“Victory Dance” Leslie Rogers


Victory Dance

Music, concept, quilt by Leslie Rogers
Dancing by Emmy Bright


Airing Nov 1-7 and Nov 29 – Dec 5, 2016
As part of the RE program

Mercy Brown was a talented quilter, and the last suspected vampire in America. She died of consumption at the age of 19 in Exeter, RI in 1892, following her mother and sister. Because the ground is frozen in January, she was kept in an above-ground tomb until the ground thawed in spring and she was buried. Because the temperature is lower above ground in the winter than underground, she was frozen solid and preserved without decomposition. As her brother Edwin struggled with the same disease (tuberculosis), which was much feared and poorly understood, three men from town pressured their father to exhume the three women’s bodies and have them examined for evidence of vampirism. They believed that the family was plagued by a moral disease manifesting as a physical ailment and that one of the three women was the source. Though their father didn’t believe in vampirism, he went along with the plan believing their suspicion would be proven wrong. The three men had decided before the bodies were examined that if there were blood in one of the women’s hearts, she was the vampire. The medical examiner they hired explained beforehand that blood in the heart was a common occurrence in the recently deceased and to be expected. Because Mercy’s body had been frozen solid above ground and preserved without decomposition until her recent spring burial, there was still blood in her heart. The three men took the blood and lack of decomposition as confirmation of their suspicion, burned her heart on a rock in the graveyard, mixed the ashes with water, and forced Edwin to drink them in order to kill the vampire and save him. He died two months later. Her quilt survives them all. The quilt featured here is a recreation of Mercy’s work.


Special Thanks:
Emmy Bright (dancing)
Angela DiVeglia & the Providence Public Library (research)
AS220 (time in Rhode Island)
Margaret Hull (stitching)
Elspeth Schulze (stitching)
Rich Main (stitching)
Scott Murphy (music lessons)
Stamps School of Art & Design (support)
Michigan Society of Fellows (support)


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