We took a little side trip on our way home from the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts. If that adventure weren’t scary enough, we decided to visit the grave of New England vampire legend Mercy Brown, who is interred in the Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Exeter, Rhode Island.
George Brown was losing family members at a rapid pace to what we now know is consumption/tuberculosis. First his wife died, followed by a daughter six months later. Seven years passed before son Edwin became ill with presumably the same disease that took his mother and sister. While father and son were away to seek treatment, George’s other daughter Mercy became sick and died at age 19. After returning home, Edwin’s condition continued to deteriorate. He claimed his sister Mercy visited him at night, attempting to drain his blood. Fearing vampirism, the Brown women were exhumed. Both the mother and first sister to die were suitably decomposed, but Mercy’s body had shifted in its coffin and was in decent condition. (It’s worth mentioning that the older ladies had been deceased nearly 10 years, while Mercy had been gone only 2 months, her body most likely still in the crypt until the ground thawed for burial). Her corpse was cut open, revealing a still-fresh heart. The organ was removed and burned on a nearby stone. Its ashes were mixed with a potion and given to her brother Edwin to drink, believing it would cure him. It didn’t and he died anyway. For more on Mercy Brown, click here. It’s interesting to note that Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897, five years after Mercy Brown died. News accounts of Mercy’s exhumation were found with Stoker’s belongings after his death.
The cemetery sits behind a small Baptist church. It looked harmless enough, but I wondered if we were trespassing since no one was around, at least not living anyway. Our directions were simple yet concise. We drove past the rock wall and found the grave on our left.
I admit I jumped a mile when a butterfly descended from a nearby tree as I examined the tombstone. Little did I know that would be the first scare of the day.
The stone seemed ordinary, save for the added metal support to thwart another theft. On the reverse side of the monument were more gifts for Mercy, including a creepy voodoo doll. It was so unusual that I needed to take photos of it.
After the photo session, we found across the cemetery the crypt where it was rumored Mercy’s body was once held. The deceased were stored in these little buildings until the ground thawed enough to be dug for burials.
At the top of the crypt, to the left, we discovered a hole made from missing rock. Undaunted, we stuck a camera in the hole hoping to capture a picture of something creepy. No such luck, just like Charlie Brown, all we got was a rock in the photo.
Maybe we should have left Chestnut Hill when I felt odd about being there. It was 3:00 in the afternoon, so I figured a quick trip would be okay. Maybe we should have left when we spotted the voodoo doll on Mercy’s grave. Maybe trying to get a photo inside the crypt was taking things too far.
We took photos of the outside of the crypt, and with me in front of it. My companions were teasing that something was behind me, coming out of the crypt. Whatever it was could wait, our work at the cemetery was done. We were on our way back to New Jersey, or so we thought.
We piled into the blue SUV, turned onto another dirt road leading out of the cemetery and heard a pop. The driver said it was nothing, just ran over a rock. We limped our way out of the cemetery and into the parking lot of the adjacent church. We discovered another blown tire, the second on this particular trip. I noticed the church’s sign, “Faith is a refusal to panic.” I had faith we would get out of there, but given our location, panic was setting in.
It was actually a good thing that this was the second flat tire, as we learned with the first that the donut had to be inflated with help from roadside assistance. The three of us removed all of our luggage from the vehicle to get to the spare, our belongings now in a pile in the parking lot. While the guys got down to business of removing the bad tire, I used my smartphone to find a place to get another tire. I located a shop about 4 miles away and gave them a call. The lady who answered confirmed that they did sell tires, the last vehicle goes on the lift at 4:15. It was now 3:30 p.m. I told her we would be over as soon as we could get the donut on the car. Now experienced with tire changing, the guys had the donut mounted for the second time in 48 hours. As we piled all of our stuff back into the car, I glanced at the clouds above. I was hoping we could make it to the tire place before the rain.
I programmed the GPS for the service center, which was located on Nooseneck Road. I can’t make this stuff up. It turns out Indians used to hang nooses in trees to catch deer, thus the name of the road. I just had to look it up, although slightly disappointed in the origin.
We found the service center, which was also a salvage lot, before they closed. Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses came to mind. I expected Rufus Jr. to come out of the ramshackle building to fix our wheel. I noticed they were burning something beyond the yard gate. Was it the bodies of other stranded travelers?
On top of all this, the three of us were in desperate need of a restroom. From the looks of the place, for the first time in my life I considered relief in the woods across the street. We were told the restroom wasn’t for the public, but the bathroom police relaxed her stance on that when they found one tire, the last in stock, that would fit our vehicle.
The facilities were clean and usable, but the curtain that slid across the doorway was a bit disconcerting because there was a man standing directly outside the thin partition. As awkward as it was, I was happy to have a decent place to do my business. It was better than the woods, anyway.
Our bladders at last empty, we took some fresh water from the cooler in the office, and thanked the woman for her hospitality. Rufus Jr. had our car fixed and we were ready to roll out of there. New Jersey never sounded so good.
Some traffic aside, the remaining hours of our journey were smooth. It was an enjoyable trip, but all of us were glad to be home. Maybe Mercy Brown didn’t appreciate us traipsing around her final resting place, but with our tire mishap, someone, somewhere, had mercy for the vampire hunters.