Griswold, CT

DNA analysis reveals identity of 19th century “vampire” buried in Connecticut

B.R. Shenoy

“Before scientific and clinical knowledge were used to explain infectious diseases and medical disorders, communities hit with epidemics turned to folklore for explanations,” said Parabon NanoLabs in a statement to SWNS.

Thanks to the use of cutting-edge technology, the long-unknown identity of a 19th-century vampire has finally been revealed.

Parabon NanoLabs and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory collaborated to digitally reconstruct the face of a man suspected of being a 19th-century vampire.

The image was revealed earlier this week at the International Symposium on Human Identification conference in Washington, DC, per SWNS.

In 1990, the man's remains were discovered in Griswold, Connecticut. He was discovered with his arms crossed in an X; a burial practice thought to prevent bloodsuckers from rising from the grave to feed on the living, per Smithsonian magazine.

In 2019, forensic scientists determined that JB55 was a poor farmer named John Barber. The nickname JB55 was derived from the epitaph spelled out in brass tacks on his coffin, which indicated his initials and age at death, which was 55 years.

DNA Analysis

The man's skeleton was used to perform a DNA analysis, which was then fed into a machine-learning system to predict what he might have looked like before contracting the disease.

The DNA test allowed scientists and forensic artists to use 3D technology to reconstruct the man's face, determining that he had fair skin, brown eyes, freckles, and brown or black hair.

To confirm the man's identity, the team performed another genome sequencing analysis, this time on an individual buried in the same cemetery, who was thought to be JB55's relative.

After obtaining this information, both files were uploaded to the GEDmatch database, which led to ancestors with the surname Barber living in New England in the 18th and 19th centuries, thereby supporting the hypothesis and confirming that JB55 was, in fact, John Barber.

Tuberculosis and Vampirism

The DNA test revealed that he had tuberculosis, which explains why some believed he was a vampire.

Barber was a victim of tuberculosis and the vampire panic that swept through New England in the 1800s. Tuberculosis outbreaks usually accompanied these bouts of mass hysteria.

The vampire myth is thought to have started because people at the time lacked the knowledge to explain diseases like tuberculosis, a prevalent and frequently fatal infectious disease. The other infected members of the household would gradually deteriorate in health once one family member passed away from it. According to popular belief, the first victim sapped the life force from the other family members.


“Additionally, people who had tuberculosis often exhibited symptoms similar to what people considered to be vampire-like traits. Some tuberculosis symptoms included red, swollen eyes (which made them sensitive to bright light), pale skin, very low body heat, a weak heartbeat, and coughing up blood. As you can see, that would give any uneducated person in the Middle Ages reason to believe the victim was really a vampire. If you add in the fact that some may have believed that drinking blood was the only way to replenish the blood they coughed up, well, then you definitely have all the components for a good vampire legend.”

People of the time believed that a person who died from this condition might later resurrect.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

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