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Food for the Dead: On the Trail of New England’s Vampires by Michael E. Bell

[Food for the Dead]How did our ancestors respond to tuberculosis, the plague of their day? In his remarkable reconstruction of a distant world, Michael Bell has discovered a startling tradition that some may regard as a superstition, but which he sees as a reasoned attempt to vanquish the affliction. Close your eyes and imagine a vampire. Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. But another kind of vampire was believed to live in rural New England, where on March 17, 1892, three corpses were exhumed from a Rhode Island cemetery. One of the bodies was that of Mercy Brown, who had succumbed to consumption (as tuberculosis was then known). It appeared to her family that she had turned over in her grave. They cut out her heart, which still had blood in it, burned it on a nearby rock, and fed the ashes to her ailing brother. To Mercy's community, she had become a vampire, living a spectral existence, consuming her siblings' vitality, stealing their lives. In his fascinating investigation of this shocking custom, Bell relates the stories of twenty families who dug up the bodies of their loved ones to save the living. From 1790 to his recent conversation with a descendant of Mercy Brown, Bell reveals a widespread tradition that was passed down through generations. Ordinary farmers, confronted with an illness that medicine could neither explain nor cure, blamed the dead. In giving readers the story of Mercy Brown and her contemporaries, Bell shows that, with such maladies as Ebola, mad cow disease, and AIDS, our world is still filled with implacable forces that our ancestors battled with the most potent tool they had--an instinctual belief in their power to heal themselves. (from Amazon.com)

Hardcover Info: ISBN 0786708999, Carroll & Graf

Website: www.foodforthedead.com

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