I’ve got your attention now, don’t I? Here’s the event description:
Between 1782 and 1820, New Englanders suspected severe outbreaks of tuberculosis were caused by the spirits of the dead siphoning life from their relatives. In order to stop the spread of the disease, they exhumed the corpses they thought responsible, burned their hearts, and made a medicine from the ashes.This is separate from, though perhaps related to, the vampire fear in Jewett City, Connecticut, in 1854.
Originally a European belief, the practice was brought to the region during the American Revolution by German military physicians serving in Hessian regiments. Many became itinerant doctors in the aftermath of the war and taught Americans to believe in the undead. But vampire belief in America was medicalized—turned from a folk belief into a cutting-edge medical procedure. The exhumations were conducted like autopsies and doctors used “science” to identify and destroy supposed vampires. American doctors quickly caught on and began using it as a cure for the deadly wasting disease.
Carroll is Assistant Professor of History and American Indian Studies at Central Washington University. He flew to New England to be an American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Fellow at the American Antiquarian Society, which co-sponsors this seminar series along with the history departments at Clark, Brown, and the University of Connecticut.
This seminar will start at 4:00 P.M. in the Rare Book Room of Goddard Library on the Clark campus. There will be refreshments provided before the paper. If you plan to attend, please email Paul Erickson by the end of the workday today so he’ll know what to expect.