How 19th Century American farmers became convinced that dead relatives could rise from their graves and feed on them as vampires:
“The skeleton had been beheaded; skull and thighbones rested atop the ribs and vertebrae. ‘It looked like a skull-and-crossbones motif, a Jolly Roger. I’d never seen anything like it,’ Bellantoni recalls.
“Subsequent analysis showed that the beheading, along with other injuries, including rib fractures, occurred roughly five years after death. Somebody had also smashed the coffin.
“The other skeletons in the gravel hillside were packaged for reburial, but not ‘J.B.,’ as the 50ish male skeleton from the 1830s came to be called, because of the initials spelled out in brass tacks on his coffin lid. He was shipped to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, in Washington, D.C., for further study. Meanwhile, Bellantoni started networking. He invited archaeologists and historians to tour the excavation, soliciting theories. Simple vandalism seemed unlikely, as did robbery, because of the lack of valuables at the site.
“Finally, one colleague asked: ‘Ever heard of the Jewett City vampires?’”