The Great New England Vampire Panic

Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living

At the gravesite of Mercy Lena Brown, right, sightseers leave offerings such as plastic vampire teeth and jewelry. (Left, Klaus Leidorf; right: Landon Nordeman)
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Lena hasn’t left entirely. She is said to frequent a certain bridge, manifested as the smell of roses. She appears in children’s books and paranormal television specials. She murmurs in the cemetery, say those who leave tape recorders there to capture her voice. She is rumored to visit the terminally ill, and to tell them that dying isn’t so bad.

The quilt pattern that Lena used, very rare in Rhode Island, is sometimes called the Wandering Foot, and it carried a superstition of its own: Anybody who slept under it, the legend said, would be lost to her family, doomed to wander.


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