The savage in man is never quite eradicated. I have just read of a family in Vermont– who, several of its members having died of consumption, just burned [?] the lungs & heart & liver of the last deceased, in order to prevent any more from having it.
“Consumption” is tuberculosis, from which Thoreau died a few years later, decades before the bacterial cause of the disease was identified. Until then, macabre incidents like Thoreau’s happened in New England. When a living person seemed to have their life force gradually sucked out, then family and friends might look to the graveyard to find someone who’s responsible.
Apparently, there were several reported cases in New England, well before Bram Stoker's Dracula popularized vampire mythology. I was surprised (as was Thoreau) to hear about such beliefs, and that people acted upon them. Not all the stories about how people dealt with the situation are credible, but this case has left some physical evidence based on how the family burials are laid out.
Edited by eight bits, 25 October 2013 - 07:51 AM.