Why In The World Was This Grave Covered In Cement And Surrounded By Chains?
Losing a loved one is never easy. As if knowing that you’re never going to see them again wasn’t hard enough, you have to go through the difficult process of saying goodbye. Everyone has their own personal, private ways of doing this, but it’s customary to have a public sendoff in the form of a funeral for them. This is an opportunity to provide closure for those who knew and loved them, and to say their goodbyes, share memories and fondly remember the good times and why they meant so much to them.
In terms of their final resting place, there are a number of ways people take care of this. Some choose to be cremated and have their ashes spread over a location that meant a lot to them in life. Several choose to be buried, and in that place to mark their grave is a headstone with a short message. It’s interesting looking at headstones in cemeteries, because you never know what you might find…
Most gravestones have the deceased person’s name, date of birth, date of death and often a short message of love.
But if you visit the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland, you’ll find a gravestone adorned with something entirely different.
The final resting place of Matthew Halsall is an interesting sight. It boasts an ornate gravestone surrounded by rusted chains. More curious still, the entire thing is covered in cement. Just what is going on here?
Matthew Halsall died all the way back in 1854 in Castletown, Isle of Man, so this story is all legend.
As the story goes, during his wake his family and friends gathered and grieved the loss of their departed loved one.
However, during this gathering, suddenly everyone began to hear a groaning. They look around and determined that the groaning wasn’t coming from one of the living guests, but from the coffin itself! They rushed over, hoping to find Matthew still alive.
Was He Alive?
They rushed over and were desperately hopeful that this had all been some terrible mistake .
They looked in the coffin and were heartbroken to find that he was still dead. What could have caused that groaning noise? They had a theory.
They all assumed that he had been transformed into a vampire and was about to come back to life as a demon. So they did what any rational folks in grieving would do: they staked his body in the heart.
After staking a dead person through the heart you’d assume that they weren’t going to come back to life.
But Matthew’s family wanted to take extra precautions. Once he was six feet under, his family covered his grave with a heavy cement slab so that the “vampire” couldn’t escape.
But they feared that still may not have been enough, so for good measure, they put chains around the gravestone, which they believed would act as protection from evil spirits.
Hopefully you’re not of the mindset that this was a rational explanation and a proper course of action.
If so, please let us fill you in on what likely actually happened. We can assume that the “groan” the mourners heard was just air escaping from Matthew’s body.
That’s why today’s coroners will press on the windpipes and chests of the dead to remove the air. This way, grieving family and friends won’t hear noises and get false hope… or fear.
Matthew Halsall wasn’t the only “vampire” that was discovered by their mourning loved ones after they passed away.
Across the pond in Exeter, Rhode Island, Mercy Brown holds the infamous position as the most notorious mistaken vampire out there.
The daughter of farmer George Brown, Mercy died of consumption (the common name for tuberculosis at the time) in 1892. But she had barely been lowered into her still fresh grave when Mercy was exhumed and inspected for signs of vampirism.
Disturbing the resting place of the dead is a huge taboo and today we look at it as something that should only be done out of absolute necessity.
They had a similar belief back in the day, but exhumation was a common happening in these days for a reason they felt was very important.
It was believed that when an illness affected multiple members of the same family, it was the doing of the undead. So to combat this evil, the deceased would be dug up from their graves and their corpses would undergo the vampire probe.
So if digging up the dead to inspect their corpse for signs of vampirism, why was Mercy so infamous?
It’s because after she died, several of her family members also began to pass away in quick order. So naturally, there was a growing suspicion of Mercy herself being the vampire behind it.
So when she was exhumed, the town was shocked and horrified. Not because of the desecration of her body from it’s coffin, but because what they found when they looked at it.
Even though she was dead, hardly any decay had set in on the body of Mercy.
Everyone took this as proof that she was indeed a bride of Satan and was somehow behind the misfortune that had befallen her family.
What other explanation could there be? Well, she was laid to rest not terribly long ago during a freezing New England winter in conditions that were sure to lead to preservation… but vampire. Yeah, that has to be it, right?
After deciding that Mercy was the vampire responsible for the deaths of all her family members, her brother Edwin tragically fell ill.
His symptoms were eerily similar to those that took the life of all his other family members.
