Creatures of a Rhode Island Halloween III
The Coventry Courier tells the story of a woman laid to rest in West Greenwich in 1889, later mistakenly identified as a vampire…
The last and perhaps most widely known case of alleged vampirism in Rhode Island history is that of Mercy Lena Brown, buried at the Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Exeter….Fortunately for the sake of accuracy, there are reports that the deceased has returned to correct the record…
On Jan. 17, 1892 Mercy, like so many others throughout early New England history, succumbed to consumption, or pulmonary tuberculosis- a devastating and highly contagious disease widely misunderstood by rural townspeople at that time….
Two years prior on May 31, 1889 a young West Greenwich woman named Nellie L. Vaughn also died at the young age of 19, a victim of pneumonia.
Unlike Mercy, however, stories casting Nellie as a vampire did not surface until 78 years after her death.
In 1967 a Coventry High School teacher told students the tale of a young woman who, after her death in the late 1800s at the age of 19, was accused of being a vampire. The teacher divulged little more information other than to say the woman was buried in an old cemetery off Route 102.
Accepting the story as an invitation, the youths set off to find her.
The Chestnut Hill Baptist Church is located off Route 102 in Exeter. And while their teacher was undoubtedly speaking of the cemetery behind that church, of Mercy Brown’s resting place, the teens found another old cemetery off 102.
It was a cemetery that sits oddly out of place, guarded by a different white church and an aging stone wall.
Stepping within that wall and onto those sacred grounds they found something else. It was a gravestone that read, “Nellie L. Vaughn; Daughter of George B. and Ellen; Died in her 19th year, May 1889.” And at the bottom of her headstone was inscribed, “I am waiting and watching for you.”
The youths had found their vampire.
In 1993 a Coventry woman and her husband doing gravestone rubbings in the historical cemetery there, #WG002, heard a woman’s voice repeating, “I am perfectly pleasant. I am perfectly pleasant.”
The husband said he left the cemetery, never to return, with unexplainable scratches on his face.
His wife, however, did go back several months later where she happened to encounter a young, dark-haired woman who claimed to be a member of a local historical society. When their conversation shifted to discussion of Nellie Vaughn, the young woman became agitated and started repeating, “Nellie is not a vampire.”
Shaken, the Coventry woman turned to leave and when she looked back to ensure the disturbed woman was not following her, she found the cemetery empty.