In the sleepy rural town of Exeter, R.I., behind a small white country Baptist church lies the body of a nineteen year old girl whose tomb is one of the most-visited in the state. She is Mercy Brown, accused of vampirism in the nineteenth century. In actuality Mercy wasted away with consumption, died and was buried in the old Chestnut Hill graveyard in 1892. But the old country folklore was fierce in this area, and when family members sickened and faded before the horrified eyes of the parents, something had to be done. Was the undead spirit of the poor girl coming back to drain the life force from the Living?
The body was exhumed and found to be incorrupt. The heart was removed, burnt on a nearby rock and made into a tonic of heart’s ash and other medicinals. Still, brother Edwin soon expired and others continued to succumb. This Exeter tale of poor little Mercy fascinated the likes of Bram Stoker when he read about it during a tour of America with his actor employer, Sir Henry Irving. When back in England, Stoker recalled the story and based the character of Lucy Westerna in his immortal novel Dracula on the sad saga of Mercy Brown.
Her stone has been purloined at least once, then returned. Today it is firmly reset and banded with an iron clamp to a concrete pillar. Rarely is the grave bare. Flowers, notes and votives are left by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. Her story is known far and wide.
Chestnut Hill Baptist Church and graveyard may be found on Route 102 in Exeter. The photographs below are of the Brown plot, and other stones of interest within the graveyard.
The music is by Libera, Voca me (Call Me) Click on the little “x” to reduce the music caption box on your screen for better viewing of photographs.