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Michael Bell
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Posted By Michael Bell

In 1784, Moses Holmes, the Town Clerk of Willington, Connecticut wrote a letter to a local newspaper complaining about a foreign “quack doctor” who was telling people in town that he could cure consumption. The procedures that he was advocating were “to have the bodies of such as had died to be dug up, and further . . . that out of the breast or vitals might be found a sprout or vine fresh and growing, which, together with the remains of the vitals, being consumed in the fire, would be an effectual cure to the same family.” The doctor apparently convinced a man named Isaac Johnson to exhume the bodies of two of his children—“one had been buried one year and eleven months, the other one year.” Holmes observed, “a third of the same family then sick.” Holmes, an eyewitness to the event, stated that two doctors—doctors Grant and West presumably were “legitimate” doctors—were on the scene to examine the bodies; upon doing so, “not the least discovery could be made.”  Holmes wrote that “under the coffin was sundry small sprouts about one inch in length, then fresh, but most likely was the produce of sorrel seeds which fell under the coffin when put in the earth.” In other words, he was discounting the possibility that anything weird was going on in the graves. Holmes closed his letter by urging that “the public ought to be aware of being led away by such an impostor.”

I first became aware of this incident in June of 2006 when a genealogist and local historian e-mailed me that he had read and enjoyed Food for the Dead. He wrote that he was a librarian at a university in Texas and that my book had prompted him to use his access to numerous databases of primary sources to look for other vampire incidents. He wrote, “I have done a bit of researching in those sources, and there appears to be material you had not seen when you wrote your book.” Over the next several days, he sent references to about a dozen new cases in addition of a couple of updates for old ones. I was absolutely astonished! And grateful, of course.

I set about researching the new cases. I hadn’t gotten too far with the Willington case, when, in March of 2008, the perfect opportunity for field investigation presented itself. A New York-based television producer contacted me about a History Channel show called MonsterQuest. “I’m looking for real-life cases/investigations (unsolved or otherwise) in which a crime aroused suspicions of vampire-involvement that was substantiated (to some degree) by actual physical evidence,” he wrote. “Historical or recent cases will work (domestic or abroad) as long as some physical evidence (even the tiniest bit) exists to back the claims made.” So it was that Connecticut State Archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni, and I were to be reunited in front of the cameras.