The small town of Griswold, Connecticut, settled in the late 1690s by farmers from Massachusetts and Rhode Island seeking a life free from strict Puritan religious restraints, conceals a gruesome secret. The sudden unexpected discovery of human remains in a sand and gravel pit led to the discovery of an early American “vampire” whose grave was intentionally opened and whose mortal remains were intentionally vandalized so that he could not prey on the living ever again. In this episode we will tell the story of a unique archaeological discovery that revealed the first material evidence of a dark and frightening aspect of colonial New England folklore: the belief in the threatening existence of demonic spirits, undead bodies, and soul suckers that wandered among them, posing a constant danger to the lives and well-being of the colonial farmers and their families in this remote rural borderland between Rhode Island and Connecticut. That belief gave rise to what has been called the “New England Vampire Panic” of the 1800s that only ended when medical science discovered what really caused so many New Englanders to fall ill and inexplicably “waste away.”

Photograph of the excavation of Burial 4 Courtesy of the Connecticut Office of State Archaeology.

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