When an entire town was chasing a “vampire”.

About 200 years ago, fear reigned supreme in the town of Griswold, Connecticut. Was a vampire up to mischief? In their fear, the residents desecrated the grave of a man they believed to be undead.

John Barber had worked hard all his life. Then, in my mid-50s, the coughing started. At first only when he was trying, pushing too hard on the farm. But soon the cough came more often, even when he was resting or lying in bed at night. The man became weaker and weaker, his face more and more gaunt, his chest more and more bony. And then came the blood. Sometimes he didn’t have the strength to wipe it out of the corner of his mouth when a fit of coughing sent a whole gush of it up from his lungs. Then it ran down his wrinkled neck in a thin thread.

John Barber was one of the first, but by no means the last, to die of tuberculosis in rural Connecticut, near the small town of Griswold, in the 1820s. Five years later, as more residents continued to fall ill and start spitting up blood, people remembered the emaciated, hollow-eyed farmer who started the eerie series.

Heart taken from the corpse

Medicine was still in its infancy at the time. They only knew the terrible disease from which John Barber and so many others died after him as consumption – because the sick seemed to gradually lose their vitality. What could have caused the suffering but a vampire, an undead, who leaves his grave night after night to suck them dry?

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