MAXIM - Two hundred years ago, Rhode Island was considered the vampire capital of America. There were real reasons for this superstition. And many victims.

In the modern mind, vampires are generally cool guys. "Interview with a Vampire", "From Dusk Till Dawn", "Only Lovers Will Survive" - all this, one might say, is a hymn to vampirism!

However, two hundred years ago, people did not think so at all. Vampires or ghouls were considered vile monsters. We found the story of how the legend of the bloodsuckers rising from the graves appeared in the human mind, and it is quite creepy.

It was at the end of the 18th century in the small state of Rhode Island in the northern United States. It was one of the earliest and most populous colonies in America. Mostly Englishmen lived there (it was not for nothing that the region was called New England).

In 1786, the authorities began to record many very strange deaths in this region. For six months, people lost terribly weight, as if some otherworldly forces were sucking the life out of them. The eyes of such patients became huge and strangely shone. The skin turned gray like ash. They coughed violently and gasped. Sometimes they seemed to be on the mend ... then weakened again and eventually died. The disease affected entire families, then spread to neighbors, although in some cases people remained as if untouchable.

From the height of today's medical knowledge, we understand that the people of Rhode Island were experiencing an epidemic of tuberculosis at that time. However, for them it was all very strange, eerie and inexplicable. Naturally, people tried to escape somehow. The doctors could not offer anything worthwhile, and then the desperate colonists turned to the priests.

Prayer is great, of course, but clearly not enough. The people were waiting for some radical measures. Demand causes supply, and soon very authoritative spiritual leaders appeared in that area, who found a terrible and radical remedy for adversity.

They accused ... ghouls of "sucking the vitality out of people". A theory was born, according to which for some reason unknown hungry spirits flocked to Rhode Island from all over America and began to infiltrate human bodies.

The first person to die of tuberculosis in the village was considered a "guide" for the hungry vampire spirit. And then, when this sacrifice was buried, the spirit was already working through his body from the grave. The deceased relative at night got out of the crypt, came back to the house and sucked blood and life from his former household. So Rhode Island was declared the vampire capital of the United States.

What could be done about it? Naturally, something creepy and radical. Vampires were offered to dig out of their graves and burn their black, possessed heart. So in Rhode Island, a terrible corpse hunt began. The graves of those killed by tuberculosis were opened and the dead were carefully examined. If the body seemed not sufficiently decomposed (and in winter this happened all the time), the deceased was recorded as a vampire.

Further in some villages, the legs were separated from the body so that the vampire could not walk, somewhere they burned the heart, and somewhere they cut off the head. In the midst of the panic, everyone did this at public ceremonies attended by the entire village. People in those days even loved such extreme spectacles (we wrote about this in the article "7 wild entertainments of our ancestors".

As you know, the epidemic went on as usual, but the people somehow calmed down - after all, some measures were taken. This horror continued for about a hundred years, until Koch discovered the tubercle bacillus. The disease got an explanation, and people stopped being afraid of it.

Notes about the sinister rituals in the cemeteries of the "vampire capital of the United States" made it into local newspapers, and then were retold by journalists around the world. They say one such note was found in the papers of the Irish writer Bram Stoker, the author of the famous novel "Dracula". So this episode from American history can really be considered the basis for the emergence of the vampire legend in the mass consciousness.

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