Let's Assume Vampires Don't Roam Idaho's Cemeteries!
When the word vampire is uttered, scenes of shadow filled cemeteries or dank underground crypts in the heart of Romania might come to mind, but certainly not Idaho. Those versed in vampire and American lore might have read about Mercy Brown, the 19 year old victim of tuberculosis who died in 1892 in Exeter, Rhode Island. Even these semi-educated readers would never think of Idaho as a haven for the undead. That is most definitely a positive, because Mercy’s remains were desecrated by her father and a group of men from town after reports of her corpse wandering the graveyard at night led them to speculate she had turned vampire and now preyed upon her brother Edwin, also stricken with tuberculosis. To be sure, the men exhumed Mercy’s mother and sister who had both fallen prey to consumption, as TB was also known, in years prior. Their bodies were significantly decayed. In comparison, Mercy had perished in January in New England. She had not been dead long before this grisly ritual took place and, because there were no backhoes then, a grave could not be dug. They had stored her in the shed essentially and waited for spring and softer soil to arrive. After suspecting Mercy of vampirism, the group removed Mercy from storage and dissected her, removing her organs and finding preserved blood in them, took out her heart and burned it, placed the ashes in water, and fed them to Edwin. Not surprisingly to you or I, he died in May of 1892 anyway. It might surprise you to learn that another case of tuberculosis near Troy, Idaho would also lead to a strange exhumation ca. 1913, but in this case, these fine Idahoans reacted differently.
Within the confines of the Burnt Ridge Cemetery outside of Troy rests Agda Larson, the daughter of August and Tilda Larson who died at the age of 10 on April 25, 1912. Agda had contracted pulmonary tuberculosis some years prior and had been suffering for quite sometime before her young life tragically ended. A few years later, Agda’s grave required relocation due to some issue having to do with an underground water source and she was exhumed with permission from her father August. Against the advice and wishes of the men exhuming her remains, the bereaved father demanded to see his daughter’s body. When the casket rested above ground and the lid had been opened, as local Wilma Carlson described in her oral history interview with the University of Idaho in 1974, the men saw that “her cheeks were pink and she looked so natural. And my goodness, they were all startled to death.” Thankfully, none of the men believed poor Agda guilty of being a vampire, and they began to speculate as to the cause of her body’s condition. Some members of the group feared she’d been buried alive, while others surmised the TB that killed her preserved her porcelain like condition, but reason soon won the day. Agda had been buried next to an ice cold subterranean stream that maintained her life-like appearance. However, once above ground and exposed to fresh oxygen, she “fell to pieces…she fell to dust.” Perhaps, in Rhode Island, the townsfolk would have believed her disintegration was evidence of her being a vampire, but not in Troy, Idaho. Regardless, this shook the men to their cores, most especially the father; the townsfolk said he was made nearly mad by the horrible experience. Agda’s family coped with their grief in believing she’d been chosen by God to be taken so young, and this is what accounted for the preservation of her body.
After the exhumation of Agda Larson, it was said the men involved in her disinterment made sure to stay far away from the Burnt Ridge Cemetery.
Image 1: Mercy Brown Ca. 1891
Image 2: Agda Larson's Grave at Burnt Ridge Cemetery - Troy, Idaho