An oddity overlooking the village of Manitou Springs, Miramont castle is a manor house, museum, and tea room that was originally built in 1895. It was the private manor house for french born Catholic priest Father Jean Baptist Francolon. He later donated his home to the Sisters of Mercy for use as a sanitarium for those seeking healing from the magical waters of Manitou’s springs. The Sisters of Mercy set up the sanitarium in 1895 as a house to heal tuberculosis. They expanded the building in 1896 to take care of additional patients. The sisters were known for their motherly care, cleanliness, and excellence. They not only cared for patients, but contributed to the town’s culture, offering piano, violin, mandolin, guitar, and banjo lessons for the towns folk. The castle fell vacant from 1900 to 1904. The Sisters were urged by Dr. Geierman to purchase the castle for use with workings and healings achieved by German priest Sebatian Kneipp who initiated a water therapy system involving drinking prodigious quantities of Manitou’s healing waters as well as bathing in them several times a day. The Castle experienced a devastating fire in 1907 caused by an electrical fire, destroying part of the Montcalme sanitarium. Patients were relocated to the Castle for the next 20 years. In 1928 the Castle and sanitarium experienced financial difficulties so the sanitarium was converted to a boarding house for the wealthy and tourists, retreat for clergy, and eventually closed. It remained empty until privately purchased in 1946. The castle has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and has achieved national landmark status. Built by Father Jean Baptiste Francolon in 1895 with an eclectic style blending various architectural styles from Byzantine to Tudor styles. It today stands as a great example of Victorian Era design. The museum is fully accessible for tours and events. There is a climbing staircase as well as two chairlifts within. The castle is rumored to be haunted with numerous ghosts and poltergeists. Visitors can view all 42 furnished rooms, the gardens, and the tea room. Rated 5 stars out of 5
Monster Quest: Vampires in America * www.imdb.com * August 6, 2008 * NR/Documentary * The History Channel * Creator: Doug Hajicek * Writer: Joe Danisi * Starring: Stan Bernard and Konstantinos * 45 minutes *
Monster Quest is a History Channel Documentary look into the strange and unknown creatures that are believed to be lurking in the shadows of time spotted around the world. In Season 2, Episode 11 they explore “Vampires in America”. Focusing on the 18th century Vampires scare in New England, focusing on vampire legends and graves in Connecticut and Rhode Island, the investigators excavate the purported grave of J.B. the Vampire and hunt for the vampiric Johnson children. They make the rational link that many purported vampires that were dug up and had their graves desecrated were indeed victims of consumption or tuberculosis. Hysteria and fear affecting the communities making it a widespread practice in New England as well as Europe. As they explore European influences, including Bram Stoker, Nostferatu, Elizabeth Bathery, and Mercy Brown. They then address modern day people who claim they are vampires. Testing the blood of a modern blood drinker as well as gauging energy exchange of a self-proclaimed energy vampire. The episode was captivating and interesting: Rating 4 stars out of 5.
The Rhode Island 18th century Vampire, RI Historical Cemetery No 22 in Exeter, RI on Route 102
In the heart of what has been nicknamed “The Vampire Capital of America” lies the grave of sweet 19 year old “Mercy Brown”. Her family and neighbours however didn’t think she was that sweet. Especially after she died. She had been deemed a vampire. Not only then, but her reputation continues hundreds of years later as being one of the most popular vampire burials in North America. The good citizens of Exeter Rhode Island firmly believe she was rising from her grave as a blood sucker and literally feeding on the blood and energy of her sick brother. She was in a line of female family members that had died from consumption (tuberculosis), following her mother and sister to the grave. Then her brother fell ill and the community was strong in the belief that she was the cause. They convinced her father who was desperate to do anything to save his son from the death bed. He and his accusing neighbours dug up the remains of his daughter Mercy to see if she was a vampire. Sure enough they found she had shifted in her coffin, there was fresh blood in her mouth as well as in her heart. She looked like she was rejuvenating, growing hair, nails, and teeth. Her skin was light and looked new. She had to be a vampire. They tore her heart from her chest, and burned it on a large rock near her grave to stop her from coming out of her grave. It was believed that those ashes would have magical properties to heal the brother, so they were fed to him as a cure. He still died two months later. He was staked in the heart and tied in his coffin to make sure he didn’t catch the vampire virus like believed of the rest of his family. Or so goes the legend. She was one of many in the area that gave Exeter the status of Vampire Capital. It was quite commonplace in this era to dig up the remains of the dead, make sure they were dead, dismember, behead, or burn the corpse to prevent vampirism. Oddly in Rhod Island, most of those accused of being vampires were 19 year old girls who died of consumption. There is also the story of 19 year old Nelly Vaugn. Her epitaph is rumored to state “I am waiting and watching for you”. Apparently grass nor moss would grow on her grave and numerous haunting apparently take place at her grave site. Her headstone was victim of so many anti-vampire hate crimes they had to remove it to stop the vandalism. Then there is Juliet, the daughter of William Rose, who after her mother, died of consumption. Vampirism was blamed, exhumed her corpse, cut out her heart, and bladed her chest. Her grave was reputedly moved to an unmarked location to stop hate vandalism. There was also Sarah Tillinghast of 1799. Her fate was revealed in a prophetic dream, that was had by her father Stuckly “Snuffy” Tillinghast. After her death, many of the neighbours reported seeing her each night pressing on their chests. As later children began to become ill, Sarah’s body was exhumed, heart removed, and burned. Clippings about Mercy Brown were discovered in possession of Bram Stoker after his death leading to the speculation that he based many items in his novel Dracula on Rhode Island vampires. Mercy Brown and Sarah Tillinghast were stories used by H.P. Lovecraft in his short story “The Shunned House”. Reuben Brown, descendant of Mercy Brown, tells tales that there were unexplained deaths, young girls, six or seven on one side of the Brown family, died of consumption, all of them with a mark on their throats, leading people to believe they had been bit by a vampire. Many blamed Mercy for this. After burning her heart the deaths had stopped.
