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The Oddment Emporium

A Cornucopia of Eclectic Delights

Posts tagged New England:

The Last New England Vampire
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries there was a widespread belief in vampires throughout New England. The vampiric condition became associated with the deadly Tuberculosis, a disease misunderstood at the time and therefore the cause of much superstition. 
It was believed to cause nightly visitations from previously deceased victims, as well as bringing general sickness and multiple deaths to the family. As a result, there are various accounts of families having their deceased disinterred for the purpose of removing their hearts and bringing to an end their reign of terror, and the most famous of these cases is that of Mercy Brown.
There had been numerous deaths as a result of TB within the Brown family. Mercy’s mother and sister had died within a few years of one another, then, in 1892, Mercy herself succumbed to the illness. 
Mercy’s brother Edwin was also ill and, in accordance with the aforementioned folklore, Mercy’s father was persuaded to exhume the bodies of his dead relatives in an attempt to cure his son. The mother and sister’s body were found to have undergone significant decomposition, however, Mercy’s body remained relatively unchanged*: a clear sign that she was undead and the agent of Edwin’s condition. 
As a result, her heart was removed, burnt, mixed with water and fed to Edwin. He died two months later.
* A cold New England winter likely caused this.
[Sources: Image | Mercy Brown Vampire Incident | Vampire]

The Last New England Vampire

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries there was a widespread belief in vampires throughout New England. The vampiric condition became associated with the deadly Tuberculosis, a disease misunderstood at the time and therefore the cause of much superstition.

It was believed to cause nightly visitations from previously deceased victims, as well as bringing general sickness and multiple deaths to the family. As a result, there are various accounts of families having their deceased disinterred for the purpose of removing their hearts and bringing to an end their reign of terror, and the most famous of these cases is that of Mercy Brown.

There had been numerous deaths as a result of TB within the Brown family. Mercy’s mother and sister had died within a few years of one another, then, in 1892, Mercy herself succumbed to the illness.

Mercy’s brother Edwin was also ill and, in accordance with the aforementioned folklore, Mercy’s father was persuaded to exhume the bodies of his dead relatives in an attempt to cure his son. The mother and sister’s body were found to have undergone significant decomposition, however, Mercy’s body remained relatively unchanged*: a clear sign that she was undead and the agent of Edwin’s condition. 

As a result, her heart was removed, burnt, mixed with water and fed to Edwin. He died two months later.

* A cold New England winter likely caused this.

[Sources: Image | Mercy Brown Vampire Incident | Vampire]

New England’s Dark Day
New England’s Dark Day refers to an event on May 19, 1780, when an unusual darkening of the day sky was observed over the New England states and parts of Canada. The darkness was so complete that candles were required from noon on. It did not disperse until the middle of the next night.
The earliest report of darkness came from New York where the sun was already obscured at sunrise. Samuel Williams observed from Cambridge that: “This extraordinary darkness came on between the hours of 10 and 11 am and continued till the middle of the next night.” In Massachusetts, peak obscurity occurred “by 12”. At Harvard College, the obscuration was reported to arrive at 10:30 am, abating by 1:10 pm, although a heavy overcast remained for the rest of the day. 
At 2:00 pm, roosters crowed, woodcocks whistled, and frogs peeped as if darkness had fallen. A witness reported that a strong sooty smell prevailed in the atmosphere, and that rain water had a light film over it that was made up of particles of burnt leaves and ash.
For several days before the Dark Day, the sun appeared red, and the sky yellow. While the darkness was present, soot was observed to be collected in rivers and in rain water, suggesting the presence of smoke. Also, at night observers saw the moon coloured red. For portions of New England, the morning of May 19, 1780 was characterised by rain, indicating that cloud cover was present.
Since communications technology of the day was primitive, most people found the darkness to be baffling and inexplicable. Many applied religious interpretations to the event. However, the likely cause of the Dark Day was smoke from massive forest fires. When a fire does not kill a tree and the tree later grows, scar marks are left in the growth rings. This makes it possible to approximate the date of a past fire. Researchers examining the scar damage in Ontario, Canada, attribute the Dark Day to a large fire in the area that is today occupied by Algonquin Provincial Park.
[I realise while I post this, though when I first started reading about it I did not realise it regarded forest fires, that there are currently massive bush fires in Australia, so I’d like to say that I hope any Australians who might read this, and their families and friends, are safe and well.]
[Image Source: The only known depiction of New England’s Dark Day taken from Our First History by Richard Devens (1876)]

New England’s Dark Day

New England’s Dark Day refers to an event on May 19, 1780, when an unusual darkening of the day sky was observed over the New England states and parts of Canada. The darkness was so complete that candles were required from noon on. It did not disperse until the middle of the next night.

