Document Detail

Brief communication: bioarcheological and biocultural evidence for the New England vampire folk belief.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  8085617     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Folk beliefs associated with death and disease can impact on the bioarcheological record. Unusual postmortem actions by humans and distinctive paleopathological evidence may be clues to these beliefs. This report presents bioarcheological and paleopathological evidence in support of a 19th century New England folk belief in vampires with a particular reference to a colonial period burial. The New England folk belief in vampires revolves around the ability of a deceased tuberculosis victim to return from the dead as a vampire and cause the "wasting away" of the surviving relatives. To stop the actions of the vampire, the body of the consumptive was exhumed and disrupted in various ways. Twelve historic accounts of this activity indicate that the belief was not uncommon in 19th century New England. This creative interpretation of contagion is consistent with the etiology of tuberculosis. Three pieces of evidence are important in this case. The skeletal of a 50- to 55-year-old male from a mid-19th century Connecticut cemetery exhibiting pulmonary tuberculosis rib lesions are discussed. In addition, certain bones in the skeleton were rearranged after decomposition was complete. A historic vampire account from the same time period and geographical location place the belief within the parameters of the cemetery.
P S Sledzik; N Bellantoni
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Historical Article; Journal Article    
Journal Detail:
Title:  American journal of physical anthropology     Volume:  94     ISSN:  0002-9483     ISO Abbreviation:  Am. J. Phys. Anthropol.     Publication Date:  1994 Jun 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  1994-10-11     Completed Date:  1994-10-11     Revised Date:  2004-11-17    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  0400654     Medline TA:  Am J Phys Anthropol     Country:  UNITED STATES    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  269-74     Citation Subset:  IM; Q    
National Museum of Health and Medicine, Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC 20306-6000.
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MeSH Terms
Burial / methods*
Cause of Death
History, 18th Century
History, 19th Century
Middle Aged
New England
Tuberculosis / history*

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine

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