Post by Graveyardbride on Jul 15, 2014 23:16:55 GMT -5
The Vampires of Dillsboro
In the spring of 1788, a Dr. Alfort and his family showed up in the small, sparsely populated community of what was then known as New Webster, North Carolina, (the town was renamed Dillsboro in 1889) where they purchased land and built a fine home near the Tuckasiegee River. An isolated area in the middle of the dense forests of the Great Smoky Mountains seemed like an unusual choice for a successful physician, whom some claimed was of royal lineage, but when Alfort opened his home office and apothecary, people from miles around patronized the new doctor.
All went well at first, but then two men who had been treated by Dr. Alfort for gout suddenly died from unknown causes. Both were well-liked, productive members of the town and many considered their deaths suspicious. However, the local minister managed to calm the hotheads who were accusing Dr. Alfort of wrongdoing, explaining that tomorrow is promised to no man and anyone can die at any time in accordance with the will of God.
Normalcy returned to the community and there were no further incidents until that fall when the minister’s wife entered their children’s room and saw what she described as a dark figure hovering above their young daughter, who had been in perfect health when she went to bed. The woman screamed and other members of the household came running, but the toddler was dead. There were no obvious signs of illness or injury, other than a small amount of blood on the pillow from two puncture wounds on the child’s throat.
Something wasn’t right. Someone reported seeing a huge, bat-like creature flying about one night – a winged creature so large it could not be of this world. People started closing their doors and windows and families huddled together, afraid to leave their children unprotected in a separate room.
A few nights later, a young boy came racing into town and knocked frantically at the door of the home of his grandparents. He insisted “something” was attacking his mother and father in their house up the hill. The grandfather summoned some neighbors and a small group of men made their way to the house on the hill where they found the boy’s parents and their two young daughters dead. There were puncture wounds on the necks of all four corpses. People in nearby communities were alerted and over the next few days, the surrounding hills and valleys were thoroughly searched, but nothing untoward was discovered.
By February 1789, residents were beginning to relax somewhat, but continued to keep their children close and avoided going out alone after dark. Finally though, they were able to convince themselves that whoever, or whatever, had killed the family on the hill had moved on.
Then one evening, screams were heard coming from a house about half-way up the hill and when neighbors arrived, they saw a black form in the shape of a human race down the hill and disappear into the Alfort home. The young couple who lived in the house were found dead with strange bite marks on their throats.
A vigilante group quickly formed and the men made their way to the Alfort house. They pounded on the door and demanded to be let inside, but Dr. Alfort refused. After a short discussion, it was decided that some members of the group would stand guard outside the house while others fetched reinforcements. By morning, a large contingent of townsmen forced their way into the Alfort house. Initially, Dr. Alfort attempted to reason with the intruders, but the irate citizens would have none of it and proceeded to drag the protesting physician outside, where they tied him to a tree. The upstairs chambers each contained beds, but even though it was early morning, the beds were freshly made and did not appear to have been occupied the previous night. After searching the downstairs, including the doctor’s office and apothecary, the men broke down a heavy, locked door and descended the steps to the cellar. There they discovered three coffins. In one lay Mrs. Alfort: she was wearing a black, shroud-like garment and very much alive, hissing and cursing as she was pulled from the coffin. The couple’s 15-year-old son was nowhere to be found.
By this time, a crowd had gathered outside the Alfort house and the designated leader of the vigilantes addressed them, insisting the Alforts, including their son, were vile, unnatural creatures that fed on the blood of the living in order to sustain themselves. Dr. and Mrs. Alfort were hanged, their corpses placed inside the house and the dwelling set on fire.
The attacks and murders ceased, but were the Alforts really vampires? Or had someone in the area recently visited, or heard about, the “attacks” in Rhode Island, which began around the same time, and jumped to conclusions? Still, the local deaths differed from those in New England in that none of the New England deaths involved puncture marks or other trauma to the neck, nor the actual drinking of blood. They were, instead, “wasting deaths.” It is, of course, possible someone had read the 1748 German poem “The Vampire” by Henrich August Ossenfelder:
My dear young maiden clingeth
Unbending, fast and firm
To all the long-held teaching
Of a mother ever true;
As in vampires unmortal
Folk on the Theyse’s portal
Heyduck-like do believe.
But my Christine thou dost dally,
And wilt my loving parry
Till I myself avenging
To a vampire’s health a-drinking
Him toast in pale tockay.
And as softly thou art sleeping
To thee shall I come creeping
And thy life’s blood drain away.
And so shalt thou be trembling
For thus shall I be kissing
And death’s threshold tho’ it be crossing
With fear, in my cold arms.
And last shall I thee question
Compared to such instruction
What are a mother’s charms?