When Suspicion Meets Science: Examining the Belief in Vampires in Connecticut and New England – October 16

Photo credit: CSMNH/UConn

Photo credit: CSMNH/UConn

Wethersfield, Conn. (July 30, 2014) – As if their annual Witches and Tombstones Tours weren’t enough, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum is adding to October’s chill with a timely discussion of a real “skull-and-crossbones” scenario and an historical belief in vampires, right here in Connecticut. On October 16, 2014, state archaeologist Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni will present “The New England Vampire Folk Belief: The Archeological Evidence” in the Webb Barn at the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, 211 Main St., Wethersfield. The free presentation will be preceded by a wine reception (by donation) at 6 p.m.

Bellantoni will discuss some new cases of suspected vampirism in the 1800s, and give updates on familiar examples, including the Jewett City Vampires (Connecticut), the Mercy Brown case (Rhode Island), and “Burial Number 4,” in Griswold, Connecticut.

In 1990, two Griswold boys playing in a freshly dug gravel pit unearthed two human skulls, leading to a police investigation and a call to the Connecticut Office of State Archaeology. Bellantoni conducted rescue excavations and noted that all the skeletal remains were in proper anatomical position in their graves except for one adult male, who had been beheaded and whose bones were arranged in a “skull and crossbones” manner. Results of the forensic and historical evidence suggested that the individual was believed to be “undead” and capable of leaving the grave and “feeding” on living family members. Vampire feeding was considered by some to be the cause of the tuberculosis, the leading cause of mortality in the Northeast in the 1800s. The re-arrangement of bones, and sometimes the burning of the heart, was considered necessary in order to put the “vampire” to final rest.

Bellantoni’s lecture precedes the 2014 Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum Witches and Tombstones Tours, slated for October. 18, 19, 25 and 26, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bellantoni serves as the state archaeologist with the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and Archaeology Center in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences at the University of Connecticut (UConn). He received his doctorate in anthropology from UConn in 1987 and was shortly thereafter appointed state archaeologist.  His duties are many, but primarily include the preservation of archaeological sites in the state.  He serves as an adjunct associate research professor in the Department of Anthropology at UConn, as well as a state commissioner for the Commission on Culture and Tourism and sits on the State Historic Preservation Council.  He is a former president of the National Association of State Archeologists.  His research background includes the analysis of skeletal remains from eastern North America.  He has been excavating in Connecticut for over 30 years.

About The Office of State Archaeology

The Office of State Archaeology (OSA) was established at the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History in 1987 to provide technical assistance to municipalities in the preservation of archaeological sites within their communities that might be threatened by development and vandalism.  The office maintains comprehensive site files and maps, has in-state networks of supportive public, serves as a clearinghouse of information, coordinates the salvage of archaeological sites, and represents Connecticut on national issues pertaining to archaeology.  OSA has state-mandated responsibilities for the preservation or archaeological excavation and reburial of human remains encountered during construction activities.  In this regard, they work closely with the Native American tribes in the state for projects that effect burials and sacred sites.  The museum serves as the repository for all anthropological collections at the university and for artifacts found on state lands.  OSA creates public awareness and support for archaeological preservation, including museum exhibits, public presentations and the organization of CT Archaeology Awareness Week activities every year.  OSA works closely with federal, state and local governments in the preservation of Connecticut’s archaeological and historical heritage.

About the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum

Located in the heart of Connecticut’s largest historic district, the Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum provides the quintessential New England experience – from the American Revolution to the early 20th century. Tours include the 1752 Joseph Webb House, where General George Washington met with French General Rochambeau and planned the military campaign leading to the end of the Revolutionary War, the 1770 Silas Deane House, built for America’s first diplomat to France, and the 1788 Isaac Stevens House, which depicts Connecticut life in the 18th and 19th centuries. For more information visit: www.webb-deane-stevens.org  or call(860) 529-0612. Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WDSMUSEUM.