During the White plague of the 1800s, New England was one of those that experienced a severe outbreak of tuberculosis. It was referred to as ”The Consumption” as it seemed to ”consume” its victim’s body.
It was unknown at the time that tuberculosis was a bacterial disease and was passed through coughing, sneezing or talking. This obviously caused other household members to contract the disease.
Not knowing this, residents believed that those who succumbed to the disease would drain the life-force of their surviving relatives. Most people in New England and many in Europe believed this was how the disease was spreading and this belief spawned many of the traditional rules of vampirism we follow today in modern culture.
With total belief the disease was spread this way, bodies were exhumed and examined in an attempt to protect the uninfected. The examination was to check if the corpse was ”unusually fresh” and the heart and other organs were full of liquid blood. If they were then the corpse was deemed to be one that was feeding on the living and spreading the disease.
To combat this, there were a few different proposed ways to stop the spread. The first was to simply turn the corpse over in its grave, which was likely superstitions or belief that it would stop the threat. The second way was to burn the ”fresh” organs before reburying the corpse. Another way was decapitating the corpse.
Many family members would inhale the smoke from the burning organs to further protect them from the disease.
The belief that tuberculosis was transmitted through the deceased draining the life-force of others soon dwindled away and in 1921 the first vaccine, named Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG), was developed by Albert Calmette and Jean-Marie Camille Guerin.
The New England vampire panic was over and somewhat forgotten by the masses, but the events from that period live on in our history, waiting for new researchers and vampirologists to enjoy them.
One such person took the tuberculosis consumption of the 1800s and the link to vampires and created a fan-favorite novel titled The New England Vampire.
The nail-biting supernatural fantasy follows a character named Cade who’s fiancee is battling tuberculosis in a New York hospital. After looking into research and speaking to certain people, he discovers the 1888 consumption may have been a cover-up for a real vampire epidemic. At the time, a line of powerful witches exiled the vampire population to a phantom island named Hy’Brasil which he has to navigate to in hopes of finding a cure. Cade has to navigate his way to an island that was taken off of maps and has been kept secret for centuries in hopes of finding a cure.
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