Vampires in Griswold, Connecticut

Elisha Ray
Photo credit: Elisha Ray’s headstone in the Jewett City Cemetery, Jewett City, Connecticut, courtesy of Cindy Davis.

There are two documented accounts of suspected vampirism in the community of Griswold, Connecticut. I heard the stories during one of my visits to the Jewett City Cemetery, in Jewett City, Connecticut, where my relatives are buried. The information in the stories came from Griswold Municipal Historian Mary R. Deveau’s unpublished written account as described in her write-up, “Vampires—In Griswold?!?”, for the Town of Griswold.

The following information is included in the May 1854 newspapers: The Norwich Courier and The Worcester Aegis. Henry Baker Ray and his sons, Lemuel and Elisha, died of tuberculosis in 1845, 1849, and 1851 respectively. When Henry Baker Ray’s third son, Henry Nelson, was stricken, the family wanted to put an end to the many years of illness. They believed their dead relatives were feeding on the living, so they went to the cemetery with some friends and dug up all three bodies. Upon examination of the bodies, it appeared that only one, Elisha, contained “fresh blood.” A fire was built in the grave, the coffin lowered in and covered with more wood, and it was set on fire. By burning the body, they believed the dead person could no longer feed on living family members. Henry Nelson died on September 1, 1854. His sister died at the age of fifty, and his daughter also died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty-six. Three more of Henry’s children all died in their first year of life. 2,3

A second account was discovered when the Walton family cemetery was unearthed in a sandbank operation in 1991. The skull and leg bones of a body, identified by nails on the coffin spelling out JB-55, were found in the skull and crossbones orientation on the top of the ribs and vertebrae. JB-55 had suffered from tuberculosis and arthritis, and was the only person buried in the stone lined-grave. The desecrating disarrangement of the bones and their isolation suggests that someone, possibly family members, felt the need to sequester the remains. They probably believed JB-55 was a vampire, rising from the grave and taking sustenance from the living members of the family. 1

In 2015 a crew from the TV show Ghost Hunters came to Griswold to film an episode (based on the vampire legends) for their show.  

1. Sledzik, Paul S., et. al. “Brief Communication: Bioarchaeological and Biocultural Evidence for the New England Vampire Folk Belief.” American Journal of Anthropoloby 94 (1994): 269-274.

2. The Norwich Courier, May 20, 1854.

3. The Worcester Aegis, ca May 1854.


Cindy Davis