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Home / Science / The DNA of a suspected vampire identifies the skeleton as an 18th-century Farmer John Barber

The DNA of a suspected vampire identifies the skeleton as an 18th-century Farmer John Barber

This skeleton, possibly by John Barber, is being studied at the National Museum of Health and Medicine. It was believed that Barber was a vampire. He probably had tuberculosis. (Michael E. Ruane / TWP)

He was in his grave for so long When his family dug him out to burn his heart, the organ was decomposed and not there.

In a desperate attempt to prevent him from pursuing them, they took his head and limbs and rearranged them on his ribs. After all, he was a "vampire," and in rural New England in the early 19th century, they dealt with them like that.

When they were finished, they buried him in his stone-lined grave and replaced the wooden coffin lid

Some 200 years after the death of the country's best-studied "vampire" DNA detection dogs, someone had brass pins used to mold the inscription "JB 55" for his initials and his age have tracked his likely name: John Barber.

He was probably a hardworking farmer. Since he missed his upper front teeth, he was not a Nackenbeißer. He had a broken collarbone that had not healed properly, an arthritic knee that might have made him limp. And he had died a horrible death, probably from tuberculosis that was so bad that it had hurt his ribs.

The latest findings in a case that began in 1990 when his coffin was discovered in a gravel quarry in Griswold, Conn. are included in a new report prepared by, among others, experts from the DNA laboratory of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover, Delaware.

The report was summarized in a presentation on July 23 at the National Museum of Health and Medicine at Silver Spring, Md., Who supported the study and where the remains are stored.

The case is unusual because Barber may be the only supposed "vampire" in the country whose bones have been studied by scientists.

A mystery since the nineties, "wrote Charla Marshall in an e-mail. Marshall is a forensic scientist at SNA International in Alexandria, Virginia, and has been working on the project. "Now that we have expanded the technological possibilities, we wanted to visit JB 55 again to find out if we can solve the puzzle of who he was." Hardwood, painted red and decorated with brass nails hammered in the initials "JB".

This is the latest chapter in a project that shed light on eerie vampire fears in New England – especially in Connecticut and Rhode Island – in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century, and its association with the spread of tuberculosis or the so-called "Consumption".

The highly contagious disease was so devastating and frightening that it was believed that those who died died from leaving their graves and infecting relatives and sucking blood and life, scholars said.

These attacks were more mysterious and less graphic than the blood-sucking vampires of gothic fiction.

"That was not the case. , , Bats fly through the night, "said Nicholas F. Bellantoni, the retired state archaeologist from Connecticut, who worked on the case from the beginning and is one of the authors of the report. "This is not Bela Lugosi."

But the terror they brought was real. The consumption often caused a bloody cough and left the victims pale and haggard with blood in the corners of their mouths, wrote author and folklorist Michael E. Bell.

"The emaciated figure hits you with horror," reported an 18th-century physician from Bell in a 2013 essay in the journal Kritikos. "The forehead covered with drops of sweat. The cheeks . , , a lively purple. The eyes sank. , , , The breath is offensive, fast and tedious.

The vampire's real threat seemed to come after death, and he had to be killed again during the so-called "therapeutic exhumation." Often, the suspected vampire was a family member who had died of the disease and was believed to be infecting sons, daughters or a woman.

Family members were often the ones who carried out the exhumation. Bell has documented 80 such cases, mainly in remote areas of New England.

"This happened out of fear and love," said Bellantoni. "People died in their families, and they had no way to stop it, and maybe this could stop death. , , , They did not want to do that, but they wanted to protect those who were still alive. "

" People were desperate, "he said.

The best way to kill the suspected vampire was to examine the exhumed corpse to see if it was still alive Liquid blood in the heart was then removed and burned, with family members sometimes inhaling the smoke to prevent further disease.

Similar incidents have long occurred in Europe, where many reports of bodies were dug up, burned, rearranged, beheaded or expelled.

In Barber's case, there was probably no burning heart, wrote Bellantoni and Paul S. Sledzik in 1994. Thus, "the bones of the breast were destroyed" and the skull and thighbones "placed in a skull" and the position of the crossed bones " , write. [19659028] After Barber's tomb was discovered, his remains were sent to the museum for examination and a sample of a femur was sent to the DNA lab for analysis. However, the technology of 30 years ago gave hardly any results, as the authors of the paper wrote, and identification was impossible.

However, when modern tools were used – the creation of Y-linked DNA profiles and the prediction of the surname via genealogy data available on the Internet – the experts said they had found a match for the surname: Barber.

Then they checked old cemetery and newspaper records to see if barbers had ever lived in Griswold.

They spotted a newspaper notice in which the death of a 12-year-old boy named Nathan Barber, whose father was a John Barber. Researchers had found a grave near JB's containing a coffin marked NB 13.

The project began in November 1990, when a deserted cemetery was found in a sand and gravel factory in Griswold. Study by Sledzik, Bellantoni and his colleague David A. Poirier.

Human skeletons and crumbling coffin parts emerged from the earth. And two human skulls crashed down a causeway as three boys playing there broke them.

Investigators eventually removed the remains of 27 people – five men, eight women and 14 children – from 28 graves at the Walton Family Cemetery. (One grave contained evidence of a coffin but no human remains.)

A diagram of the cemetery where the desecrated grave of the alleged vampire was found. (Bill Keegan / Bill Keegan)

But it was Grave No. 4 that attracted the most attention.

"Everyone was in a good anatomical position. , , with the exception of this one individual, JB 55, "said Bellantoni.

Under his coffin lid Ballantoni and his colleagues found the strange arrangement of skulls and crossbones.

"His thighbones. , , were torn from the anatomical position and crossed over the chest.

. , The skull was beheaded and pulled away, "he said. "I was totally confused. I had no idea what I was looking for.

Investigations soon suggested a connection with the vampire faith in New England, he said.

"So it turned out that JB suffers from tuberculosis. , , [evident] because of the lesions on his ribs, "he said. "We believe he was rearranged in the tomb because it was supposed to be undead."

Bellantoni said that JB probably died four or five years after his exhumation, which was probably due to his rediscovered casket hardware in the early 1800s.

"Here in New England. , , We had big farming families, "he said. "Because they did not understand the transmission of the disease, family members who suffered from tuberculosis sat at the dining table, and the entire family coughed. They had tuberculous victims sleeping with five or six brothers and sisters in one room. "

" It was an epidemic, "he said.

What about poor John Barber, the alleged vampire?

" Listen, "Bellantoni said." He was a hardworking farmer, presumably a petty bourgeois You could see it in his bones, you could see it in the arthritic state of his vertebrae … Hardworking Good Christian, I'm sure. "

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