MonsterQuest, "Vampires in America"

MonsterQuest, "Vampires in America"

Although our proud nation is currently being rent asunder by the rift between Team Jacob and Team Edward, America actually has a long history of vampire history. 

In this episode, MonsterQuest investigates vampires in two time periods: modern vampires who also wear too much makeup and a lot of black clothing, and historical vampires who were just hapless sick people surrounded by pre-scientific idiots.

Author, folklorist, and vampire researcher Michael Bell lends a surprising (for MonsterQuest) amount of dignity to this endeavor.  Bell is clearly knowledgeable on the subject, and is able to discuss the topic like a rational human being, without being breathlessly kooky (like most MonsterQuest investigators).

In the olden days, colonial New England suffered a plague of vampires.  You know what's odd?  This episode never once mentions that at the same time, colonial New England was having kind of a witch problem, too.  Or, to be more precise, a "have a crazy-ass panic attack, probably due to ergot poisoning, accuse your neighbor of witchcraft, and then burn them to death" problem.

Frankly when placed in the proper historical and geographical context, two reports of vampirism in people dying (or dead) of consumption is hardly even noteworthy.  But "noteworthiness" has never been an issue for MonsterQuest, and so we forge on.

In the first incident, a girl named Mercy Brown died of consumption in Willington, Connecticut in the late 1700s.  Her brother soon took ill - no great surprise, for a communicable disease - and the townspeople blamed the deceased Mercy.  Not understanding the least thing about bacterial disease, they made the natural assumption that Mercy must be digging herself out of her own grave every night and tramping across town to suck the life force from her brother.

They were insane, is what I'm saying.  

A hundred years later someone writes a letter to the editor complaining about a quack doctor who's proposing a cure for vampirism.  But here's the thing: just because it's a letter to the editor, that doesn't make it real.

In modern-day America, the show unearths two women who claim to be practicing vampires.  The first woman literally drinks the blood (of consenting adult victims).  

I have to love this show for bringing this woman to a hematologist to be tested for hematological disorders like anemia and porphyria.  With a dramatic flourish worthy of a Maury Povich paternity test, the doctor delivers the test results: she is medically normal.

The second woman claims to be a psychic vampire, who feeds off the psychic energy (of consenting adult victims).  Sort of like Reiki in reverse, from what I gather.  It's worth noting that the symptoms she reports as being indicative of needing to feed on psychic energy (shortness of breath, dizziness, heart palpitations) are also classic symptoms of a panic attack.

We also take a quick tour through the usual suspects: Countess Bathory, Vlad Tsepes, a few barmy cults and serial killers, and of course Bram Stoker's Dracula.  Interesting to note that after Stoker's death, MonsterQuest claims that people found newspaper clippings about Mercy Brown (who died not long before Stoker wrote Dracula) in Stoker's files.