The Vampire Panic, as it is now known, was a mass reaction to an outbreak of tuberculosis throughout New England in the 19th century. This video dives into the dark story of the epidemic and how vampires became fixtures of cultural lore.
Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease, but this wasn't known until decades later. It spread quickly in close quarters and often led to death, but early New Englanders thought the disease spread only after a person's death, so if a person died of TB and was buried, their bacteria would cause the rest of the family to fall ill.
Doctors exhumed bodies to examine the disease and figure out how dead bodies were causing living family members to fall ill. They surmised that if the corpse was recent — if the organs contained enough liquid blood — that was the infection. In this case, the body was flipped or sometimes organs were removed before the body was returned to the grave.
Watch this video for more dark New England history about the astonishing rise in vampire beliefs and some incredible personal stories that occurred during the Vampire Panic.