In the late 1800s, a pandemic swept through the United States, primarily attacking the North East, causing the New England vampire panic.
The pandemic was named the White Plague, caused by a severe outbreak of Tuberculosis which is a respiratory disease that can be lethal. The outbreak was known in New England as ”the consumption” and people believed the victims were ”consumed” by it.
The disease mostly effected Connecticut, Rhode Island and Vermont, but also stretched to other parts of New England and America. The now haunted Waverly Hills sanatorium was erected in Louisville, Kentucky in 1910 to house those infected and combat tuberculosis.
Due to the disease not being known in great details during the consumption, residents weren’t aware that tuberculosis was a bacteria disease and could be passed through talking, coughing and sneezing. This led people that had the virus to spread it with other members of their household. Without the knowledge of how the disease was spreading, resident attributed this mysterious plague to vampires.
Believing those who had succumbed to the disease would rise from their graves at night and drain the life-force from their relatives, the city announced the potential problem to its residents and the New England vampire panic was born.
Most people in New England believed this was how the disease was spreading, but this wasn’t attributed to the origin of vampires despite it being a real-life event of vampires. Many people in Europe had the same belief so there’s some possibility that vampire origins stemmed from Europe if they held this belief before the New England vampire panic, though during previous pandemics like the Black Death where thousands were quarantined to the haunted Poveglia Island in Italy, there seems to be no mention of vampires in the subject’s history.
Without the knowledge of how tuberculosis was actually spreading, residents of New England took to the cemeteries to try and solve the problem. Bodies of the suspected undead were exhumed and examined to check if the corpse was unusually fresh and had liquid blood in the heart and other organs, though this led nowhere because the dead were not responsible for the spread.
Nevertheless, the corpse was deemed to be feeding on the living if the examination found any of these conditions, and one of two actions were taken.
The first was to turn the corpses face down in their coffins and graves which was believed to stop the threat, though there’s no clear indication why this was believed to work. The second was a little more aggressive whereas the corpses would have the organs removed from the bodies and they would be burned before reburying the corpse. It is said that corpses were even decapitated in some cases to further prevent the undead from rising.
Many family members of those being subjected to their organs being burned would actually inhale the smoke from the burning organs as this was believed to further protect them from the New England vampire panic.
The entire belief and the New England vampire panic soon dissolved into the history books as medicine took over to answer the mysterious plague that had killed thousands. In 1921 the first tuberculosis vaccine named Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), was developed by Albert Calmette and Jean-Marie Camille Guerin.
Though the vampire panic was all but forgotten by 1921, the events from the time of the New England consumption have marked a point in history for research into vampirism.
One of the greatest novels, arguably the greatest, that came from the New England vampire panic was written in 2017, titled The New England Vampire.
This gripping supernatural fantasy novel re-invents the vampire panic and 1888 consumption in a way never done before. The story twists in ways you’ll never see coming and does incredible justice to the 19th century vampire panic as well as paying attribute and developing an incredible nail-biting story around Hy’Brasil, Hoia Baciu forest and its notorious circle.