Back in 1990, children playing near a gravel pit in Griswold, Connecticut, stumbled across a pair of skulls that had broken free of their graves in a 19th century unmarked cemetery. Subsequent excavation revealed 27 graves—including that of a middle-aged man identified only by the initials “JB55,” spelled out in brass tacks on his coffin. Unlike the other burials, his skull and femurs were neatly arranged in the shape of a skull and crossbones, leading archaeologists to conclude that the man had been a suspected “vampire” by his community.
Analysis … showed signs of lesions on the ribs, so JB55 suffered from a chronic lung condition—most likely tuberculosis… . The infection frequently spread to family members. So perhaps it’s not surprising that local folklore suspected some victims of being vampires, rising from the grave to sicken the community they left behind.
…[R]researchers used Y-chromosomal DNA profiling and cross-referenced the genetic markers with an online genealogy database. The closest match had the last name of “Barber.” A newspaper notice from 1826 recorded the death of a 12-year-old boy named Nathan Barber, son of one John Barber of Griswold. … That’s strong evidence that JB55 is probably John Barber, while NB13 was his son.
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