New England Vampire Panic:
The New England vampire panic was the reaction to an outbreak of tuberculosis in the 19th century; cases were reported throughout states such as Connecticut and Vermont, but the worst of it is said to have happened in Rhode Island.
At the time, tuberculosis was known as “consumption”, on account of its appearance to “consume” an infected person’s body. It is now known to be a bacterial disease, however, the cause was unknown until the late 19th century. The infection spreads very easily among families, so, when one family member died of “consumption”, other members were often infected and gradually lost their health..
This was thought to be the result of the tuberculosis (consumption) sufferers draining life from their surviving family members. People began to dig bodies out of the ground and examine them. If a corpse was deemed to be “unusually fresh” or if its organs contained liquid blood, it was considered to be feeding on the living.
After the “vampire” had been identified, there were a number of ways that could supposedly stop the attacks. One way was to simply turn the body over in its grave; another was to decapitate the body. In other cases, the families would burn the “fresh” organs and rebury the body. Affected family members would also inhale smoke from the burned organs or consume the ashes in a further attempt to cure their “consumption”.
Thought by many to be the inspiration for the “Nightmare on Elm Street” movies’ Freddie Kreuger, Fingernails Freddie is said to be an old campfire story that originates at Camp Ker-Ana in Cumberland, Rhode Island. The oral stories of Fingernail Freddie date back to at least the mid-twentieth century.
The most common version of the story is that Fingernails Freddie was a man that lived in the woods near Camp Ker-Ana; and due to him living there for so many years, his fingernails had grown extremely long. He hated all the noise that the campers made, and so the campers used to tell each other “don’t make any noise at night, or else Fingernails Freddie is gonna come and claw you”.
Legend states that anyone who wanders onto his former property in the woods is murdered. Some say that Fingernails Freddie was actually just a man who lost his family when neighborhood children sat their home on fire; thus leaving his face burned as a result, which also caused him to retreat to the woods.