February 12, 2012

The Griswold Vampires, a Connecticut Legend by Barbara Edwards

Connecticut is a small state with a varied and interesting history. Like the rest of New England, it is riddled with historical homes and old cemeteries. The history behind it all is the basis of my love for the unusual and the paranormal.  Hauntings are common, but Connecticut also has some of the oldest vampire reports in the New World.
In 1990 several boys playing in a sand pit in Griswold, Connecticut discovered a skull. Anthropologists from the University of Connecticut were called to investigate. They uncovered the bodies of fifteen children, six adult males, and eight adult females, buried in the 18th and 19th centuries. All were presumed to be members of the Walton family.
Land deeds revealed the Walton family emigrated from Europe to Griswold in 1690 and utilized the knoll as a family burial ground.
Three sets of remains bore the signs of being considered vampires.
As an explanation, before Braum Stoker wrote Dracula not all vampires were killed by a stake through the heart. Older remedies existed and those practices were brought to the Colonies along with family heirlooms.
From the Griswold site, anthropologists discovered a coffin in a stone-lined grave with “JB-55” spelled with brass tacks on the lid.  It is presumed this was the initials and age of the remains at death. The surprise came when the open coffin revealed the bones had been carefully rearranged. His skull and femurs had been placed on the ribs and spine in a classic ‘skull and crossbones’ arrangement. This was the method used to keep a vampire in his grave when the heart was no longer available to burn. 
Upon examination by scientists, it was discovered J.B. died of tuberculosis or a pulmonary infection.  It is assumed when one or more members of his family later contracted tuberculosis, they attributed their disease to the fact that J.B. had returned from the dead to "feed" upon them.
To stop the progress of their disease, the body of the consumptive J.B. was exhumed so that the heart could be burned. Upon opening the grave, the family saw that the heart had decomposed. With no heart to burn, the bones of the chest were disrupted and the skull and femora placed in a "skull and crossbones" position.
When writing Ancient Awakening I used this story as a catalyst-an old cemetery in Rhodes End and a blood-sucking monster from my nightmares challenged the heroine and hero.

In Ancient Blood, the next novel in the Rhodes End Series, I continue the story.
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I look forward to hearing from you.
Author Website: http://barbaraedwards.net
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(Pictures Provided by Author)

5 comments:

Pauline B Jones said...

Wow, what an interesting story! I can see why that would catch your imagination and give it creepy flight!

jrlindermuth said...

An interesting and different spin on vampire lore. I've read about the TB connection before, but not about rearranging the bones. Good stuff.
I've only crossed Connecticut, going and coming from Massachusetts. One of these days I'll have to make a visit. I'm sure there's lots to see.

Heidiwriter said...

This is fascinating! Wonderful history of legend in your state!

Debby said...

Wow, great story. I live in Connecticut and did not know that. I think I need to do some research.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Sarah J. McNeal said...

One of the places that impressed me when my husband and I took a vacation through New England was the tiny town of Mystic. It was such a lovely place. For a small state, Connecticut is a beautiful and diverse place. Lovely blog.