Throughout New England are stories and legends of the paranormal that are rooted in physical evidence. We are all familiar with Salem and its witch stories. But what little many know is of Connecticut and Rhode Island’s Vampire persecutions. Connecticut and Rhode Island in the late 18th century was plagued by diseases that no one knew the cause of. Rumors and hysteria spread from Europe (just like with the Witch craze) came about to theorize that evil spirits were possessing the hearts of family members who recently passed away, causing them to rise from the grave at night to feed on the family members and neighbours, sucking the life force, drinking their blood, until that victim wasted away with consumption (tuberculosis). This led to a practice of concerned villagers going around, digging up graves, and searching for evidence of vampires. This was often seen as corpses that might not have decomposed, that might move, make sounds, have blood around the mouth, seem to have hair / nails / or teeth growth, lightening of skin or rejuvenation, etc. Upon finding such evidence, the vampire hunters would dismember and/or behead the corpse, remove the heart / lung / kidneys and burn the corpse. Sometimes the ash would be fed to victims suffering the mysterious disease in hopes it would cure the illness. This was more of the prescribed practice in North America while the stake through the heart was much more of a common European practice. In the 1990’s, numerous suspected graves of accused vampires were excavated and sent to the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C. for analysis. Most of them were returned with a determination that the culprit died of tuberculosis (consumption). Those suffering from consumption would often waste asway, but often periodically would have a large burst of energy and known for a powerful sex drive. This would leave some to suspect that such bursts would happen after said vampire fed. This made sense in comparison to European history that when a mysterious disease struck an entire family line, that superstition might settle in to make family members and neighbours believe that one of the recently deceased would be coming back and devouring the life force of the next family member until the entire family was gone.
Along route 138, nicknamed “The Vampire Highway”, in rural Connecticut, from Jewett City to Exeter is a corridor of folklore and legend that is home to some of North America’s most documented and research historical vampire stories. It is along this highway, through numerous villages and in the countryside that we have some of our best preserved evidence of early American Vampires. After some heavy rains in the early 1990’s, a few neighborhood kids in the area were sliding down a large sandbank of Geer’s Sand and Gravel Company that they spied numerous body parts and corpses that they passed as they slid down the slope. They notified the authorities who came to investigate the scene. As the coroner determined these were not recent murder victims but those of historic date, they called the next contact on the list when finding human remains. The State Archaeologist. Nick Bellantoni, from Connecticut’s Natural History Museum attended the scene. He determined the remains not to be those of Native Americans, but rather of white settlers. The first grave to be exhumed was that of a body with huge fieldstones piled atop it. Under the stones was the lid of a coffin that had etched in it the initials “J.B.” along with the date 1815. Excavation of the grave revealed a skeleton with a chest cavity caved in and dismembered. Many of the bones were arranged to form an “X” as in the Pirate-like “Skull and crossbones”. This struck the archaeologist as odd and initiated research. Analysis of the bone at the Washington D.C. National Museum of Health and Medicine (Smithsonian) determined that “JB” died of Tuberculosis or consumption. He was missing his front teeth. The analysis of the bones not only determined probably death by consumption, but also that he had a broken collarbone which was a sign he was also a hunchback giving more ammunition for those accusing him of being a vampire. It was determined he had lived with consumption as a wasting disease for a very long time. Everyone else buried nearby him had died rather quickly, most likely from TB. In the area, the practice of exhuming a grave of a community member believed of being a vampire was common practice in the 17th/18th centuries and usually resulted in dismemberment, scattering of bones, creating skull and crossbone patterns, burning of bones, etc. This was a practice done at this time to stop the vampire from rising from the grave at night to feed off the life source of community members who would then waste away with consumption. Since he took so long to die, he was believed to be that vampire. In Connecticut and Rhode Island, documentation from the 1800’s stated it was commonplace for residents to exhume bodies of the dead in search of the suspected vampire, when found, to dismember or decapitate, and perform an exorcism, burning of the bones, or arrangement of the bones in a proper methodology. Keys to finding such a vampire was blood around the mouth, rejuvenated skin or lack of decomposition, hair/nail/teeth growth, etc. A common practice (unknown in this case, but possible because of the caving in of the rib cage) is to remove the heart, lungs, and liver followed by the burning of the corpse. The stones were piled on top as a means to anchor the dead to its grave so it could not rise and attack the community. It was determined that this cemetery belong to the family named “Walton”. It was evident though that J.B. was not part of this family and his identity is unknown. His bones was eventually reburied (for the third time) in the First Congretational Church cemetery in Griswald, Connecticut. As with many of New England’s accused Witches, these vampires were most likely humans falsely accused of being vampires due to fear, hysteria, and lack of medical knowledge.