If there's one mythical creature we humans can be sure doesn't exist, it's the ever-creepy vampire. While books and movies make vampires seem cool, sharing a world with them probably wouldn't be fun. But back in the 17th and 18th centuries, people couldn't be sure about whether or not vampires existed.
This level of superstition is what ultimately led to the tragic tale of Mercy Brown.
The story of Mercy Brown begins with an outbreak of tuberculosis (also known as consumption) in Exeter, Rhode Island, back in 1888.
At the time, tuberculosis was as feared as it was misunderstood. Mercy's mother, Mary, came down with the disease first and died. The family's eldest daughter, Mary Olive, also caught tuberculosis and died shortly thereafter.
Two years later, Mercy caught the disease. Her condition quickly deteriorated and she died in the winter of 1890.
Most people during this period believed that if consumption afflicted multiple members of the same family in a short span of time, something paranormal was afoot. They explained the deaths by saying that families that lost many members to tuberculosis were actually influenced by vampires.
With all of that in mind, you can imagine how frightened townspeople were when Mercy's brother, Edwin, contracted the disease.
Somehow, local residents convinced Mercy's father to allow them to dig up the graves of his late wife and daughters.
In March of 1892, a group of men dug the bodies up. They saw enough decomposition in Mary and Mary Olive's corpses to say that they weren't vampires. Mercy's body, however, still looked very much alive. In fact, they found that her heart and liver still had blood in them.
The townsfolk interpreted this to mean that Mercy was undead. In truth, Mercy's body probably seemed more alive than the other two because she was kept in a freezing-cold crypt for a while before she was buried. This preserved her corpse in a weird way. Of course, people back then had no way of knowing that.
They then took it upon themselves to perform a gruesome ritual with Mercy's body.
Following tradition, they cut out her heart, burned it, and sprinkled the ashes into water. They forced little Edwin to drink this water in the hopes that it'd cure his illness, but he ended up dying anyway.
They buried what was left of Mercy's body in a local cemetery. I can't even imagine how her father must have felt when they told him that his dead daughter had somehow become a vampire. I'm happy to live in a much less superstitious world.