasis, which implies a “slowing or stoppage of normal flow of bodily fluid,” according to Merriam-Webster.

I see Raena’s confinement more as a bend in time. She can get up, walk around, explore the extent of her grave.  For a while, she had a lantern left behind by her jailers, but eventually its batteries ran down.  After she shredded her cloak and it failed to repair itself, she believed that any injury she did to herself – intentionally or not – would not heal.  She was more afraid of living forever with a concussion or a broken bone than she wanted to die, so she endured her imprisonment, entertaining herself with memories, slowly becoming sane, and waiting to be released.

After she gets out, of course, there’s hell to pay.  She goes on a mission to hunt down the commander who watched her burial alive – and never came to rescue her after the War ended. From then on, the story is off and running.

As a matter of fact, Raena’s entombment actually dates back to the very first story I published about her: “Claustrophobia,” which appeared in the zine Anthology in 1986.  I’ve written about my own claustrophobia before (https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2015/07/28/claustrophobia-and-the-dangerous-type/), but there was an equally important reason for Raena’s imprisonment: since my friends and I created a shared universe zine, we were writing for each other’s characters.  One of the others wrote about Raena as heartless and evil. I didn’t recognize her. Horrified, I made it so that she couldn’t appear as a villain in anyone else’s story.  I locked her up alive in the Templar tomb to keep her character safe from misuse.

itwt_book3_nomoreheroes_typeStorywise, locking her up was really a good choice.  It meant that, going forward, Raena appeared as a specter or motivation in a lot of the other characters’ stories. Only after the zine ceased publication did I toy with the idea of letting her out — and that’s where this trilogy came from.

So why doesn’t Raena age while she’s imprisoned?  I wanted the other characters in The Dangerous Type to react to post-imprisonment Raena as if she is still the violent, unpredictable, frightened girl she was when they knew her during the War. Those preconceptions are easier to sustain because she looks like the same girl.  But just as the others have aged and changed, so has she.  It’s just not visible on Raena’s surface. I’ve written about my experiments with persona before (http://maryrobinettekowal.com/journal/my-favorite-bit-loren-rhoads-talks-about-the-dangerous-type/), but Raena’s youthful appearance was crucial to that exploration.

All novels combine a whole lot of different influences, but those are the elements that kicked off my In the Shadow of the Templars trilogy. The Dangerous Type came out from Night Shade Books in July, followed by Kill By Numbers in September. No More Heroes, the final book in the trilogy, cam out in November.