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Archaeology & History

Scientists recreate the face of a real-life 18th-Century 'vampire'

By T.K. Randall
November 1, 2022 · Comment icon 8 comments

The man most likely died of tuberculosis. Image Credit: Virginia Commonwealth University
This is the face of a man who, two centuries ago, was buried with his leg bones crossed to stop him rising from the dead.
He was certainly no Count Dracula and most likely had absolutely no interest at all in drinking human blood, but this unfortunate individual certainly stoked a great deal of fear among the local populace back in the 1700s.

More than 200 years after his death, his remains were found buried in Griswold, Connecticut with his femur bones arranged in a peculiar criss-cross pattern.

There was evidence, in fact, to suggest that he had been dug up and reburied.

"The remains were found with the femur bones removed and crossed over the chest," scientist Ellen Greytak told Live Science. "This way [suspected vampires] wouldn't be able to walk around and attack the living."
Far from being a vampire, however, this poor gentlemen had actually been suffering from tuberculosis - an ailment that often led to unfounded accusations of vampirism from superstitious locals.

Now scientists at Virginia's Parabon NanoLabs and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) have joined forces to use his DNA to reconstruct what he looked like when he was alive.

Thought to be around 55 years old when he died, he likely had fair skin, brown eyes and brown or black hair.

The image is a fascinating look back to a time when a fear of vampires was a very real thing indeed and people were willing to commit unspeakable acts to protect themselves from them.

Exactly how the situation might have played out for this man at the time, we will likely never know for sure.

Source: Live Science | Comments (8)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Jon the frog 2 years ago
''people were willing to commit unspeakable acts to protect themselves from them'' So digging him up and arranging the femur cross like is unspeakable but digging him up, taking DNA samples, making a fuss with his remains is not ? Need to hide my remains big time...
Comment icon #2 Posted by joc 2 years ago
And we are supposed to believe that it is possible to reconstruct the appearance of someone from dna samples?!  Paleeeze!  If that were the case there would be all kinds of APB photos of wanted criminals recreated from their dna.  That isn't even possible...  is it?   You can match dna to acquire a positive id...but to be able to tell what color of eyes they had, what color of hair, their face details...that just seems like sci-fi to me.  
Comment icon #3 Posted by jmccr8 2 years ago
Hi Joc Is it possible that after finding out who he was that there were family portraits as well as skull shape to work with. Generally speaking I don’t ever take these representations to be accurate.
Comment icon #4 Posted by joc 2 years ago
It all sounds a bit skamish to me...maybe even skamolaish
Comment icon #5 Posted by jethrofloyd 2 years ago
How Accurately Can Scientists Reconstruct A Person’s Face From DNA? We can already use this DNA to predict some traits, such as eye, skin and hair color. Soon it may be possible to accurately reconstruct your whole face from these traces. This is the world of "DNA phenotyping" - reconstructing physical features from genetic data. Research studies and companies like 23andMe sometimes share genetic data that has been "anonymised" by removing names. But can we ensure its privacy if we can predict the face of its owner? Here's where the science is now, and where it could go in the future. https:... [More]
Comment icon #6 Posted by joc 2 years ago
Very interesting.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Thanks for sharing.  I had no idea! 
Comment icon #7 Posted by cormac mac airt 2 years ago
General appearance is based on the skull/remains. Specific characteristics such as hair or eye color are a matter of genetics which CAN be determined. And no, it's not sci-fi if a geneticist acquires a viable sample of DNA.  cormac
Comment icon #8 Posted by Desertrat56 2 years ago
Well, according to an aquaintance who is a genticist, they have identified the alleles that determine eye and hair color so maybe it isn't so far fetched.   (she told me about it back in the 90's)

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