So what did the people of town do? Did they study what they all had in common, find the common denominator and use it to deduce the illness and a possible cure? That would have been nice. But instead, they did the next best thing…
Since Mercy was clearly the vampire, the town cut out her heart from her corpse, burned it and fed the ashes to her brother.
Surely this must have broken the curse and cured Edwin, right? We sincerely hope that you don’t believe that.
Not surprisingly, Edwin died shortly after this consumption… from consumption. Sadly, they didn’t know any better at the time. But what caused this vampire hysteria that lead to chains on graves and corpse desecration and cannibalism?
Today when we think of vampires, our thoughts might go to dreamy, sparkly hunks like Edward from the Twilight series.
Or if you’re more of a purist that rolls your eyes at that notion, you might consider Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, as the official source of vampire lore.
However, the history of these bloodsuckers goes way further back than that. The first depictions of these undead monsters can be traced back to Greek mythology and the first known vamp in fiction, Ambrogio.
Like any good monster tale, this one begins with love that turns tragic and terrifying.
As legend has it, Ambrogio was a young adventurer from Italy that traveled to Greece to meet Pythia, the Oracle of Delphi. Romantic, right? What could go wrong?
Well, while roaming the streets of Greece, Ambrogio met and fell in love with the beautiful Selene, Pythia’s sister. That wasn’t the plan, but we can’t control what our hearts want. So why did this go so terribly wrong?
When it comes to so many things in life, location is key, and unfortunately for Ambrogio, that was the case here.
The temple in which Ambrogio was attempting to visit Pythia unfortunately belonged to Apollo, the god of the sun.
Are you beginning to see where this is going, considering how vampires fare in the daylight? Well, Apollo saw Ambrogio chasing after Selene and decided that he wanted her for himself. And so in a fit of jealousy, he threw a curse upon poor Ambrogio.
As you may have guessed, Apollo’s curse rendered the young Italian intolerant of the sun.
When exposed to the light of day his skin would instantly burn and blister, and so the he had to become a creature of the night.
Vampires being weak against sunlight is one of the most persistent elements of their lore, and this is the origin of that. But this story isn’t over just yet. There’s more vampire elements to uncover and more for the cursed (and now extremely pale) Ambrogio.
Not Done Yet
When you’re cursed by the god of the sun so that going out before nightfall will result in you being reduced to ash, most people would give up.
But not Ambrogio. He was determined to win his love Selene back, so he resorted to desperate measures.
He went to make a deal with Hades, the god of the Underworld, and Artemis, the goddess of the hunt. He knew it wouldn’t be pretty, but it was the only chance he had.
You know how when you make a deal with the devil things never go your way and you immediately regret it?
Well, Hades was basically the devil in Greek mythology, so making a deal with him wasn’t the best idea either.
To fulfill his bargain with Hades, he told Ambrogio to steal Artemis’s silver bow. Not surprisingly, Artemis wasn’t too happy with Ambrogio for going along with it. So as a punishment for his thievery, Artemis cursed Ambrogio so that silver burned his skin.
Fangs For The Memories
Unable to walk in sunlight and silver burning their skin? Yeah, this is sounding just like the vampires we know today, huh?
But Artemis wasn’t as cruel as Hades and eventually took pity on Ambrogio, so she wound up giving him the power of immortality.
But that wasn’t all. She also gave him fangs to kill beasts so he could write love poems to Selene. Just what every gal wants, right? A pale, cursed, fanged guy with dead beasts and rhymes for her.
The End Of The Tale
And now we come to the part of the story where we learn the origin of vampire’s most distinct trait.
Turns out the mortal Selene actually had a thing for Ambrogio, so she escaped the grips of Apollo and ran back to her vamp-y BF.
Artemis gave Ambrogio one final gift and piece of advice. She told him that if he drank Selene’s blood that he would be immortal and their combined blood would turn anyone who drank it into a creature like them. So… they lived happily undead ever after?
That story was obviously a popular one, considering how the undead creature in it has been reimagined hundreds of times over thousands of years.
Luckily, these days we know that vampires are just works of fiction and won’t rise from the dead to get us.
So if you hear a groaning noise coming from a coffin, it’s likely just air leaving the body. No need to cut out, burn and eat their heart or pour cement over the grave and cover it in chains like this.