The earliest report of darkness came from New York where the sun was already obscured at sunrise. Samuel Williams observed from Cambridge that: “This extraordinary darkness came on between the hours of 10 and 11 am and continued till the middle of the next night.” In Massachusetts, peak obscurity occurred “by 12”. At Harvard College, the obscuration was reported to arrive at 10:30 am, abating by 1:10 pm, although a heavy overcast remained for the rest of the day. 

At 2:00 pm, roosters crowed, woodcocks whistled, and frogs peeped as if darkness had fallen. A witness reported that a strong sooty smell prevailed in the atmosphere, and that rain water had a light film over it that was made up of particles of burnt leaves and ash.

For several days before the Dark Day, the sun appeared red, and the sky yellow. While the darkness was present, soot was observed to be collected in rivers and in rain water, suggesting the presence of smoke. Also, at night observers saw the moon coloured red. For portions of New England, the morning of May 19, 1780 was characterised by rain, indicating that cloud cover was present.

Since communications technology of the day was primitive, most people found the darkness to be baffling and inexplicable. Many applied religious interpretations to the event. However, the likely cause of the Dark Day was smoke from massive forest fires. When a fire does not kill a tree and the tree later grows, scar marks are left in the growth rings. This makes it possible to approximate the date of a past fire. Researchers examining the scar damage in Ontario, Canada, attribute the Dark Day to a large fire in the area that is today occupied by Algonquin Provincial Park.

[I realise while I post this, though when I first started reading about it I did not realise it regarded forest fires, that there are currently massive bush fires in Australia, so I’d like to say that I hope any Australians who might read this, and their families and friends, are safe and well.]

[Image Source: The only known depiction of New England’s Dark Day taken from Our First History by Richard Devens (1876)]

"Lord" Timothy Dexter
Timothy Dexter was an 18th century self-proclaimed Lord. Though ill-educated, he had published an almost indecipherable book with no punctuation and horrible spelling. His second book included an extra thirteen pages of punctuation, instructing readers that they could, "peper and solt it as they plese." His contemporaries considered him a lackwit [and] many of them gave him bad business advice to make him lose the fortune he amassed through trade, despite his business sense being somewhat peculiar, for example:
He sent warming pans (used to heat sheets in winter) for sale to the tropical climes of the West Indies. His captain sold them as ladles for local molasses industry and made a good profit.
He then sent wool mittens to the same place [but] Asian merchants bought them for export to Siberia.
People jokingly told him to “ship coal to Newcastle”, which he did, and through sheer luck there was a miners’ strike going on at the time, and his cargo was sold at a premium.
Members of the high society refused to socialise with him [so] Dexter bought a huge house and emulated them. His relationship with his family was not particularly good either. He started lying to visitors that his wife had died and that the “drunken nagging woman” who frequented the building was simply her ghost. [Source]

Timothy decided he wanted to know what people would say about him if he were dead, so he faked his own death and made plans for a funeral. Three thousand people attended the wake and, because his own wife didn’t cry for him, he decided not to reveal himself. Later, he caned his wife for not showing enough sympathy. He officially died on October 26, 1806. [Source]

"Lord" Timothy Dexter

Timothy Dexter was an 18th century self-proclaimed Lord. Though ill-educated, he had published an almost indecipherable book with no punctuation and horrible spelling. His second book included an extra thirteen pages of punctuation, instructing readers that they could, "peper and solt it as they plese." His contemporaries considered him a lackwit [and] many of them gave him bad business advice to make him lose the fortune he amassed through trade, despite his business sense being somewhat peculiar, for example:

  • He sent warming pans (used to heat sheets in winter) for sale to the tropical climes of the West Indies. His captain sold them as ladles for local molasses industry and made a good profit.
  • He then sent wool mittens to the same place [but] Asian merchants bought them for export to Siberia.
  • People jokingly told him to “ship coal to Newcastle”, which he did, and through sheer luck there was a miners’ strike going on at the time, and his cargo was sold at a premium.
Members of the high society refused to socialise with him [so] Dexter bought a huge house and emulated them. His relationship with his family was not particularly good either. He started lying to visitors that his wife had died and that the “drunken nagging woman” who frequented the building was simply her ghost. [Source]

Timothy decided he wanted to know what people would say about him if he were dead, so he faked his own death and made plans for a funeral. Three thousand people attended the wake and, because his own wife didn’t cry for him, he decided not to reveal himself. Later, he caned his wife for not showing enough sympathy. He officially died on October 26, 1806. [Source]