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The Great New England Vampire Panic

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"Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living."

  • By Abigail Tucker
  • Smithsonian magazine, October 2012


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  • Elders (Moderators)

That is a fascinating article. A couple of days ago I started re-watching one of the USA history courses I have on DVD. In reference to the Salem witch trials, the lecturer makes the same kind of points as in that article as to why these kinds of events and beliefs occur: a rural area facing economic uncertainty; a reducing population because people, especially the young, move elsewhere to seek a better life; and when bad things start happening, who do they turn to, as probably the townsfolk were used to sorting things out for themselves. And then add the mysterious illness (only later identified as tuberculosis) and it's not at all surprising that they believed the mysterious disease had a supernatural cause.

That's quite logical. I mean, how long ago was it that epilepsy was finally understood as being a neurological condition, and even more recently that autism was not caused by "refrigerator mothers"?

One of the things that one of those lecturers said was that we need to understand history in reverse - that it's good to look back from our perspective because we can bring to bear on historical events the science we have now, but if that's all we do we have no hope of understanding what it was like for the people who actually lived through those events. And even worse, we may scoff at those people who believed in such nonsense as vampires, and fail to understand how desperate they were to find something, anything, they could do prevent those inexplicable deaths.

But I wonder, when historians a couple of hundred years or so from now look back at us, whether they'll consider we that had similarly strange rituals. (Once they've figured out how to translate txt spk, of course. oh.gif)

Thanks for the link, Earthnut. I've bookmarked the Smithsonian website - there's a lot of good stuff there.

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